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

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

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

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

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

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   

Monday, February 2, 2015

Prayer: Our Spiritual Breath

Chuckle: A lady stopped for speeding was asked to show her driver’s license.  She replied, “Yesterday you took my license, now you expect me to show it to you!”
Quote: "For the Christian, praying should be like breathing. Just as breathing is the response of physical life to the presence of air, so prayer should be the response of spiritual life to the presence of God."Unknown source 
PRAYER: OUR SPIRITUAL BREATH
    "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 NIV).
In the same way that we continually breathe physically, God would have us to continually breathe spiritually through prayer.  Prayer is not just a spiritual exercise, or keeping up appearances before others, or a shot in the dark -- hoping God may hear.  No, prayer is conversing with your Heavenly Father in the same way you might talk with your earthly father.  Your prayers are meant for His ears only and reveal the very essence of your being -- the deepest recesses of your heart.
Our joyfulness, prayerfulness, and thankfulness should be continuous and should not ebb and flow with changing circumstances in our lives.  You breathe physically through every situation, good or bad, and do not stop breathing when you have a physical crisis.  No, your oxygen flow becomes even more critical during difficult times.  Likewise, we need spiritual breath at all times.  Obeying the instructions in our passage -- be joyful, keep on praying, and be thankful -- often goes against our natural inclinations.  However, when we make a conscious decision to do what God says in reference to prayer, we will find it much easier to be joyful and thankful.
Obviously, we cannot spend all our time on our knees in prayer, but it is possible for us to have a prayerful attitude at all times.  It happens when your walk with your Lord becomes so close and intimate that you sense his presence with you every second of every day.  His Holy Spirit's presence becomes an extension of you own -- like you becoming one with him.  Once we reach this kind of relationship with God, it makes good sense that we converse with him continually.
Prayer can become as normal as breathing when we acknowledge our dependence on God, realizing his presence within us, and determine to obey him fully.  Praying will then become natural, frequent, short, and spontaneous.  One way to describe this concept is "breath prayers."  As you think about your Lord during your daily activities, and as you breathe, you can use your inhalations as reminders to hear God speak to you and your exhalations as reminders to speak to God concerning the desires of your heart.  For example: As you exhale, praise God for his boundless love; and as you inhale, hear him say, "I love you and am with you always."  In other words your physical breathing can remind you to breathe spiritually.
One final thought: A continuous prayerful attitude should not replace regular times of prayer and meditation on God's Word, but be an outgrowth of regular times with God.

Love, Jerry & Dotse