Monday, November 24, 2014

Praising Others

Chuckle:  “Encouragement is like a peanut butter sandwich – the more you spread it around, the better things stick together.”
Quote:  “If you think that praise is due him, Now is the time to slip it to him, For he cannot read his tombstone when he’s dead.”  --Berton Braley
   “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips”  (Proverbs 27:2 NIV). 
Praise, compliments, commendations, affirmations, and other words of encouragement are welcomed and appreciated by all of us.  Words like, great job; I’m proud of you; I believe in you; inspires and invigorates and can change lives.  Of course, our primary motive for Christian service should be to please and glorify our Lord and merit His approval.  “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18 NIV). 
However, we all enjoy having others commend us for what we do.  When someone praises us, it brings feelings of self-worth and confidence.  Such praise provides an additional motivation for even greater faithfulness in our service to God and other people.  Encouraging one another is a major theme in the New Testament, and praise is a great means of encouragement.
I ran across an old England saying, “Just praise is a debt to be paid.”  In other words, we owe it to others to praise them when such praise is truly merited.  However, praise that is not merited will cause the recipient of such praise to lose confidence in us because he or she knows we aren’t being truthful.  Conversely, praise that is merited but not expressed also discredits our character.  Withholding legitimate praise can be the result of envy or resentment because we believe merited praise is being withheld from us.  Obviously, this should not be the attitude of a loving, caring Christian.  We should praise others without expecting praise for ourselves; however, kindness has a way of returning to us in even greater measure than that which we have extended .
Sometimes lasting and treasured friendships are born out of expressions of praise.  If we know someone believes in us, appreciates what we have done, and tells us so, we are drawn to that person in a powerful and unique way.  A thoughtful person who praises you will serve as a role-model for you in your relationships with others.  The simple courtesy of “thank you for enriching my life with your kindness and faithfulness” can bring cheer to someone who knew they deserved praise but never considered the possibility that they would receive it.
Finally, it is much better if we seek the praise of God rather than the praise of people.  Then, when we receive praise from people, we will be free and willing to give God the credit. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse   

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Church Hoppers

Chuckle: "A sign in a hospital maternity ward read -- NO CHILDREN ALLOWED!"
Ponder This: “There once was a mule who found himself between two haystacks, completely unable to decide which one to eat first. Because of his indecision, he didn't eat either one; he just stood there until he starved. Many people are like the mule when deciding which church to attend. They wander back and forth, never committing themselves, and meanwhile going (spiritually) hungry."  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
    "God has combined the members of the body (the church) . . . so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" " (I Corinthians 12:24b, 25-27 NIV). "From Him (Christ) the whole body (church), joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part (church member) does its work" (Ephesians 4:16 NIV).
We live in a “ME” generation -- the world revolves around me and it's what I want that is most important. With this in mind, I think this piece by syndicated columnist Betsy Hart is worth sharing with you verbatim.
The Gospel According To Church "Hoppers"
Church "hopping" is the ultimate "all about me" experience. I'm talking about the growing tendency in America's evangelical churches for folks who decide, after they have officially joined a particular church, that "Oh, that pastor down the street is a little more high-energy than mine," or "Gee, the music here isn't really meeting all my needs right now," or "I really am not crazy about that new children's church director."
They just up and leave, and go to a new church in their community. Until they hop from that one. Here's where I really agree with my Roman Catholic friends when they say, "You protestants are so focused on your 'personal relationship with Christ' that you forget it's not all about you."
Every time a person who has made a public vow of membership to the church body leaves for superficial reasons, he leaves a unique hole. The departure dispirits the pastor and often the children of the congregation and other members of the body. Moreover, hopping from a church when a desire, or even a real need, isn't being met in the moment means that person can't ultimately be held accountable in his religious life. He just hops if he doesn't want anyone reaching out to him.
We have little sense anymore that we are to join a church body and, generally speaking, submit -- doesn't that word just make you cringe? -- to its authority. Even when there are things that don't suit our fancy in the church. Sure, we often can and should try to change those things for what we consider the better.
Actually, we treat our church members a lot like we treat our marriages. Hey, if I'm not "happy" in the moment, just move on, right? The impact on others or a pledge to something bigger than ourselves doesn't matter because "it's all about me."
The American Protestant Church has, generally speaking, tragically normalized divorce and, essentially, spouse hopping. I don't know if there's cause and effect, or if church hopping and spouse hopping are just symptoms of the same problem -- our increasingly "all about me" culture. But I do know hoppers are typically unsatisfied no matter where they hop -- because perfection doesn't exist in this world.
Many churches say they are seeking to be relevant. But the way to do that isn't to accommodate or enable insidious cultural trends. It is to do what churches are called to do, and stand as a bulwark against such trends.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Having Fun Yet?

Chuckle:  “Laffing iz the sensation ov pheeling good all over, and showing it principally in one spot.”  --Josh Billings
Quote:  “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes real happiness. It is not obtained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” --Helen Keller
    Jesus said, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness”  (John 10:10 NIV). 
Having fun is one of the greatest blessings of life, and I believe God created us to be happy, to laugh and have fun.  As we think about having fun in this life, let’s begin by defining “fun.”  What is fun anyway?  Before you go looking in the dictionary, try to define “fun” from your own experiences.  I suspect your definition contains words like; play, enjoyment, happiness, laughter, amusement, good times, etc.  Now, which of these words describing “fun” does God not want us to have as Christians?  I believe “life in all its fullness“ that Jesus promises in our text will be a life filled with fun.  If I were to select a synonym for “fun”, it would be rejoicing or happiness.
When we are happy and having fun, we will “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT).  Paul was in prison when he penned these encouraging words to the church at Philippi.  In other words, he did not allow his adverse circumstances to spoil his inner attitude of happiness, and he wanted the Christians at Philippi to share in his unspeakable joy because of his relationship to his Lord.  This line of thinking reminds me of a book we have entitled: “Happiness is a choice.”  We can be happy and have fun if we decide to do so.  “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NLT). 
Each day, without really trying, we can find reasons to be down in the dumps and miserable in our self-pity.  But this is not God’s plan for your life.  Because of his indescribable love, amazing grace, and limitless mercy, we always have reason to rejoice, be happy, and have fun.  Life can be a “hoot” if we retain our sense of humor and determination to be happy.  This can happen if you allow God’s Holy Spirit to give you an attitude adjustment.  He will give you reason to rejoice and enjoy life even in the most adverse circumstances.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2 NIV).
Finally, no Christian should ever see sinful actions as fun.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 NIV).  “Fun” to a Christian describes those wholesome actions that please God and bring us joy and pleasure.  Of course, Satan will try to convince us that sinful behavior is more fun.  But we should shun even the very appearance of evil and cling to that which is good and have fun doing it.  “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good”  (Romans 12:9b NIV).  Our greatest joy comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bitterness Can Destroy Us

Chuckle: "The odds of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on the floor are directly correlated to the newness, color, and cost of the carpet!!"
Quote: "Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eye." --Harry Emerson Fosdick
    "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no root of bitterness grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15 NIV).
Have you noticed that some people just seem to be angry and bitter by nature? When we see folks in that state of mind, we would do well to consider what may have caused them to be that way. Also, each of us would do well to determine, with God's help, that we will not allow ourselves to become bitter.
Bitterness has a way of destroying our happiness and our appeal to others. The reasons for bitterness are sometimes difficult to identify and even more difficult to root out. It might be the result of abuse and other deep hurts received as a child -- hurts that seem impossible to forget. It might result from hurtful and demeaning remarks from a family member, friend, or coworker. It might come from being cheated or defrauded in some way. It can come from a sense of being treated unjustly.
Often the person who hurt you in some way is unaware of the extent of your bitterness. If not dealt with in a godly way, time, rather than diminishing the hurt, seems to sharpen the pain and drive the bitterness even deeper into your soul, causing it to fester and grow and take control of your life. It will cause you to be a pessimist rather than an optimist. It will cause you to see the glass as half empty rather than half full. It will adversely impact your attitude about everything.
Once bitterness reaches a certain level, it becomes easier to justify. You feel so justified in your feelings of anger, hurt, and disappointment that you even become comfortable with those feelings. You become suspicious of the motives of others and read something sinister into everything they do and say in order to feed your feelings of bitterness and self-pity. This type of bitterness can cause people to go for years without speaking or interacting with one another. It can destroy family relationships and even fellowship between church members.
If you are harboring bitterness toward someone, please remember it has the potential to destroy you -- your happiness, your influence, and your usefulness to your Lord. Such feelings toward others can interfere with your ability to worship our Lord in a way acceptable to Him. But the good news is that your anger and bitterness are not outside the reach of God's grace, healing, and forgiveness. I like these words by Henry Blackaby:
"When you allow bitterness to grow in your life, you reject the grace of God that can free you. If you are honest before God, you will admit the bitterness and allow God to forgive you (and heal you). Bitterness enslaves you, but God is prepared to remove your bitterness and replace it with his peace and joy."

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Freedom At What Price

Have a Great   Veterans Day    Veterans Day!
"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others." --Winston Churchill
    "You, my brothers (and sisters), were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).
On this Veterans Day, people across America will pause to remember the price that has been paid by veterans throughout our nation's history for the freedoms we enjoy. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln stood on the battlefield at Gettysburg to dedicate part of the land as a national cemetery. His words:
"We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that a nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Along with Gettysburg, there were Valley Forge, Flanders Field, Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, Pork Chop Hill, the Mekong, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom and other conflicts involving our armed forces. What images of courage and carnage these wars bring to our minds! But, if freedom is to endure in future generations, we must be willing to pay the price, because "freedom is never free." It has cost the lives of thousands of men and women, and many have carried the scars of war through their lifetimes because of their wounds. Every veteran, living or dead, has contributed greatly to the preservation of our freedoms.
Since freedom always comes at a staggering cost, let's commit ourselves to the preservation of those freedoms. They are much too precious to waste or take lightly. As we recognize and express our gratitude to all veterans, let's also take time to thank God for the privilege of being an American.
Love, Jerry & Dotse                

Monday, November 10, 2014

Physician Assisted Suicide

“Man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away.  A man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him.” –Plato, Dialogues 

    “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NIV).
You may have followed the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman who died on Saturday, November 1, from a physician assisted suicide.  Because of her story, this vivacious young woman has become the face of a growing “Right to Die with dignity” movement in this country.  Early this year, while living in California, Brittany was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and given only months to live.  She moved to Oregon where state law allows the terminally ill to voluntarily choose to “die with dignity” from lethal medications provided by a physician.  Oregon is one of only a few states with laws allowing physicians to assist patients in taking their own lives.  This is a very emotional topic of debate with compelling arguments on both sides.   
The Scriptures reveal six people who resorted to suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4–6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:5). Samson is not included in this list because even though he was killed by his actions, his motive was to kill philistines, not himself. (Judges 16:26–31).
To my knowledge, the Bible is silent on the specific issue of assisted suicide; however, suicide is suicide, assisted or not.  Christianity has historically viewed our text, one of the original Ten Commandments, as prohibiting the taking of human life -- committing murder.  This interpretation, envisions suicide as self-murder.  This view is predicated on God being the only one with the authority to decide when and how a person should die.  This view allows us to say with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).  God is seen as both the giver and taker of life.  “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own”  (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV).  Suicide is wrong because it rejects God’s gift of life and the sanctity thereof.  No one should try to assume God’s authority for themselves.

After seeking God’s will, the person contemplating suicide should also consider the pain and grief that such action will inflict upon family members and close friends.  It seems selfish to live or die based solely on what works best for me without consideration of God’s will and being sensitive to the feelings of others.  For Christians, the following puts our lives in perspective:  For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord”  (Romans 14:7-8 NLT). 
Back to Brittany.  No doubt she was facing a horrible death with great suffering, and to die painlessly at a time of her own choosing appears to be a desirable alternative.  I’m sure we all sympathize with her and would support her dying naturally as painlessly as possible.  As Christians, we must base our opinions on God’s Word, and we should seek His will in all situations.  Even where assisted suicide is allowed by law, leaving God out of the decision-making process cannot bring glory to Him as the giver and sustainer of life.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Living Like A Saint

Chuckle:  In a rural area, a new family called a local official to request the removal of the "Deer Crossing" sign on their road. Their reason was that many deer were being hit by cars and they no longer wanted them to cross there.
Quote:  “The only difference between the Saint and the Sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”  --Oscar Wilde
    "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).
You may ask, who am I anyway? Do I matter? What is my impact? Where is my place? Do I make a difference? When we are in Christ, we have purpose and we can make a difference in our family, church, community, nation, and the world. In Christ, we are new creations designed to do what God planned for us before we were born.
Perhaps you have never thought of yourself as a saint, but he Bible says we are all saints if we know Christ as Savior and Lord. If God says I am a saint, I should live like one. In Romans 1:7 (NIV), we read: "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints." The word "Saint" means to be holy and set apart unto God as his special possession. As a saint, you: (1) have been adopted into God's family; (2) are made holy and blameless; (3) are forgiven of your sins; (4) are sealed by the Holy Spirit; and (5) are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
"The word 'saint' has come far from its original New Testament meaning. When we think of a saint, we think of some stylized human figure depicted in stained glass, or of a person long dead who has been officially declared as an ecclesiastical relic. However, one of the clearest definitions is 'A saint is a dead sinner, revised and edited.'" --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
For a meaningful life, we need a mindset change. We must believe what God says about us, not what others say, or what we say or think. Don't focus on what we were before Christ, but what we are in Christ. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
When ducklings hatch, they bond with whatever is closest. Usually it's with the mother duck. They relate to her, learn from her, and become like her. But I heard about a duck that bonded with a dog -- it tried to act and be like a dog. A saint is bonded to Jesus and tries to act and be like him. A victorious and significant life comes when I focus on what God says I am and begin to focus on being like Jesus. Each of us should say, "I'm a saint (Christian) and I want to live like it."
"A little boy attended a church that had beautiful stained-glass windows. He was told that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and other saints. One day the boy was asked, 'What is a saint?' He replied, 'A saint is a person whom the light shines through.'"

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

God Or Nothing

Chuckle: One Easter Sunday morning a preacher held up an egg and asked the children, "What's in here?" "I know!" a little boy exclaimed. "Pantyhose!"
Quote: "The sun, which has all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the world to do." --Galileo
    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . . God saw all that he had made, and it was very good . . ." (Genesis 1:1,33 NIV).
Galileo (1564-1642), was a pioneer of modern physics and telescopic astronomy. A spacecraft, named for Galileo, was launched from a space shuttle on October 18, 1989 to orbit the planet Jupiter. Many years ago, Alfred Noyes made the following comments in reference to today's quote from Galileo.
"This was Galileo's answer to those who attacked him when he said that the earth was not the center of the universe. His system, the critics said, made human beings insignificant. Galileo's answer, made three hundred years ago, is a source of strength in our time. For today many of us again feel that the individual is insignificant in the immense universe of modern science. But if the physical sun can be so responsible for the minutest flower in the field, there is certainly no reason to feel that there is any limit to the scope of the central Power (God), which created all the suns, all life, all spiritual values and the spirit of man himself. Behind Galileo's defense was his own belief that the universe is centered on neither the earth nor the sun -- it is centered on either God or nothing. If the latter, there can be no real belief, no sense of philosophy. Out of this blind alley, he turns naturally to the other alternative -- God. Galileo's words, the first voice of modern science, call us back to faith, hope and true belief."
In our day, there is a constant battle between creationism and evolutionism; between intelligent design and science, with the "big bang" theory thrown in for good measure. In this brief space, I cannot begin to address all the aspects of this ongoing debate, even if I had the understanding to do so. But as I read the words of Galileo and a discussion of his conclusions, I was reminded once again of the central truth of the universe. God, in all his power and majesty, created all there is and yet is still mindful of each of us. “What is man that you are mindful of him” (Hebrews 2:6b).  God wants our lives to bloom to the fullest for his glory. As the sun nurtures the bunches of grapes and the flowers in the field, He nurtures each human life.
Because of his great love, that nurture has as its first goal to reconcile each person to himself -- to make us acceptable in his sight and presence -- through faith in his One and Only Son who was sacrificed for our sins. Then his nurture includes maturing each Christian into a beautiful, blooming, and productive life. He does this through his Word, and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit in a similar way as the rays of the sun nurture each living thing on earth. He wants his Son to be to you what his Sun is to a bunch of grapes or a beautiful rose in your yard -- as Galileo put it, "as if He has nothing else in the world to do" but tend to you. . . .

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Our Imperfections

Chuckle: Ted: “You seem unhappy.” Roger: “Yeah, I am.  Living with my mother-in law has been stressful and hard on both me and my wife.”  Ted: “Well, if it gets really bad, you could just ask her to move out.”  Roger: “We can’t. It’s her house.” 
Quote:  Gladly we desire to make other men perfect but we will not amend our own fault.”  --Thomas a Kempis 
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).  “Stop judging others . . . First get rid of the log in your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:1,5 NLT). 
Isn’t it amazing how clearly we can see imperfections in others, but are totally blind when it comes to seeing our own?  Many of us are really umpires at heart; we enjoy calling balls and strikes on someone else.  But as we persist in judging others, we may come to view their minor imperfections as major while seeing our own major faults as minor and insignificant.  Have you ever honestly taken stock of your imperfections?  When you do, it may not be a very pleasant task.  We all have blemishes and imperfections.  For some, they are physical limitations.  To others, they may be mental/emotional.  Of course, our most serious imperfections are spiritual – originating from our propensity for sin.
By what standard should we measure our imperfections?  This is the most important question we must answer if we are to honestly evaluate ourselves.  The temptation is to say, “compared to others I know, I’m not so bad.”  However, comparing our imperfect lives to  those of other imperfect people will not give us the answers we should desire.  No, when we begin to measure our imperfections against God’s standards, as spelled out in His Word, we are ready to let God’s Holy Spirit convict us and give us the strength to deal with our imperfections – that is if we are truly repentant.
Our imperfections, from God’s point of view, are called sins, even though we would prefer to call them missteps, mistakes, errors, shortcomings, etc.  The most dangerous way to live with our imperfections is to become comfortable with them and go through life as if there is no need for alarm.  The apostle Paul lived as close to perfection in his relationship with his Lord as any Christian who has ever lived.  Yet, Paul was keenly aware of how far he was from spiritual maturity and perfection.  Here’s what he has to say.
    “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be” (Philippians 3:12 NLT).
Instead of finding imperfections in others, we are well served by turning our faults and imperfections over to God and let Him deal with them.  “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