Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reasons for Failures

Chuckle: “What should you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant.  --George Carlin
Quote: "Jesus will not overlook your shortcomings or simply encourage you to do better the next time. He will give you victory in the midst of your failure." --Henry Blackaby
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets" (Luke 5:5 NIV). Simon and the other fishermen had failed to catch fish after trying all night long. But when they obeyed Jesus and let down their nets where He directed, they caught so many fish that their nets were torn. As we think about ways we fail our Lord, ourselves, and each other, let's consider some reasons we do so.
First, We fail because we don't plan for victory. "A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simple minded man never looks (ahead) and suffers the consequences" (Proverbs 27:12 TLB). To fail to plan is to plan to fail. When we don't see the future with God's vision and direction, we fail. Success comes when God's plans become our own.
Second, we fail because we give up too soon. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9 NIV). We may want to throw in the towel and say, "I just can't study the Bible and pray every day -- I just can't be a witness for Christ." The path of least resistance usually leads to failure. Thomas Edison tried 200 different ways to make an incandescent light bulb before succeeding. He saw this as an education process -- he had learned 200 ways that didn't work and one way that did.
We learn through our failures if we will only let God teach us. If we reject God and go our own way to failure, the lessons learned are often painful. I'm still learning -- but God says, "Don't give up -- don't quit -- keep at it." The neat thing about a postage stamp is that it sticks to one thing all the way to its destination. God always sticks with us and helps us to be victorious.
Third, we fail because we're afraid to take risks. "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety" (Proverbs 29:25 NIV). We're often afraid to take risks. "Lord, I hate my job, but I need the money -- I can't risk changing." But, God says, "Here's what I want you do and I'll be with you." We say we can't step out in faith -- God says you can, with His strength. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13: NIV). The greatest failure is not trying -- failure to step out in faith. Often, we're afraid of what people might think. Fearing the opinions of others is a trap which keeps us from stepping out in faith, but trusting God gives victory and safety.
Fourth, we fail because we go our way rather than God's way. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). By our actions, we say our ways are better than what God wants for us. It's my selfish, egotistical, stubborn way that leads to failure, defeat, and disappointment. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way" Isaiah 53:6 NIV). God's way leads to success, but our inclinations are often the opposite of what God says. God says, "My ways are not your ways; my thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8 NIV).
If you are in the midst of defeat and failure in some area of your life, God wants to give you victory and will do so if you turn to him and his Word for answers.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dealing With Failure

Chuckle: A motorist, after being bogged down in a muddy road, paid a farmer twenty dollars to pull him out with his tractor. He said to the farmer, "At those prices, I should think you'd be pulling people out of the mud day and night." "Can't. At night I haul water for the hole."
Quote: "The man who wins may have been counted out several times, but he didn't hear the referee." --H. E. Jansen
"My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart's desires are broken" (Job 17:11 NLT).
Let's learn together how to overcome failures and be victorious in our Christian living. In our passage, Job expresses how some of us feel at times. If you don't feel the need for a lesson on handling defeat and failure right now, just take note - you will at some point in your life.
John F. Kennedy once said, "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it." Wouldn't it be wonderful if everything in life was successful - every relationship fulfilling. But, even for Christians, life is a combination of both successes and failures; victories and defeats; gains and losses. And sadly many of these failures we bring on ourselves by poor decisions and choices. But, God has an answer for us.
First, we must realize that everyone fails. Peter failed his Lord miserably when he fled, along with the other disciples, from the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56). And he failed again when he denied Jesus by saying he didn't know him (Matthew 26:69-75). James 3:2 tells us, "We all stumble in many ways." Isn't that the truth? We all make mistakes - fumble the ball - mess up. It's not "if" but "when" we fail. We have to learn to deal with, and overcome, failure and defeat.
"There is not a righteous person on earth who does what is right and never sins (makes a mistake)" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). No one is perfect. The very best basketball players only make 50% of their shots. The best baseball hitters only get one out of three. Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, but struck out 1330 times. "For all have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard" (Romans 3:23 NLT). I heard about a preacher, who said to his congregation, "let's bow our heads and pray for our falling shorts."
R. P. Macy tried to start a department store seven times before he succeeded by founding the world famous Macy's of New York. Failure and defeat are as much a part of life as success and victory. But, we have to learn to deal with and overcome them -- and we have a source of strength to do just that. God often gets your undivided attention after you have experienced failure. And he often takes you back to the time and place of your failure in order to teach you and create something wonderful in your life. He wants us to learn and profit from our failures.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 26, 2015

Faith and Foolishness

Chuckle: "When your pet bird sees you reading the newspaper . . . does he wonder why you're just sitting there staring at the carpet?"
Quote: “Remember, the wisdom of God may appear as foolishness to men, but the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.” --Thomas S. Monson
Here, Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14 in red, "I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, 'I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas'" (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NLT).
Authentic Christianity does not minimize the importance of human intelligence, learning, and reasoning. Instead, it assumes that a rational understanding of faith must be infused with the power of God's Holy Spirit. The Spirit reaches to the depths of human souls and causes God's Word to become alive in us. The gospel is "foolishness" only in the sense that unredeemed, unreceptive, and unbelieving people regard it as such. Nowhere in Scripture is an uneducated approach to faith in God ever advocated nor denounced education as unimportant. Human knowledge is not in conflict with the wisdom of God. It simply falls short of the spiritual understanding available to us through Christ.
Many extol the value of human intellect and exalt themselves because of their superior education and personal accomplishments. Still others look for supernatural signs that point them to the truth of God. But divine wisdom is from a different nature than the human intellect and cannot be comprehended without divine assistance and revelation. Those who have been saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, understand that true wisdom comes from God. See James 1:5. God becomes known to us only as He reveals himself and we respond to that revelation in faith. Christ is the ultimate expression of the wisdom of God.
God's redemptive plan comes to the world through the simple message of Jesus Christ. That Christ-centered message becomes the wisdom of God to all those who believe it and commit themselves to Christ in faith. Christian preaching and teaching is built around a set of basic truths of Scripture -- the core tenets of our faith: (1) Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah -- God incarnate in the Son; (2) He lived a victorious and sinless life while doing good here on earth; (3) He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins; (4) He was bodily raised from the dead; (5) He is coming again to end this present evil age; (6) He calls all people to repentance and faith; and (7) He promises forgiveness, redemption, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. The world calls these tenets foolishness; but believers know they are God's wise way of leading us to eternal salvation and into a love relationship with him.
"So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe" (I Corinthians 1:20-21 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Faith is Reflected By Actions

Chuckle: A man sat in the pew, scratching and scratching. Finally, he minister stopped his sermon and asked, "Why are you scratching like that?" The man replied, "Cause I'm the only one who knows where I itch!"
Quote: “Faith, if it be a living faith, will be a working faith.” --John Owen
"What good is it, my brothers, if a person claims to have faith but has no deeds?" (James 2:14 NIV).
We must be careful when we claim to have faith, that we are not just agreeing, intellectually, with a set of Christian teachings. Such an approach will result in an incomplete faith. The faith God honors transforms every aspect of our lives -- our conduct as well as our thoughts and attitudes. Unless our lives are changed by our faith, we do not actually believe all the truths of God that we claim to believe.
In our passage, God's Word tells us that the real evidence of our faith is in how we relate to others. Jesus teaches us to love one another, to minister to one another, to help others in their time of need. James makes it very clear that "deeds" that please God are the ones resulting from our genuine faith. "But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do (my deeds)"  (James 2:18 NIV). Faith is more than just words. When you come to know Christ, His life is reflected in you and the way you live. If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Would there be any witnesses against you?
Here are four basic characteristics of Real Faith: (1) It based on God's word; (2) is always centered on Christ alone - He is the object of our faith; (3) always involves the mind, emotions, and will; and (4) always results in good works/actions. "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him" (Titus 1:16 NIV).
Ephesians 2:8-10 puts faith and deeds in perspective: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not of works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21 NIV).
In conclusion, real faith and works/deeds are inseparable. "Faith and works are as inseparable as sun and sunlight. Faith is the sun; good works are its rays." Are you one who says you have faith but whose life shows little, or no, evidence of your faith. Has there been change in your life since accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 22, 2015

Faith and Prayer Power

Chuckle: Children were in the cafeteria line of a Christian elementary school. The first item was a stack of apples. A teacher had placed a note on the apples, "Take only one, God is watching." At the end of the line was a large stack of chocolate chip cookies. In childish writing was a note. "Take all you want -- God is watching the apples!"
Quote: “Without faith a prayer has only form. Without faith a prayer has not heart or flame.” --Guy Everton Tremaine
"Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (have faith) that you have received it and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24 NIV).
"How can I pray with faith ‘and power?" The first truth we must understand is that it is only in the name of Jesus that we can come to the Father in prayer. Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 NIV). Not only must we come to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we must also come to the Father in prayer in the name of Jesus. Thus, we close our prayers with words like, "I pray/ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen."
Jesus told his disciples that they could ask for anything in his name and it would be given them. "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father" (John 14:13 NIV). This sounds as if we can ask anything our little thumping hearts desire and Jesus is obligated to give it to us. Is this true? Listen to the conditions Jesus describes for this kind of praying. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you" (John 15:7 NIV).
What does it mean to "remain in Jesus?" It means that we stay connected to him through faith, study of His Word, prayer, and yielding control of our lives to his Holy Spirit who "lives with you and is in you" (John 14:17 NIV). Jesus used the analogy of a vine and its branches to help us visualize this "remaining" in him. "I am the vine; you are the branches . . . apart from me you can do nothing (bear no fruit)" (John 15:5).
Think with me about the relationship of a tree trunk to its branches. All the life-sustaining nutrients, genetic instructions to bear fruit, and all the life-giving moisture comes to the branches through the trunk. In other words, the branches (you and I) are totally dependent upon Jesus for our spiritual sustenance and direction as Christians. No branch decides on its own what kind of fruit it will bear, or the shape of its leaves. All its instructions are received through the tree.
Now, get this picture. When a branch prays, he/she will not pray for anything that is contrary to the nature, character, and will of the vine/tree/Jesus. Jesus knows that if we remain in Him, we will only pray for things consistent with His will and character. That's why He said we can pray for anything we wish and it will be given to us. You see, as our desires becomes consistent with His character and will, we won't ask selfishly for things contrary to the will of the Vine, and He will give us what we desire.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 19, 2015

Husbands and Fathers

                                                            Fathers Day Clip Art. Father's Day Christian Clipart. View Original ...
Chuckle: “Wandering inside a pet store, I stopped in front of a bird cage to admire a parakeet. We watched each other for a few minutes before it asked, ‘Can’t you talk?’” –Shirley Brown
Quote:  It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” –Pope John XXIII Reader’s Digest November 1960
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”  (Ephesians 5:25 NIV).  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord”  (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).
I believe great husbands are likely to be great fathers. Since we don’t celebrate a “Husband’s Day,” let’s focus on being a great husband in this Father’s Day message. Rather than my commenting on our Scripture verses today, I think you will be touched by this letter from Ronald Reagan to his son, Michael, on the occasion of Michael’s wedding in June 1971.
Dear Mike:
    You’ve heard all the jokes that have been rousted by all the “unhappily marrieds.” But there is another viewpoint. You have entered into the most meaningful relationship there is in all human life. It can be whatever you decide to make it.
    Some men feel their masculinity can be proven only if they play out in their own lives all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of the relationship disappears. There are more men griping about marriage who kicked the whole thing away themselves than there can ever be wives deserving of blame. There is an old law of physics that you can get out of a thing only as much as you put in it. The man who puts into the marriage only half of what he owns will get that out.
    Let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. It takes quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick, and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow, and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home.
    Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should. There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.
Love, Dad
PS. You’ll never get in trouble if you say “I love you” at least once a day.
We pray Father’s Day 2015 will bring much joy to each husband and father along with a renewed commitment to be a godly husband and father for the sake of those he loves most.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Grace, Faith, and Salvation

Chuckle: While a woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of its container, the phone rang. So she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. "Mommy can't come to the phone right now. She's hitting the bottle."
Quote: “It is not faith and works; it is not faith or works; it is faith that works.”Unknown source
"For it is by grace you have been saved through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
"Faith is the attitude whereby a person abandons all reliance in his own efforts to obtain salvation, be they deeds of piety, of ethical goodness or anything else. It is the attitude of complete trust in Christ, of reliance on him alone for all that salvation means" (New Bible Dictionary).
"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles (non-Jews), who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works" (Romans 9:30-32 NIV).
From the beginning, it has been God's intention for us to do good things for other people. However, we must understand that good works do not earn us a right standing with God. This can only come when we accept God's free gift of grace, salvation, by placing our complete faith and trust in in Christ. Once we have placed our faith in him, he makes us new creatures whose very nature is to do God's work. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
Please take another look at the definition of faith in blue above. There you will see that faith unto salvation is an attitude of total trust in Christ, and a reliance on him alone. This faith leads to repentance of sin and acceptance of God's forgiveness. Once we have been born again and transformed by God's Holy Spirit, we will be motivated to work for him through service to others. We will understand that ". . . we are God's workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
We become Christians through God's unmerited favor (grace), not as a result of any effort, ability, or act of service on our part. Because our salvation and even our faith are gifts of God's grace, we should respond to him with love, gratitude, praise, joy, and selfless acts of service.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Faith Brings True Peace

Chuckle: A little girl was diligently pounding away on her grandfather's word processor. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he asked. "I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."
Quote: "One of the mysteries of faith is that, although it constitutes our deepest response to God for what he has done for us in Jesus Christ, yet it is, at the same time, a gift from him when we lift our eyes beyond ourselves. He meets us with faith when we want to have faith." --John Gunstone
"Your faith has made you well; go in peace" (Luke 8:48 NASB). "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you" (John 14:27 NIV).
Can you imagine how the woman in this Luke passage must have felt? She had been sick for over twelve years and had found no person or treatment that could offer her relief from her infirmity. She was desperate and when she learned that Jesus was near she was determined to see Him and at least touch Him in hopes that He would heal her. In fact, it seems her faith was so strong that she knew, without doubt, that touching such a man of God would heal her.
Picture the great throng of people around Jesus. It must have been a physically exhausting effort for a woman, who was not well, just to plow through the crowd and get close enough to touch Him. The result of her faith was that Jesus' healing power was released into her the instant she touched his garment and she was healed. What a beautiful picture of God's love, power, and amazing love for each of us regardless of what we may be going through in life.
Please notice, that physical healing occurred, yes, but perhaps even a greater gift was granted to the woman -- a peace that only God can give. As we hold onto God in faith, He may or may not choose to heal us physically, but He certainly will grant us strength, comfort, and peace to deal with whatever may be troubling us. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7 NIV).
It was the woman's faith that released Christ's power into her life. Are you casually aware of who Jesus is, or do you actively reach out to Him in faith knowing He can bring miraculous physical healing as well as spiritual healing? Renew your faith today and reach out to Jesus the Savior of our souls, the Great Physician, and giver of peace -- His peace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Envy is Destructive

Chuckle: A preacher up in the Adirondacks went to church one Sunday morning. The pastor called on him to pray. He replied -- "Pray yourself, I'm on vacation!"
Quote: "As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man." --Chrysostom
    "Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns" (Exodus 20:17 NLT: one of the Ten Commandments).
Coveting is having a strong desire to have the possessions of someone else. Such desire goes far beyond merely admiring a person's possessions or thinking, "I really would like to have one of those." When you covet, you can easily progress to the point of resenting the person who has what you don't -- this is envy. When we envy, we transfer our feelings of desire for a person’s possessions to resentment against the person.
Do you know someone you envy for what he or she has, or the praise he or she has received, or the success he or she has attained? God saw that such feelings could arise in the hearts of his people. He knew that coveting is such a destructive force that he chose to deal with it in one of the Ten Commandments. God knows that possessions alone can never bring lasting happiness. He also knows that greed, jealousy, covetousness, and envy can destroy relationships among his people and between his people and himself.
Not only can such desires take away our joy, they can lead us to commit other sins such as adultery and stealing -- both of which are also forbidden in the Ten Commandments. In our society, we often see violence perpetrated against someone by a criminal driven by envy. But envy can easily create bitterness and destroy relationships among believers as well. Being covetous and envious is a counter-productive exercise since God is able to provide what we really need, even if He chooses to stop short of giving us everything we want. To avoid being envious, we need to practice being content with what we have. 
"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little." (Philippians 4:11-12 NLT). Once Satan gains a foothold in your life by creating envy in your heart, he can destroy your joy, contentment, and peace that God wants you to have, and it can keep you from being the holy person God wants you to be.
There is a fable that Satan's agents were failing in their various attempts to draw into sin a holy man who lived as a hermit in the desert of northern Africa. Every attempt had met with failure; so Satan, angered with the incompetence of his subordinates, became personally involved in the case. He said, "The reason you have failed is that your methods are too crude for one such as this. Watch this." He then approached the holy man with great care and whispered softly in his ear, "Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria." Instantly the holy man's face showed that Satan had been successful: a great scowl formed over his mouth and his eyes tightened up. "Envy," said Satan, "is often our best weapon against those who seek holiness."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 5, 2015

Doubters Versus Cynics

Chuckle: "You know you're getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster."
Quote: "When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt him. When he says -- 'Do not let your hearts be troubled,' if you see him I defy you to trouble your mind, it is a moral impossibility to doubt when he is there." --Oswald Chambers
    "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer"  (Psalm 94:19 NLT).
We all are familiar with the Bible story of "doubting Thomas." After Jesus' had risen from the dead, ". . . the other disciples told him (Thomas), 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it' " (John 20:25 NIV).
First, let's think about the difference between doubt and cynicism. The doubter is unsure about whether something is true or right, but is open to evidence that his doubt may not be justified. However, the cynic does not believe that people are ever sincere, honest, or good and tends to be bitter and negative about life. Such a person is not as open to evidence refuting his conclusions and sometimes has the attitude, "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up."
"To believe is to be 'in one mind' about accepting something as true; to disbelieve is to be 'in one mind' about rejecting it. To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and disbelieve at once and so be 'in two minds.' " (Os Guinness, "In Two Minds.")
Jesus never condemned Thomas for having honest doubts. Jesus appeared to Thomas and patiently said to him, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God' " (John 20:27-28 NIV). You see, Thomas was open to being convinced -- and stopped short of actually feeling the wounds of Jesus. He became convinced by Jesus' invitation to feel him and immediately voiced his belief.
Some people need to doubt before they can believe. If doubts lead one to ask honest questions, and questions lead to answers based on truth, and the answers are accepted, then doubt has been a good thing. But when doubt leads to stubborn cynicism and stubbornness becomes a mind-set, then that cynicism does extreme harm to one's faith. If you find yourself doubting the truths of the Bible, or God himself, please don't let your search for truth end there. As you discover answers, let those answers deepen your faith.
I believe God would have you bring your doubts directly to him as you pray. Be honest about your doubts, as Thomas was, and pour out your heart's concerns to the Lord. Then be open to new insights as he reveals his truths. If you have this attitude, even doubt can serve to bring you closer to him. God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5 NLT). Take God at his word and never doubt his love, his power, his provision, and his promises.
Love, Jerry & Dotse