Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Testing and Disciplining

Chuckle: "If the best things in life are free . . . why are the next best things so expensive?"
Quote: Virtue isn't virtue unless it slams up against vice so, consequently, your virtue is not real virtue until it's been tested ... and tempted.”Unknown source 
"But He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10 NIV).
According to the Scriptures, God tests us and disciplines us as his Children. Sometimes, it's difficult to discern the difference.  Generally speaking, God's punishment comes as a result of sin; while testing comes to determine the dimensions of our faith.  When God allows difficult and challenging situations to enter your life, the first question you should ask yourself is: Do I have unconfessed and unforgiven sin in my life?  If the answer is "yes," then you should consider the possibility that God is disciplining you for your sins -- to draw you back to himself through your confession and repentance.  Otherwise, it may be that God is testing you to strengthen and prepare you for a special service he desires you to perform.  In either case, an appropriate question is: "Lord, what are you trying to teach me in this situation?"
Testing. God tested Abraham's faith and obedience (Genesis 22:1 NIV) by commanding him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  This was to determine if Abraham would obey God unconditionally regardless of what God asked of him.  You may recall that after Abraham had proven his willingness to obey God by sacrificing his own son, God said to him: "Do not lay a hand on the boy . . . do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12 NIV).  Because of his faith, God promised to bless Abraham and the whole world through his descendants. Through this testing, God was preparing Abraham for greater tasks for his kingdom.  Testing burns off the dross of faithlessness, indifference, and disobedience in our lives in the same way that fire purifies gold. It is designed to make us instruments that God can use for His purposes.
Discipline: God punishes us for the same reasons you punish your children -- because you love them and want the best for them.  "My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children"  (Hebrews 12:5b-6 NLT).  Who do you think loves his child more -- the parent who allows the child to do what will harm him, or the one who corrects, trains, and even punishes the child to help him learn what is right? "Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).
God's discipline may not be pleasant, but it's a wonderful sign of his deep and unconditional love for us. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11 NIV).  When you sense God's correction, it's wise to see it as proof of his love, and ask him this most important question: "Lord, what do you want me to learn through this experience?"

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Power of Imagination

Chuckle:   A Sunday School teacher asked little Johnny if he said prayers before eating? "No Sir," he replied. "We don't have to. My mom is a good cook!"
Quote:  “For God hath made you able to create worlds in your own mind which are more precious to Him than those which He created.”  --Thomas Traherne 
    “Now  to him who is able to do immeasurably more then all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations . . .”  (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).
Dotse and I are blessed with two wonderful Children who make us very proud.  When our firstborn daughter was two years old, I left home for a year-long tour of duty in Korea, and I returned when she was three.  In my absence, our precious little girl had conjured up in her mind two imaginary friends and playmates named Patsy and Cory.  I was amazed by how real her imaginary friends were to her.  When we would go into the house or get into the car, she reminded us to hold the door open for Patsy and Cory.  As I think about those precious memories, I can’t help but be amazed by the power of imagination, which can bring us great pleasure or great pain as we deal with imaginary people, things, or events.
Imagination is a powerful God-given human trait that adds great joy and excitement to our lives.  Almost everything we do is influenced by our imagination.  The creation of drama, poetry, or music that enriches our lives is inspired by imagination shaped by life’s  experiences.  Imagination allows us to live in the world of make-belief.  This is especially true for children.  We can only conclude that when God created us, He did not overlook the value of imagination.  Since God knew we could not see him with our physical eyes, just maybe He gave us the ability to see Him through the eyes of our imagination. 
By faith, we can be “certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1), and our imagination helps us fully appreciate the fullness of that certainty.  In our passage, Paul reminds us, however, that even our imagination is inadequate for accurately visualizing the attributes of God.  He operates in a realm far beyond even our imagination.
Yes, imagination can bring unbelievable wonder, mystery, beauty and joy into our lives, but there is also a dark side to our imagination.  Runaway imagination may make you fear that the worst will happen, and your own thoughts may actually help bring it about.  Someone has said, "Fear is the wrong use of imagination.”  Of course, we know many imaginary adversities we worry and fret about never materialize.  Unjustified dread and fear can result in stress and anxiety that make us miserable and can even damage our health.
When we allow God to train and control our imaginations through our faith, we will begin to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10.  As Christians, we need to capture, or recapture, the power of imagination as it is influenced by our unshakable faith in the One who gave us this wonderful gift – IMAGINATION!

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Courtesy is Contagious

Chuckle:  A little boy, doing homework, asked his dad, “where would I find the Andes?”  “Ask your mother,” said the dad.  “She puts everything away in this house.” 
Quote:  “Hail the small sweet courtesies of life, for smooth do they make the road of it.” –Laurence Sterne
    “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”  (Ephesians 4:32 NLT).
The word “Courtesy” means friendliness, kindness, politeness in actions and speech,  good manners.  I like the following by Frank S. Hogan: “Courteous treatment is a recognition by one person that another person has the same dignity as a human being.  The practice of courtesy develops the habit of treating others as equals.  It is, therefore, more than a lubricant which prevents irritation between individuals of different backgrounds.  It becomes a solvent of the causes of friction and, when constantly applied, produces a positive force in the creation of good will.”
In our modern culture, it seems many people have forgotten the truth of what Publilius Syrus wrote in the first century before the birth of Christ: “You can accomplish by kindness (courtesy) what you cannot by force.”  Being courteous sounds like a small and simple thing for a Christian and should not be difficult to put into practice.  Life is full of small grievances which small doses of kindness and courtesy can eliminate.
I’ve noticed that major disputes between individuals often begin with minor and petty grievances, most of which can be resolved promptly with a small gestures of kindness and courtesy.  However, when minor differences are between discourteous people, they can fester and grow into major disputes and become almost impossible to resolve.  This is because, over time, the original grievance may fade and the issue can become a personal dislike for one another.  Then the participants begin to attack each other rather than dealing with the original grievance.  
I’m aware of two Christian men who let an adventuresome cow destroy their friendship and fellowship.  A cow belonging to one broke through a fence and ate some delicacies from the garden of the other.  Instead of coming together in brotherly love and in a courteous way to resolve the issue, they became angry and bitter and for years they rarely even spoke to one another.  How sad.  No doubt a show of love, kindness, and courtesy could have resolved the original issue promptly and amicably.
We can make a major contribution to the civility and harmony within our families, churches, and communities If we show the same courtesy to others that we would like to receive.

Love, Jerry & Dotse