Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gracious Gratitude

Chuckle: When I was little, I often wondered who Richard Stands was. You know: "I pledge allegiance to the flag . . . And to the republic for Richard Stands."
Quote: "If it were our lot to suffer deprivation, as it is the lot of many in the world, then gratitude for the little things of life and the big things of God would come more readily to our lips." --Cardinal Basil Hume
    "One of them (the healed lepers), when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, 'Praise God, I'm healed!' He fell face down on the ground at Jesus' feet, thanking him for what he had done. The man was a Samaritan" (Luke 17:16 NLT).
I think there are basically three ways we can react when being offered a free gift from God or another person.  (1) We can refuse the gift for fear of obligating ourselves to the giver.  (2) We can accept the gift while see ourselves as worthy, entitled, and deserving because of our circumstances or who we are.  Or, (3) we can accept the gift while seeing ourselves as unworthy and undeserving as our hearts are filled with humility, praise, and gratitude.
I'm sure you are familiar with the story leading up to our passage where Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one, a Samaritan, showed gratitude to Jesus for what had been done for him.  This account reminds us that it is very possible to receive God's wondrous gifts while harboring an ungrateful attitude in our hearts.  Nine of the ten lepers never received the blessing of hearing Jesus say, "Stand up and go. Your faith has made you well" (vs. 19).
When we are grateful for what God does for us, we grow spiritually and become more like Jesus, our ultimate role model for Christian living.  We grow in our understanding of God's wonderful grace and mercy as we express our gratitude.  God uses our response as an opportunity to teach us more about himself.
Lastly, this passage teaches us that God's love, grace, and mercy are for everyone, regardless of race, or social status.  The Samaritans were despised by the Jews who saw themselves as the only pure descendants of Abraham.  The hated Samaritans were a mixed race from the intermarriage between Jews and other people after Israel's exile.
The Jews looked down their noses at the Samaritan's and would not associate with them in any way.  It must have been most difficult for the Jews to accept, but the Samaritan's gratitude for Jesus healing him taught them and us a valuable lesson -- that God does not discriminate when bestowing His love, grace, and mercy. He loves every human being equally and Christ died for the sins of all and He is deserving of our deepest gratitude.

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Friday, December 5, 2014

From Darkness to Light

Chuckle: A boy served morning coffee to his grandmother.  When finished, she asked, “why are there three little toy Army guys in the bottom of my cup.”  The grandson replied, “You know, Grammy, it’s like on TV.  The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.”
Quote:  Light that makes some things seen, makes some things invisible. Were it not for darkness and the shadow of the earth, the noblest part of the Creation would remain unseen, and the stars in heaven invisible.”  --Sir Thomas Brown (adapted)
    “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe . . . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:4-9 NIV).
In the Scriptures, God has much to say about darkness and light.  They are metaphors used to describe the ruler of darkness and evil (Satan) versus the Light of the World (Jesus) and the righteousness of God.  You will remember the account in Genesis 1;3 when God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  The first time God said, “Let there be light,” He illuminated our physical world with the sun and reflective moon.  The second time God said, “Let their be light,” He sent His Son, the Light of the World, to illuminate the hearts and minds of people where the darkness of sin had taken root.  
As I pondered the above quote, the underlined phrases reminded me that the Light of the World illuminates the darkness of our sins and makes them visible to us by the convicting power of His Holy Spirit.  That same Light renders our confessed and forgiven sins invisible -- even to God Himself.  Our sins are blotted out by the blood of Jesus, and it is as if those sins had never occurred.  We are told that God remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12) when we repent of our sins and prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  We are “a people belonging to God . . . who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).
Like the stars which shine their brightest in the darkest of night, the Light of the World shines His brightest in the darkness of a sinful world.  The darkness we once experienced allows us to see more clearly and experience the brightness, beauty, and benevolence of God’s redeeming love and light.  If you allow Christ to guide your life, you will never need to stumble into the darkness of sin again.  “In him (God) there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NIV).
An old hymn:  “The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, The Light of the world is Jesus; Like sunshine at noon-day His glory shone in, The Light of the world is Jesus.”

Love, Jerry & Dotse      

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friends Build Us Up

Chuckle: "Do you believe in life after death?" The boss asked one of his employees. "Yes, of course sir," the new employee replied. "Well then, that makes everything just fine," the boss went on. "After you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother's funeral, she stopped by to see you!"
Quote: "Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a hand of a faithful friend will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness blow the rest away" --George Elliott (Marian Evans Cross).
    "As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend"  (Proverbs 27:17 TAB). Here are some qualities, with related Scriptures, that describe Christian friendships based on respect, brotherly love, and friendship love:
Friends trust each other completely. If a person is your friend, you know he or she can be trusted to keep your best interest uppermost in his or her values. You can trust them to keep to themselves what you have shared in confidence. "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man (person) keeps a secret" (Proverbs 11:13 NIV).    
Friends feel safe and comfortable with each other. You can be yourself.  There is no need for pretenses.  "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
Friends are honest with each other even if it hurts -- even if it wounds your pride. The friend who sees the other going down a dangerous path will not hesitate to sound a loving but firm warning. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses" (Proverbs 27:6 NIV).
Friends freely share with each other their innermost fears, anxieties, burdens, insecurities, and questions. "Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 NIV).
Friends enjoy mutual acceptance, even with all their faults. "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7 NIV).
Friends take personal responsibility for the relationship and will not allow it to deteriorate even in the aftermath of heated disagreements. They will not rest until the air is cleared and the relationship completely restored. "First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:24b NIV).
Friends are encouragers, not fault-finders. They build each other up and never attempt to make themselves look good by putting the other person down. "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13 NIV).
True friends are faithful prayer partners. They are strong and effective intercessors on behalf of their friends. ". . . The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective"  (James 5:16 NIV).
A true friend is one of the greatest gifts a person can receive. We are wise to nurture the precious friendships we have and never do anything to threaten them.

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Friends Always Love

Chuckle: The prospective father-in-law asked, "Young man, can you support a family?" The surprised groom-to-be replied, "Well, mmm, No. I was just planning to support your daughter. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves!"
Quote:  “When a friend laughs, it is for him to disclose the subject of his joy; when he weeps, it is for me to discover the cause of his sorrow.”  --Joseph Francois Desmahis
    "A friend loves at all times, and is born, as a brother (or sister), for adversity"  (Proverbs 17:17 TAB). "The man of many friends (a friend of all the world) will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24 TAB).  In these verses, we see that true friends love us like brothers or sisters and are essential to our well-being, especially during times of adversity.  There is also a warning about making friends with the world.
According to the Dictionary, a friend is "A person whom one knows well and likes; a person on the same side in a struggle -- an ally."  Another definition: "A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world has gone out."  People need the strength of a few solid relationships rather than a large number of superficial ones. Trying to make friends with "bad company" can bring pain and disappointment.  To better understand friendship from a Biblical perspective, let's think of some other human interactions that are valuable and necessary, but are not genuine friendships.
Jesus loved all people but related to them on various levels.  He preached to some, He ministered to the individual spiritual needs of some, and He even performed Miracles of physical healing for others.  But he related in a different way to His twelve disciples.  The closeness He enjoyed with them was unique, and even among the twelve, there were three whom Jesus seemed to relate to more closely as friends. " . . . Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. There he was transfigured before them" (Mark 9:2).
You can put yourself through a lot of anguish and heartache if you try to be friends with everyone, because not every relationship will reach the level of friendship love; however, this is not to say that other human interactions are not healthy, nor should they be avoided -- just the opposite.  When you see a person in need and you reach out to him or her in ministry, you have shown obedience to our Lord by showing love, compassion, and caring.  But the needy person may never be your close friend.
On the other hand, when you have a true friend, the two of you will give to each other in an equal and unselfish way.  Both will be strengthened, blessed, and comforted by the relationship. In our Christian lives, we can identify three types of relationships.
(1) First, there are those to whom we need to minister in their time of need, but they may give little or nothing to us in return.  Our joy comes from helping people, not receiving.  (2) Also, we need people to minister to us in our times of need, but we may return little or nothing to them.  (3) A third kind of relationship is true friendship.  This special relationship reflects mutual love, respect, kindness, sharing, and never-ending loyalty.  We should choose our friends carefully, but a good friend brings great joy.

Love, Jerry & Dotse