Monday, December 23, 2013

The Spirit of Christmas

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!  
 Next post, January 02, 2014.     
Chuckle:  If you turn on the lawn sprinklers on Christmas Eve to keep carolers away, you just might be a Scrooge.
Quote:  "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12 NIV).
    "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21 NIV).  "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV).

The spirit of Christmas is not about motifs but redemption and salvation.  If Christmas becomes only a time for decorations, shopping, and festivities, its significance will have been lost.  Unfortunately, this seems to be the case across our land.  Even those of us who are Christians are not immune to being caught up in a secular and commercialized Christmas.  People often speak of the "spirit of Christmas" as if it is something to be caught while scurrying around in a shopping frenzy.  You may have heard someone say, "I went shopping and caught the Christmas spirit."  If tired feet, overspending, and standing in long lines constitute the Christmas spirit, we're all in trouble. 

To me, the Christmas spirit is a warm feeling of love -- being loved by God, loving others, and being loved by others.  It's the spirit that says, "I want to give of myself to someone else."  This kind of Christmas spirit comes from God.  The real spirit of Christmas begins when we accept the best gift of all, the one born in a stable and laid in a feed trough, the one and only Son of the most high God.  When we accept his salvation and forgiveness, we receive the precious gift of His Holy Spirit who lives within us and guides our steps in this life.

In return for his amazing gift, God wants us to give ourselves to him. To do this, we must be willing to abandon self and let God use us as He chooses.  If Christ is born in our hearts, God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit is alive within us.  Because of this truth, we will serve God by serving our brothers and sisters.  As we experience the Spirit of Christmas and begin a new year, let's listen to the words of Jesus. "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first must be your slave: even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matt. 20:26-28 NIV).

If you want to receive the true Spirit of Christmas, you must be God's servant -- you do this by being the servant of others.  Look again! "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son, into our hearts" (Gal. 4:4-6 NIV).

God sent the Spirit of his Son into your heart, so that out of your heart you cry, "My Father!"  If the Christ of Christmas is only a nativity scene on your coffee table, He is not alive in you.  If the star of Christmas is only an ornament on the Christmas tree, it has nothing to say.  But if Christ of Christmas lives in your heart, He has a message for everyone to hear.  From your heart the living Christ causes you to cry out in praise and thanksgiving!

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God's Plans For You

Chuckle:  "What kind of man was Boaz before he married?  Ruthless!" 
Quote:  “I think that God means that we shall do more than we have yet done in furtherance of his plans and he will open the way for our doing it.  --Abraham Lincoln
    "The Lord will work out his plans for my life -- for your faithful love, O Lord endures forever" (Psalm 138:8 NLT). 
Everyone dreams and makes plans for the future.  I enjoyed a recent TV commercial that showed several retirement age people saying, "when I grow up, I want to . . . "  Each one filled in the blank with his or her dream.  Those who do not know Christ as Savior and Lord have only their own wisdom and skills to bring their dreams and plans to fruition.  But to experience what is best for you in life, you must make your plans and dreams compatible with God's plans.  If you believe that God has a plan for your life, you may be wondering what that plan really is.  He alone knows what is best for us; and He alone can lead us to fulfill His plan for each of us.
Your ultimate purpose is to please God.  You and I were created for God's pleasure, and God's plan is for each of us to fulfill His purpose.  You may not fully understand what God is doing in your life, where He is leading you, or what He wants to accomplish through you.  But the most important question is this:  Do you trust God and believe that He knows where He wants you to go and the person He wants you to become? 
Whether or not you fully understand God's plan for your life, your faith should include a firm belief in God and that He wants you to fulfill His purpose for your life.  Further more, each of us should trust Him to lead us and bring us to our final destination.  ", . . . But the Lord's plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken"  (Psalm 33:11 NLT).  God is completely trustworthy -- His intentions never change. 
Regardless of your age or circumstances, God has plans for your life, and God's plans are what matters, not yours.  Knowing and doing what God has planned for us should be our first priorities.  If so, we will trust Him completely to lead us in a way that will bring them to complete fulfillment.  "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; . . . they would be to many to declare" (Psalm 40:5 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Indelibly Marked

Chuckle:  A password audit found a young lady using this password: MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento." When asked why the long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least eight characters long and include at least one capital.
Quote:  "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." --Anne Frank
    God said, "I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on my hand" (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT).
The Children of Israel were in bondage in Babylon.  Some felt that God had forsaken and abandoned them.  But Isaiah reminded them that God would never forget them, as a loving mother could never forget her little child.  When God said, He had written their names on His hand, He was referring to an ancient practice at the time of Isaiah's prophetic ministry.  It was a custom to show their allegiance to some important person by permanently marking their hands with the name of that person.
In addition to God's marking the names of His people on His hand, there are numerous other references in Scripture that tell us God has placed our names in His permanent record, if we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Our names are written in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15; 21:27).  Jesus "calls his sheep (followers) by name" (John 10:3 NIV).  "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13 NIV).  "He (Jesus). . . set his seal of ownership on us . . ." (2 Cor. 1:22 NIV).     
Like the Children of Israel, there may be times when you feel God has forgotten you.  But all these promises from God's Word, affirm that you belong to God and He has marked you as His most treasured possession -- "a people belonging to God" (1Pet. 2:9 NIV).  God genuinely cares about you and you are always on His mine.  I believe it was Max Lucado who said, "If God carried a wallet, your picture would be in it."  There is ample evidence that God has committed to love and care for you, and there is not the remotest possibility that He will ever forget you or abandon you.  "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb. 13:5 NIV). 
If you have lost a loved one this year or some other tragedy has befallen you that makes you less than enthusiastic about celebrating Christmas, I pray you will draw comfort from knowing that God is aware of your pain and wants to grant you a special measure of His love, grace, and peace.  Please turn to Him and let Him fill your heart with His presence and His joy.

Love, Jerry & Dotse               

Monday, December 16, 2013

Making Things New

Chuckle:  "We need a responsible person," said the employer. "I hope you fit that description?" "Yes, Sir, I'm your man," answered the potential employee. "On my last job, every time anything went wrong, they said I was responsible." 
Good Quote:  "We cannot hold a torch to light another person's path without brightening our own." --Ben Sweetland
    "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. . . . God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God"  (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 NIV).
I was born in Zinc, a small mining town in the mountains of North Arkansas.  It was called "Zanc" by some of the locals.  The town was located in a beautiful little valley with Sugar Orchard creek and the railroad running through it.  As a child, I remember it being a bustling community with a several stores, post office, canning factory, and  other businesses.  My grandfather, and later my uncle, owned operated one of the grocery stores there.  I thought it was the most wonderful place on earth. 
However, today Zinc has grown old and there is almost nothing left of the community -- just a few houses but no commerce of any kind.  When I last visited the place, I couldn't help thinking how nice it would be if I could just snap my fingers and blow away the "oldness" and make it like it once was -- make it new.  But there's no way I can make the old town of Zinc new and there is no way I can make myself new.  Only God can do that and only He can make me acceptable in His sight.
In our passage, we see ourselves with our old sinful nature with no way for us to change our condition in our own strength.  Our old nature has become polluted by sin and the standards of the world and is not a pretty sight in the eyes of God.  In the same way it would take a "miracle" to make Zinc new again, it takes God's power to miraculously make us into new creations with new natures.  It takes God's Holy Spirit remaking us once we repent of our sins and place our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  When we are "born again." as Jesus describes it, we are "in" Christ, and if we are in Christ, all things about us are made new.  This means our lives and new nature are now controlled by the Spirit of God, not the lure of the world.
Does your life need a makeover to bring it into compliance with God's plan for you?  Do you have the new nature that God wants to give you?  If not, won't you bow your head this morning, give your heart and life to Jesus Christ, and ask Him to forgive your sins, and make you into a new creation -- a new person?  Let Him make all things new and give you a new nature, a new purpose, a new joy, and a new peace.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Endurance is Rewarded

Chuckle:  A driver slowed when he saw the “sold out” sign. He pulled into the next station with $3.00 gas. He complained to the operator about the cheaper gas down the street, but they are sold out. The operator said, ”Our gas is only $2.00 a gallon when we're sold out."  
Quote:  “There is a strength of quiet endurance as significant of courage as the most daring feats of prowess  --Henry Theodore Tuckerman
    "We must not become tired of doing good.  We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up"  (Galatians 6:9 NCV).  "So don't get tired of doing what is good.  Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time" (NLT).
Sometimes we come to places in life where just giving up and quitting seem to be the best alternatives.  You may feel like you're banging your head against a wall in you work or profession.  You may feel discouraged because of the choices made by your children or grandchildren.  There will be many times in life when you will feel like throwing in the towel.  Let's think together about what God would have us do in these situations.
First, let's keep in mind that our salvation is not earned by what we do -- doing good is not enough.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).  So, if our salvation is not determined by our doing good works, what is the "harvest of eternal life/blessing" that Paul advances in our Galatians passage?  I think the next verse in Ephesians 2 will help answer that question.  "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do"  (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
If our salvation is by grace through faith, and God has prepared the good works we are to do as Christians, what is our reward for faithfulness in fulfilling the purpose and good works God has planned?  Listen to Paul again:  "If any man builds on this foundation (Jesus Christ) using Gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, . . . It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's (person's) work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NIV).
In summary, if you are born again Christian, your eternal life in heaven is assured. However, you should desire to please your Lord by living for Him by faithfully serving others -- the good works God has planned for you to do.  If you endure to the end by faithfully doing good, you will receive your rewards in heaven.  Will you be one who receives a harvest of rewards or one who enters God's presence and receives no rewards?  Will you hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" (Matthew 25:21 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse