Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Main Thing

Chuckle: Just think how much deeper the ocean would be if sponges didn't live there!!
Quote: “I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.” --Henry Ward Beecher
The Greatest Commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30 NIV).
A few years back, here in Texas, we had an outstanding evangelism leader who always encouraged Christians to "keep the main thing the main thing."  In our passage, Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms what the main thing is.  When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he did not hesitate to give us the Great Commandment.  Love is the heart of the Christian life -- like the old hymn: "Love is the Theme; love is supreme. . ."  And the most important thing for us is our love for God because our ability to love others depends upon our love for our Lord.
Let's not forget that knowing the Great Commandment and living it out are two different things.  If we do in fact love God according to the Great Commandment, the first indication will be our joyful obedience to His other commands and instructions which includes loving others.  You cannot love God and continue to do as you like.  You cannot love God and disobey him.  Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching" (John 14:23 NIV).
If you say you love God but do not obey him, you do not love him the way the Great Commandment describes.  If our love for God is not complete, then trying to be obedient becomes burdensome, unpleasant and futile.  True love for our Lord expresses itself in sincere worship and joyful obedience.
Immediately following the Great Commandment, Jesus said, "The second (greatest commandment) is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these" (Mark 12:31 NIV).  If we first love God with all our hearts, we will gladly obey him by loving others as God has loved us.  Even John 3:16 is all about God's love for us -- the most powerful force in all creation.  If we combine the Great Commandment with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), we have our spiritual marching orders as believers.  We are to love God, love others and go and tell the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Listen to these words:  My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. (1 John 4:7-8 MSG). Enough said.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thoughts Are Key

Chuckle: "I just got skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious."
Quote: “All the events in your life are a mirror image of your thoughts.” –Unknown source
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- If anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think on such things" (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
Many people carry key rings containing many keys.  Sometimes they fumble trying to find the right key to open the door leading to where they want to go.  We can find ourselves frustrated and anxious in such situations.  The right key is the answer.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  We may search and search to find the key to a closer walk and fellowship with God.  The key that Paul shows us will help us get from where we are to where we can realize God's promise of peace and fulfillment.
Paul's key is to "think on such things" as he enumerated in our passage. In other words, he tells us to allow only godly thoughts to fill our minds.  These words mean to ponder, dwell, and concentrate on such praiseworthy things.  If we want to draw nearer to God, the thoughts we entertain will make the difference.  This is because our actions will reflect the thoughts of our hearts.  Holy thoughts will result in holy words and actions.  Jesus said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34b NIV).
This theme is emphasized in Romans 12:2b NLT, "but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." When we think on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things our lives will reflect such thoughts and we will draw closer to God.  As Christians, we know it is the Holy Spirit who guides us to entertain godly thoughts.  It's only when the Holy Spirit renews, reeducates, and redirects our thoughts that we become truly transformed.  Under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will be on the offensive to fill our minds with thoughts and values totally different from those of the world.
Do you have problems with impure thoughts and daydreams?  If so, you might consider what you are putting into your mind from TV, books, conversations, movies, and magazines and replace the polluted input with wholesome material.  Above all, study God's Word and pray -- asking God to help you focus your mind on what is good and pure.  Then you will be motivated to put your wholesome thoughts into godly words and actions.  In the process, you will grow spiritually and draw closer to your Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eternal Values

Chuckle:  “Why is it that you always find what you’re looking for in the last place you look?  Because you stop looking for it after you find it.”
Quote: "Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not the answer." --Oswald Chambers
   "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor" (Proverbs 21:21 NIV). "Seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these (other) things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:32 NIV).
Each of us will approach God in our own way to gain understanding of the values he would have us assimilate into our hearts and lives.  However, here is a simple set of steps that may help guide you toward that end.
1. Focus on the valuable.  "For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good" (Job 34:3 NIV).  Have you determined what is right, good, and important for your life?  Rich or poor, you can have the joy of knowing you're living by values that are important to God.  Don't be deceived by the world's values, but seek God's values.  Write down what's most important to you -- your valuables. Will they last?
2. Discard the valueless.  This is elementary but so important. "Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your Word" (Psalm 119:37 NIV).  Say, "My family members are important and I will spend time with them."  "I will wisely spend the money God has given me for Him and my family."  "I will guide and teach (disciple) my family in spiritual matters."  You begin to give God His place.  Eliminate anything that does not build relationships with God and other people.  Remember, you can't add God's values (priorities) to a life already filled and stressed to the max with other time-consuming less important activities unless some less important things are eliminated.  Time for prayer, Bible study, family, church, etc. must replace something in a busy life.
3. Focus on the eternal.  What lasts?  What matters?  What continues?  "And now these three things remain (forever): faith, hope, and love" (I Corinthians 13:13 NIV).  If you love God and people, and make them your priorities, you're building a life of eternal value.  If you have a strong and growing faith in Jesus Christ, you have discovered the important.  You will win at life! The test of your faith is how important other people are to you.
What is most important in your life?  You have two options: the world's values or God's values. Which appeals to you the most?  To which set of values is your heart drawn?  Sadly, "Some have missed the most important thing - they don't know God" (I Timothy 6:21 NIV).  If you don't know Jesus Christ as Savior, Just open your heart to him and by faith claim the most valuable gift of all time.  "Everything else is worthless compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. . ." (Philippians 3:8 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Faith That Triumphs

Chuckle:  What did Paul Revere say at the end of his famous ride?  “Whoa.”
Quote:  “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations.” --Elton Trueblood

    Jesus said: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up your brothers" (Luke 22:32 NLT).
In wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, our troops often have a difficult time identifying the enemy because they look no different than those on our side.  It's not easy to know who your enemy is.  The same is true with our greatest enemy, Satan, because he often disguises himself so as to appear friendly and harmless.  In life as in war, our first major task is to identify the enemy.  Our enemy wants to separate us from fellowship with our Lord and render us ineffective as ambassadors and witnesses for him.
In our passage, Satan wanted to crush Simon Peter and Jesus' other followers like grains of wheat. It was his hope that nothing would be left of them except worthless chaff to be blown away.  But Jesus encouraged Peter.  Although his faith would falter, it would not be destroyed.  It would return stronger than ever and Peter would become a strong and effective leader.
You may be going through a time when your faith is faltering.  Your enemy may have enticed you away and you may not be walking as closely with your Lord as you once did.  Perhaps you feel ineffective as a testimony to others.  If these conditions apply to you, rest assured Satan is the responsible culprit.  The first thing you must do is identify your enemy.  To do this, it's important that you remember three things about Satan: (1) He is real and active; (2) He is your enemy and he is on the attack; and (3) His power is limited by what God allows (he asked permission to sift Peter).
Once you have identified your enemy, then you must rely on your Lord as your advocate.  In verse 32, Jesus showed his advocacy for Peter by telling Peter he was praying for him.  Peter's faith faltered when he denied his lord three times, as Jesus predicted in verse 34, but he rebounded and ultimately did not fail.
Please remember that Jesus is praying for you. Listen: "Therefore he (Jesus) is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf" (Hebrews 7:25 NLT).  Also, be aware that the Holy Spirit lives within you to give you strength (John 14:16).  "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7 NIV).  So whenever Satan knocks, let Jesus answer the door.  You will then experience triumphant faith which will also strengthen your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, July 4, 2014

Race For The Crown

Chuckle:  Sunday School teacher: "Children, you must never do anything in private you wouldn't do in public." "Hurrah!" shouted one little boy -- "No more baths!"
Quote:  “The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.” --Unknown
    "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day . . . ." (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV).
If you have watched the Olympics on television, you have no doubt seen the expressions on the faces of the runners as they strain to reach the finish line.  The television cameras make it possible for us to see every detail of the race.  Looking into the runner's faces, we see athletes straining every muscle, every sinew, and every ligament as they approach the finish line.  We see the blood vessels bulging in their necks and across their brows.  Each is giving it all he or she has, keeping nothing in reserve, leaving nothing in the tank.  The one goal is to win the race and he or she will settle for nothing less than victory.
The apostle Paul often used athletic analogies to drive home spiritual truths.  He saw his faithful service to his Lord as a race to be all God wanted him to be.  No athlete I've known was ever successful without giving his all in training for, running, and finishing the race.  Winning athletes don't settle for mediocrity.  Their goal is not to work just hard enough to get by.  They give their all.
Paul painted this word picture for us: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?" Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV).
What is the goal Paul is straining to attain at the end of his race?  Very simply, it is to be faithful to his goal of becoming like Jesus.  His aim was to exert every possible effort and ounce of energy to accomplish his goal.  God deserves nothing less than our very best in every thing we do for his glory.  Like the athlete who gives all he has to win, God expects us to give all we have to grow and become more mature Christians.  If we have the "want to," God's Word will teach us the "how to," and his Holy Spirit will give us the "can do" to successfully run, finish and win the race set before us.
Today is a great time to examine our hearts to determine how much do we want to please our Lord.  How much time and energy are we willing to expend for Christ when compared to the energy we expend on other things?  Are we depending upon His Spirit to give us strength to finish the race God has called us to run?  Now is a great time to make a new commitment to spiritual growth and faithfulness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Birthday USA

stock photo of american independence day  - photo of us flag - JPG   HAPPY BIRTHDAY USA

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. . . . May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you" (Psalm 33:12, 22 NIV).

“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.”  --Robert J. McCracken
As we have fun with family and friends this holiday weekend, let's remember the real meaning of Independence Day, July 4, as we celebrate the 238th birthday of our beloved United States of America.
Primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence was America's proclamation to the world "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." And it held that the purpose of government is to "secure these rights," not to determine what rights the people can enjoy.  
"What is revolutionary about the Declaration of Independence is not that a particular group of Americans declared their independence under particular circumstances, but that they did so by appealing to -- and promising to base their particular government on -- a universal standard of justice." -- Matthew Spalding
The Fourth of July is a great opportunity to renew our dedication to the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in what Thomas Jefferson called "the declaratory charter of rights."  It reminds us to be thankful to God for the freedoms with which we are blessed.  It also reminds us that freedom comes at a terrible price, and each of us is responsible for the preservation of our freedoms which were purchased by the blood and sacrifice of so many.     
“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”  --Dwight D. Eisenhower
Let's remember to make God our LORD and put our hope and trust in Him -- that we may continue to receive God's blessings as a nation worthy of His favor and protection. Hear the last verse of "My Country, Tis of Thee:"
Our fathers' God, to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright With Freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King!
Dotse and I wish you and your family a safe and enjoyable Holiday as we celebrate together the wonderful freedoms we enjoy.  
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Worthy Example

Chuckle:  “I thought you were going to count calories,”  Loris gently reminded her friend Karla as she consumed her second milkshake.  “Oh, I am,” said Karla.  “So far today, I’m at 5,760.” 
Quote:  “Waste no more time arguing what a good man (person) should be; be one.”  --Marcus Aurelius
    “In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely in all they do.  And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good deeds, of every kind.  Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.  Let your teaching be so correct that it can’t be criticized.  Then those who want to argue will be ashamed because they won’t have anything bad to say about us” (Titus 2: 6b-8 HCSB).
Titus, a Greek convert through Paul’s ministry, had become Paul’s special representative to the house churches on the island of Crete.  Paul’s letter to Titus instructed him about his responsibilities as leader of the churches -- how to do his job.  Titus’ instructions are very similar to those in 1 Timothy with its instructions to young Timothy and other church leaders.  Although brief, Titus is an important link in the discipleship process of a young Christian growing into a leadership role within the church.  Paul’s instructions are beneficial to every Christian, especially to those in leadership positions.
As I studied these verses, I concluded that all of Paul’s instructions and admonitions to Titus can be boiled down to one word, “godliness.”  A lack of godliness by a Christian provides ammunition to the critics of Christianity.  As a pastor, I often heard words like these from unsaved and unchurched people:  “I’m as good as those people in your church – they are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.”  Unfortunately, there is sometimes much truth in such accusations.  However, when people find themselves living outside the will of God and practicing worldly standards of conduct, it’s easy to denigrate someone else in order to make themselves look more virtuous.  It’s tempting to rationalize ungodly behavior this way.
Paul wanted Titus to be so righteous in both his living and his teaching that no one could find fault with either.  Paul wanted Titus to be such a good example to those with whom he mingled that they might see the goodness in his life and strive to imitate him rather than find fault with him.  What a wonderful goal for each of us as we yield to the Holy Spirit as our guide, teacher, and encourager.  Even when we are not aware that we are being observed, many sets of skeptical eyes are likely to be upon us.  Your life may be the only Bible some will ever read.
    Blackmailers once sent C. H. Spurgeon a letter to the effect that if he did not place a certain amount of money in a certain place at a certain time, they would publish some things in the newspapers that would defame him and ruin his public ministry.  Spurgeon left at the station a letter in reply:  “You and your like are requested to publish all you know about me across the heavens.”  He knew his life was blameless in the eyes of men and therefore, they could not touch his character.”   --Illustrations For Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
I wonder how many of us would have the courage and confidence in our character and reputation to react as did C. H. Spurgeon?

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Impossible

Chuckle: "If people were not meant to have late-night snacks, why is there a light in the refrigerator?"
Quote:  “A miracle is an event which creates faith.  Frauds deceive.  An event which creates faith does not deceive; therefore it is not a fraud, but a miracle.”  --George Bernard Shaw
    "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over-shadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:34-37 NIV).
Just take a moment and let the significance of these words sink into your mind and heart.  Here we see two women who were used of God; one to bring the Christ-child into our world and the other to birth John the Baptist who would herald Jesus' coming.  Not in our wildest imagination could such a scenario of miraculous events be conceived.  Miracles, by their very nature, are supernatural and originate from the realm of the “impossible.”  They baffle the minds of us mere humans.  As acts of God, they seem to go against the known laws of nature, science, and reason.  But some miracles seem even more impossible than others.  Jesus said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27 NIV).  
God sent His Son into the world as a fulfilment of His promises to His people as written by the prophets.  That same Jesus has made some wonderful promises to you and me.  He has promised to give us eternal life through faith in Him.  He has promised that our sins have been forgiven through His atoning death on the cross.  He has promised that His Holy Spirit will live within us as believers to teach us, guide us, convict us and encourage us.  He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  He has promised to come back to earth a second time to claim His church and to take us into His presence for eternity.  These are wonderful promises that, sadly, are seen as foolishness to many because they appear to be impossible and make no sense to carnal minds.
We can rejoice not only in celebration of Jesus' miraculous birth but for all He has done for us and for His promises for our future.  It is by faith that we can claim these promises and have the complete assurance that what God says in His Word is absolutely true and reliable.  We know that God specializes in the impossible.  If we understood everything about God, He wouldn't be God, but only an extension of our own minds.  Let's rejoice that we serve a God who did the impossible by having a virgin conceive and be the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If God can do this, He can certainly bring to reality the promises He has made to us, His children.
We can rejoice with Mary as she said, ". . . the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name" (Luke 1:49 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse