Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pettiness

Chuckle:  “How long have you been driving without a tail light,” the policeman asked the lady he had pulled over.  “Oh, no!” the woman screamed as she ran to the back of the car.  “Just calm down,” said the officer. “It’s not that serious.”  “But it’s my husband I’m worried about.  He’s in the trailer that was hitched to the car!” 
 
Quote: “life is too short to be small.” –Disraeli
 
PETTINESS 
 
     "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."  (Proverbs 19:11 NIV).
 
Petty means “of little importance; small; minor; trivial.  Narrow minded or ungenerous, especially in trifling matters.  Of lesser importance or rank; subordinate.  Having or showing a narrow, mean character.”  On the practical side, pettiness is like making mountains out of mole hills.  We let small, unimportant and insignificant things upset us and turn us into monsters that others do not want to be around.
 
Life is too short to worry and fret about the small stuff.  The challenge for us is how to tell the small stuff from the really important stuff.  All too often the small and insignificant becomes the elephant in the room in our minds.  Do you have short fuse when it comes to your pet peeves?  We tend to want people to act right, follow the rules, and not do anything to hurt our feelings.  I have seen “Christians” get their feelings hurt over some insignificant petty issue and either leave the church pouting like a child who didn’t get his way, or carry a lasting grudge that disrupts the warm loving fellowship God wants for His people.
 
Our passage says we should not be offended or personally affronted by the actions and choices of others.  We are to be forgiving even when the offense is against us and even though it is difficult – even when we are hurt deeply by someone’s words or deeds.  It is God’s responsibility to deal with the sinful actions of others, not ours.  We are to love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven us.
 
I believe pettiness among Christians can be attributed to a lack of spiritual maturity.  We should strive to become mature followers of Christ.  In his New Testament writings, Paul describes his dealing with believers who were not maturing and pettiness was often the result, especially in new congregations.  Here’s what Paul said to the Corinthians.  “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV).  As we mature spiritually, we become more and more like Jesus and selfishness and pettiness are replaced by love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.
 
“Every day, God grants us the precious gift of life.  Yet every day, we squander it with our
selfish, petty concerns, rather than helping someone as He helps us.” –Kirn Hans, Behind My Mask
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

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 
TESTING AND DISCIPLINING
"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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vanity and Conceit

Chuckle:  A lawyer and a doctor were at the gym.  The doctor complained that while he exercises, people always ask for advice. “What should I do?”  “Well,” said the lawyer, “when you give advice, send a bill.”  In a few days, the doctor got a bill from the lawyer.
 
Quote:  “He is truly great that is little in himself and that maketh no account of any height of honors.” –Thomas A Kempis
 
VANITY AND CONCEIT
 
    “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you”  (Romans 12:3 NIV).
 
Vanity is defined as “the quality of being vain or conceited about oneself; excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.”  It’s ironic that vanity also means a condition of no real value; worthless.
 
Many of the world’s problems can be traced to powerful people filled with vanity and conceit.  These include brutal dictators and other cruel despots.  I’m reminded of a saying that goes something like this: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such people sometimes see themselves as above the law or rules that apply to everyone else.  They see themselves as a cut above those over whom they have influence.
 
“But lasting good has always been wrought by those who answer to Thomas a Kempis’s description (our quote), and see themselves infinitely small – as a man feels when he stands alone in darkness, looking up to the starry skies.” –Eric Johnston
 
 Those who are infatuated with their perceived importance and power often prey on the powerless.  Such an attitude should never be found in a Christian regardless of his or her position of leadership.  Our passage warns Christians not to think too highly of themselves, but to evaluate ourselves based on the degree of faith God has given us. 
 
The minds of wise Christians have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who reeducates, renews, and redirects their hearts and minds.  Great people are loving, humble, compassionate, and quietly wise, no matter what great deeds they perform or the high honors they receive.  Jesus said to His disciples, “. . . whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”  (Matthew 20:26 NIV).
 
