Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Far Did Jesus Descend?

Chuckle: From Missoula, Mont. My son, who is in nursery school, said, "Our Father who art in Heaven, how didja know my name?"
Quote: "The Cross is a picture of violence, yet the key to peace, a picture of suffering, yet the key to healing, a picture of death, yet the key to life." --David Watson
HOW FAR DID JESUS DESCEND?
    "Who, (Jesus) being in very nature God, did no consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on the cross! "  (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV).
There is so much that we can't fully understand about Jesus' leaving His heavenly glory to secure our salvation here on earth. He descended from the highest level in heaven to the lowest level of earth when He became a man and lived among us. He also allowed Himself to be treated as even less than a man as He was tortured and killed as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
Just imagine, God Himself, the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things, descended from the highest pinnacle of heaven to the lowest depths of sin and depravation on earth for you and me. It's difficult for us to comprehend the spiritual and physical agony our Lord endured on our behalf. Perhaps worst of all was that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (1 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). He that knew no sin became sin and thereby was out of fellowship with His Father as He was rejected and died alone in agony and disgrace. We get a glimpse of the anguish Jesus suffered when as He cried out from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46 NIV).
I believe these words from King David reveal to us much about the inner thoughts Jesus must have had as He hung on the cross and endured the pain and ridicule of men while paying the terrible price for our redemption. "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him" (Psalm 22:6-8 NIV).
It's impossible for us to fully comprehend how far Jesus descended to purchase your salvation and mine. But after contemplating the dimensions of God's love and the extent of His sacrifice for us, the question arises: How willing am I to show my gratitude and love by bringing Him glory and by giving of myself to further the growth of His kingdom in the hearts of people? "Amazing love how can it be that you my King would die for me?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Valued Friendships

Chuckle:  While bragging about their dads. the first boy said, "my dad scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, called it a poem, and they gave him $50." The second boy said, "that's nothing. My dad scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, called it a song, and they gave him $100." The third boy said, "I got you both beat. My dad scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, called it a sermon, and it took eight people to collect all the money."
 
Quote:  “So long as we love, we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I should say that we are almost indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.” –Robert Louis Stevenson
 
VALUED FRIENDSHIPS:                                                                                                      
 
    Jesus said to His disciples: “I command you to love one another in the same way that I love you” (John 15:12 NLT). The greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:13b NLT). 
 
I’m sure each of us has a personal definition of a true friend that has evolved from our own experiences in human relationships.  Someone has defined a true friend as “the first person who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” Someone else has said, “Value a friend who, for you, finds time on his calendar – but cherish the friend who, for you, does not even consult his calendar.”  Today, let’s consider this question:  Am I the friend that is cherished by those who call me friend?
 
Hopefully, we will not be required to give our lives for our friends, but there are numerous other ways to show the nature of our love and friendship to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Our sacrificial love can be shown by helping, listening, encouraging, giving.  I think Jesus is saying that we should search out those who need this kind of love and and do everything possible to meet that need -- then give even more of ourselves.  True friends always place the needs of friends ahead of their own – They live for others rather than themselves.  
 
Casual acquaintances will not suffice as substitutes for genuine friends.  However, I think many of us live in a world of acquaintances rather than unwavering friends.  Acquaintances may fool us into thinking they are friends, but “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.”  We have not truly lived until we have a wall of love and friendship surrounding us to protect us from storms of life. 
 
“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person (friend), having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out just as they are, chaff, grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keeping what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” –George Eliot
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Helping Others Deal With Tragedy

Chuckle: "Birthdays are good for you -- the more you have, the longer you live."
Quote: "Hope means expectancy when things are otherwise hopeless." --G.K. Chesterton
HELPING OTHERS DEAL WITH TRAGEDY
    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).
When someone close to us experiences a tragic loss, such as the death of a loved one, we feel inadequate to express our feelings as we grope for the right words. We hope to somehow make the tragedy a little more bearable by our presence and support. Because of our human inadequacies, there's only one place to go for consolation and comfort -- God's Word. How can we minister to those experiencing tragedies in their lives?
We can intercede for them in prayer.  I love this prayer. "O Lord, who is the comforter of your children, the God of love and tenderness, I pray for those who mourn at this time. We need not tell their sorrow to you. In the stillness of our hearts we ask for them your sustaining grace. Be their stay in this sore trial; the strength of the fainting heart and the Light of the darkened home. Open their eyes to see the Father's House on high, and may they feel assured that the departed has found a better life, and a more perfect rest in you.  Almighty God, may this visitation of death be your voice speaking to us, and may it minister to a truer and holier life in our souls. May our passing days be rich in those things which death cannot take from us; and may you strengthen us to live that life of faith and righteousness, of love and peace, which makes the last earthly change but a step nearer to you, our Everlasting Refuge and Home. Hear us for your mercy's sake, through Jesus Christ our Lord." --John Hunter
We can help meet their spiritual needs by encouraging them to turn to God for comfort, strength, and peace rather than being angry with God. "The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving" (Psalm 28:7 NLT).
We can help meet their physical needs in practical ways. "When God's children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night" (Romans 12:13 NLT). You can help greatly by your compassion, warm hospitality, and other practical ministries.
We can help meet their emotional needs by making ourselves available and by spending time with them. We can be a shoulder to lean on and cry on. We can offer a sympathetic ear to their expressions of pain. "When others are happy, be happy with them. if they are sad, share their sorrow" (Romans 12:15 NLT). "Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 NLT). Hurting people need empathy and understanding rather than advice.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mission of Mercy

Chuckle: On a cold, snowy Sunday in February, only the pastor and one farmer arrived at the village church. The pastor said, "Well I guess we won't have a service today." The farmer replied, "If only one cow shows up at feeding time, I feed it."
Quote: "Who will not mercy to others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have." --Edmund Spenser
MISSION OF MERCY
    "Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins" (Jude 22-23 NLT).
Every Christian, without exception, has been dispatched by our Lord on a mission of mercy to claim or reclaim two categories of people: The lost who have never committed their lives to Jesus Christ, and those believers who have drifted away from God as their faith has become weakened. Our passage also contains a warning that we must be on guard against letting their sinful habits contaminate our own lives as we reach out to them.
Our assignment is to be faithful witnessing to others. Effective witnesses are instrumental in saving people from the penalty of their sins. Such witnessing requires unconditional love, mercy, compassion, patience and perseverance. We are God's messengers whom He uses to draw people to Himself for salvation and spiritual revival. There are numerous ways you can be an effective witness. A 12th century, a monk named Francis of Assisi (Italian) said, "Preach everywhere you go and, when necessary, use words."
Our actions, the company we keep, our faithfulness to Christ's church, and the words we utter are all important for effective witness. Have you ever pictured yourself extending the hand of love to snatch someone from the very perils of hell? If we don't snatch them, they are doomed for all of eternity. When I think of snatching someone from the fires of judgment, I'm reminded of the times I've cooked hamburgers on a grill and had one of the patties fall through the grill into the coals below. My first reaction is to snatch it out before it burns and without getting burned myself.
Notice the warning! As we witness, we must not become contaminated by the sins of those we are trying to reach. We must be careful not to fall into the quicksand of compromise. We must not allow them to influence us to sin. We do this by insuring that our own spiritual footing remains solid and secure.
Our passage is a clarion call to action for God's people. We are on a critical mission of mercy to rescue those around us from spending eternity separated from God in a place the Bible calls hell.  Also, we are to love wayward Christians back into a renewed and dynamic love relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Two works of mercy set a man free; forgive and you will be forgiven, and give and you will receive.”  --St Augustine of Hippo, Sermons 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 24, 2015

Healthy Bodies

Chuckle: "A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter."
Quote: "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." --Marcus Aurelius
TAKING CARE OF OUR BODIES
    "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV).
According to the CDC, two major health problems in the United States are growing and growing rapidly -- obesity and accompanying diabetes. There are exceptions of course, but the rapid increase in these two conditions is largely the result of unhealthy lifestyles including over-eating and lack of exercise. The CDC estimates that 70 percent of Americans are over weight or obese.
In our society, I'm afraid eating has become and end unto itself for many of us rather than a means to an end. Food should be the necessary fuel that keeps our bodies healthy and functioning properly. However, many of us eat for pleasure, not because we are really hungry but because we just like to eat. All too often we eat much more of the wrong foods than we need for health, work, and recreation. Getting people to adopt healthy diets and get more exercise are urgent challenges facing our society.
Let me tell you a success story from a few years back. The CDC had declared Huntington, West Virginia the fattest city in the United States. The pastor of the nearby First Baptist Church of Kenova decided to preach a sermon on the physical and spiritual dangers of obesity, and that sermon began a process that resulted in the ABC hit mini-series, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. The series was released March 21, 2010.
To make a long story short, the congregation received the pastor's message with enthusiasm, started several healthy eating and exercise programs, became the catalyst for healthier foods in their local schools, and their success has had impact across this country and around the world through the television series. According to the pastor, "collectively our people have literally lost more than 2000 pounds (a ton) and feel much better spiritually and physically."
Christians should have a special motivation for taking care of our bodies, which the Scripture says are temples of the Holy Spirit who resides within us. How can we serve and honor God when we are so overweight and out of shape that our activities for Him are severely curtailed. Jesus said, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself." Pastor Willis of First Baptist Church of Kenova said this, "We cannot love God with all our strength if we do not take care of our bodies, nor can we love our neighbor with total effectiveness if we have perpetual self-induced health issues."
There are many unhealthy activities that do harm to our bodies. If we indulge, each of us must decide if we are "honoring God with our bodies."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Self-Control

Chuckle: "If all the people who sleep in church were laid end to end -- they'd be more comfortable!"
Quote: “By constant self-discipline and self-control you can develop greatness of character.” --Grenville Kleiser
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: SELF-CONTROL
    "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV). "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed" (I Peter 1:13 NIV).
Self-control is the last of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit presented by the apostle Paul in our Galatians passage. The central truth here is that to be self-controlled is to let self be Christ-controlled. If it were left up to me, I don't think I have sufficient will-power to control all my natural instincts and desires. I know I will never be Christ-like until I allow His Holy Spirit within me to take control of my life.
The secret to self-control is full surrender to God's will as revealed in Scripture. This view contrasts with that of the world, where every excess and indulgence is seen as a right and privilege. Anything that brings immediate gratification and fulfillment is viewed as permissible and desirable. Self-discipline is rejected. "If it feels good, do it!"
The Greek word Paul used for "self-control" can also be translated "temperance" (KJV). The term refers to mastery over one's passions and desires. Self-control means the responsible use of freedom in Christ. Christians are to discipline their desires and impulses according to Christlike standards and values. The Holy Spirit empowers God's people to exercise such self-control -- to resist immoral and unchristian thoughts and behaviors.
"Self-control is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands -- and then eat just one of the pieces."  Speaking of eating a piece of chocolate, perhaps the area of our lives where many fail to exercise self-control is with food. I know; I know; I've done gone to meddling. . . .! But overeating is an epidemic in our society. The Bible speaks about the ills of gluttony and certainly teaches us to take care of our physical bodies. After all, "our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit."
As each of us considers this fruit of the Spirit, perhaps there are some lifestyle changes we need to make to improve our body's ability to function as it should for as long as possible -- for the glory of our Lord. Is your relationship with the Lord strong enough that you can resist the temptation to eat things you ought not to eat and get the exercise you need? Always remember, the Holy Spirit enables believers to exercise self-control and restraint in the face of powerful temptations.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Gentleness

Chuckle: “Children aren’t happy with nothing to ignore, And that’s what parents were created for.” --Ogden Nash
Quote: “Gentleness is a divine trait: nothing is so divine as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as real strength.” --Ralph W. Sockman
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: GENTLENESS
    "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV). "Let your gentleness be evident to all" (Philippians 4:5 NIV).
This lesson is about the fruit of the Spirit known as "gentleness," ("meekness," KJV) or "humility." The Greek term was used to describe a person in whom strength was blended with gentleness. A humble person is a strong person whose strength is controlled, whose power is harnessed in loving service and compassionate actions. Such gentleness is compatible with firm convictions and decisive actions. While a humble person is not a spineless individual, the New Testament teaches that one who is humble will not be overly concerned about his or her prestige (Romans 12:16). A humble (gentle) person is teachable and willingly follows Jesus' example of humility.
Humility is like a slippery watermelon seed. Once you get it under your finger and you think you have it, it slips away from your grasp. If we aren't careful, we can let our humility become something we're proud of. Have you ever known someone who was proud of his or her humility.
"The story is told of two brothers who grew up on a farm. One went away to college, earned a law degree, and became a partner in a prominent law firm in the state capital. The other brother stayed on the family farm. One day the lawyer came and visited his brother, the farmer. He asked, "Why don't you go out and make a name for yourself and hold your head up high in the world like me?" The farmer brother pointed and said, "See that field of wheat over there? Look closely. Only the empty heads stand up. Those that are well filled always bow low." Said differently, "The branch that bears the most fruit is bent the lowest to the ground."Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
As is so often the case with spiritual characteristics, the world views gentleness and humility as weaknesses. When, in fact, they are a sure sign that a person has submitted his or her will to God, is not seeking to draw attention to himself or herself, and always gives God the credit and honor in every circumstance. Maybe that's why Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek (gentle, humble), for they will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5 NIV). Let's join our hearts in prayer that God will make us gentle and humble in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Faithfulness

Chuckle: A young couple got the preacher out of bed at 3:00 AM to marry them. The newspaper carried headlines the next morning -- "Preacher ties knot in shirttail!"
Quote: “I do not pray for success. I ask for faithfulness.” --Mother Teresa
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- FAITHFULNESS
    "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV). "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart" (Proverbs 3:3 NIV).
Do you apply the same standards of faithfulness to your Christian activities that you expect in other areas of your life? If your car starts once every three times, is it reliable? Is it trustworthy? Is it dependable? Is it faithful? In your Christian life, are you faithful to God and to others just some of the time?
The Greek word translated "faithfulness" also could be rendered "faith." As a fruit of the Spirit, the term means fidelity -- being trustworthy and reliable in one's relations with God and others. The Holy Spirit produces continuing faithfulness to Christ in God's people. The Spirit also generates ongoing faith that trusts Christ in all of life's experiences. A faithful person honors commitments even when doing so is difficult.
The faithful person is steadfast and unchanging -- always reliable. This sort of fidelity, or faithfulness, is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments to describe both God's faithfulness to the world and the quality of relationship that Israel and Christians are called upon to have with God and with one another.
Being faithful in the face of great difficulty reminds me of a couple, in another country, that I read about. They were converts from another religion and have been sharing their new faith with others of the same background in their area. Several of these have now become believers. These people are being persecuted because they have changed their religion. Their car has had its tires slashed and its windshield broken. Their cell phone has been stolen. Their son was run down and seriously injured while he was jogging. Some of those whom they have won to the Lord have been fire-bombed. Two little girls were severely injured by the fire in one of these homes. Yet these people continue to rejoice in the Lord and even in their pain and suffering give praise to the Lord for His faithfulness to them. They remain faithful and obedient to Him.
Such touching stories remind us of how easy we have it in this country as Christians. However, even with relatively little threat of persecution, many of us are not nearly as faithful as we should be. Remember, the Holy Spirit will give you the strength to be faithful in all situations, both to your Lord and to other people who are counting on you. . . .
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Goodness

Chuckle: "To those of you who are still having a hard time understanding all this Southern stuff, bless your hearts, I hear they are fixin' to have classes on "Southernness" as a second language!"
Quote: “The monument of a great man (person) is not of granite or marble or bronze. It consists of his goodness, his deeds, his love, and his compassion.” --Alfred Armand Montapert
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- GOODNESS
    "Let us not become weary in doing good. . ." (Galatians 6:9 NIV). "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22-23 NIV).
The Greek word translated "goodness" in our passage is rarely used in the New Testament. It appears only four times, all in Paul's writings (see Romans 15:14; Galatians 5:23; Ephesians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). The term communicates the idea of showing generosity and benevolence toward others. Each of us has an understanding of what "good" means. So, I suppose this fruit of the Spirit is simply being good to people. In His Meditations, Marcus Aurelius says, “waste no more time arguing what a good man should be; (just) be one.”  (Parentheses mine).
Scripture affirms that God alone is truly good (Psalm 14:1,3; Mark 10:18). God expects us as His children, however, to demonstrate goodness as a characteristic produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit. Displaying such goodness or doing what is right results from a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and touches the lives of non-Christians.
Doing what is right is another way of saying "practicing goodness." Goodness and righteousness are closely related and both have a moral quality about them. The Bible teaches us that goodness -- the quality that moves us to do what is right comes from a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ. In that relationship, believers desire to please God and become as much like Christ in character as possible.
How can I do what is right? What steps do I need to take to develop the quality of goodness? If you have pondered these questions, you might benefit by reflecting on this truth: Goodness, and other fruit of the Spirit, results from a close love relationship with God. Jesus said, "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b NIV). It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we bear fruit of the Spirit, including goodness.
“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” --Henry David Thoreau
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Kindness

Note:  The next post will be on Monday, April 20, 2015.
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Chuckle: A sign at a Car Dealership: "The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment!"
Quote: “That best portion of a good man's life,— His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love.” --William Wordsworth
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- KINDNESS
    ". . make every effort to add to your faith . . brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love" (2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV). "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22 NIV).
"It takes a long time to fill a glass with drops of water. Even when the glass seems full, it can still take one, two, three, four, or five more additional drops. But if you will keep at it, there is at last that one drop that makes the glass overflow. The same applies to deeds of kindness. In a series of kindnesses there is at last one that makes the heart run over."
The Greek word translated "kindness" includes the basic sense of usefulness. A kind person is a helpful person. The Scriptures emphasize that kindness, like love, is shown by actions. God expressed His kindness by sending Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. "In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7 NIV).
Christian kindness is rooted in our experience of salvation. Paul stressed that when we put off our old nature in becoming Christians, we put on kindness as part of our new nature in Christ. As believers we demonstrate helpful kindness to others because we have experienced God's kindness to us. "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (Colossians 3:12 NIV).
In our American culture, a common saying is: "It's a jungle out there! Do unto others before they do unto you." Cheating, deception, clever computer crimes, a strong culture of gangs, and the mob and organized crime all manifest violent intolerance of kindness. As a matter of fact, in many circles, kindness is considered a weakness. However, as Christians, Christ gives us the ability and the motivation to be kind to everyone. That's why kindness is an important fruit of the Spirit.
But, remember that the type of kindness Paul is talking about is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Sure, non-Christians can be kind, but, the kindness empowered by the Spirit will bear supernatural results in the lives of people for the kingdom of our Lord. "One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it is usually returned to you."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Patience

Chuckle: What would you do on a first date that was turning sour? "I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns." --Craig, age 9
Quote: “Regardless of how much patience we have, we would prefer never to use any of it.” --James T. O'Brien
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- PATIENCE
    "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (I Thessalonians 5:14 NIV). "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV).
A teacher had just finished putting the last pair of galoshes on her first-graders -- thirty two pairs in all. The last little girl said, "You know what, teacher? These aren't my galoshes." The teacher kindly removed them from the girl's feet. Then the little girl continued, "They are my sister's, and she let me wear them." The teacher quietly put them back on her pupil. Now that's patience!
Patience has never come easy for me. Maybe it's from my 30-year military background where things had to be done yesterday, if not sooner. As a pastor, I initially had difficulty being patient with lazy Christians who showed little sense of urgency when it came to the Lord's work. However, God has shown me that it is not my responsibility to motivate Christians. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. It is my responsibility to be patient as God has been patient with me, and allow Him to use me to teach others the truths of God's Word. Motivating them to respond to these truths is God's (Holy Spirit's) responsibility. The most significant impact any of us can have in teaching about patience, as a fruit of the Spirit, is to practice patience ourselves in word and in deed.
"Patience" and "patient" are used to translate several Hebrew and Greek words meaning endurance, steadfastness, longsuffering, and forbearance. God is patient (Romans. 15:5). He is slow to anger in relation to the Hebrew people (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18). God's patience with sinners allows time for them to repent (Romans 2:4), especially in the apparent delay of the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:9-10).
God's people are to be patient and love as He has loved us. Being patient involves demonstrating fortitude instead of losing heart. It includes being slow to anger in difficult situations. A patient individual is not easily offended. God enables His people to be patient and He expects us to face adversity patiently and with perseverance (Romans 5:3-4). Such patience involves active endurance of opposition rather than passive resignation.
Christians need patient endurance in the face of persecution as the alternative to shrinking back during adversity. Jesus is the great example of patience and endurance, and Christian patience is ultimately a gift from God -- a fruit of His Spirit, not a virtue we can acquire in our own strength. If we want patience and other fruits of the Spirit to grow in us, we must join our lives to Christ. We must know Him, love Him, remember Him, and imitate Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Peace

Chuckle: A Texas cowboy bought a Dachshund when someone told him to "get a long little dogie!"
Quote: “Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace.” --John Greenleaf Whittier
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- PEACE
    Jesus said: "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). "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV).
There is a painting titled "Peace.” It depicts waves crashing against jagged rocks along the seashore. It portrays the violence of a crushing storm. It seems anything but peaceful. But down in a small corner of the painting, tucked away in the rocks, is a little bird sitting on her nest totally oblivious to the raging storm all about. That is peace. Do you have genuine peace?
"Peace," a word that describes what we all want. It communicates serenity, quietness, contentment, and comfort. Spiritual Peace is a sense of well-being and fulfillment that comes from God and is dependent upon His presence. To try to define genuine peace by any other criteria is to devalue peace as a fruit of the Spirit. Many search for inner peace without knowing the true source or are unwilling to trust that true source. We cannot obtain peace without the help of God Himself. Notice in our above passage that Jesus wants to give us "His" peace. "My peace I give you."
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).
The Greek word eirene corresponds to the Hebrew shalom expressing the idea of peace, well-being, restoration, reconciliation with God, and salvation in the fullest sense. The Bible tells us that God is "the God of peace" (Romans 15:33; Philippians 4:9). The Gospel is "the good news of peace" (Ephesians 6:15; Acts 10:36) because it announces the reconciliation of believers to God and to one another (Ephesians 2:12-18). In both the Old and the New Testaments, spiritual peace is realized in being rightly related -- rightly related to God and rightly related to one another.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit -- Joy

Chuckle:  How would the world be different if people didn't get married? "There would be a lot of children to explain, wouldn't there?" --Kelvin, age 8
Quote:  “The Kingdom of God is simply God’s power enthroned in our hearts. Faith in the Kingdom of God is what makes us light of heart and what Christian joy is all about.” –John Main Moment of Christ   
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- JOY
    "By their fruit you will recognize them (Christ's followers)" (Matthew 7:16 NIV). "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV).
The Greek word for "joy" also means "delight." It’s used elsewhere in the New Testament. For example, there is joy or rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents and turns to God (Luke 15:7,10). Joy for Christians is the fruit of a right relationship with God.
Is there a difference "happiness" and "joy"? We tend to view happiness largely as the result of circumstances we experience in life. However, joy, as a fruit of the Spirit, is of supernatural origin and does not result from earthly circumstances, but from knowing and serving our Lord. It springs from so deep inside God's grace that even the most adverse circumstances cannot take it away. The Bible says, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV).
Again, since joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, it is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word hedonism, the philosophy of the self-centered and pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4 NIV).
Many people think that God is the great "Kill-Joy." Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus spoke of His own joy and of the full joy He had come to bring to others (John 15:11; 17:13). He illustrated the kingdom of heaven by telling about the joy of a man who found treasure (Matthew 13:44). Zacchaeus was in a tree when Jesus called him, but he quickly climbed down and received Jesus joyfully (Luke 19:6). He had found life's ultimate treasure in Christ.
A Christian's joy is in direct proportion to his/her walk with the Lord. We can rejoice because we are in the Lord (Philippians 4:4). Joy is a fruit of a Spirit-led life (Galatians. 5:22). Sin in a believer's life robs him/her of joy (Psalm 51:8,12). When a person walks closely with the Lord, he/she can continue to rejoice even when troubles come.
Joy in the Lord enables people to enjoy all that God has given them. They share with other believers the joys and sorrows of life: "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). It’s a wonderful testimony about God's grace when we reflect the joy the Holy Spirit places in our hearts. Such joy can certainly influence others who may not know Christ as Savior and Lord. Real joy is contagious. .!!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

Chuckle: When is it OK to kiss someone: "The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that." --Curt, age 7
Quote: “There is a comfort in the strength of love: ‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else Would overset the brain, or break the heart.” --William Wordsworth
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT -- LOVE
    Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last" (John 15:16 NIV). "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"  (Galatians 5:16,22 NIV).
Jesus has called each of us to bear fruit for his kingdom. We must remember that the Spirit produces fruit in a Christian's life. The Christian is the conduit through whom the Spirit produces the fruit. The first fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions is "love." This overused word has many meanings, and before we can understand its importance as a fruit of the Spirit, we must understand what the word means as it is used here in our Scripture passage. The Greek word here is "Agape," an unconditional, self-sacrificing, and giving love -- the kind of love Jesus has for us.
This Christian love of which Paul wrote is different from the love we normally experience and speak about. Christian love is not simply a warm and fuzzy emotion which arises because of the character of the one loved. It is not due to the loving quality of the lover. It is a relationship of self-giving which results from God's activity in Christ. This kind of love is instilled in us by the Holy Spirit. It is an action word -- our actions demonstrate this kind of God-given love. A great definition of this kind of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, which reads in part:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (I Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV).
It's easy to tell someone you love them with words, but when your actions demonstrate that love, it is much more believable and more likely to positively impact the life of the one being loved. The Christian life is to be characterized by love so that Paul could even speak of "walking in love" (Rom. 14:15 NIV). The Christian is to increase and abound in love (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV).
"In a boiler room, it is impossible to look into the boiler to see how much water it contains. But running up the outside is a tiny glass tube, that serves as a gauge. As the water stands in the little tube, so it stands in the boiler. When the tube is half full, the boiler is half full; if it is empty, so is the boiler. How do you know you love God? You believe you love him, but you want to know. Look at the gauge. Your love for your brother or sister is the measure of your love for God."
One last thought. When we love people as Jesus loves us, it will add great credibility to our witness as we try to reach people for Christ. It will let people know we are genuine -- the real deal -- as Christians. Thus, love is crucial if people are to be born into God's kingdom -- the ultimate in fruit bearing.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fruit Bearing

Chuckle: "What are the sins of omission," a teacher asked a Sunday School class. One man answered: "Those are the sins we should have committed and did not. . .!" (Check this man's response against the true definition in James 4:17).
Quote: “The last, best fruit which comes to late perfection, even in the kindliest soul, is tenderness toward the hard, forbearance toward the unforbearing, warmth of heart toward the cold, philanthropy toward the misanthropic.” --Jean P. Richter
BEARING SPIRITUAL FRUIT
    "I am the vine; and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:5-8 NIV).
Bearing fruit is a normal and healthy function of a tree and its branches. Nothing is more true in the physical world and nothing is more true in the spiritual world. Spiritually healthy Christians bear fruit. Jesus was uncanny in his ability to use metaphors, allegories, and examples from the physical world to teach valuable spiritual truths.
Here's my definition of bearing fruit: "Anything you do as a Christian that benefits other people (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) for the glory of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through you." This means our character becomes like Jesus; we are generous in our giving; we please God through our praise worship; and we influence people to be drawn to Christ. Jesus was saying that He, as the vine, would provide to and through us (the branches) all the spiritual nutrients, power, and abilities to bear much fruit for the glory of the Father. "It is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit." Jesus said, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11 NLT).
Like anything we try to do as Christians, the temptation is to try to bear fruit in our own strength, forgetting that we can do nothing (bear no fruit) that will be recognized as legitimate by our Lord without the power of the Vine (Holy Spirit) flowing through us. We sometimes try to do things for God without maintaining that intimate connection to God from whence comes our spiritual strength.
Jesus says we must remain (abide) in him to bear much fruit. What does this statement really mean? It means we stay connected to Christ and totally dependent upon Him for everything to keep us spiritually alive and productive. This allows us to do what is important to Him -- bearing fruit. The moment we allow unconfessed sin to remain in our lives, we become disconnected from the vine; His strength no longer is flowing through us; and we become ineffective as fruit bearers for our Lord. God wants us to produce fruit in the likeness of Christ, and he wants to remove anything from our lives that hinders us from "bearing much fruit."
For the next few days, I want to turn to the book of Galatians, where the apostle Paul presents a list of Christian characteristics known as the "fruit of the Spirit." These types of fruit, performed in the power of the Holy Spirit, qualify as "fruit" that Jesus was talking about in John 15. Here is a list of spiritual fruit, found in Galatians 5:22, that we will be addressing in coming days. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hard Times

Chuckle: "The only people who listen to both sides of a family quarrel are the next-door neighbors."
Quote: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”  --Helen Keller
HARD TIMES: WHY DO THEY COME?
    "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (Philippians 1:12-14 NIV).
Paul is in prison in Rome. While there, he learned (and teaches us) that God can use even our most adverse circumstances for His glory. He can use the hard times in our lives to grow us spiritually and to use us to accomplish his purposes.
God's people should prepare for hard times. "Now I want you to know brothers . . . what has happened to me." Good people will have bad experiences while living in this fallen world. Our Lord told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33 NIV). Then he goes on to say, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." Peter said, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you" (I Peter 4:12 NIV).
Paul was a classic example of this truth - he suffered much. He said, "I have worked harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and have been exposed to death again and again . . . (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NIV). "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him" (Philippians 1:29 NIV).
God's people should keep hard times in perspective. ". . . what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (vs.12). Notice that Paul did not direct attention to himself and his suffering, but focused on the good that came from his hard times. There's a big difference between suffering for the spotlight and suffering for the Savior. We must be careful which we do.
When we suffer, the emphasis should not be on how much we suffer, but, rather, on what God was able to accomplish through it - how He used our struggles to accomplish His perfect work. Paul told Timothy, "This is my gospel, for which I suffer even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's Word is not chained" (2 Tim. 2:8-9 NIV). Our struggles can become vehicles by which we bring glory and honor to Him.
"The trials of our faith are like God's ironing. When the heat of trials is applied to our lives the wrinkles of spiritual immaturity begin to be smoothed out."
Love, Jerry & Dotse