Friday, July 26, 2013

Generosity Always Returns

Chuckle:  What do you call 40 men watching the Super Bowl on TV?  The Dallas Cowboys!"
Ponder this:  “Love is not getting, but giving, not a wild dream of pleasure, and madness of desire— ... it is goodness, and honor, and peace and pure living.  --Henry van Dyke
    "Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Divide your gifts among many, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead"  (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 NLT).
The disastrous earthquake in Haiti a few years back brought untold death and suffering to the Haitian people.  The television images of corpses in the streets and helpless victims touched the hearts of people all over the world.  People gave generously of their means and many gave themselves by traveling to Haiti to help in any way they could.  Some still do.  God's Word teaches us to be generous to the point of personal sacrifice when we see someone in need.  I am both proud and thankful that Americans and others around the globe responded to the people of Haiti in such amazing ways.
I have heard it said that when you give something away, it will always come back to you in some form.  This is a paradox that makes ultimate sense to a Christian.  It is a principle that God planned for His children from the beginning.  Give and it will be given to you.  In the same way that a moisture laden cloud releases its rain, a Christian will be so full of God's grace that he or she will joyfully and generously release and share his or her blessings.
In our passage, Solomon summarizes that life involves both risk and opportunity.  He seems to be saying that by giving to others, we are preparing for uncertain risks which may come later to us.  This makes sense if we accept the premise that as we give, much will be given to us in return.  We must grasp the opportunity to give when it comes while we have the ability and resources to do so.  By doing so, we are showing a spirit of trust and adventure.  We trust the goodness of God and the truths of His Word and enjoy the adventure of seeing lives blessed by our generosity.  As we give to others, we can be assured that blessings will return to us.  Also, God has a way of multiplying our generosity.  As you give to help someone, that person will in turn help someone else, and the cycle continues.  
I'm reminded of the words of Jesus: "If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving -- large or small -- it will be used to measure what is given back to you" (Luke 6:38 NLT).  As we treat others with generosity, graciousness, and compassion, these qualities will come back to us in full measure.
A well-known philanthropist was asked, "How is it that you give away so much, and yet have so much left?"  "I suppose it's like this," he replied.  "I shovel out, and God shovels in, and he has a bigger shovel than I do!"   

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Great Intercessor

Chuckle: How would you make a marriage work? "Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck." -- Ricky, age 10

Good Quote: "To God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in One, Be honour, praise, and glory given By all on earth, and all in heaven."  --Isaac Watts


    "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will" (Romans 8:26-27 NLT).

Are there times when you feel so distressed, depressed, and discouraged that you don't know where to turn and have difficulty putting your feelings into words?  Are there times when your feelings are so complex and confusing that you don't know how to ask God for relief?  I'm sure each of us has experienced such feelings at one time or another.  When this happens, we must be reminded that, as Christians, we are not alone in this battle of life.  We are not limited by our own finite resources in coping with difficulties, disappointments, and distractions. 

When you feel distressed, it is not necessary to put your prayer requests into words, because the Great Intercessor will do that for you.  With God, Himself, helping you to pray, there's never a reason to be hesitant or afraid to come to Him in prayer.  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence (boldness), so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).

We should boldly and confidently approach God even when we realize how little we know and how poorly equipped we are to pray properly.  But the Holy Spirit stands ready to help us express our love for God, our deep desire to worship Him, our sincere attitude of repentance, or even with our personal requests.  Even when nothing but groans come from within us, the Holy Spirit understands and will intercede for us in accordance with God's own will; and God will certainly answer such prayers.

The Holy Spirit is God, but He is in some ways distinguishable from the Father. The Spirit prays for us to the Father.  The Spirit is a form of God as is Jesus, the Son of God.  This intercessory communications within the persons of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are a part of the great mystery of the Trinity. 

The intercession of the Spirit introduces a level of divine communications which is far above the level of human words in which our sometimes awkward prayers are interpreted and translated into the high and majestic language of God Himself.  PRAISE!! 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Forgiving: A Christian Duty

Chuckle:  "I just had skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious!" 

Good Quote: "It is by forgiving that one is forgiven."  --Mother Teresa of Calcutta


    "You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:13-14 NLT).

Many of us often find it is most difficult to forgive those who have treated us in an unkind or hostile way.  Forgiveness is the act of pardoning an offender in spite of the offender's shortcomings and errors.  It's the last thing Jesus did on the cross! "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NIV).

When we exercise genuine forgiveness, it frees us from the most powerful bondage we can experience.  Jesus didn't say we are to forgive if we feel like it.  He said it is a duty and no limit can be set on the extent of forgiveness.  It must be granted without reservations or conditions -- by faith and not feelings.

    "I'm warning you! If another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4 NLT).

One of the most effective tools the evil one uses to steal our joy is unforgiveness.  With just a little foothold of unforgiveness in our lives, we can easily become bound with chains of bitterness, resentment, anger and rage.  If we let that foothold linger without dealing with it, eventually it will lead to our own self-destruction.  But forgiving sets you free.

The apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:15, NLT, that words and emotions can get out of hand -- even among Christians. "But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another."  When this happens, feelings get hurt, friendships are destroyed, the church becomes divided, and the body of Christ suffers.  It is crucial that each of us asks the Lord daily to help us to "be kind to each another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32 NLT).

    A man named John Oglethorpe, in talking with John Wesley, once made the comment, "I never forgive."  Mr. Wesley wisely replied, "Then, Sir, I hope that you never sin."  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Living Sacrifice

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord...May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you" (Psalm 33:12, 22 NIV).
Note: The next devotional post will be on Monday, July 8th.

Chuckle:  A child's answer to a science test question: "What does the word "benign' mean?" Answer: "It is what you will be after you be eight."

Quote: "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal."  --Albert Pike


    "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).

I'm sure you remember the Old Testament story of Abraham and his son, Isaac (Genesis, chapter 22).  The short version: God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.  Abraham did as God commanded. He bound Isaac, laid him on the wood, and raised his knife to kill him.  As he raised the knife, God stopped him and said to him: "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12 NIV).  God provided a ram to be offered instead of Isaac after Abraham had passed the test of faith.  You see, God did not want Isaac to die.  He had great plans for both Abraham and Isaac.  He wanted both of them to be living sacrifices.

The message for us is that God wants us to love and trust him so completely that we will sacrifice ourselves by dying to self and living lives of sacrifice for him.  He wants us to sacrifice through identification with Jesus' death which then makes it possible for us to live and do as Jesus did.  Doing the will of our heavenly Father becomes our first priority. Oswald Chambers puts it this way:

"I am willing to be identified with Your (Jesus') 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 through Jesus.  This is the thing (sacrifice) that is acceptable to God."

Salvation is a free gift, which we do not deserve, made possible by God's love and grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not something we can earn.  Because of God's free gift, we owe him everything we have and are.  We owe him ourselves and all we have as an act of sacrificial worship.  Our worship should be a matter of applying faith to everyday life.  This is possible when God changes our mindset by his Spirit working in us, giving us the ability to discern God's will in all we do.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thirsting For God

Chuckle:  "When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra."  --Will Rogers"

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled" --Matthew 5:6 NIV


    "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Psalm 42:1-2 NIV).

Dotse and I enjoy sitting on our back porch and watching deer that graze and bed down on our lawn.  They are fun to watch but they certainly are destructive to plants and shrubs.  Here in Central Texas, we normally have several months of hot dry weather each summer.  The deer sometimes become desperate for water and we see them drinking from fish ponds, bird baths, etc.  You can actually see them panting from the heat and the need for water.  Their severe need causes them to take extreme measures to quench their thirsts.

In our passage, the psalmist so yearned for God's intimate presence in his life that he compared his longing for God to that of a panting deer's thirst for water.  What an amazing testimony by the writer of this Psalm who was likely in exile somewhere to the north of Mount Hermon.  He was longing to be on the mountain with God himself.  Evidently, he felt that God was far away and not available to him.  He was in a desert with no way to quench his thirst.

Have there been times when you have felt that God was far away?  I think every Christian has, or will, have such an experience.  When we feel this way, we need to remember that God does not move away from us -- we move away from him.  It may be that some sin has gained a foothold in your live which creates a breach in fellowship between you and God.  You may have allowed something to become a higher priority than your relationship with the living Lord.  A warning signal is the absence of a thirst and yearning for God.  But the important thing is to recognize your condition and draw near to God out of a deep personal need for his forgiving, healing, and comforting presence in your life.  As you draw near to God, he will draw near to you.

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10 NIV).  Jesus continued, "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"  (John 4:14 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jesus' Model Prayer

Chuckle:  Have you heard about the bowlegged cowboy who was fired because he couldn't keep his calves together?      
Quote:  "Every Christian needs an half hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour."  --St Francis de Sales
    "Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins , just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one"  (Matthew 6:9-12 NLT).
Jesus' words here are commonly called "The Lord's Prayer."  But since Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray, it could be called the "Model Prayer."  Let's focus on both the sequence and content of the prayer.
First:  We are to begin our prayer by honoring God as we enter His holy presence with praise, reverence, and commitment.  "Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored (hallowed)."  We focus our attention on the holiness and majesty of God and spend some time just sharing our love for Him.  But It's tempting to skip over this most important part of the prayer and go directly to our selfish shopping list of things we want God to do for us. 
Second:  Our prayer moves to expressing our concerns for God's spiritual kingdom and His will"May Your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven."  Our concern should be to glorify God and advance His kingdom above all else.  Jesus said, "And he (God) will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern"  (Matthew 6:33 NLT).  This means seeking His will first before making our personal requests.  Our prayers should focus on the furtherance of God's kingdom as enunciated in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20 and elsewhere in Scripture.  
Third:  Our prayer now turns to our daily needs from God, our sustainer and provider"Give us our food for today.  By the time we get to this point in our prayer, we are totally focused on God, not ourselves.  We will have rearranged our priorities and affirmed our complete trust in God and His will.  We now understand that if we put God and His kingdom first, He will take care of everything else we may need.  Selfishness will have been removed from our prayer
Fourth:  We acknowledge God's provision by asking His help in dealing with our daily struggles.  Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."   Notice that God's forgiveness is requested based on our forgiveness of others.  Also, we should ask God to give us strength to overcome temptation and lead us in His way instead.
We sometimes reverse the order of the Model Prayer.  We begin by voicing our real and perceived needs and spend very little, if any, time seeking God and His kingdom.  Let's take a new look at the Model Prayer and bring our prayer priorities in line with those articulated (modeled) by Jesus.

Love, Jerry & Dotse