Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Example to Others


Chuckle"My guardian angel helps me with math, but he's not much good for science." --Henry, age 8
 
Ponder This:   "Wisdom is knowing what to do; skill is knowing how to do it; and virtue is doing it."   -- David Starr Jordan  
 
AN EXAMPLE TO OTHERS
 
    "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God -- even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (I Corinthians 10:31-11:1 NIV).
 
As disciples of Christ, we teach by example, whether we intend to or not.  I don't know about you, but I become uncomfortable when thinking of suggesting to someone that they follow my example in living as a follower of Christ.  Since I know my own heart and realize how far I have to go to be what Christ desires me to be, I would feel hypocritical if I made such a suggestion.  What do you think about the apostle Paul as he tells the Christians at Corinth to follow his example?  Do you think he was being self-righteous and arrogant?  Do you think he was justified in making such a suggestion?
 
Paul knew he was not perfect and had not achieved all Christ had in store for his life.  He did not think of himself as sinless or mature.  At this time, however, the Corinthian believers were relatively ignorant about the life and ministry of Christ.  The best way to point these new Christians to Christ was to show them the life of a Christian whom they trusted.  Paul had been in Corinth the better part of two years and had built a relationship of trust with many of the new believers.  Therefore, he pointed to himself as a model for them to imitate.  But notice, Paul did not take the credit for his being a good example, but pointed to Christ as the example he followed in his own life.
 
Paul was actually humbling himself before his Lord, and in essence he was saying to the people: "Anything you see in my life that merits favorable consideration is not from my superior understanding and conduct, but it is from Christ and given to me by His grace."  His goal was to avoid causing  new believers to stumble because of his own weaknesses or misconduct.  And he admonished all believers to be cautious lest we cause a weaker Christian to become disenchanted and stumble in his or her walk with Christ.
 
As a Christian, you can be certain that unbelievers are watching your life, and your life may be the only Bible that they will ever read.  The importance of each of us being an example of Godly living cannot be over emphasized.  Do people around you see things in your life that identify you as a faithful follower of Christ?  If they do, God will use you to draw them to himself.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Door to Your Heart


Chuckle:   Child's comment on marriage:  "No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with." -- Kristen, age 10
 
Good Quote:   “Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.    --Zig Ziglar
 
THE DOOR TO YOUR HEART                
 
    "Look! Here I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends" (Revelation 3:20 NLT).
 
Our passage is from a letter from Jesus to the church at Laodicea.  This was a church that had become comfortable with the status quo.  It was wealthy and lacked for nothing, but had lost its vision for what a New Testament church should be.  The people had become complacent and self-centered and Jesus accused them of being "lukewarm" and disgusting to Him.  He said he was going to "spew" them out of his mouth because they were neither hot nor cold.  Christ was showing the Laodiceans that true value is not in material possessions but in a right relationship with God.
 
Our desire for money, pleasure, material possessions can be dangerous because their temporary satisfaction can cause us to be indifferent to God's offer of lasting fulfillment and happiness.  In reality, our possessions and achievements are worthless when compared with the everlasting future of Christ's Kingdom.  But Jesus had not given up on the Laodiceans, and neither has He given up on us.  If your relationship with our Lord has become lukewarm, He wants you to repent and return to Him.
 
In our passage, Jesus is standing at the door of our "lukewarm" hearts.  He is knocking on our heart's door and calling out for us to open the door.  But if we are doing our own things behind the locked door of our turned away hearts, we will no longer hear God because we are too busy disobeying the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30 NIV).  If our hearts are turned away from God, we do not want to hear God.  We want to do our own thing.  Notice that Jesus didn't assume that he would be heard.  He said, "if" anyone hears my voice.  We can easily get so far away from God that we can no longer hear his voice.
 
Notice that Jesus does not break down the door to our hearts, but gently and lovingly knocks and calls out for our attention.  He allows us to decide whether or not we will listen to his call and open the door.  Have you found yourself deliberately and intentionally keeping Christ's life-changing presence and power on the other side of the firmly locked door of your heart?  If so, you would do well to open your heart to Him in an attitude of repentance and let Him restore your joy.  Say to God: I'm wrong; I'm sorry; please forgive me; cleanse me; empower me anew with your Spirit; and use me once again as your vessel for your glory!
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When Least Expected


Chuckle:  After a session with his parents, a little boy taped to his parents' door a note that read: "Dear parents, Be nice to your children and they will be nice to you. Love, God." 
 
Good Quote:  "He who provides for this life, but takes no care for eternity, is wise for the moment but a fool forever."  --Unknown   
 
WHEN LEAST EXPECTED
 
"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night"  (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 NIV).
 
A major theme in New Testament Scriptures is the second coming of Jesus Christ.  One of the clearest statements on the subject comes from the lips of Jesus Himself.  "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am" (John 14:3 NIV).  The promise of Jesus' return is a precious tenet of the Christian faith.  Numerous passages attest to the fact that He will come again to "rapture" His church (all those whose sins have been covered by the atoning blood sacrifice of Jesus Himself) and take us to be with Him forever.  You can read about how this will happen in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
 
The promise, and our blessed hope, that Jesus will return has spawned numerous questions about when and how this will happen.  People, down through the ages, have made all sorts of predictions and some have even set specific dates when Jesus would return -- all have been proven wrong.  Speculating about the date of Christ's return is wasted effort and foolish.  Listen to Jesus own words: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. . . . Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. . . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him(Matthew 24:36, 42, 44 NIV).
 
Even though we do not know when Jesus will return, we are to live with the expectation that He could come at any moment.  If you knew that Jesus' return was immanent, how would it change the way you live?  Would it make a difference in your faithfulness to Him and in the way you serve other people?  Would it cause you to fall on your knees and repent of your sins?  Would it cause you to get your spiritual house in order in preparation for meeting your Lord?  Look at Jesus' words again: "So you also must be ready" as if He were coming today.
 
Since the Lord will return suddenly and unexpectedly, my plea to you who do not know Him as Savior and Lord is that you give your heart and life to Him today -- that you repent of your sins, ask His forgiveness, and commit your life to Him in faith.  If you are already a Christian, I encourage you to bring your life into line with God's standards for His followers and be ready to meet Him with confidence and joy and without fear.  Praying in accordance with 1 John 1:9 is a great place to start.  Let's be faithful in telling others how they can be ready to meet Christ as well.  We do have many prophetic indications that His coming could be soon. 
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, November 16, 2012

Love in Marriage, Part 3


Chuckle:  "My wife and I were at a "Dude Ranch" in Texas. The cowboy preparing the horses asked if she wanted a Western or English saddle, and she asked what the difference was. When he told her one had a horn and one didn't, she replied, 'The one without the horn is fine. I don't expect we'll run into too much traffic.'" 
 
Quote:  Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving about three or four things a day unsaid."  --Harlan Miller
 
LOVE IN MARRIAGE, Part 3       
 
    "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us . . ." (Ephesians 4:31-5:2). "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"  (Ephesians 5:25 NIV). ". . . and the wife must respect (and love) her husband"  (Ephesians 5:33b NIV).
 
Last time, we began exploring some ways to help your love to grow for your family?  These included: (1) Recognizing and appreciating the fact that God loves each member of your family as much as he loves you. (2) Having a healthy love and respect for yourself. And (3) Practicing loving your family with your actions rather than words.
 
Today we continue with: (4) Increasing love in your family as you practice forgiveness.  It is inevitable that family members will bring pain to one another.  When this happens, we can get angry and "throw in the towel," or we can recognize that the only healthy, and God-pleasing, solution is forgiveness.  I found this definition of forgiveness: "Forgiveness is a gift in which the injured one gives up the right to retaliate and is willing to restore a warm relationship."

Greed and selfishness are the greatest enemies of marriage and the family. "A greedy man brings trouble upon his family" (Proverbs 15:27).  Greed is  wanting or taking all one can get without thought of what others need.  It is a demand for self-gratification.  With this selfish attitude, what I want becomes more important than my responsibility to my spouse or my children.

There are many ways we can increase the practice of love in our family living.  I believe the most important is trusting the Holy Spirit to pour out God's love within our hearts. "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:5).  To increase love (romantic, respect, and help), we need to let the love of God for us become more real and personal.  As you grow closer to your Lord and experience His love more fully, it becomes much easier, and natural, to love your spouse, your children, and others as He loves you.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Love in Marriage, Part 2


Chuckle: The Sunday School teacher asked, "Now, Johnny, tell me, do you say prayers before eating?" "No Sir," he replied. "We don't have to. My mom is a good cook!"
 
Good Quote: "If we love people, we will see them as God intends them to be."  --unknown Author 
 
LOVE IN MARRIAGE (Part 2)          
 
    "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you" (I Thessalonians 3:12-13 NIV). "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"  (Ephesians 5:25 NIV). ". . . and the wife must respect (and love) her husband"  (Ephesians 5:33b NIV).
 
In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, he commended them because their love for one another was increasing.  It is God's will that we grow in love for each other.  Paul also reminds us that husbands are to love their wives so much that they would be willing to die for them as Christ died for His church. This degree of love should flow both ways in the family circle. Let's look at some ways you can help your love to grow for your family.

    First:  Appreciate the fact that God loves each member of your family as much as he loves you. "For God so loved the world" means he loves equally the husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, parent, grandparent.  We need to love each member of our families because of their infinite worth in God's sight.  The next time you look into the face of your wife, husband, or child, think about how precious she/he is to God.  As you consider the value of your family members in God's eyes, their worth increases in your eyes.   

    Second:  Have a healthy love and respect for yourself.  If you do not appreciate and respect yourself according to God's instructions, it will be impossible for you to properly love and appreciate your spouse and others.  When Jesus told us to "love your neighbor as yourself," He was affirming a healthy love for ourselves.  However, Paul tells, "Do not to think more highly of ourselves that we ought, . . ." (Romans 12:3 NIV).  If you suffer from low self-esteem (sense of worth/value), you will look at others in the same way.  As you  recognize how precious you are to God, it will help you to respond to the truth that God loves and values each of your family members equally.   

    Third: Practice loving your family with actions, not just words.  One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it's usually returned in more than full measure.  "A pastor was kind to a young lady in his congregation. Later she made for him a beautiful plaque that contained the letters TALK in vertical order, with the beautiful message below it, 'Try A Little Kindness.'" It was her way of saying "thank you" for his kindness.

How long has it been since you tried a little kindness on your marriage partner?  Your children?  Your parents?  Many times we're kinder and more considerate to others than to our own family members.  Those closest to us deserve our most expressive acts of kindness.  Kindness is an expression of love that even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Love in Marriage


Chuckle: "The most difficult years of marriage are those following the wedding."

Good Quote: "Happiness grows at our firesides and is not to be picked in strangers' gardens."  --Douglas Jerrold

LOVE IN MARRIAGE                 

    "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you" (I Thessalonians 3:12-13 NIV). "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25 NIV). ". . . and the wife must respect (and love) her husband"  (Ephesians 5:33b NIV).

A few years ago, Tina Turner had a hit song called, "What's Love Got to do With It."  This song describes many couples today.  Marriages are coming apart at an ever increasing rate.  Not only that, but the social stigma once attached to divorce and breakdown of the family unit no longer exists.  Sadly, growing numbers of children are being abused and abandoned.  


Most problems within the family begin and end with the relationship of the husband and wife.  What is it that causes so many marriages to come apart?  Many reasons are given, but the most serious problem may be a growing lack of understanding of what it means to genuinely love someone.  At least three kinds of love should be present in marriage relationships:

    1. Romantic Love (Eros): This love describes the sensual attraction of a man and a woman to each other.  This "romantic love" is on the level of instincts.  It is the chemical reaction of a male to a female, and vice versa. This physical attraction is important but should be only the first step in a growing and much deeper kind of love.  Marriages based only on this dimension of love are doomed to disappointment and disintegration once the physical attraction becomes less intense.

    2. Respect Love (Phileo): This is brotherly or friendship love, and is based on someone's worth, faithfulness, and reliability.  It's the love between friends.  It is extremely important that a husband and wife genuinely like each other and be best friends -- that they provide each other someone to share their innermost thoughts without fear of rejection or condemnation.  

    3. Help Love (Agape): This is the highest and noblest form of love.  God showed this kind of love when He "so loved the world that He gave His only Son."  This kind of love sees something infinitely precious in the object of this love.  It is a sacrificing love without thought of self, and is not dependent upon circumstances.  It is an unconditional selfless love.  The other person's well-being becomes more important than your own.

Happy indeed is the home where the husband and wife are romantically attracted to each other.  Happier still is the home where the husband and wife also respect each other and are best friends.  But the happiest home is the one where every thought and activity is saturated with self-sacrificing "help" love.  When love has reached this level a marriage will last a lifetime.

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hard Times Bring New Opportunities


Chuckle:  "Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hairstylist you like." 
 
Quote:  "Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and take without forgetting."   --Elizabeth Bibesco
 
HARD TIMES AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES          

    "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly"  (Philippians 1:13-14 NIV).

Adversities bring new opportunities to share Christ.  It is in times of trouble that our true Christianity becomes evident -- when our faith measures up to the test.  Difficulties makes evident our faith, which should set us apart from those without Christ.  Paul wrote in Romans 15:20, "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known."  His arrest and imprisonment, to keep him from his mission, actually afforded him opportunity to continue it.

While he was in prison in Rome, "boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31).  In Philippians 4:22, we can see how effective Paul was in spreading the gospel message.  "All the saints greet you, especially those who belong to Caesar's household." 

Often, while dealing with our own adversities, God provides opportunities to share the gospel with others.  This truth was recently brought home to me in a personal way.  While being treated for my own health problem, I was afforded the opportunity to witness and minister to a physician who is dealing with advanced cancer.

Adversities bring new opportunities to encourage others. "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (Philippians 1:14).  I'm reminded of Peter and John, who had been threatened and warned by the religious rulers to stop preaching in the name of Jesus.  They boldly said to them, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19). 

