Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Between Belief and Unbelief

Chuckle: "Give me a sentence about a public servant," said a teacher. The small boy wrote: "The fireman came down the ladder pregnant." The teacher took the lad aside to correct him. "Don't you know what pregnant means?" she asked. "Sure," said the boy confidently. "It means carrying a child."

Quote: "There is nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitor."  --Frank Clark

BETWEEN BELIEF AND UNBELIEF

   Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 NIV).

I'm sure there have been times when you needed God to meet a need in your life -- when you knew God had done similar miracles as recorded in the Bible, but somehow you just couldn't quite believe He would do it in your case. Have you prayed for God to do a certain thing, but you really couldn't believe God would do what you asked? Quite often there is a big difference between our believing God can do something and believing He will do something.

The faith spoken of in the Bible is an attitude of complete trust and confidence. If your faith is wavering and you find yourself doubting that God will keep His promises, you may have slipped into the void between belief and unbelief. It just may be that you have forgotten that even our faith and ability to believe are gifts from God. In our passage, the father recognized a basic truth -- we all need God to help us overcome our unbelief.

Listen to what James says about unbelief when praying for wisdom. "When you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do" (James 1:6-8 NIV). Here, James makes the point that if we're asking anything from God we must believe He will give it to us. Your belief/faith must be solid and sure.

If your faith is weak and you have difficulty trusting your Lord in all things, you may have forgotten a basic tenet of our faith; that God can be trusted. Ask God to help you overcome you unbelief and lack of faith. In the same way God has shown His power throughout history, he will work in your life. But we must not waver -- we must truly believe that God will do even the impossible. Jesus said, "Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it" (Mark 11:24 NLT). This amazing statement presupposes that our prayers will be for God's will to be done, not ours. When we pray according to the will of the Father, He will answer.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 21, 2014

Resurrection Power

“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.”  --John R. Stott

RESURRECTION POWER

   The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come see the place where he lay" (Matthew 28:5-6 NIV).  Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NIV).

At Easter , We are reminded that tombs all over the world contain the remains of great secular and religious leaders, except one -- the one in Jerusalem which is empty.  Christians stand in amazement at the awesome resurrection power God demonstrated on that first Resurrection Sunday.

Our Matthew passage is the angelic announcement of Jesus’ resurrection.  The John text is one of the most moving accounts of Jesus and His resurrection power.  In John 11, we find that Jesus' good friend Lazarus had died.  By the time Jesus had arrived Lazarus had "already been in the tomb four days."  Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, were beside themselves with grief.  Please read John 11:1-44 for the entire story.  When Jesus arrived, Martha went out to meet Jesus and said to Him, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died."  By these words, she showed faith that Jesus could have healed her brother.

When Jesus told her that Lazarus would "rise again," she thought He meant "the resurrection of the dead in the last day."  However, Jesus makes a climatic statement; a strong statement often quoted, but not often understood.  Jesus declared about Himself not that He has resurrection power, but "I am the resurrection and the life." Resurrection power is centered in Jesus Christ Himself.  This was not just a word of comfort for Martha, but a divine truth for humanity.  For the sisters, it meant that Lazarus would rise from the grave.  What does Jesus' resurrection power mean to us today?

Jesus lives even though he died.  Jesus even arranged his own resurrection.  On at least three occasions, Jesus foretold His arrest, beating, crucifixion and resurrection on the third day.  See Mark 8:31-33; 9:31; 10:32-34.  Even though the disciples did not understand these teachings, in them He established what would happen.  Because he is "the Resurrection and the Life," he had to rise again.  You can't keep the Resurrection and the Life in a tomb or conceal his glory.  After He was risen, "He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once" (I Corinthians 15:6).

Many see physical death as the final end and tend to live selfishly for the here and now.  But Jesus said "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies."  The body may die, but the eternal soul goes to be with the Lord.  Death for a believer is but the gateway to true and eternal life.  For the Christian, eternal death in a place called "hell" is not possible.  Jesus said, "Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die."  Romans 6:23 tells us the good news that "the Gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Eternal life does not begin when you die, but when you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!  As a believer, your eternal life has already begun.  Jesus asked Martha and us, "Do you believe this?"

The old hymn says goes like this;  "We serve a risen Savior who's in the world today; I know that he is living, whatever men may say; I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He's always near. He lives, He lives, . . . He lives within my heart."

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spiritual Versus Religious

Chuckle: Headline read: "Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half!" Chainsaw Massacre all over again!

Good Quote: "Four worthy goals: to feel at home at church, to feel at ease at prayer, to feel at odds with

injustice, and to feel at peace with God." --William Arthur Ward

SPIRITUAL VERSUS RELIGIOUS

   "If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:16 NIV).