“An old fable of Aesop tells of the fox and the crow. A crow once stole a piece of meat. The fox, who wanted the meat, began to compliment the crow. First he complimented the beauty of her black feathers. Then he complimented the beauty of her form. Finally he complimented her singing voice and asked to hear her sing. The crow was so overcome by the praise that she opened her mouth to sing and dropped the meat, which the fox promptly picked up and ate. Our experience tells us that such vanity is not reserved for crows.”
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse           

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Evils of Envy

Chuckle:  Teacher: “What happened in 1809?”  Eddie: “Abraham Lincoln was born.”  Teacher: “Right.  Now what happened in 1812?”  Eddie: “He turned three years old.”
 
Quote: “Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”Abraham Lincoln
 
THE EVILS OF ENVY
 
   “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30 NIV).  Love is kind. It does not envy, . .“ (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV). “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, . .” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).
 
From Wikipedea:  Envy is an emotion which “occurs when a person lacks a superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes the other does not have it. . .”  From the Dictionary:  Envy is “jealousy and dislike felt toward another because he has some thing, quality, etc, that one would like to have.”
 
It seems obvious to me that materialism and envy go hand in hand.  In a society where one’s worth is measured by what one has, the insatiable desire to “have” can drive a person into sinful thoughts and actions toward those who may have more than he.  Envy is the enemy of contentment, and causes us to lose the joy we should have in the life God has given us.   
 
Today’s quote is from a speech Abraham Lincoln made to a labor union in 1864.  I’m sure he was aware that a person’s hopes can easily turn to envy and hate toward someone because of what he has that I want.  Hopes and aspirations are great if accompanied by a willingness to work to fulfill those hopes in a way that honors God.  However, the envious often want what someone else has without the willingness to work for it.  Some may even feel entitled to have what they desire.  Our passages teach us some valuable lessons and we should let them sink into our hearts.  This fable reveals a great truth about envy.
 
    Satan was angered by the incompetence of his subordinates because they had failed to draw a holy man into sin.  He said, “You have failed because your methods are too crude.  Watch this.”
    Satan approached the holy man and whispered in his ear, “Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.”  Instantly the holy man’s face showed Satan had been successful: a great scowl formed over his mouth and his eyes tightened up.  “Envy,” said Satan, “is often our best weapon against those who seek holiness.”  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green. 
 
“A little grit in the eye destroyeth the sight of the heavens; and a little malice or envy, a world of joy.” –Thomas Traherne
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hold Your Head High

Chuckle: "In an interview, Donald Trump says he uses Head & Shoulders on his hair. As a result, Head & Shoulders is suing Trump for slander." --Conan O'Brien
Quote: "Jesus Christ is the key which unlocks the door of the prison cell of our own making and sets us free to live in the wide world of God's love and purpose." --Kenneth Pillar
HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH
    "I have set you free; now walk with your heads held high" (Leviticus 26:13 CEV).  "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36 NIV).
Have you taken a moment, recently, to reflect anew on the glorious truth that, as a born again child of God, you have been set free from the bondage of sin, anxiety, fear, and guilt?  You are no longer a captive of the things of this world and you can rejoice because of what God has done for you through Christ. 
In our passage, God wants all His people to live like we have been set free and to hold our heads up high, not in arrogance or smugness but with confidence and rejoicing.  He wants us to be filled with joy and thanksgiving and never allow anything to diminish this joy.
Just think what it must be like for a slave laborer to be set free.  Our passage reminds us that God brought the children of Israel out of centuries of slavery and instead gave them freedom and dignity.  We, too, are set free when we accept through faith Christ's ultimate sacrificial gift that redeems us from the slavery of sin. 
We can now walk with confidence and dignity because not only has God forgiven us of our sins, but has completely forgotten that we were ever in the bondage of sin. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more" (Isaiah 23:25 NIV).
God sets us free because He loves us, yes, but He has another purpose.  He wants us to use this freedom for His glory and to inspire the highest level of righteousness within us.  He wants us to grow more like Jesus each day as His Word teaches us and His Holy Spirit guides us, convicts us, and strengthens us.
God knows that the greatest security and happiness His people can enjoy comes from our living in close fellowship with Him.  With an omnipotent God who has our best interests at heart, we can face even the most discouraging situations with confidence, joy, and hope. We can walk with our heads held high.  PRAISE!
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 
 
THE POWER OF IMAGINATION
 
    “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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Calm During the Storms

Chuckle:  A father told his teenage son that if he brought his grades to a B average, studied the Bible, and got a haircut, then he would talk about the boy using the family car. After six weeks, the dad said to the son, “I’ve noticed your grades are up and you’re  studying the Bible. but you haven’t had you hair cut.” The boy said, “Dad, as I studied the Bible, I noticed that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair... and there's strong evidence that even Jesus had long hair.” The dad replied, “Did you also notice that they walked everywhere they went?”
Quote: "O God, make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace.” –St Clement
CALM DURING THE STORMS
    "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul, you must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'" (Acts 27:23-24 NIV)
Those who sail the high seas are constantly reminded that they are at the mercy of elements totally beyond their control. They prepare to deal with storms as best they can while recognizing and respecting the risks involved. Life is like that. We know storms will come into our lives but God has given us instructions on how to prepare for and deal with them. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV). When we recognize that our lives are in God's hands, and in faith trust Him in all situations, we can enjoy a sense of calmness and peacefulness regardless of the severity of the storms that buffet our lives.
In our passage, we learn that when threatened by severe storms, the sailors and soldiers with Paul were in a state of panic, but Paul's relationship and fellowship with His Lord allowed him as God's servant to remain calm and at peace. God’s promise and Paul’s faith allowed him to remain calm and lead and encourage others.
"Storms" provide the true test of our relationship with God. It is easy to have faith and trust God when we are experiencing smooth sailing, but when the seas of life become rough and threatening, we can be calm because we rely on God's presence and trust in His promise. Can God use your calm and peaceful demeanor to influence others as you pass through the storms in your life?
A hurricane is a storm with cyclonic winds greater than 74 m.p.h. But there is a place of perfect calm in its center  -- the eye. So it is with us in the storms of life. With the Lord as our center, there is calm and peace, even during the darkest of times and the severest of storms. Jesus said to his disciples; “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).

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Advice and Instruction

Chuckle: "Wouldn't you know it . . . brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever."
Quote: “Many receive advice, but the wise profit from it.” --Publilius Syrus
ADVICE AND INSTRUCTION
    "Get all the advice and instruction you can, and be wise the rest of your life"  (Proverbs 19:20 NLT).
We all like to think we are wise and can make sensible decisions based on our own life experiences, education, and common sense. Teenagers can be resistant to advice, especially if it comes from mom and dad who, by definition, just don't know anything. But the problem is not limited to teenagers. Some of us older folks are so set in our ways that any advice that suggests changing the way we think and act is automatically rejected. We often rely on these overused words: "I've never done it that way." Today, I challenge each of us to examine our attitudes toward receiving advice and counsel.
After watching the swing of a pupil, the golf pro began making suggestions for improvement.  But each time the pupil interrupted with his own version of what was wrong and how to correct it. After a few minutes, the pro began nodding his head in agreement. At the end of the session, the student paid the pro, congratulated him on his expertise as a teacher, and left in an obviously pleased frame of mind.
An astonished observer asked the pro, "Why did you go along with him?" "Son," the old pro said with a grin, as he pocketed his fee, "I learned long ago that it's a waste of time to try to sell answers to a man who only wants to buy echoes."
Obviously, not all advice is good advice. Larry Burkett put it this way: "A wise man seeks much counsel . . . a fool listens to all of it."  We must learn to discern between wise and foolish counsel. But the point of this lesson is to open our minds to fresh and new ideas that can positively affect the way we live, make decisions, and relate to other people. Of course our best sources of advice for living are God's Word and the counsel of godly people.
But we can close our spiritual ears to the point that we cannot accept advice even from God himself. This attitude can prevail in an individual Christian or the entire church. A church can become so locked in tradition that form and format become more important than substance in worship. The Holy Spirit cannot work freely in such an environment.
A key ingredient of true wisdom is the recognition of personal intellectual and spiritual need for counsel combined with the willingness to accept and utilize advice and education, especially spiritual instruction. "Fools think they need no advice, but the wise listen to others" (Proverbs 12:15 NLT). The more we learn the more we realize how much we don't know. When our physical and spiritual minds are open to learning, we will become much more valuable in the Lord's work as we serve other people.
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
 
COURTESY IS CONTAGIOUS
 
    “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  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jesus Forsaken

Chuckle:  After being pulled over, the driver asked, “Why was I pulled over when I wasn’t the only one speeding?”  The policeman replied, “Have you ever been fishing?”  “Yes,” said the motorist.  “And have you ever caught all the fish?”
Quote:  "Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back again tomorrow." -- Martin Luther
JESUS FORSAKEN BY HIS FATHER
    "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?" (Psalm 22:1 NIV).
While suffering extreme agony suspended on a cruel wooden cross on a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus quoted the first sentence of our passage as His life was draining from His body (Matthew 27:46).  Although impossible for us to fully comprehend, an amazing fact remains -- Jesus, God the Son, was forsaken by (separated from) God the Father while He was dying as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  His death on the cross paid our sin debt so that we might be forgiven and receive eternal life.  
Down through history, the cruelty of human beings against one another has been on display and often leaves us aghast.  In contrast to our more humane and relatively painless executions by lethal injection, history is replete with attempts to devise ways of torturing people to death that maximized and extended the suffering to ensure that death came as slowly as possible.  The longer a person suffered before dying the more pleasure it brought to the executioners and those demanding the execution.   Crucifixion was one of the most heinous and cruel methods of execution ever devised.
But Jesus' death on the cross was not only agonizing for Him, but it must have been equally agonizing for His Father.  It was the Father's fathomless love for us that caused Him to give His Son and forsake Him on the cross. "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 3:15). "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Because of His great love for us, Jesus took our sin upon Himself and paid the full price which included being forsaken by His Father, in addition to the excruciating physical pain he endured.  Although the physical agony was horrible, even more horrible was being separated from God, His Father.  God forsaken by God, who can understand it?  It's a mystery far beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  How could God the Father and God the Son love us so much?
Even though we can't fully understand the dimensions of God's love, we can only accept the benefits of that love by faith, with deep gratitude, and unending praise.  When our finite minds contemplate the mystery of God's love, we should rejoice because of the peace and joy made possible by what happened on that cross almost two thousand years ago – followed by Jesus’ glorious resurrection the third day.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 12, 2015

Courageous Christian Living

Chuckle:  After church one Sunday, a young boy said to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided I want to be a minister when I grow up.”  “That’s great,” said the Mom, “But what made you decide to be a minister?” “Well,” the boy replied, “I’ll have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit and listen.”
 
Quote:  “It is a brave act of valour to despise death, but where life is more terrifying than death it is then the truest valour to dare to stay alive.”  --Sir Thomas Browne
 
COURAGEOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING: 
 
    “I command you—be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”  (Joshua 1:9 NLT). 
 
J. Edger Hoover described courage this way:  “It is a priceless ingredient of character.  The will to do, the tenacity to overcome all obstacles and finish the course, the strength to cling to inexorable ideals are rooted in courage.  It is the outward manifestation of our spiritual development.” 
 
We all admire those who display unusual courage and bravery in the face of danger and/or adversity.  Courage is a quality of the mind, and, as such, it ranks among the cardinal virtues.  Its opposite, cowardice, ranks among the most serious character flaws.  Like the wind, courage can only be seen by its manifestations.  We can’t see the wind but are well aware of its effects.  We know a person has courage not by his looks or words, but by observing his actions.  Courage is not only a Christian duty but a constant for the person who, without reservations, places himself in the hands of God.  Courage becomes evident in patient endurance, moral purity, spiritual maturity, and fidelity.   
 
The Scriptures are replete with admonitions for us to be courageous, to stand firm, to be strong, and to depend upon God to provide the strength to endure even in the most difficult of circumstances.  The kind of courage God desires motivates us to reach the world for Christ and minister to those in need.  Courage gives us the mental, emotional, and spiritual toughness that enables us to stand by our convictions and the necessary strength to build and sustain a free and moral society and nation.  It allows us to face the perpetrators of the most heinous evil acts with confidence and moral fortitude. 
 
Godly courage will allow us to stand by our convictions, discern right from wrong, and uphold that which is right in the eyes of God.  Listen to the apostle Paul: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV).  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).  “He that loses wealth loses much: But he that loses courage loses all.”  –Cervantes  
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Year: Post-Holiday Depression

Chuckle: "Laughing is good exercise; It's like jogging on the inside."
Quote: "Prayer can make your week days strong, your trying days triumphant, your Sabbath days sacred, and your holidays wholesome." --William Ward
POST-HOLIDAY DEPRESSION
    "Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me, or I will die" (Psalm 143:7 NLT).
Note: If you suffer from severe depression which affects your ability to carry out normal activities and interact with others, please seek professional medical help.
Many people experience post-holiday blues, anxiety and depression after the Christmas and New Year holidays have come and gone.  I think it's natural to feel some sort of an emotional let-down after days and weeks of frenzied activities and precious times with family and friends.  But others suffer lingering sadness and despondency.  Some causes may include:
Family Disappointments: The holidays bring precious times of love, joy and exhilaration in healthy family units.  However, not everyone is part of a healthy family.  Emotional, verbal, and even physical abuse can spoil the otherwise joyous time and lead to broken family relationships which bring sadness and even depression.
Financial Problems: Some are saddened because they just couldn't afford to buy gifts for those they love.  Others got caught up in the Christmas shopping frenzy and spent more than they could afford.  They may have maxed out credit cards as if a day of reckoning would never come.  When the bills start coming in, they are jerked back into reality, and begin to worry and fret about how to pay for their spending binge.
Severe Loneliness: When our loved ones have left for home and we are left alone, we can experience loneliness, sadness and depression.  The elderly may feel depressed both during and after the holidays because they feeling neglected, alone and unloved.  This can be especially true for those in nursing homes or whose children live far away.  It can be a terribly difficult time for those who are spending their first Christmas without spouses and friends who have passed away.  They treasure life as they once knew it, and struggle to come to grips with how it is now.
There may be other reasons you may feel blue and depressed once the excitement of the holidays has passed.  If so, what should you do?  For us Christians, the solution to such conditions can be found in our relationship with our Lord and loving Christian friends.  Then Jesus said, "Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NLT).  Our Lord is willing and eager to grant you His peace and comfort when you turn to Him.
Also, Jesus has told us to be sensitive to the needs of others and reach out to those who may be sick, lonely, dejected and depressed.  Jesus said, "I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" (Matthew 25:40 NLT).  I pray that God will grant you His peace and joy as we minister to one another in times of need.  There's no better medicine for our own depression than to bring joy to others by ministering to their needs.

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Year: Resolve to Turn Your Back on Sins

Chuckle:  A pastor said to his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach on the sin of lying.  To help you understand the sermon, please read Mark 17 this week.”  The following Sunday, as he prepared to preach the sermon, the pastor asked for a show of hands of those who had read Mark 17.  Every hand went up.  The pastor smiled and said, “Mark only has 16 chapters.  I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.” 
Quote: "Sin has always been an ugly word, but it's been made so in a new sense over the last half century.  It has been made not only ugly but passé.  People are no longer sinful.  They are only immature or underprivileged or frightened or, more particularly, sick." --Phyllis McGinley
RESOLVE TO TURN YOUR BACK ON SINS
    “Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to its lustful desires … Sin is no longer your master (you are no longer its slave)" (Romans 6:12, 14 NLT).  Listen as God issues the challenge to turn your back on your sins.
After the civil war was over and the slaves were joyously set free, some chose to stay with their former masters with whom they had become comfortable.  The Bible says many Christians still choose to obey their old master, sin, even after Christ died to set them free.
Sometimes, Christian writers refer to something called "besetting" sins.  These are sins we are prone to repeat time and again -- the sins we really battle with every day.  They can cause us to live double lives, public and secret.  Maybe that is how you lived over the last year, constantly defeated by the same old sin.  It's like a man with a huge wart on his nose.  He won't do anything about it -- he has just learned to live with it.  Too many Christians have this attitude about their besetting sin.  They won’t do anything about it -- they learn to live with it and this sin cripples their spiritual life and robs them of joy.
Is your spiritual life crippled because you have learned to live with and give in to a besetting sin?  These could include dishonesty, a quick temper, a sharp tongue, a critical attitude, a sexual sin, etc.  God asks you to stop letting it control the way you live.  He wants you to stop giving in and obeying your old master.
God says you are no longer a slave to sin so don’t live like one or act like one.  Ask for God’s forgiveness and power to resist that sin and begin anew in your spiritual life.  Don’t miss this new year opportunity.  Our last four lessons teach us that this new year can be much more than a calendar event if we make and keep these four life-changing resolutions for 2015: (1) Resolve to forget your past failures -- forgive yourself.  (2) Resolve to let go of your grudges -- forgive others.  (3) Resolve to heal broken relationships -- ask forgiveness from others. (4) Resolve to turn your back on your sins -- ask God's forgiveness.
Living by these resolutions, in the power of the Holy Spirit, will make the New Year something special and a reason to celebrate.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year: Resolve to Restore Relationships

Chuckle: At breakfast, the waitress told us the "Seniors' Special" was two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for $1.99. "Sounds good," my wife said. "But I don't want the eggs." The waitress replied, "Then I'll have to charge you $2.49 because then you're ordering a la carte." "You mean I'd have to pay for not taking the eggs?" My wife asked incredulously. Then, after a moment, she said, "OK, I'll take the senior special." "How do you want your eggs?" "Raw and in the shell," my wife replied. She took the two eggs home. The moral: Don't mess with seniors. We've been around the block more than once!
Quote: "Most people are bothered by passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me are those which I do understand." --Mark Twain
NEW YEAR: RESOLVE TO RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS
    “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone"  (Romans 12:17-18 NLT).
God wants us to check up on our personal relationships.  Our Scripture passage contains His challenge.  He depends on you to do all you can to restore your relationships that may have gone sour.  Healthy relationships are at the core of Christian living.  If we love others the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive and do everything within our power to restore fractured relationships.
"Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace" (Ephesians 4:2-3 NLT)
Some broken relationships are the results of actions by others who may not want them restored.  God recognizes that and says, “if it is possible.”   But let’s be honest, often relationship problems are caused by our own actions -- something we have done.  God holds us responsible for restoring relationships through forgiveness. "As far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone."  No matter who caused the rift, we should take the initiative and do everything possible to bring about reconciliation.
How many marriages are not all they could be simply because a spouse refuses to say “I was wrong; I am sorry; will you forgive me?”  We need to ask forgiveness for “ harsh words and cutting remarks” that have emotionally wounded and scarred our marriage partners over the years.  The same is true for our children, parents, neighbors, etc.
Make no mistake, it will be hard to do, but one of the most significant things that you can do to mark the New Year is to admit your past errors in relationships and humbly seek forgiveness from God and the one(s) you have hurt or have hurt you. “Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year: Resolve to Give Up Grudges

Chuckle: "Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him. But imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim."
Quote: "He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass." --George Herbert
NEW YEAR: RESOLVE TO GIVE UP GRUDGES
    “Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV).
In these words, God is challenging us to give up our personal resentments and grudges.  A grudge is a deep ongoing resentment that you cultivate in your heart against someone – leading to unforgiving attitudes and actions.  Harboring a grudge is nursing a destructive dislike for someone.  Grudges destroy marriages, break up families, ruin friendships, and split churches.  Grudges are also self-destructive.  Harboring grudges will eventually destroy you -- if not physically, certainly emotionally and spiritually.  Job 21:25 describes people who “Have no happiness at all, they live and die with bitter hearts.”
"It's been said that a rattlesnake, if cornered, will sometimes become so upset that it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is -- a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these grudges and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves."  --Illustrations For Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Jesus' told a parable about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by the king and then refused to forgive someone else a tiny amount.  Jesus said his unforgiving spirit landed him in prison.  Max Lucado says, “Unforgiving servants always end up in prison; prisons of anger guilt and depression.  " God says “don’t sentence yourself to prison.”  Set yourself free by giving up your grudges and “forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another,” even if you were wronged.
You may need to give up a grudge and forgive your parents, children, spouse, workmate, a neighbor, or someone in your church congregation.  What better time than the beginning of a new year?  Please don’t tell God, or yourself, that you can’t forgive.  What you really mean is that you won’t forgive.  If Christ can forgive your sinss, despite it involving the pain of the cross, then surely you can forgive and give up your grievance against another person whatever the cost.  To say, “I can forgive, but I cannot forget," is only another way of saying, "I will not forgive." --Henry Ward Beecher  
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year: Resolve to Forget Your Failures


Happy New Year!
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Chuckle: A preacher overheard a little boy cursing. He stopped and gave the boy a dime and implored him not to use "those words" again. The little boy replied -- "Preacher, I've got a two-dollar word on the tip of my tongue!"
Quote:  “Look not back on yesterday; So full of failure and regret.  Look ahead and seek God’s way . . . All sin confessed you must forget.”  --Dennis DeHaan quotes
FORGET YOUR FAILURES
    "Forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus"  (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV).
As you look back over 2014, I'm sure you can come up with a list of what you would consider as failures in your life.  You may have failed to restore a broken relationship; failed financially; failed to faithfully love and honor your spouse; failed to be a Godly parent to your children; failed to honor your parents; failed to be a loyal friend; failed to share the love of Christ with someone when you had opportunity; or failed God by letting a pet sin control your life.  In our passage, the apostle Paul gives us some good advice. God does not want us to become prisoners of our past failures.
We must realize that everyone fails.  Peter failed his Lord miserably when he fled, along with the other disciples, from the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56).  He failed again when he denied Jesus by saying he didn't know him (Matthew 26:69-75).  James 3:2 NIV tells us, "We all stumble in many ways."  Isn't that the truth?  "There is not a righteous person on earth who does what is right and never sins (makes a mistake)" (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV).  "For all have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard" (Romans 3:23 NLT).  I heard about a preacher who said to his congregation, "Let's bow our heads and pray for our falling shorts!"
Failure and defeat are as much a part of life as success and victory.  We all make mistakes - fumble the ball - mess up.  It's not "if" but "when" we fail.  As you reflect on 2014 and identify what you consider as failures in your life, remember that dwelling on the past will discourage you from moving into the future with confidence in what God has in store for you.  The new year is an ideal time to ask God's forgiveness for your failures, and then forget the past and move on.  Don't brand yourself a failure, but say, "with God's help, I'll forget my past and stop torturing myself about it."  You cannot change the past and to dwell on past mistakes will sap you of needed energy for the future and rob you of the joy God wants you to have.  Obviously, we should learn from our failures but not allow them to take us prisoner.
God often uses our failures to get our attention.  He wants you to learn and profit from your failures.  On the cross Christ died so that He could forgive your sins/failures.  Receiving God's forgiveness allows you to forgive yourself and forget past. The new year marks a new beginning -- a perfect time to accept God's forgiveness, forgive yourself, and look forward to 2015 with anticipation, joy, and thanksgiving.
Love, Jerry & Dotse