Friday, February 22, 2013

Copying Jesus Christ

Chuckle:  A blurb in a church bulletin read, "Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands. . . .!"
Good Question:  "What kind of a church would my church be if all its members were just like me? 
    "Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"  (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).
We often hear the term "role model" when describing someone whose life reflects the good qualities of character that we admire.  I'm sure each of us has someone we look up to as a role model.  Having worthy human role models is good, but living with Jesus as your role model is best.  If we pattern our lives after other humans, we become a copy of a copy, and imperfections and flaws have a way of creeping into copies of copies.  It's much better to copy the original than a copy.  It is God's desire that we pattern our lives after Jesus Christ, not parents, friends, or even pastors.
We are to live as God's children by imitating our heavenly Father.  If you are a born again believer, you are a child of God by spiritual birth and have been given a new nature.  You could say you have the spiritual DNA of God, and it's only logical that we should act like our Lord.  If you heard a cat bark or a dog meow, you would know right away that something was amiss.  Their outward appearance and actions should be consistent with their nature.  If you are a child of God, you should act like it by living like Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit from whom your new nature is derived.
Just as children imitate their parents, we are instructed to imitate God, as His children, by living a life of love.  Christ's great love for us caused Him to sacrifice Himself to give us new life and His nature.  This kind of love for others goes far beyond affection results in self-sacrificing acts of service.  To live a life of love means that we are filled, saturated, and permeated by the same unconditional love that Christ demonstrated for us on the cross.  As Jesus was hanging on that cross in agony, His love showed through with this prayer for those who were crucifying Him:  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NIV). 
This kind of love is not reciprocal -- it is unconditional and makes no demands.  It's the kind of love God showed as described in Romans 5:8 and 6:23. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." 
To copy the love of Christ is to copy the love of God, the Father, because the Bible tells us they are one.  We copy the love of Christ by loving others as He has loved us.  Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34 NIV).  This kind of love is shown when we share Christ with the lost people, and by even loving those who do not love us in return.
Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Marks of the Faithful

Chuckle:  "Two things you should never enter into prematurely: marriage and embalming!!"
Quote:  "Our prayer will be most like the prayer of Christ if we do not ask God to show us what is going to be, or to make any particular thing happen, but only pray that we may be faithful in whatever happens." --Fr Andrew
    "And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done" (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT).
    "J. B. Gambrell was a great Texas hero in pioneer days. He once referred to a dog's territory, which was limited to the area around his master's wagon. Since the wagons rode high off the ground, the dog could run along underneath the wagon as it traveled. Gambrell said, 'I would never have a dog that ran under someone else's wagon.' That was his rather homey way of saying that faithfulness is a necessity."
We can all understand Gambrell's point.  When we list the desirable characteristics of a person, faithfulness will likely be high on the list.  In our larger lesson (Col. 2:1-7), Paul admonished the Colossian Christians to show several characteristics, or marks, of their faithfulness to their Lord.
    1. Helping others grow in their faith.  In Col. 2:2, Paul expressed his desire that their hearts might be encouraged and comforted.  All Churches should be encouraging, comforting, and unified communities, committed to carrying out Christ's mandate.  Our faithfulness will encourage others as they see Christ in us.  A mark of faithfulness is strengthening one another so that the church is filled with courage to deal effectively with any situation.
    2. Loving others.  Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians would be knitted together in love. "Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. Anyone who hates (does not love) a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by darkness" (I John 2:10-11 NLT).  Love for other Christians is a distinguishing mark of followers of Christ.
    3. A disciplined life.  Faithfulness to Christ and his Church will be demonstrated by our disciplined and purposeful lives.  We will not serve the Lord and others only when it is convenient, but we will sacrifice our own desires for the good of other believers.  We will be steadfast and firm in our convictions and in our service to our Lord.
    4. Growing up in our faith.  Receiving Christ as Savior is only the beginning of life with Christ.  He desires that you continue to follow His leadership and grow by being rooted in Him, built-up, and strengthened in the faith.  "Elton Trueblood spoke of a 'cut flower civilization in which we are like cut flowers in a vase. They are beautiful and brilliant, but they never grow and prosper because they have no roots."  You can live and grow in Christ by, (1) Submitting your life and will to Him; (2) seeking to learn from Him, His life, and His teachings; and (3) recognizing the Holy Spirit's power in you.  Then faithfulness to Christ and to others will result.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Secret of Being Content

Chuckle:  "A pastor resigned from one church because of health and exhaustion . . . They were sick and tired of him!"

Good Quote: "Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase." --Balguy


". . . . for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . . I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-12).

Two little teardrops were floating down the river of life. One asked, "Who are you?"  "I'm a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him.  But who are you?"  The first teardrop replied, "I'm a teardrop from the girl who got him!"

Life is like that. We cry for things we can't have, but we might cry twice as hard if we had received them.  Jesus spoke often of qualities that produce peace and contentment.  Do you know individuals you would classify as content?  Are you content with your life?  Do others think of you when they name contented people?

I am convinced that it is a greater challenge to be content while having much and using it properly with a Christlike spirit, than it is while having little.  Often it seems that the more we have, the more we want -- never quite satisfied or content.  Notice that Paul said, "I have learned the secret of being content." Contentment is not a trait that is obtained naturally -- it is a supernatural condition available for Christians who have learned its secret. 

Learning to be content is a process which takes time.  You can't expect to master skiing or golf the first time you try.  You must learn.  Paul said he had learned to be content even while in prison chains.  His contentment did not depend on external circumstances.  He noted the terrible circumstances in which he learned contentment in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. His tutor was the "God of peace."

Contentment doesn't mean you necessarily like your circumstances -- it means you have confidence that God is involved with you in them.  It's the surrender of ourselves into his care.  We have to accept the fact that God is in control not us.  We must move from "my timing, my way, my outcome" to "God's timing, God's way, God's outcome."  It's all about Christ.  With Christ we can learn to say, "I can do everything (including being content) through Christ who gives me strength."  It is Christ's power that lets us to rise above our worrisome, frustrating circumstances and say, "It is well with my soul."

"A story is told of a king who was suffering from a mysterious ailment and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man was brought for him to wear.  People went out to all parts of the kingdom looking for such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy and content. But he did not have a shirt."

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Living By Faith

Chuckle:  Doctor to the patient:  "Your recovery was a miracle!"  Patient:  "Praise God! Now I don't have to pay you." 
Quote:  "To believe only possibilities, is not faith, but mere philosophy."  --Sir Thomas Brown
    "What is faith?  It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot see. God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith". . . So, you see it is impossible to please God without faith.  . ." (Hebrews 11:1-2, 6 NLT).
The word "faith" can have several different shades of meaning, depending upon its usage.  But lets focus on the definition found in our Hebrews passage.  The Holy Spirit inspired writer of Hebrews focuses on the kind of faith exhibited by righteous people down through the ages, some of whom are identified later in Hebrews 11.
First, faith is being absolutely certain about the person (reality) of God and who He is.   By faith, we know God is real even though He is unseen by our human eyes.  We know He is real by observing His creation, by the ways He revealed Himself to the prophets of old, by His revelation through His Son, Jesus Christ, and, finally, through the totality of His written Word as illuminated by the Holy Spirit.  But the greatest indication of who God is comes from our own individual experience with Him working in our lives. 
The starting point of faith is belief that God is who He says He is -- that He is real and that He loves us and desires to interact with us.  Faith is also the unwavering conviction that the unseen but anticipated mighty acts of God will bring more indescribable surprises than our finite imaginations can ever see.  "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).   
Second:  Faith is being confident that God will fulfill all His promises.  Faith, at this level, believes God will make good on His promises even though we may not see their complete fulfillment in our lifetimes.  This is how we demonstrate the kind of faith God desires of us.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and "All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God" (Hebrews 11:13 NLT).  Even though they died without receiving all that God had promised them, they never wavered in their anticipation of a better place -- their heavenly home and future rewards.
The kind of faith by which God wants us to live inevitably results in total commitment and faithful obedience to our Lord.  "Foolish man! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless . . . So you see, we are made right with God by what we do, not by faith alone"  (James 2:20,24 NLT).  In summary; Living by faith is believing that God is real, believing that He will make good on His promises, and obeying His commands to serve Him by serving others.  Faith is proven by our actions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse         

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Cleansed Life

Chuckle:  Kid's Lyrics:  "God bless America, through the night with a light from a bulb!"
Quote:  "Choose Jesus Christ!  Deny yourself, take up the 'Cross, and follow Him for the world must be shown.  The world must see, in us, a discernible, visible, startling difference." --Elisabeth Elliott   
A CLEANSED LIFE            
    You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. . . Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:7-8, 12 NIV).
I'm often amazed by the open display of anger and rage in our society.  Sadly, Christians are not immune to these types of sins, and we can see by our Scripture passage that such actions are not unique to our time.  Out of control anger can cause people to do horrible things to one another.  Anger and jealousy caused Cain to kill his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  Uncontrolled anger causes parents to abuse their children.  Anger causes husbands and wives to mistreat one another and destroys marriages.  Anger results in the  sinful actions listed in our passage -- and all sorts of abhorrent behaviors.
When we are born again in Christ, we are cleansed of our sins and become God's new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and gives us the strength we need to avoid the terrible results of anger, rage, etc.  However, when we allow selfishness, greed, and self-centeredness to creep into our lives, we are headed for disaster.  Here, Paul is urging believers to remain true to our faith, and rid ourselves of our old lives and clothe ourselves in our God-given new nature in Christ.
Do you sometimes catch yourself telling a lie or half-truth to get what you want or to hurt someone toward whom you have hard feelings?  Have you gossiped or slandered someone's character out of anger?  Every Christian is in a life-long work in progress and the more we come to know Christ, the more we are being changed to be like Him.  Simply stated, clothing yourself with a brand new nature means that your conduct should match your faith.  We should act like people of God. This is a straightforward step that is as simple as putting on your clothes each day.  Clothe yourself in the righteousness of Christ and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you find yourself drifting into the sins mentioned in our passage, please remember that God is a God of forgiveness and cleansing. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV).
Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, says that if he could convince the patients in his psychiatric hospitals that their sins are forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day.  So often we do not take God at his word that our lives can be cleansed and our sins forgiven -- wiped away forever.  Let God cleanse your life and then clothe yourself with Christ-likeness, including compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Love, Jerry & Dotse    

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Our Sin Problem

Chuckle:   "England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool."

Ponder This:  "It's harder to confess the sin that no one believes in Than the crime that everyone can appreciate.  For the crime is in relation to the law And the sin is in relation to the sinner." --T.S. Eliot


    "I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't. And when try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it" (Romans 7:18-20 NLT).

Here, Paul reveals the constant battle raging within him and in each of us between the power of God and the power of Satan.  He describes his life when his old sinful nature is allowed to take control.  He identifies a severe problem common to all Christians that requires us to examine the degree to which we allow our new nature in Christ to rule over our old sinful nature.  We have the Holy Spirit within us who provides us the strength to overcome our desire to sin.  But we often let our guards down and the old nature raises its ugly head, takes control of our lives, and we sin.

I'm sure you have heard someone say, "The devil made me do it."  Often, this statement is made in jest, but it merits serious consideration and discussion.  Sin is so easy to commit and so terribly difficult to avoid.  But making excuses for sin, do not change the fact that we are responsible to God for the sins we commit -- sins of omission (not doing what we know we should do) or sins of commission (doing what we know we should not do). 

We should never use Satan's power over us as an excuse, because he is a defeated enemy by the power of the Cross and the Holy Spirit.  However, we must access the power of the Holy Spirit each time we are tempted to sin.  A Spirit controlled person can be seen doing what is right even in the face of every human reason not to.  I ran across this story:

     A few years ago a taxi driver in New York City drove a woman through Manhattan and received a 30-cent tip.  Later when he put another passenger's luggage in the trunk, he found that the woman had left her suitcase.  The suitcase contained diamond rings worth more than $30,000.  He and a supervisor tracked down the woman and returned her diamonds.  The driver was quoted in the New York Daily News saying, "Why would I think I could keep it?  It wasn't mine."

I'm sure many of us have struggled with decisions like the taxi driver's.  It's somewhat comforting that Paul endured the same struggles as you and I.  He understood that, without Christ's help, sin is stronger than we are.  But Christ has conquered sin once for all.  If we look to Him for help, we don't have to give in to sin.  "That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you" (Romans 8:8-9 NLT).

Love, Jerry & Dotse