I once ran across an article in the magazine section (USA Weekend) of my local newspaper that addressed our subject.  The article, "When the Spirit Moves you,” dealt with the modern day idea that we can be spiritual and have a close personal relationship with God without openly claiming to be religious (having a strong belief in a religion) or affiliating with any specific religion.  In essence, "You can stay close to God -- even when you're not close to a pew."

No doubt we can all have meaningful and life-changing experiences with God at any time no matter where we are.  I have had many such experiences over my lifetime.  But I never saw such experiences as substitutes for fellowship, corporate worship, and ministry with other believers in my local church or for identifying myself as a member of the Christian religion.

According to this article, fifteen percent say they do not identify with any specific religion.  This is up from half that number two decades ago.  More than nine out of ten people believe in God and more than half say they pray at least daily.  But to say you believe in God without expressing a religious affiliation begs the question -- what God do you believe in -- and to what God do you pray?  Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Today, it is more acceptable to say you are spiritual rather than to say you are religious.  If you let it be known that you are a Christian, you have proclaimed your allegiance to a religion -- Christianity, through faith in Jesus Christ.  I wonder if this reluctance to identify with any religion is a product of the growing climate of political correctness in our society.  "If I don't outwardly identify with a specific religion, then I will not offend anyone who may believe differently."  In other words, we are becoming more and more reluctant to stand for anything that might bring discomfort to ourselves or offend someone else.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, you are a Christian.  Why be reluctant to identify yourself as such, and why not affiliate with a local congregation as the New Testament teaches.  The article quoted Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham: "We can be out there and sense God's presence in nature because we are created by God and in his image, and we have an instinctive capacity to know him built into our DNA. But my Bible tells me we can only know God in his fullness as he reveals himself, and he reveals himself through Jesus."

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lord's Supper 2, Examine Yourself

Chuckle: Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend. "Did you see the paper?" he asked. "They say I died!!" "Yes, I saw it!" his friend replied. "Where are you calling from?"

Good Quote: "Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see!" –Unknown source

EXAMINE YOURSELF

"So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God's judgment upon yourself" (I Corinthians 11:27-29 NLT).

Continuing our lesson on the Lord's Supper, our passage instructs us in the "how" we should observe this ordinance -- in a manner worthy of the event we are commemorating. Paul gives specific instructions on how we should conduct ourselves during the observance.

1. As we saw in our last lesson, we should partake in the bread and juice with an attitude of humility and worship. The Lord’s Supper is a holy and sacred observance.
2. We should take the Lord's Supper thoughtfully because we are proclaiming that Christ died for our sins.
3. We should take it worthily, with due reverence and respect for our crucified and risen Lord.
4. We should examine ourselves for any unconfessed sin or resentful attitude and be properly prepared for the worship experience.

When Paul speaks of taking the Lord's Supper worthily, he is cautioning the church members who participate without thinking of its meaning. In reality, no one is worthy to take the Lord's Supper. We are all sinners saved by grace. This is why we should prepare our hearts and minds beforehand for communion with God through healthy introspection, confession of sin, and resolution of differences with our fellow Christians. Such actions will remove the barriers that affect our fellowship with Christ and with other believers.

We examine ours physical appearance in a mirror before going out, and we should examine our spiritual condition in the mirror of God's Word before partaking of the Lord's Supper. We should examine our relationship with our Lord, our motives for worship, and our relationships with others. Prior to taking the elements, we should use I John 1:9 as our guide, confessing our sins, asking for forgiveness, and allow God to cleanse our lives of all characteristics which are contrary to His will for us. Then, and only then, are we prepared to observe the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner with a profound attitude of worship and thanksgiving.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Lord's Supper


Chuckle: "My wife and I always hold hands. If I let go, she shops!" --Red Skelton

 
Good Quote: "God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do." --Regina Brett
 
THE LORD'S SUPPER
 
    On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it." For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until he comes again" (I Corinthians 11:23-26 NLT). Also see Matthew 26:17-30.
 
As Easter approaches, we are reminded of the events leading up to Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.  The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of the church, instituted by Jesus himself the evening before his crucifixion, which is observed by the various Christian denominations and congregations.  It is called by different names: Lord's Supper, Last Supper, Communion, Holy Communion, etc.  However, for every Christian body the observance of the Lord's Supper is a worshipful experience.
 
What does the Lord's Supper mean?  The early church remembered that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on the night of the Passover meal (Luke 22:13-20).  Just as Passover celebrated deliverance from slavery in Egypt for God's people, so the Lord's Supper celebrates our deliverance from sin by Christ's death.
 
The Lord's Supper is designed to:
    (1) Remind us regularly of the death of Jesus. It's somewhat strange that those who have been saved by the shed-blood of Jesus would need a reminder, but that's the way it is.  We remember what he did and why he did it.
    (2) Remind us of the nature of Jesus' death.  By partaking of the bread and wine (juice), the Christian remembers the manner of Jesus death. It was excruciatingly painful and bloody.
    (3) Show Jesus' death until he comes again.  When he comes again to claim his church, believers will then enjoy Jesus' constant, and eternal presence and the joy he brings.
 
The Lord's Supper is important because:
    (1) It is an act of obedience.  There is little, or no, disagreement among Christians that it is a commandment to be obeyed.  Obedience to our Lord's commands and instructions is an indication of our gratitude and love for him.
    (2) It reminds us of the significance of Jesus' death.  He paid the penalty for our sins by his sacrifice of himself on the cross.
    (3) It is an act of worship.  It provides opportunity for reflection, confession, and repentance, as well as thanksgiving, and praise for what Christ has done for us.
    (4) It provides opportunity for Christian fellowship in worship.  By observing the Lord's supper together, believers show solidarity and oneness in their faith.
 
"We come to the Lord's Supper as sinners saved by grace, wholly unworthy of what God has done for us, but glad and grateful that we have been cleansed from the guilt, power, and penalties of sin. We claim not worthiness, but we claim the righteousness in Christ Jesus which is by faith, the righteousness of grace." --Millard J. Berquist
 
Christians generally agree that participating in the Lord's Supper is an important element in the Christian faith and that the Spirit of Christ's presence strengthens us spiritually. It is my hope and prayer that you will faithfully worship by observing the Lord's Supper regularly.  It can, and should, be one of the most fulfilling acts of worship available to us.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Integrity in Politics

Chuckle:  Newspaper proofreading goof:  "Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant."  Might work better than a fair trial! 
 
Quote:  "Integrity is the equivalent to being honest, trustworthy, sincere, genuine, and is fundamental to good moral character." --Bible Encyclopedia  
 
INTEGRITY IN POLITICS
 
    "People with integrity have a firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall" (Proverbs 10:9 NLT).  "Good people are guided by their honesty; treacherous people are destroyed by their dishonesty" (Proverbs 11:3 NLT).
 
I have avoided making these daily e-mails political in nature.  I try to write about moral and spiritual issues purely from a Biblical perspective.  However, this does not mean I am passive in my political views.  I have always encouraged my readers to be good citizens in the Biblical sense (Romans 13, etc.) and to be active in the political process.  Recently the Lord has convicted me to write about how Christians should conduct themselves with integrity when expressing their political views. 
 
A couple days ago, a dear friend reminded me, and others, that Christians are being used, sometimes unwittingly, to spread malicious and false accusations against political figures with whom they disagree.  Regardless of your political persuasion, you are no doubt aware that our modern-day political environment is fraught with anger, slander, dishonesty, rudeness, and sometimes even hatred and violence.  The use of innuendos, half-truths, and outright lies are commonplace when attempting to destroy political opponents or promote political agendas. 
 
Believers are to be different.  We are admonished in Scripture to be people of integrity in every aspect of our lives -- including politics.  I believe God would have us be active in the political process, and we should have strong convictions concerning political figures or issues based on the authority of God's Word.  But our uncompromising support for certain individuals or issues does not mean we should use falsehoods to promote our views or destroy other candidates.  I don't believe the smearing of someone's character and reputation with false accusations is acceptable conduct for Christians.  The end does not justify the means if the means include conduct contrary to Biblical teachings.
 
We should not be quick to assume that a slick e-mail or website demeaning the character of a political figure are true.  Some are but many are not.  Some of these false or misleading ads are well done and believable, especially to the uninformed.  Because of our political leanings, we may want to believe them.  We may even agree with the theme of the ad, but to forward it to others without determining its authenticity and accuracy is not acting with integrity. 
 
Let's pledge together to be active in supporting godly people and moral issues in local, state, and national elections.  Let's speak out against corrupt politicians when appropriate, and let's pray that our efforts will help return our beloved country to the Judeo-Christian values espoused by the Founding Fathers.  But let's do it all with integrity, self-control, and love for others with opposing views.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Atheist's Holiday

Yes, I posted this one year ago today, but maybe you will enjoy it once again on this April Fool's Day.  
 

Chuckle:  “An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.  --Sir John Buchan
 
Good Quote:  "The highest praise of God consists in the denial of Him by the atheist, who finds creation so perfect that he can dispense with a creator."  --Marcel Proust
 
ATHEIST'S HOLIDAY       
 
    "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God' . . . The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God" (Psalm 14:1a,2 NIV).

I can't vouch for the accuracy of this story, but the Scripture quotations are certainly accurate.
  
In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation for Easter and Passover holidays.  He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.

The case was brought before a judge.  After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, "Case dismissed!"

The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, "Your Honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case?  The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances.  Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah...yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!"

The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, "obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheist's holiday!"  

The lawyer pompously said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists.  Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?"  The judge said, "Well it comes every year on exactly the same date -- April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as "April Fools Day," and considering that Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday!  Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!"
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse