Friday, May 23, 2014

Dealing With Anxiety

Chuckle:  Why is it that when a door is open, it's ajar, but when a jar is open, it's not adoor?
 
Quote:  “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, But only empties today of its strength.” -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon
 
DEALING WITH ANXIETY
 
   "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ" (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
 
The New Living Translation renders the first phrase of our passage as, "Don't worry about anything."  Worry has been defined as "a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained."  Anxiety can literally incapacitate us and render us useless in life.  How high is your number on the "anxiety/worry meter?"  Does worry, anxiety, stress, and restlessness rule your life?  Does worry and anxiety keep you from being a happy and contented person?
 
In our society, worry contributes to stress which has been identified as a major cause of all sorts of physical and emotional disorders from coronary disease and strokes to obesity.  But God's children are instructed, and given the resources, not to be anxious or worry.  God is well aware of all the things in our lives that have the potential for causing anxiety, worry, and stress.  And, in our passage today, he uses the apostle Paul to teach us to react in a healthy way to these circumstances.
 
Paul was writing from prison.  He was separated from those he loved.  Some were attempting to undermine and discredit all he had accomplished in starting churches.  He was suffering physically and emotionally and was facing execution.  Even in the face of these hardships, Paul said there would never be a crisis so severe and overwhelming that God would not bring peace even in the midst of it.  Jesus said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27 NIV).
 
God has never promised to remove all the stresses of life, but he will always carry the load for you if only you will let him do so.  He wants each of us to experience the peace that surpasses all human understanding -- a supernatural peace.  This peace is for everyone that knows Christ as Savior and Lord.  But if we aren't careful, we will take the view that the troubles we are enduring are just too big and complicated to be accompanied by inner peace.  To have this view is to limit God's power to work in your life. We're saying God can't do what he says He will do!
 
We must take God at his word.  His Word clearly indicates there is nothing you can face that is to big, difficult, troubling, or fearful for Him.  In all circumstances, turn your worry, stress, and anxiety over to Him and have faith that His perfect peace will guard your heart.  Paul tells us to turn our worries into prayers.  Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.  Remember, "Worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere!"
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Art of Deception

Chuckle: "The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly.  He was 74."
 
Quote: “All deception in the course of life is indeed nothing else but a lie reduced to practice, and falsehood passing from words into things.” --Robert South
 
THE ART OF DECEPTION
 
    "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles (evil powers) of this world rather than on Christ"  (Colossians 2:8 NIV).
 
Make no mistake, the father of all deception is Satan himself.  To deceive is to "make someone believe what is not true; fool or trick; mislead; or defraud."  We all need to understand that deception is the opposite of that which is true.  There is so much deception in our society today that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish real from fake, true from false, trustworthy from unreliable.  Many political ads are classic deceptions as half-truths, innuendos, distortions, and outright lies are used to deceive the public about political opponents.
 
Those most susceptible to spiritual deception are not well founded in the truths in God's Word.  If we know what we believe and why we believe it, we are much less likely to be deceived.  Is your Christian faith based on the fact that you were raised by Christian parents or is it based on your own study of the Bible and your personal commitment of your life to Jesus Christ?  If you don't have a firm basis for your faith, you can become prey for the occult and false religions of all kinds.  We see all sorts of "religious sects" with just enough truth in their teachings to appear genuine.
 
Young people who are trying to find answers to life's questions are particularly susceptible to being deceived.  Many are intrigued by the "far out" and most bizarre.  Many cults use clever seduction techniques for luring young people into strange and mystical rituals.  Also, many young people have little or no foundation of truth with which to compare what they are reading and hearing.  That's why it's so important for Christian parents to teach their children and grandchildren the truths of God's Word to help them defend against being deceived.
 
False teachers can also be found in the church, as Paul witnessed in the church at Corinth. "False apostles, deceitful workers, (transform) themselves into apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13 NKJV).  Scripture predicts this kind of apostasy will continue to grow until Christ returns.  So. how can we prepare ourselves and our children to avoid being deceived spiritually, politically, or morally?
    1. Be a serious student of God's Word.  Study, meditate, and pray.  2. Know what you believe concerning your faith and why you believe it.  3. Practice your faith by keeping your own life pure and uncompromising.  4. Become knowledgeable of the political issues as you prepare to vote when elections are held.  5. Study the records and listen carefully to the words of the candidates.  For some help, go to http://www.Christianvoterguide.com and click on your state.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Favoritism is Sinful

Chuckle:  A Sunday School teacher: "Now children, never do anything in private you wouldn't do in public." "Hurrah!" shouted one little boy -- "No more baths!"
 
Quote:  “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  --Martin Luther King, jr
 
FAVORITISM IS SINFUL
 
    "For God does not show favoritism." (Romans 2:11 NIV).  "My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others" (James 2:1 NLT).  "But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers" (James 2:9 NIV).
 
Favoritism means to receive or reject someone based on appearance or other imposed standards of acceptability.  We put labels on clothing and we put labels on people and so we have favorites.  However, favoritism defines a person in terms apart from God's grace.  James zeros in on favoritism, partiality, prejudice, snobbery.  These are all attitudes which lead to discrimination against certain people.  We may think we are more important then they and they are not deserving of our love and attention.  Being around them makes us uncomfortable.
 
James reminds us that if we show favoritism to some at the expense of others, we sin.  We know that Jesus loves everyone equally, but gave special attention to the poor, the sick, and the powerless -- the ones we often reject. We should follow His lead. "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right" (Acts 10:34 NIV).
 
So, we can have favorites based on such things as appearance, age, affluence, or ancestry.  If we could only grasp the eternal truth that God made everyone of us and we are all the same in his sight, it would change our whole view of life, and give us the ability to love and accept everyone without reservation.
 
"Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule and considered the father of his country. He is internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolence to achieve political and social progress. Gandhi says in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the Gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert, since Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a nearby church to attend services. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. Gandhi left and never came back. 'If Christians have caste differences also,' he said to himself, 'I might as well remain a Hindu.'"  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
 
In our main passage, James questions our faith if we favor some over others.  We must have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and welcome everyone into our fellowship equally.  We should say: "Your appearance, race, color, nationality, ethnic background, or social status, does not matter -- you are welcome in this fellowship. We love you and accept you unconditionally."
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 19, 2014

Apathy, A Moral Cancer

Chuckle:  Sign on plumber's truck: "We repair what your husband fixed!"
 
Quote:  "Science may have found a cure for most evils, but is has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings." --Helen Keller
 
APATHY, A MORAL AND SPIRITUAL CANCER
 
    "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned (apathetic); they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with (destroyed) them as you have seen" (Ezekiel 16:49-50 NIV).
 
Someone was asked if he knew the difference between ignorance and apathy.  His reply: "I don't know and I don't care."  I'm afraid this describes the attitude of many of us both spiritually and socially.  The Dictionary defines apathy as "A lack of interest or concern; indifference. (Public apathy resulted in a light voter turnout)."
 
When elections come around, a large segment of the adult population will not care enough to even cast a ballot.  But sadly, many of those same apathetic Americans will gripe and complain if people they don't like are voted into office and make political decisions contrary to their values.  I pray you are neither disinterested nor unconcerned when it comes to exercising your constitutional right and precious freedom to make your voice heard at the ballot box.  Regardless of your political party affiliation, please care enough to cast your all important vote for those candidates who best exemplify the moral and spiritual standards set forth in God's Word.  Your vote could make the difference in a close election.
 
Sadly, apathy is not limited to the political process -- it is also alive and well in the spiritual realm among many who call themselves Christians.  It is God's will that His people be actively involved in evangelizing and ministering to the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of people.  Being apathetic about the things of God is disgusting to Him.  He is not interested in our offerings, ceremonies and celebrations if we are apathetic about the plight of those around us.
 
God said, "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17 NIV).  "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies . . . Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5:21, 23-24 NIV).
 
Jesus is concerned about the apathy of His followers as workers in His harvest fields.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:36-38 NIV).
 
Let's pray. Lord, please rearrange my heart, mind, and will to make me intolerant of the sin of apathy both in my relationship with you and in carrying out my civic and social responsibilities.  In Jesus' name, Amen.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Get Out Of The Boat

Chuckle: "Its always darkest just before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it."
 
Quote: “Storms make oaks take deeper root.” --George Herbert
 
GET OUT OF THE BOAT
 
   "All right, come," Jesus said. "So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus" (Matthew 14:29 NLT).
 
Our passage is from one of the most revealing accounts of faith, doubt, fear, and trust in the entire New Testament.  As you recall, Jesus' disciples were in a boat crossing a lake on a stormy night.  About three o'clock in the morning, they were terrified by a figure walking toward them on the surface of the water.  After Jesus assured them that it was really Him and not a ghost, Peter asked to be invited to walk on the water toward Jesus.  Jesus' told him to "come."
 
God both causes and allows storms in our lives and always with a purpose.  There are storms designed for correction, like Jonah experienced when he disobeyed God by refusing to go to Nineveh as God commanded.  Then there are storms of instruction, like the one here in our passage.  Peter took a step of faith by stepping out of the boat.  By-the-way, In Scripture, only Jesus and Peter walked on water.  By getting out of the boat, Peter was learning to trust God and to grow in his faith.
 
But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and saw the deep dark water and high waves, his human doubts and fears immediately replaced his faith and he began to sink.  What a powerful lesson for us.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus, our faith will sustain us in every storm of life.  Peter became terrified and shouted, "Save me Lord!"  Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. "You don't have much faith," Jesus said.  "Why did you doubt me?"  Here, Jesus used the occasion to instruct Peter in what it means to have faith -- to trust your Lord in all circumstances.
 
Although you may start out with good intentions to do something God has asked you to do, sometimes, like Peter, your faith may falter and you become insecure and afraid.  But this does not mean ultimate failure.  Notice that Peter, in his weakness, reached for the hand of Jesus, the only one who could help him.  He was afraid, but he looked to Jesus for strength.  When you become apprehensive and doubtful during the storms of life you must sometimes endure, remember that Christ has promised to be with you always.  He is the only one who can help you.
 
Because of this adventure on a dark stormy lake, Peter experienced Jesus in a new and powerful way.  No matter what storm confronts you, just get out of the boat and trust Jesus.  We may be tempted to be critical of Peter for his lack of faith, but remember, he had the faith to get out of the boat.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Family Of God

Chuckle: “A young boy, ready for bed, interrupted a family gathering in the living room. 'I'm going up to say my prayers now. Anybody want anything?'”
 
Quote:  “Acting is just a way to make a living, the family is life.” --Denzel Washington
 
FAMILY OF GOD: (Ephesians 2:11-22)
 
   "So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with God's holy people. You are members of God's family" (Ephesians 2:19 NLT). "Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian (family) brothers and sisters" (Galatians 6:10 NLT)
 
To me, the word "family" is one of the most comforting words in the English language. On your walls, or in albums at home, you likely have pictures of both your immediately family members and those who have passed from the scene. Past or present, they are still family. They are all a part of our very being. They determined who we are; and we inherited our physical characteristics from them.
 
In the same way our spiritual ancestors are a part of us and they formed the basis of who we are today. If you grew up in a Christian home where God's Word was taught and His love was modeled, I don't need to remind you how fortunate and blessed you really are. Just take a moment and reflect on the beautiful memories of that wholesome family experience. If you did not grow up in a Christian environment, but found Christ through the witness of another faithful Christian, you can rejoice because of that spiritual family member who loved you and led you to Christ.
 
As I reflect on the extent of God's love for me, and his adopting me into his eternal family through faith in Christ, a great joy and sense of gratitude wells up within me. Just think, you are an heir and joint-heir with Jesus to all the kingdom of God entails. God loves you and blesses you with His presence within you in the form of the Holy Spirit. You are further blessed to share in His family with all those within the church -- your spiritual brothers and sisters who love you and have your best interests at heart. So, let's think about what it means to be in God's family?
 
    (1) It means we acknowledge that we belong to God. He created us and redeemed us through Jesus Christ. The belonging relationship is established.
    (2) It means that it is God our Father who holds the family together through His Son who is the head of the church. When we recognize that we mutually and equally belong to God, it will bring harmony within His family.
    (3) It means that only in this family can we grow to be what God wants us to be. As the child requires nurture and care in his earthly family, the new Christian needs spiritual nurturing and love to grow into the family member God desires.
     (4) It means we rejoice at the birth of a new member. When we get the news that a baby has been born, we immediately spread the word to every family member. We do so with great joy. Likewise the church, entrusted with the good news of salvation, proclaims with joy the gospel of forgiveness. We rejoice when a new believer is "born again" into God's family and our local church fellowship, and when missionaries tell us of new births into our family in distant lands.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What Does "Believes" Mean

Chuckle:  John said to Nathan: “Andrea and I want to get married, but we can’t find anywhere to live.”  “Why don’t you live with Andrea’s parents?”  suggested Nathan.  “We can’t do that.  They’re living with their parents.”  
 
Quote:  “The believer may well have less use for books on religion than the unbeliever – for how can a man honestly disbelieve unless he has done himself the justice of discovering in what it is he does not believe.”  --Lionel McColver 
 
WHAT DOES “BELIEVES” MEAN?
 
    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”  (John 3:16 NIV).
 
Christians are often called “believers.”  But what does it mean to believe?  Sometimes our modern English language is deficient when translating original Biblical languages such as Greek, the primary language of the New Testament.  There may not always be an English word that accurately conveys the specific meaning intended by the original writer.  Without understanding the broader meanings of a Greek word, we can over-simplify a Biblical subject or miss an important truth.
 
Let’s take the word, “believe.”  Today, this English word is primarily used to describe our cognitive acceptance of a given proposition or concept as being true – an intellectual exercise.  In our passage, the apostle John records the words of Jesus Himself as He tells us we must believe in Him to have eternal life.  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?.  In fact, it sounds so simple that some people may say they believe in Jesus when, in fact, they are only expressing a belief in the facts about Jesus.  But our eternal destiny depends on our understanding of the word “believe” as it applies to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  So, how can we know we believe in Jesus, and how do we explain to an unsaved person what it really means to believe in Jesus?
 
In our passage, as well as other places in the New Testament, the word “believe” is the translation of the Greek word for “faith” which in its noun form is “pistis” and in its verb form is “pisteuo.  In John 3:16, the word translated as “believes” is “pisteuo,” which, as amplified by other Scriptures, means to have faith in; to have confidence in; to trust in; to rely upon, to give allegiance to; to commit oneself to.  These meanings describe an eternal, growing, and dynamic love relationship with Jesus Christ all rolled up neatly in the single English word, “believes.” 
 
A footnote in the NLT Study Bible describes “believe” this way:  “To ‘believe’ is more than intellectual agreement that Jesus is God.  It means to put our trust and confidence in him that he alone can save us.  It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans (life) and eternal destiny.  Believing is both trusting his words as reliable, and relying on him for the power to change.”
 
To authenticate our own relationship with Jesus Christ, we must understand, accept, and comply with what “believes” really means.  Also, when sharing God’s plan of salvation with someone, it’s imperative that we carefully explain what believing in Jesus entails and how it impacts their lives.  We can believe everything said about Jesus in the Bible and still not believe in him with a saving faith.  Believing about Jesus does not establish the personal relationship Christ wants with each of us.
  
I have often used this illustration to help explain what it means to believe in Jesus.  Before going to the airport, I can intellectually believe that the pilot and his airplane will take me safely to my desired destination.  However, I have not really believed until I trust my life to that pilot by boarding the plane, settling into my  seat, and the plane becomes airborne.  I have not really believed until I have entrusted my life to that pilot.  Likewise, I have not truly believed in Jesus until I demonstrate my faith by committing myself to Him and entrusting my eternal soul into His care.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse      

Monday, May 5, 2014

Living With Confidence

Chuckle: Sign on an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."
 
Quote: "Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” --Michael O'Brien
 
LIVING WITH CONFIDENCE
 
   "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that we ask anything according to his will and he hears us" (I John 5:14 NIV). "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised" (Hebrews) 10:35-36 NIV).
 
Have you noticed how some Christians exude confidence and optimism in every circumstance. Nothing seems to get them down. They have an aura of inner peace and contentment about them.  Sometimes those who have the most reasons to be depressed and discouraged become blessings to others because they have such confidence in God's ability to sustain them.  They inspire others to examine their own faith and dependence upon God.  They always have a smile and a positive word no matter how difficult times may be for them. they just have too much going for them.
 
We can have confidence in approaching God in prayer.  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).  As we pray, our confidence grows from knowing our prayers are consistent with the will of the Father. When we align our prayers with His will, He will listen and give us a definite answer. We should pray with confidence!
 
We can have confidence that God is with us in every circumstance.  In our Hebrews 10 passage, we are encouraged not to abandon confidence in our faith in times of disappointments and trials; but rather to show by our endurance that our faith is real.  Because of what Christ has done for us, we should have confidence that He will sustain us today and in the future.  God has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  Such a promise should build our confidence in God's presence, provision, and protection no matter what we face in this life.
 
We can have confidence that our eternal home is being prepared.  Jesus said, "I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2b-3 NIV).  This is a promise from our Lord himself and if you have trusted Christ as Savior you can take it to the bank.  As believers, we need not fear death.  I once sat by the bedside of a dying godly aunt.  As we talked, she blessed my heart when she said she was not afraid of death.  She had accepted the fact that her earthly life was drawing to a close and saw death as a part of life.  She was confident that even though she was walking "through the valley of the shadow of death, she feared no evil, for God was with her" (Psalm 23:4 NIV).
 
I pray your confidence in your Lord and His Word will grow, while depending upon the companionship and strength of His Holy Spirit to meet every need in your life.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Pure Heart

Chuckle: A pastor asked some young children where they wanted to go when they die. "To heaven," they all piped up. "And what do you have to do to get there," asked the pastor. "Be dead!" shouted one little boy.

Quote for today: "Christ can give us the courage to pick up the broken pieces of life, to put them back together, and start over again." --William Ward

A PURE HEART

    "Create in me a clean (pure) heart, O God. Renew a right (steadfast) spirit within me"  (Psalm 51:10 NLT).

Psalm 51 was written by King David to express his great remorse and repentance for the terrible sins he had committed. He knew his actions had brought great pain to many people. He had allowed his natural inclination toward sin to rule his life when he took another man's wife and had her husband murdered.

He came before God with deep sorrow asking that he be given a new and cleansed heart, and for God to restore once again the joy of His salvation (vs. 12). We may never commit the terrible sins that David did, but each of us sins and stands with a heart in need of God's forgiveness and cleansing.

When the word "heart" is used in Scripture, it usually does not mean the organ in our chests that pumps our blood. No, it means the seat of our emotions, passions, appetites, intellect, morals, will, thoughts, spirit -- the center and totality of our being -- our very nature. Notice that David asks God to "create" a pure heart in him, which implies a new replacement heart, not just the patching up of an old defective one -- making everything about him new and pure. Forgiving, renewing, and reforming the human heart/personality is one of God's greatest creative miracles.

David's great concern is to get his corrupt nature changed by a newly created heart with new thoughts, desires, motives and purpose. He knew he could not change his heart in his own strength and therefore pleads with God, the only One who can create, to create in him a clean/pure heart. The Hebrew word for "create" is the same word used to describe God's creation in Genesis 1:1. Speaking of God's creation, I'm reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:17: ". . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; The old is gone, the new has come!"

When David asked God to renew a steadfast and right spirit within him, he was saying, "Lord, fix me for the future so that I will never depart from You and sin against You like this again." Each of us would do well to pray this same prayer. Because he repented, God mercifully forgave David and if we repent He will forgive us as well. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV). 

Love, Jerry & Dotse