Monday, February 25, 2013

Reflecting the Light


Chuckle:  "Never trust a faith healer who limps!"
 
Good Quote:  "A Christian should be a walking sermon, a breathing prayer, a living poem, a visible spirit, and a human candle."  --William Arthur Ward
 
REFLECTING THE LIGHT
 
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12 NIV).
 
Many years ago, I received a guided tour through Diamond Cave in North Arkansas.  With the cavern completely lighted, many beautiful and varied rock formations were visible.  But the guide wanted us to experience the total darkness within the cave, and at the deepest point under ground he turned off the lights.  Up to that point, I thought I knew what darkness was, but I was wrong.  I had never experienced such inky blackness before.  It was horrible!  I came away with a new appreciation for light that dispels the darkness.
 
We know that the sun is the source of physical light on earth.  The moon only reflects the sun's light, and has no inherent light of its own.  When I move my thoughts out of the physical realm and into the spiritual realm, an amazing corollary takes shape.  In our passage, Jesus declares that He is the Light of the world, but in Matthew 5:14, He says to us: "You are the light of the world."  And in John 1:6-9, the Apostle John referred to John the Baptist this way:  "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that Light (Jesus), so that through him men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man (person) was coming into the world." 
 
Along with John the Baptist, we followers of Christ are not the light of the world, but are to allow His light to shine through us.  As the moon only reflects the light of the sun, our lives are to reflect the light of the Son.  In the same way the lights dispelled physical darkness in that cave, so Christ dispels the spiritual darkness in the hearts of people.  And when  Jesus calls us the light of the world, he knows we have no light of our own but are only reflectors of His light to others. 
 
In the same way that the reflected light by the moon casts light upon the earth at night, our lives can reflect the light of Christ into the lives of those around us.  Without the light of Jesus, there is total spiritual darkness in the hearts of people.  The problem is that sometimes pride makes us want to be the light rather than a reflector of the Light -- the lamp through whom the light shines.  Speaking of His light shining through us, Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

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? 
 
COPYING JESUS CHRIST
 
    "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 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Raising Good Adults


Chuckle:  A sign on a country road  -- "WHEN THIS SIGN IS UNDER WATER, THIS ROAD IS CLOSED!" 
 
Good Quote:  "Who our ancestors were is not nearly as important as the kind of ancestors we shall someday be."   --William Arthur Ward
 
RAISING GOOD ADULTS          
 
    "And now a word to you fathers (and mothers). Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).  "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, . . . Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, . . . Similarly, encourage young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good (Titus 2:3-7 NIV).
 
I once read an article in Better Homes and Gardens by Jack Croft.  He makes the case that in the past decades parents have focused on building self-esteem in their children to make them happy and well adjusted.  However, many older parents and grandparents have been concerned that over emphasis on "building self-esteem" has resulted in less discipline, more permissiveness, and the creation of selfish spoiled children. This article validates those concerns.
 
Studies are showing that building self-esteem is not the most important consideration in developing good adults.  Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, professor of psychology, "found that by virtually any measure, self-esteem has not lived up to its promises."  It simply doesn't work.  He goes on to say, "my advice would be to forget about self-esteem and concentrate on self-control."  "Self-control" is mentioned numerous times in Scripture as an important character trait for God's people, but "self-esteem" is only implied in phrases like "love your neighbor as yourself."   We are to value ourselves as God values us -- but never to become self-centered, arrogant, and demanding.  Dr. Baumeister defines "self-control" this way: "Being able to resist temptation, control your impulses, focus your thoughts, and perform up to your capacity."  That sounds Biblical to me.
 
Our passages focus on teaching children and youth through discipline, Godly instructions, and setting a healthy example for them.  Role-modeling is a highly successful teaching method in any situation.  Another psychologist, Charles Elliott, co-authored "Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth."  He suggests we, as parents, should allow our children to see us walk away from a frustrating situation (deal with it later) rather then exploding in anger.  By example, you can show your children a better way to handle frustration.
 
    Mr. Croft says, "A criticism of self-esteem is that it focuses too much on self, instead of teaching kids about others.  Ask your child, 'How do you think Johnny felt when that happened?'  If the answer is not a good one, help them to put themselves in others' shoes." 
 
Now to the clincher. "Self-control" is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  For Christian parents and grandparents, modeling self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit will teach Christian kids to depend upon the Holy Spirit for the strength they need to exercise self-control -- control over their wills, tongues, actions, and passions so that Christ is honored.  Teach children to try new things but not be devastated when they fail, but rather to laugh at themselves and have fun.
   
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

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
 
SACRIFICIAL LAMB:      
 
    "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

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
 
MARKS OF THE FAITHFUL   
 
    "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

THE SECRET OF BEING CONTENT:

". . . . 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
 
LIVING BY FAITH
 
    "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         

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dealing With Discouragement


Chuckle:  "You know it's going to be a bad day when your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles."
 
Good Quote:  "If the devil cannot make you puffed up by pride, he will try to dampen your spirit by discouragement. It's his best tool!" --Unknown source
 
DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT       
 
    "Now I am deeply discouraged, . . ."  (Psalm 42:6 NLT).
 
Have circumstances caused you to feel discouraged and ready to throw in the towel and give up?  During this recession, you may have lost your job and the search for a new one may have been fruitless.  Many of us get discouraged and depressed when things do not turn out the way we had planned or desired.  Another translation of our passage says, "My soul is downcast within me." 
 
The psalmist was in exile far away from his home in Jerusalem and could not worship His Lord in the Temple.  He could not be home for the God-given holidays, when his people remembered all that God had done for them.  He was lonely and feeling sorry for himself.  He was discouraged. 
 
As a professional soldier for many years, there were times when I was far away from home and family, and I sometimes found myself with a deep sense of discouragement and loneliness -- especially when I had to miss special times with my family like anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas holidays.  During those times I needed to turn my attention away from myself and toward God and to focus on His love, mercy, grace, and all that He had done for me.  God has always been my anchor and gives me a deep sense of inner peace and contentment.
 
How does God help you when you are discouraged?  He does so in many ways including these.  First, He helps by always being with you.  "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5b).  Second, He helps by understanding what you are going through.  Jesus said, "When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).  Third, He helps by comforting and strengthening you.  "May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who loved us and in His special favor gave us everlasting comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do and say" (1 Thessalonians 2:16-17). 
 
Notice that the psalmist did not keep his feelings bottled up inside himself.  No, he voiced his feelings to God and fellow worshipers.  He was honest in describing his emotional state.  I'm reminded of words from an old hymn: "Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there."  If you find yourself discouraged and downcast, take those feelings to your Lord who will lift you up and carry you through each circumstance.  Also, find someone you love and trust with whom to share your burdens and be encouraged.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse      

Monday, February 11, 2013

Grace Without Limits


Chuckle:  The last fight was my fault though. My wife asked "What's on the TV?" I said "Dust!"  --Red Skelton
 
Quote:  "When I say 'I'm a Christian,' I am not holier than thou.  I'm just a simple sinner who received God's grace, somehow!"  --Unknown origin   
 
GOD'S UNLIMITED GRACE              
 
    "The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . From the fullness of his grace we have all received (one) blessing (grace) after another" (John 1:14, 16 NIV).
 
God's grace is an amazing attribute of his character.  Literally, "grace" is getting what we do not deserve -- or more than we deserve.  Grace should not be confused with "mercy," which is not getting what we deserve, or "justice," which is getting what we deserve.  Initially, God's grace is the means whereby we are saved:  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast"  (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
 
As important as God's grace is for our salvation, there is much more of his grace available to us every single day.  Remember, God wants each of us to experience a life full of joy and peace.  He wants us to have the absolute best and fullest life that only he can give us.  See John 10:10.
 
Our basic passage tells us that Jesus came full of grace and truth.  God's "grace" springs from his never ending boundless love and generosity.  "Truth," on the other hand, stresses God's determination to be consistent, reliable, predictable, and trustworthy in his dealings with us.  You can trust all the promises of God recorded in his Word.  You can take them to the bank, so to speak.  Grace without truth would make it meaningless.  In declaring the character of God, Jesus combined an infinite tenderness toward us, as sinful people, with an unswerving fidelity and faithfulness.
 
Also, notice that God gives us his grace followed by even more grace -- one portion of grace after another.  The flow of God's grace is like the waves of the ocean.  One wave of grace is followed by another wave of grace over and over again.  God's grace is never ending.  Once the gift of God's grace is received, it never stops flowing and growing. 
 
God wants us to be conscious of his grace and draw upon it daily for strength, peace, and comfort.  And, as the God of truth, he wants us to trust him implicitly and rely upon his promises.  Promises like: "Never will I leave  you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:4b NIV), or "I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b NIV).
 
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    

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rest in Christ


Chuckle:  "A nice box of chocolates can provide your total intake of calories in one place. Isn't that handy?"
 
Good Quote:  "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you."  --St Augustine of Hippo
 
REST IN CHRIST
 
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"  (Matthew 11:28 NIV).  
 
Rest comes to us as Christians when we walk closely with our Lord with an attitude of total dependence upon Him and His strength.  Jesus is fully aware of our needs and He provides us a deep well of inexhaustible rest and refreshment.  But we must be still and recognize Him as our Lord.  
 
Jesus understands that you may be carrying heavy burdens of (1) sin in your life, (2) excessive demands on your time and energy, (3) oppression and persecution, or (4) just plain weariness.  Jesus wants to lighten all these burdens.  The rest that Jesus promises includes love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor.  His rest is the absence of guilt, worry, anxiety, and lack of purpose. 
 
A close relationship with Jesus Christ changes the meaningless, wearisome toil into refreshing spiritual productivity and purpose.  If your life is dedicated to the purpose of loving and serving Him, you will be amazed at the rest and refreshment He will provide even during the most hectic times in your life.  He will give you rest both in body and in spirit. 
 
Jesus continues, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV). 
 
A yoke is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of oxen.  The yoke is attached to a piece of equipment such as a plow or a wagon for the oxen to pull.  Jesus pictures such a yoke as extremely heavy and burdensome.  But then He contrasts it with the yoke He asks us to bear as His followers which is light and restful in comparison.  His yoke is lighter and not burdensome because it is His strength that does His work through us.  When we really love our Lord and want to serve Him, He will always amaze us with His rest, refreshment, peace, and contentment.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heaven: Who Will Be There


Chuckle:  On the way home from Sunday morning worship, I said to my wife, "You know, I don't think I have ever preached worse."  In an effort to cheer me up, she said, "Sure you have, honey."
 
Today's Quote:  "Take all the pleasures of all the spheres, And multiply each through endless years -- One minute of heaven is worth them all."  --Thomas Moore
 
HEAVEN: WHO WILL BE THERE?           
 
    "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36 NIV).
 
There is a popular belief today that a loving God will allow everyone into heaven as long as there is a thread of decency in their character.  It seems that nearly everyone is going to heaven, and hell is reserved for only the vilest of characters like child-molesters, murderers, or other heinous persons including those we just don't like.  It's understandable that we are repulsed by the thought of a fellow human being spending eternity separated from God in a horrible place the Bible calls hell -- a place many say does not exist.  
 
According to Scripture, both heaven and hell are indisputable realities, regardless of our personal feelings about them.  Heaven is described as a blissful place of eternal peace, joy, and comfort in the presence of our Lord.  R. G. Lee said this about heaven, "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create."  It is reserved for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as evidenced by their service to Him and other people. 
 
Hell, on the other hand, was not prepared for human beings but for the Devil and his angels.  "Then he (Jesus) will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matthew 25:41 NIV).  God does not send people to hell; they go there by choice.
 
We cannot dismiss the reality of hell without dismissing the teachings of Jesus himself.  Jesus was rejected and insulted when he confronted people with the harsh reality of their sins.  He often spoke about hell as the place of eternal suffering for those who willfully and persistently reject his love and free gift of salvation by grace through faith in him. 
 
Yes, hell is a real place that will be inhabited by the eternal souls of real people -- even good moral people who have rejected Christ.  This truth should never be sugar-coated, glossed over, or watered down to please those who do not want to hear about or acknowledge hell's existence.
 
So, back to our original question: "Who will go to heaven?" Answer: Those who have humbled themselves before God, repented of their sins, and have received forgiveness by placing their faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death on Calvary's cross. These words are not Jerry Stratton's opinion but the Words of God himself as expressed by Jesus Christ and others in the Bible, God's Holy Word.

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

OUR SIN PROBLEM

    "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