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
    "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

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
    "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
    "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

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
    "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