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

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