Thursday, October 31, 2013

Finding Your Life

Chuckle:  TV repairman: "So, what seems to be the problem with your TV?"  Woman: "It has double images. I hope you men can fix it."   
Quote:  "No conceivable life can be so interesting and stimulating as that which we live in Christ."  --William Little
    Jesus said, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it" (Matthew 10:39 NLT).
To the unsaved, and even to immature Christians, these words from Jesus are difficult to understand.  It's a great paradox that one finds his life by being willing to lose it, just as he inevitably loses his life by trying to save it.  The contrast is between living selfishly only for ourselves, and living sacrificially for Christ.  Each person can find eternal life, and the abundant life here on earth, by surrendering his or her life to Christ or forfeit it by indulging in self-trust, self-love, and self assertion.
It's believed that Jesus may have also been making a reference to martyrdom.  The one who, under trial, seemingly saves his life by renouncing Christ actually loses it; but the one who remains faithful suffers martyrdom for acknowledging his faith in Christ seems to have lost his life but actually finds his life in Christ.
What is the practical application of Jesus' words for us as we live each day?  Simply stated, we must get our priorities in the right order.  We can become so busy and preoccupied with our own lives that our priorities become upside down.  The least important becomes most important.  The most important becomes least important.  The valueless becomes most valuable and the most valuable becomes a mere trinket in our flawed value systems.
The more we love the things of this world (leisure, power, popularity, wealth), the more we discover how relatively unimportant they are in God's grand scheme of things.  The life Christ wants for us can only be achieved by loosening our greedy grasp on earthly rewards and follow Christ with His eternal rewards.  Then we will understand and claim the promises of our lord when He said, "I have come that they (we) may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV).
Our Lord wants our lives to be abundantly full and rich in Him, both here on earth and in eternity, and our eternal lives begin the moment we pray to receive Him as personal Lord and Savior.  Have you claimed Christ's offer in your life?  Are you living for Christ or for yourself? 

Love, Jerry & Dotse        

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fighting Against God

Chuckle:  A reporter asked a 103-year-old woman, And what is the best thing about being 103?"  She simply replied, "No peer pressure."
Quote:  "Physical strength can never permanently withstand the impact of spiritual force."  --Franklin D. Roosevelt.
    "So my advice is, leave these men alone.  If they are teaching and doing things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.  But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them.  You may even find yourselves fighting against God" (Acts 5:38-39 NLT).
I read somewhere that more people have been killed for their Christian faith in the last century than in all previous history.  Living here in the relative safety of our beloved USA, this may sound preposterous.  However, millions of Christians around the world practice their faith in the face of grave dangers including imprisonment, torture, or even death.  The threat is real and the persecution is real in this modern day.  As I have, you may have participated in offerings for the persecuted church to buy Bibles and other Christian materials for struggling Christians around the world.
It's interesting to study how the early church flourished in the face of severe persecution while today many of our churches are floundering in decline with little or no threat of persecution.  But God continues to open people's hearts to the gospel in places where new Christians know that suffering awaits them.
In our passage, members of the powerful Jewish Sanhedrin were persecuting Peter and the apostles for preaching the gospel message.  One wise Sanhedrin member, Gamaliel, told his companions that if the gospel message of Peter and the apostles was of God, no amount of persecution would be able to stop the movement, and they might even find themselves fighting against God. 
As I read this passage, and thought about the persecution of early Christians, the question came to my mind:  How faithful would I be to Christ and His church if I faced a threat of arrest when I stepped outside my place of worship?  In many places around the world our fellow believers face such threats every day, but yet they remain faithful.
    “There is no place for fear among men and women who serve the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing. --Ezra Taft Benson
Those who persecute Christians are fighting against God and will never be successful in quenching the fires of faith in Jesus Christ and in His church.  However, we must remain faithful so there will be no doubt that what we preach, teach, and live are consistent with God's Word and His will.  Let's fight against evil, and be sure we're not fighting against God.   

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Love is Patient and Kind

Chuckle:  After being punished for losing his temper, a little boy asked his mother, "Can you explain to me the difference between my foul temper and your worn nerves?"   
Quote:  "The heart benevolent and Kind The most resembles God." --Robert Burns 'A Winter Night'           
    "Love is patient, love is kind. . . It is not easily angered" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV).  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, . . patience, kindness . . ." (Galatians 5:22 NIV).
All too often, as Dotse and I sit down to enjoy a meal together or settle into our easy chairs to read or watch television, the phone begins its relentless ringing.  Often it's those pesky inconsiderate telemarketers trying to sell us something we don't want or need; and they are reluctant to take "no" for an answer.  Signing up for the "no call" list has been only partially effective.  It's very irritating and makes me want to snarl at the person on the other end in a rush of anger.  I'm tempted to become impatient, unkind, rude, and insulting.
However, when I stop to think and seriously consider the situation, I begin to feel guilty and embarrassed because of my attitude.  I'm reminded that the person making the call is probably a decent human being just trying to make a living in a tough job market.  From my military days, I remember hearing something like this: "If you don't like the bad news message, it does no good to shoot the messenger."  After all, the messenger and the telemarketer do not deserve to be treated rudely and suffer the results of our rage.  Telemarketing is their job, and should not define who they are, or their value, in our eyes because they are certainly as precious in the eyes of our Lord as you and I.
In our passage, the apostle Paul describes the characteristics of genuine love.  Have you thought about loving a telemarketer or someone else that irritates or inconveniences you by their words or actions?  God's kind of love is all about others and is directed outward, not inward toward ourselves.  Earlier, I described my natural inclinations to react in an unkind and unloving way.  So, how can we love even the telemarketers as Jesus loves us (John 13:34)?  I think this quote from the NLT Life Applications Study Bible says it all.
    "This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations.  It is impossible to have this kind of love unless God helps us set aside our own natural desires so that we can love and not expect anything in return.  Thus, the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others." 
Our passages tell us love is patient and kind and is not easily angered.  Such love and patience are fruits of the Holy Spirit living within us (Gal. 5:22).  So, the next time a telemarketer, or some other person irritates you and you are inclined to react in anger, stop, take a deep breath and let the Spirit of Christ direct your words and actions.  Thus, you will honor God.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Greater Things

Chuckle:  Headline read: "Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half!"  Chainsaw Massacre all over again!
Good Quote:  "Every sunrise is a new message from God, and every sunset is His signature."  --William Arthur Ward
    Jesus said to His disciples:  "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father"  (John 14:12 NIV).
This is one of the most profound and amazing declarations to come from the lips of our Lord.  What is the truth Jesus wants us to understand from this passage?  Surely, He doesn't mean that we will do greater miracles than raising people from the dead or the granting of eternal life.  These miracles are as amazing as they get.  The key lies in Jesus' statement as to why He said we will do greater things than He did while He was here on earth.  This will be true "because I am going to the Father."
How did His going to the Father change what believers are able to do?  It was the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of all believers who provides the motivation, direction, and power for us to do greater things.  Later, Jesus said, "Unless I go away (to the Father), the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7 NIV).  You see, after Jesus had gone, the disciples would be working in the power of the Holy Spirit, which would enable them, and us, to carry the Good News of God's Kingdom from Palestine to the entire world. 
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV).
Jesus' earthly ministry was confined to a relatively small geographical area.  It is through the Holy Spirit empowering faithful witnesses, beginning with the twelve, that His message has gone global.  I believe the spread of Christianity around the world constitutes the "greater things" to which Jesus referred.   
Down through the ages untold millions have been drawn to faith in Jesus Christ by faithful witnesses and the wooing of the Spirit as He exercises His power to redeem sinners and grant the assurance of eternal life.  Our Lord wants each of us to be faithfully and actively involved in doing "greater things" in the power of the Spirit. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When Words Fail Us

Note: I'm taking a few days off.  The next post will be October 23rd or 24th.  In the meantime, please search this blog where over 800 devotionals are archived.   
Chuckle:  I wonder why don't they just make mouse-flavored cat food?
Great Quote:  "In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart."  --John Bunyan
    "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress.  For we don't even 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 (Romans  8:26 NLT). 
Have you found yourself trying to express your feelings to someone but no matter how hard you tried you just couldn't find the right words to fully express how you felt?  I think we all have had such experiences.  Let's face it, words can only take us so far in expressing the deepest feelings to others.  The same is true when it comes to prayer -- communicating with God.
It's a wonderful spiritual truth that we are not left with only our own resources to cope with situations that arise or feelings we experience.  We all experience sorrows, frustrations, hopes and dreams that are so poignant they fill us with    emotions so deep that mere words fall woefully short as a means to convey the extent of our feelings.  But never doubt that God wants to hear what's in your heart and mind. 
To make this possible, He sent His Spirit to search out your innermost thoughts and feelings -- even in your subconscious.  And because He is God, the Spirit has no problem at all in conveying your prayers to the Father that you and I find so difficult to express.
If you accept this truth, you and I should never be hesitant or afraid to come before God and ask His help in expressing the content of our hearts to Him.  Just ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for you as you pray in harmony with God's own will.  Then you can trust Him to always do what is best for you -- even though you may not always understand it.  The next time you are at a loss for words when praying, just remember this promise:  "The Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words."
I read about two men who were visiting Niagara Falls.  One who had been there previously, said, "Come and I'll show you the greatest unused power in the world."  Taking him to the foot of the Falls, he said, "There is the greatest unused power in the world."  "Ah, no, my friend, not so!" was the reply of the other.  "The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God." 

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Remembrance of You

Chuckle:  Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited - until you try to sit in their pews!
Quote:  “Memory builds a pathway that goes winding through the heart and keeps friends close together even though they are far apart.  --Unknown
    "I thank God upon every remembrance of you(Philippians 1:3 KJV). 
Among the many beautiful and thoughtful cards I received following my major surgery was one from a member of a church where I once served as pastor.   In the card, the well-wisher quoted our verse to me.  It touched my heart very deeply.  These words are from a strong note of thanksgiving and prayer by the apostle Paul for the Christians at Philippi, and I'm sure his words had a tremendous impact on those believers as well.  They reminded me that I should be faithful in telling the precious people who have touched my life over the years how important they are to me.
Each of us is the product of influences by the people who have interacted with us over our lifetimes.  We have been molded into the people we are by those God has placed in our paths.  They may have been parents, pastors, teachers, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, or just special friends.  This morning, let's think together about the implications of this verse of Scripture when it is directed at those we remember with love and thankfulness.
First, it tells them they are being remembered -- they are in our thoughts.  There's just something extra special that happens in our hearts when we know we are remembered with fondness and appreciation.  No doubt they are comforted and encouraged from knowing they are important to us, are loved, and are in our thoughts. 
Second, it tells them they are not only remembered but that we are praying for them.  I know I'm encouraged every time I'm reminded that someone is praying for me, my ministry, or my health.  When you tell people you remember them, think of them, and pray for them, you may provide the uplifting words they desperately need to hear.
Third, it tells them how thankful we are for them and the impact they have had on your lives.  When you say to someone, "I thank God for you," you may never know this side of heaven how you have touched that persons heart and life -- how you have made them feel.  Every person needs to know they are important and are making a difference in someone's life.
Please think about the people who are, or have been, special to you and have been a positive influence in your life.  Now consider letting them know with a card, phone call, e-mail, or a personal contact how much they mean to you, and how they have enriched your life.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 7, 2013

Destructive Debt

Chuckle:  Husband:  "The bank returned your check."  Wife:  "Good, now I can use it for something else."
Good quote:  “This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt. --Earl Wilson
    "Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender"  (Proverbs 22:7 NLT).
The greed of unscrupulous lenders, excessive appetite for possessions by borrowers, and investments in risky mortgage backed securities by financial institutions brought our country to the depths of recession from which we are now slowly recovering.  It's clear that greed and materialism are at the root of our nation's financial problems.  Credit is a good thing when we manage it wisely and do not get in over our heads.  By living within our means, we can enjoy the benefits of credit without becoming its slave.  However, many are so deeply in debt that they live in a constant state of desperation and anxiety.  Indebtedness robs them of the joy of living. 
According to 1 Kings 4:29-34, God made Solomon the wisest man on earth, and he wrote many of the proverbs in the Bible.  He knew that the debtor's life would be dictated by those to whom he owed money, especially if the amount of debt is greater than his ability to pay.  This  proverb is not saying we should never borrow.  Rather, it implies a warning to examine carefully our ability to pay before entering into a loan arrangement.  Such examination should include the possibility of reduced income or even periods of unemployment.  We should always take into account unexpected emergencies which could reduce our ability to pay our debts.
A loan handled wisely enables us to do what we couldn't do without it, but a loan which is beyond our ability to handle is disabling and ruinous.  Each borrower must realize that until the debt is paid in full, he is the servant of the lending agency or individual from whom the loan was obtained.  There's a new golden rule in effect today:  "He who has the gold makes the rules."
In my ministry, I have counseled with many couples/families whose debt from credit cards, retailers, and mortgage companies was overwhelming and they could see no way out.  Often the indebtedness was putting a strain on marriage relationships and stress within the entire family.  I believe that the mishandling of finances is the number-one cause of domestic disharmony and unhappiness.  As Christians, we should incur debt very carefully and we should always pray for God's guidance before entering into any credit agreement and ask, will God be pleased with what I'm doing -- is it the right thing to do? 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I'm Not Ashamed

Chuckle:  "My teenage daughter thinks I'm too nosy.  At least that's what she keeps writing in her diary."
Good Quote:  “Of all the errors one could make, God's gospel plan is the wrong thing to be wrong about.  --Neal A. Maxwell 
    "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . ." (Romans 1:16 NIV).  Jesus said, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return to my glory and the glory of the Father and  the holy angels" (Luke 9:26 NLT). 
Some time back I was pleasantly surprised to see ads running on television that showed several people of differing ages and ethnicities joyfully expressing their faith in Jesus Christ.  The ad went something like this: "I'm not ashamed, I'm not ashamed, I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ."  How refreshing it was to see such bold expressions of Christian faith by a group of ordinary people on national television.  The ads I saw were aired on the FOX News Channel, but I have not seen them lately. . .
None of us should be ashamed of our faith because our message is the "good news" about Jesus Christ -- a message of life-changing power and eternal salvation for everyone who believes.  It is a matter of spiritual life or death.  Sadly, however, too many of us do not express our faith boldly.  Is this because we are ashamed of our Lord or is it because we tend to focus on our personal weaknesses and inadequacies rather than the power of God's Spirit who will give us strength and embolden us?  Many of us are like an Arctic River -- frozen over at the mouth!   
Boldly and lovingly expressing our faith is Jesus' plan for those who know Him as Savior and Lord.  "If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will openly acknowledge that person before my Father in heaven. But if anyone denies me here on earth, I will deny that person before my Father in heaven"  (Matthew 10:32 NLT).
There's no way we can be faithful to carry out Christ's Great Commission unless we tell others about Jesus.  Jesus said we are to "go and make disciples of all nations (people), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach the new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT).
Once, when walking down a Chicago street, D. L. Moody stepped up to a man, a stranger to him, and asked, "Sir, are you a Christian?"  "Mind your own business" was the reply.  Moody replied, "Sir, this is my business."

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God Is Patient

Chuckle:  A mother saw her young son come through the door with filthy hands.  She stopped him and said, "My goodness, what would you say if I came in the house with hands like that?"  Her son looked at her and answered, "I think I would be too polite to mention it."
Good Quote:   “Teach me Thy patience; still with Thee In closer, dearer company, In work that keeps faith sweet and strong, In trust that triumphs over wrong.  --Unknown source 
    "The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No,  he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9 NLT).
There are three important lessons for us in this brief passage.  The first has to do with how God views time.  The second has to do with the second coming of Christ; and the third has to do with God's desire that every human being be saved before Christ returns to claim His church.
In verse 8, we are told that "a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day with the Lord."  God does not measure time as we do, and the universe God created operates on His time-schedule, not ours.  When we try to guess when God will do something, that's just what it is -- a guess.  But there are signs and fulfilled prophecies that give us some hints concerning Christ's return.  God is not limited by time as He acts to achieve His purposes and He knows the most appropriate time to fulfill His promises.
Down through the ages, people have tried to predict the date when Christ will return and, to this point, they have all been wrong.  We are told to live with an attitude of expectancy and anticipation, but the time of Christ's return is known only to Father God himself. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father . . . Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:36, 42, 44 NIV). 
The word "slow," in our passage means to hesitate or to be hesitant.  It's telling us that God is not hesitant to fulfill His promise of Christ's return; but, out of His patience, mercy, and love, He is delaying our Lord's return so that more people will have time to repent of their sins and receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  God does not want anyone -- not a single person -- to perish by spending eternity in a place the Bible calls "Hell."
In view of all this, each of us would be wise to be certain we are ready to meet our Lord and that we are living in such a way that we will not be ashamed when He returns.  Then we will be in a position to hear our Lord say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant". 
Love, Jerry & Dotse