Monday, August 26, 2013

God's Loving Discipline

Chuckle:  Church Bulletin blooper:  "Barbara remains in the hospital.  She is having trouble sleeping and requests CD's of Pastor Jack's sermons." 
 
Quote:  "The Lord disciplines those he loves."  How petty our complaining is!  Our Lord begins to bring us into the place where we can have communion with Him, and we groan and say, "O Lord, let me be like other people!"  --Oswald Chambers      
 
GOD'S LOVING DISCIPLINE
 
    "My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as children" (Hebrews 12:5b-6 NLT).
 
When we find ourselves in troublesome situations, it's popular to blame Satan.  We may think Satan is waging spiritual warfare against us when we experience unpleasant circumstances and hardships.  It's so much easier to blame our troubles on Satan than to admit we may be reaping what we have sown (Gal. 5:6) and are being chastised and disciplined by our loving Heavenly Father.
 
We all know there have been times when we were guilty of not listening to God -- not paying attention to what His Word was saying.  For some of us, God may have used severe discipline to get our attention so that we would restore our fellowship with Him and once again listen for and obey His voice.
 
Who do you think loves his child the most -- the parent who allows his child to make his own bad choices and make mistakes that will ultimately harm him, or the parent who shows love by disciplining his child with correction, training, and even appropriate punishment?  I think the answer is obvious.
 
Yes, we can mistake our difficulties for the work of Satan, when in fact they are the result of a loving God warning us of looming dangers because of sin in our lives.  No doubt God disciplines us to get us back on the right path.  How sad it is when a child of God never makes the connection between life's problems and God's loving discipline.
 
    "No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening -- it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way" (Hebrews 12:11 NLT).  
 
God's discipline is never pleasant, but it is an unmistakable sign of God's perfect love and concern for us.  One thing is certain, because of God's love for you, His discipline will be for your ultimate good.  Our most important question should be, what is God trying to teach me through His disciplining?  
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse       

Friday, August 23, 2013

Believing Brings Blessings

Chuckle:  "If God had wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them
on my knees."

 
Good Quote:  “Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace.  --John Greenleaf Whittier
 
BELIEVING BRINGS BLESSINGS

    "You are blessed, because you believed that the Lord would do what he said" (Luke 1:45 NLT).
 
Great comfort and peace comes with the knowledge that a friend's word can be trusted without fear of deception or wavering from promises made.  Isn't it wonderful to know a person is completely trustworthy and will do what he or she has promised and will not do what he or she has promised not to do?  Doesn't it give you a great sense of well-being when those around you can always be trusted to have your best interest at heart? 
 
Living in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust reminds me of the relationship Jesus Christ wants with each of us as believers.  He wants us to believe and trust Him even when His promises don't make sense to our finite minds.  I've often heard that "taking God at His Word" is the essence of faith.  Mary's great faith allowed her to believe and trust God when He promised she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.  She had no problem accepting the promise and assignment God had given her and her faith and belief brought her great joy and peace.  In the verses following our passage, Mary praises God for His grace, mercy, and promises kept.
 
God's Word is full of promises to His children.  He promises to never leave or forsake us.  He promises us eternal life, sealed by His Spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ.  He promises that no power will ever separate us from His love.  He promises that His Spirit will always live within us to give us strength, comfort, peace, instruction, and wisdom.  These and many more promises of God should give us a great sense of joy and peace. 
 
Often, however, we allow doubt to enter our minds and we begin to see every problem and obstacle in our lives rather than opportunities to believe God.  It's when we take our eyes off our Lord and begin to question His promises that our peace will be replaced with anxiety and fear.
 
If your life is filled with worry and anxiety, please take another look at God's promises and begin to trust Him fully in all circumstances.  If you really believe and trust Him, you will experience a peace that surpasses human understanding and this deep and abiding peace will bring more blessings to your life than you have ever imagined.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse    

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Love Your Enemies

Chuckle:  "When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried!" 

Quote:  "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."  --Martin Luther King

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

    Jesus said: "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven . . . If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors (sinners) do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect (mature), even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-47 NLT).

At the time of Jesus' ministry here on earth, the Jewish people were oppressed under the rule of the Romans.  Now imagine yourself in their place -- and along comes Jesus to tell God's people to love their enemies.  Obviously such teaching could not be accepted by everyone and many turned away from Jesus.  Probably, their biggest problem was dealing with the definition of love from Jesus' point of view.  They thought He was telling them to have warm and fuzzy emotional feelings of affection for their oppressors/enemies.  But, in reality, Jesus was talking about an act of the will.  In the same way God despises sin but loves the sinner, we are to love our enemies even though we may detest their actions.  If you can understand this, then you will have much less difficulty dealing with the concept of loving your enemies.

It takes a conscious effort and submission of will to love those who mistreat you and always act with their own best interests in mind.  We can pray for them, and think of ways to make their lives better.  Jesus had this attitude toward everyone, even though people hated Him, persecuted Him, and even crucified Him.  As the Roman soldiers were killing Him, and people stood around with approving looks, Jesus said from the cross: "Father, forgive them for the do not know what they are doing."  We are to follow His example of unconditional love and forgiveness.  Jesus never stops loving us no matter how much we rebel against His love and ignore His invitation to accept Him by faith for forgiveness of our sins.

What about the last sentence in our passage? "But you are to be perfect (mature), even as your Father in heaven is perfect."  Jesus is telling his followers, and us, that we are to be different.  We are to become perfect or mature Christians as we allow God's Holy Spirit to give us a spiritual makeover.  As we allow Him to mold us and shape us into the likeness of Christ, we will display these marks of maturity:

(1) In character: Here on earth we will never become flawless, but we can strive to become more like Christ every day we live.  (2) In holiness: We are to be submissive to God's desires rather than our own and carry His love and mercy into the world -- even to those who hurt us.  (3) In maturity: Achieving Christ-like character and holy living does not happen overnight, but is a growth process over a lifetime of Christian service.  (4) In love: We can learn to love others as completely as God loves us -- even our enemies.


Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Attitude Of Love

Chuckle:  "Do you believe in life after death?" the boss asked a new employee. "Yes, of course sir," the employee replied. "Well then, that makes everything just fine," the boss went on. "After you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother's funeral, she stopped by to see you!"
 
Quote:  "His love enableth me to call every country my country, and every man my brother" --Daniel Wheeler; "Spiritual Experiences of Friends."
 
ATTITUDE OF LOVE:
 
    "Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that" ((Luke 6:32 NLT). 
 
Attitude is defined as, "A way of acting or behaving that shows what one is thinking or feeling" -- a loving attitude; a  friendly attitude, etc.  The Scriptures tell us that God is Love.  Since Jesus is God incarnate, He is love, and we are told "Your attitude (mind) should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 NIV).  In other words, Christ would have us live every day with an attitude of love like His.  What does such an attitude of love look like?
 
A Christian writer named Tertullian (160-225 AD) wrote these words: "It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.  'Look!' they say. 'How they love one another!  Look how they are prepared to die for one another.'"  Tertullian describes an attitude of love among early Christians and emphasizes the positive impact this attitude will have on others, even those who oppose us.
 
Jesus set the example for us when it comes to loving people.  He treated everyone with kindness and compassion.  I'm sure He was aware that every person carries burdens and faces difficulties that influence the way they react.  He knew they didn't need more problems and life challenges -- they needed an extra measure of love and understanding.  Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV).  His love was unchanging and independent of how people reacted to Him.  His attitude was one of unconditional love.
 
A belligerent angry spirit against those who react with anger and hostility toward us does not reflect the attitude of love that Jesus modeled for us.  The only effective tool we have to draw people to Christ and Christianity is the demonstrated unconditional love of Jesus Christ.  Even though we cannot always understand why people react the way they do, we can still represent our Lord by being a blessing to them.  Like the people described by Tertullian, they will certainly see Jesus in you if you have the attitude of love that Jesus has.
 
   "Love of God is the root, love of our neighbor the fruit of the Tree of Life. Neither can exist without the other, but the one is cause and the other effect." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael Green 
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

God's Perfect Timing

Chuckle:  "How come wrong numbers are never busy?" 
 
Good Quote:  "The way we pray shows how we live; the way we live shows how we pray."  --William Arthur Ward 
 
GOD'S PERFECT TIMING
 
    "For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night"  (1 Thessalonians 5:2 NLT).
 
In chapter four, Paul described the events of Jesus return to remove His church (all believers) from the earth.  Here in chapter five, he deals with the timing of our Lord's return.  How and when Jesus Christ will return was an often asked question in Paul's time as it is now.  Most of us live by the clock and are constantly looking at our watches and calendars as we anticipate our next church service, meeting, work assignment, or vacation.  I must admit I am a stickler for things being done on time and according to plan.
 
When thinking about the return of our Lord, we must remember that we aren't God and we do not view time from His perspective.  Of course God knows all about time.  After all, He created it.  But God's time-table is difficult for us to understand.  For us to try to predict with certainty, the date for Christ's return is an exercise in futility and foolish.  It is not for us to know these things.  Jesus Said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36 NIV).  Evidently, the timing of Christ's return is a closely guarded secret even within the Godhead.  All we know is that the event is certain to happen.
 
The key message from Paul's writings and the words of Jesus is that we cannot know when Christ will return, but we should be ready for Him to return at any moment.  There's no way that God will adjust his time-table just to suit us.  God's timing is always perfect and everything fits into His master plan for the universe, the earth, and His children.  If we understood all about God's timing, we would be God. 
 
Many have been made to look foolish by predicting exact dates for Christ's return.  None of their predictions has been correct.  Having said this, we do know from Scripture that many of the prophecies have been fulfilled that are prerequisites to our Lord's return, and this has led many of us to believe His return could be soon.  But we just can't know for certain.  As Christians, we should just trust God and His perfect timing, be ready, continue our work for Him, and listen for the trumpet call (1 Thessalonians 4:16). 
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse    

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Prepare For Jesus' Return

Chuckle:  A sign under a mounted fish:  "If I had kept my mouth shut, I wouldn't be here!"
 
Good Quote:  "A life without hope is a life without meaning."  --Unknown
 
PREPARE FOR JESUS' RETURN
 

    The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!". . .  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and . . . take the free gift of the water of life. . . He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:17, 20 NIV).
 
Here in the last few verses of the Bible, we are reminded that anyone may come to Jesus to experience the joy of His salvation.  You may recall the account in John 4:10-15, when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at a well and told her about the living water that He could supply.  He extended the universal invitation to come to Him and drink of the water of life.  We live in a world experiencing severe thirst for the living water.  It's not too late for us to extend God's invitation to everyone we know to come and drink.  When they do, then they can look forward with excitement and anticipation to our Lord's next coming.
 
The Bible teaches repeatedly and clearly that the same Jesus who came to earth 2,000 years ago, will come again to claim His church (all true believers) and to welcome them into that eternal city called heaven.  That Jesus will come again is a foundational tenet of the Christian faith.
 
To leave the readers of God's Word with a final reminder of Jesus' coming, the promise is reemphasized in the final verses of the Bible.  One last time, the Scriptures point us to Jesus in whom we have our hope.  When we really hope for something, it will be a preoccupation in our minds and it will give us focus and direction as we anticipate the fulfillment of that hope.  
 
We see the words of Jesus when He said, "Yes, I'm coming soon."  The word, "soon" means "at any moment."  This is wonderful news for those who have placed their faith and hope in Him, but frightening news for those without hope who have rejected Him.  The Scriptures do not give us a date when Jesus will return, but we are taught to live each day as if it is the day of our Lord's return  -- be ready to meet Him.  If we know Him, we long for His return.
 
If we know Christ and long for Him and His return, we will gain eternal treasures beyond description.  But, If we long for the treasures of this world we will spend our lives pursuing them and in the end will we have nothing.  Do you long for Jesus' return, or are you fearful because you are not ready to meet Him?  Come to Him in repentance and faith and He will forgive your sins and prepare you to meet Him with anticipation and without fear.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse      

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Everyone Who Believes

Chuckle:  "A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to a town gossip." --Billy Graham
 
Quote:  "The Christian is one who has forever given up the hope of being able to think of himself as a good man (person)."  --Leslie Newbigin    
 
EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES
 
    "We are made right in God's sight when we trust (have faith) in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done" (Romans 3:22 NLT).  Here, Paul gives a beautiful paraphrase of John 3:16, where Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes (trusts, has faith) in him will not perish but have eternal life." 
 
Genuine Christians are those who have acknowledged that Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, has paid the penalty for their sins on the cross.  They have repented of their sins and their souls have been saved from eternal punishment by God's grace through their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  They have made a conscious decision to entrust their lives into Christ's care and have accepted His forgiveness of their sins and granted Him complete Lordship over their lives.  Jesus called this being "born again."  A summary definition of a Christian is: one in whom Jesus dwells; one whose life Jesus controls; and one through whom Jesus is revealed
 
I have heard many different answers to the question, "are you a Christian."  One response is, I'm a Christian because someone close to me is a Christian.  For example, "my father was a deacon."  "Or, my parents raised me in a Christian home."  I call this an attempt at "vicarious Christianity.  Although one is more likely to be saved and become a Christian if reared in a Christian environment, living in a Christian home does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.   
 
Becoming a Christian requires a transformation of a person by the power of the Holy Spirit. "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone, A new life has begun" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).  "And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him (Christ) and reflect his glory even more" (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT).       
 
Others think they are right with God if they do their best to live a good moral life and maybe even attend church services now and then.  In other words, they think we are saved by what we do rather than by what Jesus did on our behalf.  We live in a world where we work for what we receive and it's difficult for some to understand that we don't have to work for our salvation -- it is a gift from God.  However, we do good works in obedience to God because we have been saved, not in order to be saved. "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).  If living a "good" life could save us, why did Jesus need to die?
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse