Monday, October 29, 2012

Conflict Between Christians

Chuckle:  Child's comment on the Bible: "Moses died before he ever reached Canada. Then Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol." 
Good Quote:  "It takes two to make a quarrel, but only one to end it."  --Spanish Proverb
    "And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. And they worked with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life"  (Philippians 4:2-3 NLT).
Paul addressed the conflict between two prominent women in the church at Philippi, but conflict among Christians is no respecter of gender -- it can happen to anyone, especially if our hearts aren't constantly focused on Jesus Christ and on keeping the main thing the main thing -- the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:37-38, 28:19-20).
Conflict between these two influential church leaders was no small matter, because many had become believers through their efforts.  Their credibility, and the credibility of Christianity, was on trial before these new and impressionable believers.  Conflict within a congregation can drive people away and destroy the church's witness.  If conflict exists in your church, this passage contains an important message for you; if not, there is a helpful preventive message as well.  Let's glean some truths from these words.
First: In love, we should always find a way to reconcile our differences.  Paul pleaded with the women to come together and work out their problems.  He asked them to take the initiative in reconciliation -- to take responsibility for restoring their relationship and fellowship.  Jesus said we are to take the initiative by going to the person who has something against us and reconcile our differences (Matthew 5:23). 
Please, don't ignore festering anger, resentment, and hurt, no matter who is at fault.  It will only get worse and will control your life and rob you of joy and peace.  Paul also asked them to seek to be like-minded with Christ. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 KJV).  Differences of opinion should not result in irresolvable conflict.  Differences should be addressed in an atmosphere of love, understanding, and concern for the feelings of the other person.  Also, it is helpful to ask, "What would Jesus do in this situation?"
Second:  Sometimes even the most mature Christians need help to overcome their differences, especially if they cannot, or will not, work out their problems themselves.  Notice that Paul asked an unidentified loyal ministry teammate to act as a peacemaker to encourage reconciliation between the women.  Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9 NIV).  Wise peacemakers give those on both sides of the conflict a way out -- a way to peace and harmony without finding fault or placing blame.
We have conflicts in our homes, in our work, with our neighbors, and within the church.  In each of these situations, differences can usually be worked out if the parties involved seek to see the other through the eyes of Christ -- as a beloved human being for whom Christ willingly gave himself.  Also, talented peacemakers can make the difference.  There is no excuse for remaining in conflict with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 26, 2012

Christians Have Been Born Again, Part 2

Chuckle:  After her first week of school, a little girl said to her mother, I'm wasting my time. "I can't read, I can't write and they won't let me talk!"  

Good Quote:  “Salvation is the work of God for man; it is not the work of man for God.  --Lewis Sperry Chafer


Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3 NIV).

Let's continue our study of Jesus' words: "You must be born again" (John 3:7).  The first mark of a Christian is a genuine spiritual birth into God's kingdom/family.  Unless you have met Jesus Christ in the sense that he has made you alive spiritually as your physical birth made you alive physically, the Bible says you are spiritually dead.  It takes a miracle to impart spiritual life. "God made us alive even when we were dead in our transgressions, and raised us up with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4 NIV).  God raised Jesus from physical death and the same Holy Spirit raises us from spiritual death.

    "A little girl had poor eyesight from birth. After surgery to restore her sight, she went outside and looked up. She said, "what has happened to the sky?" Nothing, her parents said. "The moon and stars have always been there - you just couldn't see them."

After the new birth, being born again, you see things differently; the world, the Bible.  We begin to see things as God sees them.  So, once we become aware of our need to be born spiritually, how does God bring this new birth about?  He does it by his grace and our faith.  God always initiates spiritual birth and He started the whole process when, out of His love: 

   1. He sent Jesus Christ to experience an agonizing death on a cruel cross as the ultimate atoning sacrifice for our sins.  People have to learn the truth that Christ died to pay the penalty for their sins, and rose again on the third day to be their Savior and Lord.                                                                              
    2. His Spirit convicts people of their sins and convinces them of their need to be born again.  He makes me aware that I'm a sinner -- I need a Savior -- Christ died for me -- He wants to change me.  I remember vividly the day I said "yes" to Jesus and asked him to come into my life to be my Savior and Lord.  God initiates it.  God produces it.  God transforms our hearts when we, by simple repentance and faith, place our trust in Jesus Christ.  Johnnie Cash tells the story of his spiritual birth.

    "A few years ago, I was hooked on drugs. I dreaded to wake up in the morning. I had no peace or happiness in my life. Then one day in my helplessness I turned my life completely over to God. Now I can't wait to get up in the morning to study my Bible. Sometimes the words from Scripture just leap into my heart. This does not mean all my problems have been solved, or that I have reached any state of perfection. However, my life has been turned around. I have been born again."

Being born again is the most astounding, miraculous, and indispensable characteristic of a Christian.  You cannot be a Christian without it.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Christians Have Been Born Again

Chuckle:  A friend relayed to me something his boss told him prior to his getting married. He said, "look for a girl with biscuit dough on her axe handle!" 

Good Quote:  "The best way to control our thoughts is to offer the mind to God in complete surrender."   --A. W. Tozer       


    Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3 NIV). I encourage you to read John 3:1-8, 14-16.

You may remember how President Jimmy Carter created quite a stir in the media when he declared himself a born again Christian.  There are Certain characteristics that identify people as authentic Christians.  The first of these is that they have been born again.  Nicodemus was a religious leader in Israel, but needed spiritual birth.  He was a Pharisee, the most devout, and a member of the ruling 70 member Jewish Sanhedrin.  Jesus said to this man, who was morally good, you must be born again. You have been born once physically -- you need to be born spiritually.

It is essential that each of us understand what Jesus means by "spiritual birth."  Our eternal destiny depends upon it.  Jesus is clear, "You must be born again."  You must have a spiritual birth to enter heaven.  With spiritual birth and nothing else you can know God and enter heaven.  With everything else and no spiritual birth you cannot.

Spiritual birth is as necessary for spiritual life as physical birth is to physical life.  We know each of us has been born physically because we have physical life.  Jesus said in verses 5-6, "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water (flesh) and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."  You know you have been born physically because you're alive.  You will know you have been born spiritually because you are spiritually alive!  You have spiritual inclinations - spiritual desires - spiritual interests.

Nicodemus said, "I don't understand - How can this be?"  Even physical birth is a mystery, but spiritual birth is even more so.  Someone else must birth us physically but God births us spiritually.  A professor told a group of freshmen: "don't ever believe anything you don't understand."  This is bad advice.  There are many things I don't understand, but I believe them.  I don't understand how a black cow can eat green grass and give white milk, but I know it happens. 

It is beyond our understanding but God can birth a sinner into an eternal relationship with himself.  Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, "it takes a miracle."  It takes the supernatural to bring a sinner into a saving relationship with God.  This new birth is necessary because "You were dead in your trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1 NIV) before you met Jesus.  The physically dead, are lifeless -- no response.  People who have not been born again are spiritually dead -- no spiritual response.  Have you been born spiritually?  Have you had two births?  To be born into God's kingdom, a person must see his/her need of God.  This is necessary to know God, receive forgiveness, and to experience heaven.  (To be continued)

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ambassadors for Christ

Chuckle:  Two boys were walking home from church after hearing strong preaching on the devil. One said to the other, "What do you think about all this Satan stuff?" The other boy replied, "Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It's probably just your Dad."        
Quote of the Day:  "Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. It is not enough that a thing be possible for it to be believed." --Francois Voltaire
     "We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you. 'Be reconciled to God!' " (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT).
The word "Ambassador" is used to describe envoys sent by governments to other nations on occasion as special representatives, messengers and interpreters.  Our government appoints ambassadors to countries with whom we have diplomatic relations to represent our interests and to explain, interpret, and promulgate the values of the United States, and to serve the American citizens living in those countries.  In our passage the word applies to us as representatives of Christ charged with carrying his message of God's redeeming love and his plan for reconciling sinners to himself.
As believers, we are God's ambassadors, sent into the world with his gospel message of Jesus Christ.  This is an awesome and important responsibility, and one that should never be taken lightly.  When we speak it is as if God is speaking through us.  The Holy Spirit empowers our words and convicts the hearts of those to whom we speak representing Christ.  Really, we are allowing God to use us as conduits through whom the gospel message is communicated.  Our message is clear:  Be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ!  The news of reconciliation is not merely good news, but urgent news, entailing consequences of the greatest eternal importance for all people.
A final thought:  An ambassador never substitutes his own personal message for the message of the one who sent him or her.  We must never alter, water down, or substitute our own words for those of our Heavenly Father.  When an ambassador loses his focus and loyalty to the one he represents, he is no longer an ambassador.  Likewise, when an ambassador does not accurately convey the message of the One who sends him, he or she becomes a hindrance to God's kingdom work.  The message of reconciliation can be summarized as follows:
    "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Peace During the Storms

Chuckle:  "Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again!"
Good Quote:  “Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace. --John Greenleaf Whittier
    "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid"  (John 14:27 NLT).
Is there anxiety, worry, stress, or fear of the unknown in your life?  When you go to bed at night, do you lie awake fretting and stewing about things over which you have little or no control?  If you answered "yes" to these questions, you have joined a club with a multitude of members.  Many depend upon tranquilizers and other mind-altering medications to relieve their anxieties and give them a sense of peace.  For those of us who are Christians, there is a wonderful non-chemical solution for our lack of peace -- the gift that Jesus wants you to receive.
In our passage, Jesus was about to leave the disciples and be crucified.  But He did not want to leave them without presenting them a special gift -- His peace.  This gift is real and can be possessed by every believer.  The world may wish you peace, but it cannot give it as Jesus can.  This peace is a confident assurance that God is control in every situation.  With this peace, we have no need to fear anything in the present or in the future. Christ's peace ". . . which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds" (Philippians 4:7b NIV).
The peace that Jesus gives is not troubled by storms in our lives; and neither is it intimidated by challenges we must face.  We need not be afraid, but we do need to be faithful in our walk with our Lord. You may ask:  "How do I get from the head knowledge that Jesus grants me peace to a heart that actually experiences this peace?"  His presence within us (Holy Spirit) is the source of peace that only Christ Jesus can give. 
The promise of His peace is connected to the promise of the Holy Spirit to indwell us.  Love, joy, and peace are among the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  We must depend upon the promise from our Lord and accept this gift in faith and gratitude while turning all our worries, fears, and anxieties over to Him.  I'm reminded of the line from an old hymn: "Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there."
Love, Jerry & Dotse