Christians enduring hard times can serve as role models for less mature believers.  Paul's imprisonment served as a catalyst for Roman believers to spring into action for the Lord.  If he could continue preaching while in chains, surely they could do it in whatever circumstances they were facing.

In a time when persecution of Christians was increasing, the church at Rome was in dire need of encouragement.  Paul's trouble and ensuing testimony gave them such encouragement.  Could it be that your faithfulness to God during difficult times would serve as an encouragement for others to serve the Lord more faithfully?  Someone has said, "A brook would lose its song if God removed all the rocks." 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Family Fortune


Chuckle:  "Smartness runs in my family.  When I went to school I was so smart my teacher was in my class for five years. --George Burns
 
Quote:  “A house without a roof would scarcely be a more different home, than a family unsheltered by God’s friendship, and the sense of being always rested in His providential care and guidance.  --Horace Bushnell
 
FAMILY FORTUNE       
 
    "Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.  But if a widow has children and grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God"  (1 Timothy 5:3-4 NIV).
 
When you first saw the title of this lesson, what came to your mind?  Was it the amount of money or possessions a family has accumulated?  If so, I can understand your mind going in that direction.  But let's give it a new meaning -- like, "my family is my fortune," or "how fortunate I am to have my family."  As I grow older and come face to face with the reality that life is fragile and oh so brief, the fleeting time I have to spend with family becomes even more precious.  Family members are my greatest fortune.
 
I'm reminded of a reunion in Casper, Wyoming a few years ago.  Gathered there were relatives from my grandmother's side of my family.  As we laughed together, played together, shared memories together, and remembered those who are no longer with us, the preciousness of family was reinforced in many ways.  As I looked into the faces of relatives whose lives are inextricably linked to mine, and whose lives have richly blessed my life, the beauty and value of family took on a fresh new meaning. 
 
As I thought about our love for each other, I was reminded of God's amazing grace and love for each of us.  He loves every member of my family, and yours, so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son to make it possible for our earthly families to experience the greatest reunion of all in heaven that will last for all eternity.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
 
Family is obviously the result of God's plan for human reproduction, but beyond that it fulfills the human desire for love and companionship.  Family is also the setting within which our religious faith is nurtured through parental examples and teachings.  Family is also a symbol of God's relationship to His children as Father as well as a symbol of the church in its relationship to Jesus Christ.  
 
Family relationships do not remain strong automatically.  They must be nurtured through love, Bible study, family worship, communication, conflict resolution, and friendships outside the family.  I hope you see your family members as your greatest fortune, and I hope you never pass up an opportunity to let each one of them know how much you love and appreciate them.  We never know when we will do so for the very last time in this life.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse      

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What it Means to be Holy


Chuckle:   A Child's Prayer: "Dear God, we read that Thos. Edison made light. But in Sunday School they said you did it. So I bet he stoled your idea." Sincerely, Donna
 
Quote:  “If you think you can walk in holiness without keeping up perpetual fellowship with Christ, you have made a great mistake. If you would be holy, you must live close to Jesus.    --Charles Haddon Spurgeon 
 
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HOLY   
 
    "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy as I am Holy'" (I Peter 1:14-16).
 
"Holy" is an often used word among Christians.  What does it mean in practical terms in our lives and how do we attain a state of holiness?  In the simplest terms, the word "holy" means to cut or separate.  It denotes apartness -- set apart, and so the separation of a person from the common or profane life for a divine purpose.  It also means pure or chaste.  To be holy is to be set aside by God for his service and to be as nearly like Christ as possible.  For unlike other creatures, man was made in the image of God and capable (by the power of the Holy Spirit) of reflecting God's holiness. 
  
When a Christian realizes who Christ is and what Christ has done for him through his grace, it tends to have a dramatic effect on his or her life, not only in salvation but in holiness."  To be "holy" and to be "righteous" are quite similar terms.  We are told in Scripture that we have no righteousness or holiness on our own, but any righteousness we might have comes from Christ in us. "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:11 NIV). "But now a righteousness from God . . . comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:21-22 NIV).
 
C.S. Lewis once commented to an American friend, "How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, . . . it is irresistible. If even ten percent of the world's population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year's end."  Howard Hendricks wisely observed, "It is foolish to build a chicken coop on the foundation of a skyscraper."  The Christian who fails to live a holy life is failing to utilize the foundation for his life that Christ has given him.
 
So, we can say that to be holy is to be chosen, set apart, and strengthened by God's Holy Spirit to be like Christ.  If we know Christ as Savior and Lord, his Holy Spirit lives within us to teach us, convict us, and to comfort us as Christ lives out his holiness and righteousness through us.  For this to happen, you must surrender every aspect of your life to his control and direction.  Then the true joy of being a Christian will be yours in abundance.
 
    "But the day of the Lord (Jesus' return) will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming"  (2 Peter 3:10-11 NIV).
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse