Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grace and Peace

Chuckle: "A panhandler walked up to a well-dressed woman who was shopping on Main street and said, 'Lady, I haven't eaten anything in four long days.' She looked at him and said, 'I wish I had your will power.'"
Quote: "On my head pour only the sweet waters of serenity. Give me the gift of the Untroubled Mind." --Joshua Loth Liebman
    "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi . . . Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"  (Philippians 1:1-2 NIV).
Philippians is a letter from the apostle Paul to his dear Christian friends at Philippi. He called himself and companion, Timothy, "servants of Jesus Christ." The term "servants" denotes dependence, obedience, intense devotion, and acknowledged ownership. In this letter, Paul reminded the Philippian Christians that the church is the living body of Christ and that they were partakers of his grace and peace. They were saints in the world but not of the world (see John 17:14-16). Their lives were hidden in Christ. Paul had a closer bond with the Philippian Christians than with any other church. He shared his circumstances as a Roman prisoner under house arrest, and the inner peace and joy which he enjoyed.
First, Paul sets forth a soul union between Christ and the believer. Perhaps the "in Christ" phrase was from Jesus when He talked about his being the vine and his followers as the branches in John 15. Union with Christ is accomplished by God's grace through faith - the channel through which God enters a person's inner being. Alfred Ackley's hymn conveys his personal testimony of the indwelling Christ in his life:
"He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives: He lives within my heart."
Second, Paul used the idea of the new life in Christ to refer to the believer's life fulfilled in the church. See 2 Cor. 5:17. Christ brought new life into the world by sharing his life with all people, and he brought new life to the world by starting a new community, the church.
All of us desire to experience genuine peace. Paul's salutation here is an exclamation, a declaration, a wish, and a prayer. "Grace and peace" are listed in their divine order and can never be reversed. There is no true peace without first experiencing God's grace. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:8 NIV). Peace follows the acceptance of God's grace through Jesus Christ. Someone has said, “Grace is the spring -- peace is the stream flowing from the spring.”
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 25, 2015

Crowds Or People

Bumper Snicker: "I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money."
Quote: "By compassion we make others' misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also." --Sir Thomas Browne
    When he (Jesus) came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy (Matthew 8:1-3 NIV).
Earlier verses tell us that Jesus had been speaking to large crowds and they followed Him as He came down from the mountainside. It would have been easy for Jesus to ignore individual faces in the sea of humanity surrounding Him. But when a man with leprosy knelt before Him wanting to be healed, Jesus immediately showed love and compassion by giving the man His complete attention. The man was not lost in the crowd. This scene becomes even more remarkable when Jesus reaches out and touches the man who was declared unclean and shunned by society.
You can draw comfort from knowing that among the billions of people on this earth, Jesus is aware of you, personally. He will never fail to see your face in the crowd. Even though Jesus died for a world of lost souls, He is your very personal Savior and Lord. From God's perspective, you will never be overlooked as just another face in the crowd. Oh what a valuable lesson each of us can learn from this passage.
All of us believers should love and pray for the untold millions of people around the world who need to hear the gospel message. But do we love that fellow worker, classmate, or neighbor down the street enough to pray specifically for that person and personally share Christ's love with him or her? Do we show our concern for the lost of the world by sitting in our easy chairs in front of our TVs and writing checks for missions or do we care enough to get up, get out, get going, and do missions by ministering to the unique personal needs of individuals? Obviously, praying for and giving to missions are wonderful things, but if we see only the masses, we may become calloused and indifferent to the needs of individuals all around us.
Right now, you may need healing or cleansing in some area of your life. If so, please remember that Jesus knows you personally, and stands ready to meet those needs just like He did for the man with leprosy. You are not lost in the crowd. Out of love He will stretch out His hand and touch you. Shouldn't we follow His example? Like Jesus, we should always love each person in the crowd separately and individually and make time to minister to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We must be careful that we don't love crowds more than people.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Helping the Brokenhearted

Chuckle: A child's comment on the Bible: "The epistles were the wives of the apostles."
Quote:  “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and recovered hope.” –George Eliot 
    "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us" (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT). "When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow" (Romans 12:15 NLT).
The dictionary defines "brokenhearted" as "Full of sorrow or despair; very unhappy." When our hearts are broken, it's difficult to think of anyone but ourselves. We are hurting so badly that the plight of others is sometimes obscured by our own pain. But, in my spiritual journey, I have been greatly inspired by godly people who had the strength to be more concerned for others than themselves even in the most heartbreaking circumstances. When we see someone like that, it indicates a level of faith and trust in our Lord that should be the goal of each of us. Even when your heart is breaking, God can use you to help comfort others. Your troubles can give you great understanding and insight into the feelings of others whose hearts are likewise broken.
Once you have taken your broken heart to the Lord and he has given you his peace, comfort, and strength, he definitely wants to use you as a blessing to others. You can encourage others who are brokenhearted by your presence and with words of comfort -- words that will lift up the hurting. God will give you the ability to remain strong and steadfast in your own faith so that the weakened and discouraged will seek your counsel as someone who has gauned credibility by overcoming a similar hurt.
"We have been greatly comforted, dear brothers and sisters, in all of our own crushing troubles and suffering, because you have remained strong in your faith" (I Thessalonians 3:7 NLT).
God can heal your brokenness, and his healing will give you an inner peace and cause you to rejoice. As others see God's healing in your life, and your rejoicing, they will rejoice with you. There will never be a time in your Christian life when God cannot use you to bless others if only you can get outside yourself and see those around you who are hurting.
"Faith, like light, should always be simple and unbending; while love, like warmth, should beam forth on every side, and bend to every necessity of our brothers and sisters." --Martin Luther
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Brokenhearted and God

Chuckle: "A little boy kept looking at the rack of greeting cards. The clerk asked if she could help him -- birthday? Illness? Wedding? The boy shook his head no and answered wistfully, "Got anything in the line of blank report cards?"
Quote: "Be not miserable about what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father, who cares for you today, will care for you tomorrow." --Francis deSales
    "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18 NLT). "He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds"  (Psalm 147:3 NLT).
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could escape the pain of grief, loss, disappointment, sorrow, and failure. But troubles are a part of life and come to all of us. God does not promise us trouble-free lives, but he does promise to be "close to the brokenhearted" and to be our source of strength, courage, and wisdom as he helps us to deal with our heartaches.
One of the most severe by-products of a broken heart is the deep sense of loneliness. When our hearts have been broken, everyone and everything around us can become distant, out of focus, and of limited value in helping us deal with the situation. On the other hand, if we turn to him, God not only has the answers for mending a broken heart, but he will actively participate in its healing. God makes some amazing promises to the brokenhearted.
Let's face it, the Christian life is not always easy. Broken hearts and disappointments are commonplace. They may be the result of an unfaithful spouse, a rebellious child, betrayal by a trusted friend, or from our own indiscretions and bad choices. There are times when everything is out of whack and nothing makes sense -- the whole world seems to be crumbling around you.
From our passage, we see that God not only understands, but is always near to the brokenhearted and wants to heal the wounds responsible for our sorrow. He will comfort the brokenhearted by his presence, compassion, a listening ear, abiding love, healing hand, encouragement, and blessings. When one of His children is brokenhearted, so is our Lord.
So, how should I react to a broken heart? When heartbreaking experiences come your way, don't get frustrated with God. Instead, admit that you need God's help and thank him for being by your side. Call to him in your time of need and be honest with your feelings. He loves you and will draw you close by his presence.
"Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I have come to you in prayer" (Psalm 143:7-8 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Coping With Overwhelming Situations

Chuckle: "If I wanted to go crazy, I would do it in Washington because it would not be noticed." --Irwin S. Cobb
Quote: "Man is not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself; he is not at peace with himself, because he is not at peace with God." --Thomas Merton
    "Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall" (Psalm 55:22 NLT). "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens" (Psalm 68:19 NIV).
For the Christian, it's not how difficult life becomes, but how one handles and copes with those difficulties that makes the difference. One of the saddest experiences in my ministry is to see a "Christian" totally defeated and with no clue as to how to turn that defeat into victory. It seems that seeking God in times of adversity is an alien concept to some.
Many try to figure things out and solve their problems in their own strength instead of turning to the true source of strength and wisdom. They will try every possible solution, from the world's point of view, except drawing near to their God who specializes in overcoming impossible situations. The solution is to place complete trust and confidence in God at all times, but, especially, when you have reached the bottom of life's pits. "I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn" (Psalm 142:3 NLT).
When you feel overwhelmed, remember to accept God's love, comfort, and mercy. His arms are long enough to reach even the most depressed and downtrodden. "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand" (Isaiah 41:10 NLT).
This is a solemn promise that God has made to his people -- and that includes you and me. You need not fear because (1) God is with you, (2) God has established a relationship with you through Jesus Christ, and (3) God gives you assurance of his strength, help, and victory over sin and death. Are you aware of all the ways God has helped you?
"Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again -- my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:5-6 NLT). There should never be hopelessness in the life of a Christian -- there is no such word in God's vocabulary. If you are shedding tears of loneliness, depression, or hopelessness, there is a solution. God is so good and he wants to restore the joy of your salvation and give you a life of peace and happiness. But you must turn to him in every situation and allow him to have his way in your life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Overwhelmed By Circumstances

Chuckle: "I've reached that age when a good day is one when I get up and nothing hurts." --Satchel Paige
Quote: "We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems." --John W. Gardner
    "O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I will cry to you for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety" (Psalm 61:1-2 NLT).
Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope -- that your life was totally out of control -- that you wanted to "throw in the towel" and give up? More than likely you have felt this way at some point in your life. Most of us have. When we feel overwhelmed, the important question becomes: what do we do -- how do we handle overwhelming circumstances? To whom do you turn when you are overcome with frustration, stress, fear, and pain? Just turn your heart toward God and claim His promises in these ways.
God's love: "Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39 NLT). We can take solace in the fact that God's love is absolute, certain, consistent, and always with us to give us victory. When you feel overwhelmed, just "wallow" around in God's love, and trust him to help you overcome whatever causes you to feel overwhelmed. "Blessed Assurance!"
God's presence: "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives" (John 14:27 NLT). The gift of peace comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures say that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of the Spirit of Almighty God. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit: "But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:17 NIV). This assurance, when contemplated, will give you deep and lasting peace of mind and heart.
God's Word: "As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands"  (Psalm 119:143 NLT). God's Word is a source of deep inexplicable joy and contentment even during the most overwhelming of circumstances. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16 NIV).
Prayer: "Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: 'Please, Lord, save me!''' (Psalm 116:3-4 NLT). There's no question that our greatest need is to listen to God. Praying includes talking to God honestly and listening as he speaks. Prayer will help you to deal with the issues that may appear as overwhelming from a human perspective, but God's perspective is different.
Growing love relationship with God: "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:26-29 NLT). Such a relationship will help put overwhelming circumstances into perspective.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 4, 2015

Heart Condition

Chuckle: Q: What was one of the first things Adam and Eve did after they were kicked out of the of the Garden? A: They really raised Cain.
Quote: "The 'heart' in the biblical sense is not inward life, but the whole man in relation to God." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 NLT). "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14 NLT).
When a reader shared with me that these two verses of Scripture are her prayers. I began to reflect anew on God's desires concerning our hearts. I was reminded that the word "heart" in Scripture warrants our study to understand its exact meaning. We know that "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).
The word, "heart," does not refer to the vital organ in our chests that pumps blood to keep us alive. No, it means much more than that. The word refers to the very core, or center, of our lives. As your physical heart is the center of your physical body, your spiritual heart is the center of your spiritual life. The heart includes our intellect, will, emotions, passions, appetites, morals, thoughts, spirit -- the totality of our being.
If we see the heart in this light, this Great Commandment from the lips of Jesus becomes more meaningful: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30 NIV). C. Ryder Smith says this commandment could better be rendered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart -- that is all your soul, mind, and strength." When stated like this, we see that the heart includes all these other dimensions of our being.
When we allow God to give us a clean heart, everything about us becomes clean -- our words, our actions, our thoughts. We give everything we are, have, think, and do over to Him. When our hearts are cleansed, our spirit becomes right with God and even our thoughts (meditations) become acceptable to God. When God truly gives us a new heart, our lives are transformed into image of Christ. For this to happen, we can't hold anything back from God's cleansing power.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV). When we allow God to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, everything about us is washed clean. When our hearts are clean, our worship will be acceptable and pleasing to God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 1, 2015

We Are What We Think

Chuckle:  The pastor search committee was interviewing candidates for the church. "What kind of man do you want?" asked one minister. The chairman said, "We want a preacher who has never been to the Holy Land, who cannot sing solos, and who has never studied Greek!"
Quote:  “I think, therefore I am.” –Descartes (French Philosopher; 1596 – 1650)
“For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. Nothing in all creation can hide from him” (Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT).
The very thoughts that we entertain are important to God.  A biblical concept that was particularly difficult for me grasp is that, in God’s sight, sinful thoughts can be just as condemning as sinful actions.  You may remember Jesus’ words during His sermon on the mount concerning adultery.  “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart (mind)” (Matthew 5:28 NLT).  “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”  (Matthew 12:34b NIV).  “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”  (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).
As damaging as an impure heart and ungodly thoughts can be to our relationship with God and our ultimate happiness, pure, positive, and holy thoughts provide a basis for godly actions that are pleasing to God.  Godly thoughts also provide us a healthy, happy, and beautiful outlook on life.  Jesus said, “Blessed (Happy) are the pure in heart, for they will see God”  (Matthew 5:8 NIV).   
In our quote of the day, Descartes emphasized the truth that we are what we think.  Here are some amazing words from the deaf and blind Helen Keller:  “Mine has been the limited experience of one who lives in a world without color and without sound. But ever since my student days I have had a joyous certainty that my physical handicaps were not an essential part of my being, since they were not in any way a part of my mind. This faith was confirmed when I came to Descartes’ maxim. ‘I think, therefore I am.’
    Those five emphatic words waked something in me that has never slept. I knew then that my mind could be a positive instrument of happiness, bridging over the dark, silent void with concepts of a vibrant, light-flooded happiness. I learned that it is possible for us to create light and sound and order within us, no matter what calamity may befall us in the outer world.”
“As selfishness and complaint pervert and cloud the mind, so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.” –Helen Keller.  The condition of our hearts and our innermost thoughts will determine who we really are before God. “I think, therefore I am.” 
Love, Jerry & Dotse