Friday, September 28, 2012

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, September 26, 2012

Affection of the Strongest Kind

Chuckle:  "Marriage is an institution. Marriage is love. Love is blind. Therefore, marriage is an institution for the blind!"
Good Quote:  "A bell is not a bell until you ring it; A song is not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay; Love is not love until you give it away."  --Oscar Hammerstein II


    "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:7-8):

Isn't this the most touching expression of love and devotion you've ever read?   Here Paul turned from his high expectations for the future to his tender and compassionate love for the Philippian Christians.  God's grace had given them a special place in his heart.  In my years as pastor, God brought across my path some of the most precious people in the world.  Bonds of love and friendship were developed and continue to this day.  I can appreciation the heart of Paul and his love for Christians in Philippi.

Partakers (sharers) of God's Grace:  "It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart . . . all of you share in God's grace with me."   It was unthinkable to Paul that he would fail to express his love and desire to be with the Philippian Christians or to pray for them.  As fellow recipients of God's grace, they shared a bond like no other.  The Philippians were not shamed by Paul's imprisonment.  Rather, they identified with his cause and, in many ways, participated with him.

The affection of Christ Jesus.  In verse 8, Paul expresses his deep yearning to be with them once again. "I long for all of you."  He compares his love for them to that of Jesus.  This deep yearning of Paul to be with his Christian friends serves as an example to all of us.  If we say we love one another, why do so many Christians have little or no desire to be together with brothers and sisters in Christ?  Some of our greatest joys and blessings should come from spending time together in fellowship and worship.  Which of these definitions describes your love for others?

"Infantile love follows the principle: 'I love you because I am loved.'            
Mature love follows the principle: 'I am loved because I love you.'                
Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.'                                   
 Mature love says: 'I need you because I love you.'"   --Erich Promm

Paul definitely displayed mature love by first telling the Philippians of his deep love for them which then led to his telling them how he yearned to be with them.  What a beautiful picture of the way we should love, need, and enjoy one another. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Good Name

Chuckle:  The five year-old asked her preacher dad why he bowed his head before preaching. "Well, Honey," he said, "I'm asking God to help me preach a good sermon." "How come He doesn't answer you?" she asked.
Daily Quote:  "The invisible thing called 'GOOD NAME' is made up of the breath of numbers that speak well of you."  --Lord Halifax 
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1 NIV).
Our good or bad name, or reputation, has as its source the choices we make and the ensuing actions those choices precipitate.  Each waking moment of every day, we are confronted with situations requiring decisions that will impact our lives either positively or negatively in the eyes of those who know us and through whom our reputations are established.
Of course, the choice with eternal consequences is what you decide to do when confronted with the truth of God's love and His plan for the salvation of your eternal soul through faith in Jesus Christ.  Once you decide to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and begin your walk of faith with Him, important life decisions must continue to be made every day. 
As we travel down the road of faith, we find it has many forks.  At each fork in the road, the decision you make will help determine your reputation as a Christian.  Robert H. Schuler put it this way: "At each fork in the road, we should ask this question.  'Where do I want to go?'  'Which road will take me there?'  Be careful which road you choose."    
Our passage provides important guidance for making life's decisions by placing relative values on the outcomes.  "A good name is more desirable than great riches."  But we know our modern society tends to view the accumulation of wealth as the true measure of success.  That's why it is so important to ask this question, "where do I really want to go in this life and what is the best decision to take me there?"  Does the desire to please God and have a good name drive your decisions, or does the desire for personal gain trump any concern for God's will or your good name?
My last daily quote speaks powerfully to me at this point.  "Each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life -- not by our standard of living; by our measure of giving -- not by our measure of wealth; by our simple goodness -- not by our seeming greatness."  --William Arthur Ward
Today, each of us will make many choices and decisions, some of which will seem relatively insignificant while others may determine your entire future.  Often, concern for one's good name is sacrificed on the altars of self-centeredness and self-gratification.  Consequently, as a Christian, each decision should be made prayerfully and with great care.  The choices we make reveal our true character. "Your ideal is what you wish you were. Your reputation is what people think you are. Your character is what you are."     
Love, Jerry & Dotse   

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Prayers of Intercession

Chuckle:  "If all the people who sleep in church were laid end to end -- they'd be a lot more comfortable!"
Good Quote:  "Intercession is, by amazing grace, an essential element in God's redeeming purpose -- so much so that without it the failure of it's accomplishment may lie at our door."  --Andrew Murray
     "Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16 NIV).       

The story is told of a young girl who said, "Lord, I am not going to pray for myself today; I am going to pray for others." But at the end of her prayer she added, "And please give my mother a handsome son-in-law!"
We just can't seem to end a prayer without asking something for ourselves.  However, when we become disciplined enough to pray for others, we become partners with God in His work of salvation, healing, comfort, and justice.  Of course, God can accomplish those things without us, but in His plan we are given the privilege of being involved with Him through prayer. 

When we intercede for someone in trouble, facing surgery, who needs Christ, has lost a loved one, or a pastor who needs strength, we are asking God to provide for that person what we cannot give them ourselves.  We are interceding for God to direct His power in a specific direction for a specific person for a specific reason/need.

Prayer is not a magic wand for satisfying our own desires and wishes, but it's a God-given opportunity to work with the Lord in accomplishing His purposes.  "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14 NIV).

You may not feel like praying for others because you are so in need of prayer yourself.  However, there is a basic truth about God's kingdom; we find healing for ourselves by ministering on behalf of others.  Many of us go to church looking for healing that will make us whole and make us more effective ministers for our Lord. 
But Jesus wants us to get out there, with all of our own needs, and minister to others.  When we do this, it's amazing how we will find the needed healing and strength which we're seeking!  Fervent intercessory prayer for others, that comes from a pure heart, will result in God doing mighty things in the lives of both the intercessor and the one for whom he/she is interceding.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pitfalls of Pride

Chuckle:  Teacher:  "Harold, what do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?"  Harold:  "A teacher." 
Quote:  "If he could see how small a vacancy his death would leave, the proud man would think less of the place he occupies."  --Ernest LeGouve
PITFALLS OF PRIDE              
    "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit among the oppressed than to share the plunder with the proud" (Proverbs 16:18-19 NIV). "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2 NIV).
Pride is the antithesis of humility.  Bible teacher and pastor, M. R. De Haan, said this about humility: "Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have."  Pride is at the root of all sins and is a terrible enemy of the Christian.  Ironically, proud people seldom realize that pride is their problem, although everyone around them is well aware of it.  The Bible says that God hates pride.  That's why, when it pops up in our lives, God brings things into our lives to humble us, and make us more dependent upon Him.
Pride lays at the root of Adam and Eve's downfall and our own.  C.S. Lewis said, "It was through pride that the devil became the devil."  Pride has become entrenched in our human nature; we think we can make it through life in our own strength and ingenuity.  We should remember that God is the source of everything we are and have.  None of us has reason to be proud.

So how can we overcome pride and replace it with humility?  We begin by putting ourselves into proper perspective, seeing ourselves as God sees us.  When we look to God, we grasp our unworthiness.  Yet humility doesn't come from putting ourselves down.  It comes from acknowledging and glorifying God, seeing Him as the source of all we are and all we have.  In His love, God accepts us unconditionally and lifts us to higher ground.  He shows us that we are His children, made in His image, and adopted into His family as sons and daughters!

Another antidote to pride is gratitude.  Whenever we accomplish anything in life, we can choose to be proud or grateful.  As we realize that we accomplish nothing without God, we must choose gratitude, giving the glory to Him for all He does for us.

We can't have prideful hearts and maintain a right relationship with God.  God doesn't need our accomplishments, nor is He interested in our vainglory.  He wants us!  Christ wants us to cultivate humble hearts that bow before His grace and His cross - the ultimate example of humility.  Someone once said, "Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all."  Today, reflect on yourself in relationship with God and thank Him for all He has accomplished in your life.  Bring your achievements to Him in gratitude and lay them at His feet, while blessing Him for His goodness to you.
    "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 10, 2012

Be Accommodating to Others

Chuckle:  A little boy found a leaf pressed between the pages of an old family Bible. "Mom," he called, "look what I found!"  "It's Adam's clothes!"   
Quote:  "When a man realizes that he is a beloved child of the Creator of all, then he is ready to see his neighbors in the world as brothers and sisters."  --Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury
"If someone forces (compels) you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (Matthew 5:41-42 NIV).
Among the meanings of the word, "accommodate," is: "to fit in with  someone's wishes or demands in a helpful way."  In our passage, the words of Jesus remind us of our obligation to go the extra mile to be accommodating to others when they compel/require us to do something or ask a favor of us.  The same principle applies when we become aware of a need that we have the resources to meet.     
If we are too busy or indifferent to the needs of others, we may turn down their cries for help or reluctantly do precisely what someone requests of us, but nothing more -- just enough to satisfy the request and clear our consciences.  Jesus tells us to do more than is requested or expected. 
We may have our day completely planned out with no time to spare, and then God brings someone across our path with a request or need that would require us to change our plans to grant the request or meet the need.  According to Jesus' words, in our passage, what should be our attitude?
Even though it may be difficult or inconvenient at times to go the extra mile, doing so can be the key to success in your business, your marriage, your church, or other relationships.  I'm sure you have come face to face with a rigid, uncaring, unyielding, or an unaccommodating  person.  What is your reaction to that person?  You see, our Lord has instructed Christians to put others ahead of our personal desires or plans even when it is inconvenient and costs us valuable time, effort, and other resources.
Jesus expands the teaching of accommodation in Luke 6:27-36 where He tells us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and give to anyone beyond what they ask.  To me, the message for Christians is to always do the unexpected in the eyes of the secular world.  He wants us to show that our ability to love and respond to others is unlimited in the same way God's love for us is unlimited.  Returning good for evil and going the extra mile will give credibility to our witness for our Lord.  Jesus teaches us to be accommodating to others in all circumstances, even to our enemies.
"And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit it that to you?  Even sinners do that. . . . But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, . . ." (Luke 6:33, 35 NIV).  
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Justice God's Way

Chuckle:  "Never trust a faith healer who walks with a limp!"
Ponder This:  "Justice is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.  --Daniel Webster
JUSTICE GOD'S WAY                      
    "But how terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things" (Luke 11:42 NLT).
When you hear the term, "justice," what image crosses your mind?  If you are like many of us, you may think of justice as someone getting what he/she has coming -- what is deserved.  When we talk about bringing someone to justice, we often mean that if someone is guilty, justice is giving the so-and-so the maximum punishment allowable by law.  But justice also means treating people fairly and giving them unbiased consideration and kindness. 
Justice with love and kindness is the picture of God's justice as he deals with us.  The problem Jesus found with the Pharisees was that they were focusing on the outward appearances of being religious but ignoring the inner condition of their hearts which governed their treatment of people.  Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.
If God treated us with justice only, he would be justified in punishing us forever because of our sins and rebellion against him. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord"  (Romans 3:23; 6:23 NIV).  God's view of justice is different from ours.  His is always tempered with love, compassion, mercy, and grace.  Instead of dispensing justice based on our sins, and fairly giving us what we deserve, he has provided a way for us to receive the blessed benefits of his mercy and grace. 
The most obvious demonstration of God's view of justice is the sending of his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins and to make us beneficiaries of his love and forgiveness. "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
    The story has been told of a man who was caught and taken to court because he had stolen a loaf of bread. When the judge investigated, he found out that the man had no job, and his family was hungry. He had tried unsuccessfully to get work and finally, to feed his family, he had stolen a loaf of bread. Although recognizing the extenuating circumstances, the judge said, "I'm sorry, but the law can make no exceptions. You stole, and therefore I have to punish you. I order you to pay a fine of ten dollars." He then continued, "But I want to pay the fine myself." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a ten-dollar bill, and handed it to the man.
    As soon as the man took the money, the judge said, "Now I also want to remit the fine." That is, the man could keep the money. "Furthermore, I am going to instruct the bailiff to pass a hat to everyone in this courtroom, and I am fining everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a city where a man has to steal in order to have bread to eat." The money was collected and given to the defendant.
    This is an excellent example of justice being meted out in full and paid in full -- while mercy and grace were also enacted in full measure. 
Love, Jerry & Dotse