Friday, February 27, 2015

The Last Will Be First

Chuckle: A new rural resident called the local authorities requesting 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: "Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character." --William Arthur Ward
THE LAST WILL BE FIRST
    Jesus said, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first" (Matthew 19:30 NIV).
You may remember the inspiring story of Derek Redmond, the sprinter who finished last in the 400 meter finals during the 1992 summer Olympics. He pulled a hamstring and only made it across the finish line with the help of his father who came out of the crowd to assist him. Derek garnered more attention and acclaim than the actual winner because of his courage and determination to finish the race and never quit. Even today, as we think about the scene, the runner who finished last is the first one we remember.
Jesus taught His disciples by saying, ". . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV).
You may feel as if you are always bringing up the rear -- last place, in the game of life. But it is a reality that most of us Christians will never receive the notoriety of a Billy Graham, Lottie Moon, or other well-known Christian faithful. We may never receive first place recognition in this life; however, it is not the world we seek to please, but the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. When it comes to being first or great, Jesus completely dismantled the world's values and turned them upside down, as reflected in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. It is not our stature that will be rewarded but our enduring faithfulness -- even for the small things we do for God's glory.
As we see in the above passage, our greatness and being first is dependent upon our humbling ourselves and being lowly servants to others. Jesus set the example for us as He came to serve and give His life for you and me. In this world, not many powerful and acclaimed people got to where they are by being humble, kind, and understanding. But in the heavenly world to come, the last will be first. We should not be working for human approval, but be faithful to the One whose approval really matters.
I started with a story about an Olympic 400 meter race. Listen to Paul's words to young Timothy as he thought about his eminent death. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day . . ." (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV). Paul was not interested in being first in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of his Lord. Paul was not alone as he finished his race. Like Derek Redmond, his Father was there to help him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Your Importance To God

Chuckle: "Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late."
Quote: "Our worth comes from the image of God in all of us, and must be the basis for our concept of ourselves." –Unknown source
YOUR IMPORTANCE TO GOD
    "When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers -- , the moon and the stars which You have set in place -- what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us?" (Psalm 8:3-4 NLT).
Each of us was created with a powerful curiosity and the insatiable need to explore God's creation -- to go where we've never gone before. We want to know what's beyond that next mountain, ocean, or planet. We may go to new places physically or explore them through written and pictorial descriptions. 
Knowing how He had made us, God laid open to us the entire universe to reveal Himself and His power to satisfy our desire for discovery. The more mysteries that are uncovered, the more we find out about who God is and what His attributes are. All His creation helps us to understand not only who God is, but, equally important, who God is not. The Bible says He is not limited in power. He is not apathetic about what happens to us. He is not partial. His love is not limited.
When you are tempted to question your worth and importance, remember that you are highly valuable to God. We have great worth because we bear the stamp of the Creator Himself (Genesis 1:26a). Great effort is being exerted by scientists to prove any theory other than the miracle of creation by God's own hands. As more scientific evidence is found, it becomes more and more difficult for the non-creationists to explain how the universe and the living creatures therein came into existence. The Scriptures tell us that man has exchanged the truth for a lie.
Paul writes, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. . . Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Rom. 1:20, 22-23 NIV).
Yes, God wants us to discover the greatness of His creation which reveals the dimensions of His power and His great love for us mortals, the crown of His creation. God has proven over and over how much He loves you and me, with the ultimate expression of His love being shown on a cross outside Jerusalem where His only Son suffered, bled, and died. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV). How can you read this verse and not see how important you are to God, our Heavenly Father.
So, God gave us His whole creation to show us the dimensions of His power, and He gave His Son to show us the dimensions of His love. Because God has declared your value to Him, you can be set free from feelings of worthlessness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

God's Call On Your Life

Chuckle: Michelangelo's mother: "Can't you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?"
Quote: "Show me the way,  Not to fortune and fame,  Not how to win Laurels  Or praise for my name --  But show me the way  To spread 'The Great Story'  That Thine is The Kingdom  And Power and Glory."              --Helen Steiner Rice
GOD'S CALL ON YOUR LIFE
    "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).
This powerful passage reminds us that God calls his people for specific purposes. It also reminds us that the response which pleases and honors God is "Here I am, send me." Or, "Here I am Lord and I will gladly do whatever you wish me to do -- Your will be done. . . ."
There is a central truth: God's call is not only for a select few, but for every believer. Isaiah was listening to a non-specific call from God, but he personalized it by stepping forward in complete abandon to make himself available for whatever God had in store for him. Whether we hear the call of God depends on the condition of our hearts and spiritual ears. And how we interpret that call depends on our spiritual mindset. Am I listening for the call of God? Will I hear him when he calls? Or, am I so far away from God that I can't hear his voice?
"But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear (and obey), but shalt be drawn away, and worship other God's and serve them; I denounce (declare) unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish. . ." (Deuteronomy 30:17-18 KJV).
We see here the classic pattern of people drifting away and rebelling against God. You see, if our hearts are turned away from God, we will not hear Him. Then we will establish other substitute gods in our lives -- anything that becomes more important to us than our relationship and fellowship with God. When this process has run it's course, we will no longer be listening for the One True God's call. We will not hear that still small voice of invitation to join Him in fulfilling His purpose for our lives.
As a pastor, I have had Christians say they did not sense God calling them to teach a Bible study class, serve on a committee, or to witness to a lost friend. Sometimes our hearts can turn away from God and toward other things. Then we can move so far from God that we are unable to hear his call and don't know if God is calling us or not. We may not be listening for God's call because our hearts are turned away to other selfish things. To hear God's call, we must listen intently and with purpose -- leaning forward toward him with anticipation while cupping our spiritual ears with our hands, so to speak, for fear that we might miss something the God of the universe wishes to say to us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 20, 2015

Treating Others Fairly

Chuckle:  When his doctor entered the room, the man cried, “My hair is falling out!  Can you give me something to keep it in?”  “Of course,” said the doctor reassuringly.  He handed the man a small box.  “Will this be big enough?”
 
Quote:  “Put yourself in his place!”  --Charles Reade
 
TREATING OTHERS FAIRLY
 
    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”  (Matthew 7:1 NIV).
 
A favorite pastime for some of us seems to be finding faults in others.  We are warned in Scripture to be careful that we aren’t guilty of the same sins/faults that we enjoy pointing out in others.  Jesus tells us to remove the plank from our own eye before we become concerned about the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3 NIV).  Here’s a story about Charles Reade, the author of our quote for today.
 
These words, the title of one of Charles Reade’s novels, have remained in my memory for more than half a century.  The story tells of an English village at a time when workers believed that the introduction of labor-saving machines meant taking bread out of the mouths of their wives and children.  Living in this community was Dr. Amboyne.  He was a wise physician who tended alike to mill owner and mill worker, to the mind as well as the body.  And whenever he found one man denouncing another, he always asked the same question:  “What would you do if you were in his place?”  --Josephus Daniels 
 
It’s easy for us to criticize the words or actions of someone else; and we often do so without understanding the circumstances confronting the person we are criticizing.  When we find ourselves denouncing another person, for whatever reason, we should stop and ask ourselves this question. “What would I do if I were in his or her place?”  This question then brings us face to face with another important question:  What caused this person to act the way he or she did?  What pressures are being brought to bear on that person?  We should reserve judgment until we have walked in that person’s shoes, so to speak – until we better understand what the person is going through.
 
We know that Jesus always dealt with sinful behavior in a loving and redemptive way, never in a condemning way.  If we truly care about people and are interested in ministering to them, we will take the time to build relationships and share Christ with them.  For wayward Christians, kind, loving and encouraging words and actions are more effective than harsh criticism and condemnation.  Such an approach will help us live out the spirit of the Golden Rule.  We will relate to others as we want them to relate to us. 
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse    

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Heavenly Promise

Chuckle:  Child's prayer: "Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother."
Quote: "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create." --R.G. Lee
HEAVENLY PROMISE
    "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust (believe) in God; trust (believe) also in me. In my Father's house (heaven) are many (rooms) mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-4 NIV).
In our passage, Jesus' crucifixion was near, and I'm sure the disciples were beside themselves with fear, anxiety, and worry. They were about to lose their leader, mentor, teacher, and companion who had been with them constantly for the better part of three years. They had come to depend upon him in so many ways. In his tender "Jesus" way, our Lord comforted his disciples with one of the most beautiful promises in the New Testament.
Each of us will experience death at a time of God's choosing. Also, each of us has, or will, experience the loss of someone very dear to us. It is a horrible experience when we lose a loved one. But I'm sure you will join me in thanking God that he has given each of us the capacity to grieve such losses. We are created in the image of God and our ability to grieve reminds me of how God must grieve when he loses a precious soul who has rejected his love and the atoning blood of Jesus for the remission of sins -- one who has said "no" to the promise of salvation and eternal life with God in a place the Bible calls heaven.
For those of us who have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we need not fear the time when our eternal souls leave our physical bodies. And also as we grieve for other Christians we have lost, we should not grieve as those with no hope of seeing them again. Paul puts in this way: "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (die), or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV).
This brings us back to our passage from John. Jesus, right now, is preparing a place for each and every Christian. Dr. Paul Powell points out that from Jesus' own words we are reminded that we have faith in the PERSON of Jesus Christ. "Trust in God; trust also in me." We also have faith in a PLACE in heaven that Jesus is preparing for us. "I am going there to prepare a place for you." Finally, we have faith in a PROMISE that Jesus will return and receive us into his presence so "that we also may be where He is."
If we have this kind of faith, it will ease the anxiety about our own deaths, and also make us realize that ". . . to be absent from the body, and (is) to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV). Praise Him for this Amazing Promises!!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

By God's Spirit

Chuckle: When God finished the creation of Adam, He stepped back, scratched His head, and said, "I can do better than that!"
Quote: "Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together.  But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking with you." --T. S. Eliot
BY GOD'S SPIRIT
"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6 NIV). "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord," (Micah 3:8a NIV).
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the challenges you face you each day? You may feel that the problems facing you are just too great to overcome. Do they seem too massive for you to handle? When you awake, do you say "good morning Lord," or "Good Lord, it's morning?" Did you feel this way when you awoke this morning and thought about the day ahead?
We must remember that we serve an omniscient (all-knowing) God. He knows about and understands everything that concerns you and fully recognizes your inability to handle life's challenges in your own strength. But, He enables you to face them in the power of His Spirit. This means we are not limited by our own abilities and wisdom, but have the unlimited resources of our heavenly Father at our disposal -- if we but trust and rely on Him in every situation.
Many believe that to survive and excel in this life they must be tough, self-reliant, strong, independent, and unwavering. But God tells us that in our weakness, the strength of His Spirit is revealed. It's only in the power of the Spirit that anything gets done that has lasting value. "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5c NIV). It's easy for us to say we trust God's Spirit to guide, teach, and direct us when at the same time, we go through life trying to solve all our problems in our own strength as if God doesn't exist.
I'm reminded of the funny story about a man who was working on the steep roof of his house. He lost his footing and was tumbling toward the eave and the inevitable life-threatening fall to the ground. In his plight he prayed, "Lord, please save me!" Then with relief in his voice he said, "oh, never mind Lord; I've caught on a nail." This humorous little story reminds us that if he had truly been depending upon God's Spirit, he would have prayed something like this: "Thank you, Lord, for placing that nail where it would break my fall." How many times do we fail to give credit to God for inexplicable occurrences that we call good luck or good fortune or credit them to our exceptional abilities.
Today, let's pledge together to live for God with complete trust in Him rather than our own strength. Let's seek Him in every situation and we will all be amazed at what God can accomplish in us and through us in the power of His Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 13, 2015

Living With A Clear Conscience



Chuckle: While driving down the freeway, a senior citizen answered his phone. He heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on Interstate 77. Please be careful!" "Heck," said Herman, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"
Quote: "When a man is content with the testimony of his own conscience, he does not care to shine with the light of another's praise." --St Bernard of Clairvaux

LIVING WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience . . ." (Hebrews 10:22 NIV). "They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a pure (clear) conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9 NIV).

As a boy, I loved to play basketball. At one point we lived a short distance from my school which had a gymnasium. Even though the gym was off limits during non-school hours, I had learned how to get into the gym in such a way that no one would know I had been there. One day, my dad confronted me and asked if I had been in the gym. I knew I had done wrong and hoped that, after I confessed, I would receive dad's forgiveness -- which came after a fierce tongue-lashing. After receiving my dad's forgiveness, my guilty conscience faded away because I knew he loved me even though I had done wrong. Genuine forgiveness is the only cure for a guilty conscience.

As a follower of Christ, we were given a clear conscience when all our sins were forgiven and we were made pure and acceptable before God. He cleansed us and made pure in His sight. I pray you have experienced such cleansing because you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Even though we are given a clear conscience, it's up to us to keep it that way every day of our lives.

In 1 John 1:9, God lets us in on a fantastic provision He has made for His children. He knows we commit sins every day we live, even though we should strive not to do so. In our weakness, He promises: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." As we spend time each day with our Lord reading His Word and in prayer, He sensitizes our consciences to recognize even the most obscure sins that keep us from being what God wants us to be. As we become aware of each sin in our lives, and the pangs of guilty conscience set it, we should confess our sins and ask forgiveness. Then we should pray for the strength and grace to help us not repeat them.

In the same way that our consciences are sensitized when we spend time with our Lord, the opposite is true. Our consciences can become insensitive and dulled and we are free of guilt and remorse. If there are sins in your life with which you have become comfortable and no longer feel guilty about, please draw near to God, confess those sins and seek forgiveness. This is how spiritual renewal starts and where you can begin to live each day with a clear conscience.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spirit of the Golden Rule

Chuckle:  A man writing to the meteorologist:  “I thought you may be interested in knowing that I shoveled eighteen inches of ‘partly cloudy’ from my sidewalk this morning.”
 
Quote:  “Blessed is he who does good to others and desires not that others should to him good.” – Br Giles Little Flowers of St Francis
 
SPIRIT OF THE GOLDEN RULE
 
    “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV. 
 
Near the end of His Sermon on the mount Jesus introduced His famous Golden Rule.  Unlike similar sayings by other Jewish teachers, Jesus stated the rule in a positive way – by telling us what to do rather than what not to do.  This rule represents the very essence of Jesus’ teaching concerning human relationships.  He wants us to apply the principles of this rule by positive actions toward others in the same way we want others to treat us.  However, our desire to have others do good to us should not be our motivation for doing good.  Our motivation should be our obedience to our Lord and genuine love and concern for others.  Our quote for today says it quite well.  
 
The Golden Rule, provides the basis for how we should relate to other people; that is unless we distort its meaning to fit our selfish and self-centered attitude.  Sometimes, mainly in jest, I’ve heard it stated like this:  “Do unto others before they do it unto you.”  Or, “do unto others as they do unto you.”  These tongue-in-cheek distortions of the Golden Rule, seem to describe the attitudes of some in our selfish, greedy, and materialistic society.  If we care only for ourselves, we violate the spirit of the Golden Rule by our unconcern for others.
 
It is relatively easy to refrain from harming others, but much more difficult to take the initiative and do something good and uplifting for them.  Remember, these are the words of Jesus – His Golden Rule.  As He formulated it, He described the very foundation of genuine goodness and mercy.  It’s not possible to live by the Rule unless we love others with the kind of love God shows to us every day.  As we study the Golden Rule together, I’m sure God would have each of us to think of someone whom we can bless today by our good, kind, and merciful actions that demonstrate our love.
 
 No doubt the way we relate to others will determine how we are treated and God is pleased when we treat our brothers and sister will love and compassion, regardless of how they treat us in return. 
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lasting Friendships

Chuckle:  "I drive much too fast to worry about cholesterol"
Quote:  "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." --Henry Ford
LASTING FRIENDSHIPS
"There are 'friends' who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24 NLT).
It's easy to treat people as a means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. As a gregarious man once boasted, 'I have friends I haven't used yet.' A false friend is like your shadow. As long as there is sunshine, he sticks close by. But the minute you step into the shade, he disappears.
Do you have someone who you consider a close friend? Is that person trustworthy with even your most personal information? Is that person someone who lifts you up with wise and helpful counsel when appropriate? In our selfish, what's in it for me, world, it seems to me that true, genuine, and lasting friendships are few and far between. In many situations, casual acquaintances have been substituted for legitimate friendships. Many people are lonely among the crowds and feel cut off and alienated from other people. When they look at all the people around them, it makes them even more aware of their isolation. As we think about friendships today, let's do so from two perspectives: the friend you need; and the friend you are.
All of us are in need of friends who genuinely care about us, stick close to us, listen to us, and offer loving assistance in our time of need. They are faithful both when things are going well and in times of adversity. A true friend is not judgmental, but offers love, encouragement, support, unselfish advice and constructive criticism when appropriate. It is better to have one friend like this than dozens of false and superficial "friends." A true friend is not hot and cold -- he or she is consistent and always has your best interests at heart. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17 NIV).
A friend who genuinely cares about you may find it necessary to give you unpleasant counsel and advice at times. However, you will always know that such advice from a trusted friend is for your own good. "Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6 NLT). On the other hand, a false friend may whisper soothing and sweet words and happily send you on your way. Even though painful at times, a friend's advice can be very beneficial if we will only listen. "The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense" (Proverbs 27:9 NLT).
The best way to find a true friend is to be one. There are people around you who are in desperate need of a friend. Ask God to guide you to a person who has a friendship need that only you can satisfy, then accept the challenge of being a true and trusted friend. Be aware that a careless tongue will destroy trust, the very foundation of friendships. "A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; a gossip separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 16:28 NLT). An extension and paraphrase of the Golden Rule: "Be a friend to another and as you would have him or her be a friend to you."

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 9, 2015

Despair: Giving Up

Chuckle:  Showing off his new hearing aids, Ralph said to his wife, “This is the world’s best hearing aid.  I haven’t heard this well since I was a kid.”  “What kind is it?” asked his wife.  Glancing at his watch, Ralph said, “Oh, it’s about two fifteen.”
 
Quote:  “Never despair, But if you do, work on in despair.”  --Edmund Burke
 
GIVING UP IN DESPAIR
 
    “We are hard pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed, but don’t (despair) give up and quit.  We are hunted down, but God never abandons us.  We are knocked down, but we get up again and keep going” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).
 
To despair is to give up on life and lose all hope for the future.  There’s nothing quite as heart-breaking as seeing a Christian brother or sister so beaten down and discouraged by the cares of this world that they have lost all hope.  The apostle Paul suffered more terrible persecution, including physical pain, than you and I can imagine – all because of his love, faithfulness, and loyalty to his Lord.  He was able to avoid despair and the temptation to give up because he received his strength and positive attitude from his dependence upon God’s never ending presence and power in his life.  He said, “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need”  (Philippians 4:13 NLT.
 
It’s easy for us to become discouraged and hopeless because of the crime and chaos we observe every day in our world.  Add to that other personal hardships which we confront in life and we have the formula for despair.  But Jesus understood the troubles His followers would endure and said: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b NLT). We will face troubles, pressures, and trials.  As they come, ask God for strength, work on, and don’t despair.
 
    During the Thirty Years' War in Europe (1618-1648), German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God's provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour. Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord's presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many. "Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way. Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day."
    It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength. And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope. Are you facing a great trial? Take heart. Put yourself in God's hands. Wait for His timing. He will give you a "song in the night.  Our Daily Bread, May 7, 1992.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When You Pray

Chuckle: "According to a child, Samson slew the Philistines with the axe of the Apostles."
Quote: “Anything that dims my vision for Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.” --J. Wilbur Chapman
WHEN YOU PRAY
    Jesus said, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen of men. . . do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6:5,7 NIV).
As Jesus taught His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount, He didn't tell them to pray because He assumed they would do so as a part of their normal routine.  Rather, He focused on teaching them how to, and how not to, pray to make their prayers acceptable to the Father.  Jesus warns of two dangers when it comes to prayer.
First, He tells them not to be hypocrites.  Hypocrites pretend to be something they aren’t.  They are play-acting, and may fool people into thinking they are devoted followers of Christ, when, in fact, they are only trying to draw attention to themselves.  Praying in public should only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our prayer life.  Every word we utter in public prayer should be backed by thousands of words uttered in a private quiet place with only God as our audience.  In the same way that only ten percent of an iceberg is visible above the surface, the ten percent of our spiritual lives visible to people should be based on the 90 percent visible only to God.  When we pray in secret, Jesus says, "Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (verse 6b).  Jesus does not prohibit public prayers, but deals with the attitude of the heart.
Second, He warns us about empty babblings in our public prayers. Pagans (unbelievers) may believe in a higher power, but feel they must use many words to get his attention -- the more words they use, the more likely they are to be heard, and the more likely he will do their bidding.  It’s not the length of our prayers that's important.  God already knows what we need (verse 8), but has instructed us to ask (Matthew 7:7).
In 1 Kings 18, we find the prophet, Elijah, challenging the prophets of Baal to call upon their gods to light the fire on the altar.  They yelled, screamed, and cut themselves to get their god's attention, but nothing happened.  Elijah needled them by saying maybe their god was asleep or had gone on a trip.  Then Elijah prayed a very simple prayer (1 Kings 18:36-37) which God answered in a mighty way.
Our rewards for praying in secret according to the will of the Father will be answered prayers and sweet fellowship with our Lord.  Is Jesus' assumption wrong?  Do we pray?  If so, are we willing to allow Him to teach us how to pray?  After Jesus had taught his followers about the importance of praying in secret, He gave them the Model Prayer -- often called "The Lord's Prayer." Let's ask God to show us how to make our prayers more acceptable to Him.

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bluffing

Chuckle:  A speeding driver was pulled over.  The driver asked, “Why was I pulled over when I was not the only one speeding?”  The policeman replied, “Have you ever been fishing?”  “Yes,” answered the motorist.  “And have you ever caught all the fish?”
 
Quote:  “. . . They always talk who never think.”  --Matthew Prior
 
BLUFFING
 
    “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, . .  (James 1:19b NIV).  “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NIV).
 
Have you ever tried to bluff your way through a conversation by talking in an attempt to hide your ignorance about the subject.  Pride is a terrible, powerful, and destructive force within us.  Pride tells us it is a sign of weakness to admit we are wrong or less informed than someone else.  Have you ever come to the conclusion that you were wrong about something, but you kept on arguing your position anyway.  I’m reminded of a saying I heard as a young boy: “You would argue with a road sign and then take the wrong road.”  When we try to bluff our way through an embarrassing situation by talking rather than listening, we are certain to lose credibility and feel shame, guilt, and regret in the long run.
 
Because of pride, we feel compelled to look better and more important than someone else.  Confessing ignorance is difficult for the proud person; but real strength is displayed when we swallow or pride, listen carefully, and confess that we don’t have all the answers.  Constant, meaningless, thoughtless, and offensive chatter may be an effort to hide a lack of ability, knowledge, or confidence.  The following should teach each of us a valuable lesson:
 
    Once, while crossing the Atlantic, an editor was approached by a fellow passenger.  “I just wanted to tell you” the man said, and it was obvious he was speaking with considerable emotion, “how deeply I appreciated your message.”
    Now, the editor could not recall the occasion for any message; in fact he could not even place the man who seemed so grateful.  But rather than admit he was at a loss, he said rather grandly:  “Oh, that’s all right.  I was glad for the opportunity to send it.”
    Naturally, he was puzzled when the other man turned absolutely white and left abruptly without another word.
    On making discreet inquiries, the old editor confessed, “I learned that I knew the man, indeed, and that the message I had been ‘so glad to send’ him had been one of condolence on the recent death of his wife!”  --Sidney Shalett
 
We can avoid all such blunders and embarrassments by being quick to listen and slow to speak -- by thinking first and speaking only after we understand what the other person is saying and have carefully considered the impact of our words on the other person.   
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse   

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Love: What Is It?

Chuckle: "Why do we put suits in a garment bag and put garments in a suitcase?"
Quote: "An individual's highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His (God's) will." --John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
LOVE: WHAT IS IT?
    "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (I John 3:16 NIV).
Here, the word "love" is translated from the Greek word, "agape."  This kind of love can be defined as "God's kind of love" -- the kind of love that caused Jesus to sacrifice himself for us on a horrible Roman cross.  This love is characterized by actions, not mere words.  What did John mean when he said we ought to lay down our lives for our friends?  Fortunately, it is unlikely that most of us will required to give our physical lives for someone else as Jesus did for us.  Nevertheless, it seems John is saying we Christians should be willing to do so if called upon.
"It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands (Christians) us in the eyes of many of our opponents. 'Look!' they say. 'How they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another'" --Tertullian
You wouldn't hesitate to give your life for someone you love dearly -- like your spouse or your child.  Soldiers lay down their lives for their country, and often sacrifice themselves to save their buddies.  But is this what John is suggesting we do.  Not really.  There are many other ways we can lay down our lives for brothers and sisters.  Immediately after saying that we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers, John talks about using our material possessions to meet the needs of others.
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (I John 3:17-18 NIV). Then John let's the heavy hammer fall: "This is how we know that we belong to the truth (Christ), and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (I John 3:19-20 NIV).
This is how we will know that we have been saved and belong to Christ -- if we love and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.  Up in verse 17, the word translated "pity" actually means to "shut out" or "close the door." If we see someone in need and shut the door of our hearts toward him, how can the love of God be in us?  We can say kind words to someone in need, but do nothing to meet his or her need and our hearts will condemn us for such a lack of agape love -- a love of actions.
In light of these passages, how does your love for others stack up?  I ask the same question of myself.  Are we inclined to feel sorry for someone in need, and maybe share some words of encouragement with him/her, or are we willing to lay down our lives and sacrifice something to meet his/her needs? "This is how we know that we belong to the truth (Jesus)."  Love is what God is all about and what we should be all about, as well.
Love, Jerry & Dotse