Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reliable Consciences

Chuckle: "The latest survey shows that three out of four people make up 75% of the population."
Good Quote: "The man who loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping." --Izaak Walton
"They demonstrate that God's law is written within them, for their own consciences either accuse them or tell them they are doing what is right" (Romans 2:15 NLT). "Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are defiled" (Titus 1:15 NLT). "They pretend to be religious, but their consciences are dead" (1 Timothy 4:2 NLT).
Perhaps you have noticed that we don't have to teach a child to lie, cheat, and steal. It seems they already know how to do these things when they are born. No, we have to teach them what is right as they grow -- to be kind, caring, honest, and unselfish. As they are taught, their consciences become reliable moral compasses in their lives. If they are not trained to distinguish between right and wrong and to respect right over wrong, their undeveloped consciences will be of no value to them in life.
Obviously, our consciences can be trained. If we use God's Word as the basis for bringing up our children, they will know right and wrong from God's viewpoint. But if they are raised by parents whose own consciences were never trained by God's values, what can we expect from the children. Every day we hear of murders, robberies, rapes, assaults, corrupt business deals, and other crimes committed by people who show no remorse except for having been caught. Evidently, their consciences serve no useful purpose.
In our Romans passage, we see that "God's Word was written within them," and because this was true, their consciences were reliable to accuse them of wrong and to affirm their doing right. Each of us should pray to God for such a conscience. However, once we have a conscience that pleases God, we must listen to and heed our consciences or they will become increasingly less reliable.
"The conscience is like a sharp square peg in our hearts. If we are confronted by a questionable situation, that square begins to turn, and its corners cut into our hearts, warning us with an inward sensation against doing whatever confronts us. If the conscience is ignored time after time, the corners of the square are gradually worn down, and it virtually becomes a circle. When that circle turns within our hearts, there is no inner sensation of warning, and we are left without a conscience." --Unknown
It is not enough to know what is right; we must also do what is right if our consciences are to remain sensitive to God's standards of morality. In our 1 Timothy passage, we see false teachers who may appear to be religious, but whose consciences are dead and useless. Have you noticed that if you override your conscience and do something wrong, it becomes easier to do that wrong again and again. Your conscience gradually becomes seared and less of a factor in determining your behavior.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why Study the Bible

Chuckle: A children's Sunday School teacher asked her class, "Who defeated the Philistines?" One little boy said, "I don't know. I don't keep up with the minor leagues."
Quote: "The Bible is so deep that theologians can never touch the bottom, yet so shallow that babes cannot drown."Unknown author
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey from the comb" (Psalm 19:7-10 NIV).
The story is told about a pastor who was visiting in the home of a church family. Before leaving he asked if they would like him to read from the Bible. The mother told one of her boys to go bring the Big Book we read out of so much. Excited to help, the boy rushed out of the room and returned with the Mail-Order catalog. .!!
I wonder how many of us see the Bible as a treasure from God and study it accordingly. It was written over a span of 1500 years by hundreds of different writers including kings, peasants, poets, herdsmen, fishermen, scientists, farmers, priests, pastors, tentmakers, and governors. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the various books were gathered together, and they tell one complete story of God's love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness without contradictions or inconsistencies. Just stop for a moment and let the significance of all this this sink into your heart anew.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). ". . . .men spoke from God as they were carried along (moved) by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20). Listen to what some famous people have said about the Bible:
Abraham Lincoln: "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book."
George Washington: "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
Napoleon: "The Bible is no mere book but a living creature which conquers all who oppose it. For thousands of years the forces of evil have tried to discredit, ignore, or destroy God's Holy Word - but to no avail."
Andrew Jackson: "That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests."
Daniel Webster: "If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering, but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
The worldly secular progressive view is that the above observations are archaic, irrelevant, and were made by less than enlightened men. But, for us believers, such statements about God's Word only add credibility to a truth we assimilated into our hearts and minds long ago.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Things That Last

Chuckle: A patient said to his dentist, "Doctor, I have yellow teeth, what do I do?" The dentist replied, "Wear a brown tie!"
Quote: "Materialism has nothing to do with amount, it has everything to do with attitude" –Unknown author
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power"  (Colossians 3:1 NLT). "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20 NIV).
I'm always getting solicitations in the mail wanting me to purchase extended warranties on everything from our cars to household appliances. Such warranties are designed to protect us from the inevitable failures of the things we buy. They help give us peace of mind about the "what ifs" in life. Material things cannot be expected to last forever, although many seem to think they will. Without faith, it's much easier to focus on the things we can see and touch here on earth rather than the unseen things above.
No extended warranty is needed in your relationship with your Lord. The salvation we enjoy in Christ is complete and will never fail us or need repair or overhaul. Nothing in addition to what Christ did on the cross is ever needed. ". . . nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:19 NIV). When God designed our salvation, He intended it to last forever and to give us peace of mind that comes from our faith that our eternal destiny is secure in Him.
Our challenge is to think about things above and not be enamored with material things on earth. This is extremely difficult unless our focus remains on the eternal rather than the temporary. Setting our sights on heaven will help us put heavenly priorities into daily practice here and now. We do this by concentrating on acts of obedience to God. It includes ". . . seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these (material) things will be given to you as well" (Matthew :33 NIV).
What is most important to you? Is it the material things you have and the need for extended warranties to make them last? Our material things can easily push God out of our lives and cause our concern for the eternal to fade into the background. If we seek things of eternal value, we will continually look forward to the day when we will meet Christ face-to-face.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 27, 2015

Life On The Mountain

Chuckle: Boy: Grandma, do you know how to croak. Grandma: No, I don't think so. Why? Boy: Because Dad say's he'll be a rich man when you do.
Quote: "Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." --Frederick Wilcox
"He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3 NLT).
A few days ago (July 2nd), I wrote on “Life in the Pits.” We saw how we should wait upon the Lord for his deliverance when we find ourselves mired in the pit of despair and discouragement. We saw what a miraculous change there was in David's heart as he learned to wait upon the Lord with an attitude of faith and expectancy. Today, let's look at how David's transformed attitude impacted his life and the lives of other people.
Notice that David's first reaction after being lifted out of his pit and transported to the mountain top was to praise God for delivering him. This should be the reaction from each of us as God does His work in our lives. When you praise our Lord for delivering you, it will impact the lives of others in addition to bringing glory to God.
When you share your personal testimony about what God has done in your life, He will use your experiences to draw others to Himself. When you say, "here's what God has done for me," your words will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of others. Our passage says they will be astounded by what God has done and, in turn, will also put their trust in the Lord. You are important to God and his work. Don't ever let Satan make you feel otherwise.
The second thing David did was to dedicate his life completely to God. To be delivered from despair and then turn a deaf ear to God is the height of ingratitude and selfishness. David heard God's message and came to recognize that "You (God) take no delight in sacrifices and offerings. Now that you have made me listen, finally I understand -- you don't require burnt offerings or sin offerings. . . I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart" (Psalm 40:6-8 NLT).
David came to understand that it was not the burnt offerings or other rituals of worship that pleased God; but what God wants from us is total devotion to him. The prophet Samuel told Saul, "Obedience is far better than sacrifice" (I Samuel 15:22 NIV). In Romans 12:1 NLT, the apostle Paul tells us: "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind he (God) will accept." God seldom asks us to die physically for him, but he wants us to live sacrificially for him each day.
Remember, whether you are in the pit or on the mountain, God is in control. He is the Master in all situations. He loves you and desires the very best for you. And that best can be seen in the words of Jesus, ". . . I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Priest, Who Me?

Chuckle: Q: What kind of man was Boaz before he met Ruth? A: He was Ruth-less!!
Quote: When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package." --John Ruskin
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9 NIV).
The Bible says every believer is a priest. It's important that each of us understands the meaning and significance of this truth. You probably have a mental image of what a priest looks like and what he does; and you may not see yourself fitting that image.
In Old Testament times, the priest was the intermediary between the people and God. The priest approached God on behalf of the people. Even today, some choose to confess their sins through a priest. However, after Christ's victory over sin and death on the cross, the pattern for our interaction with God changed dramatically. Now each of us has the glorious privilege of coming directly into God's presence without fear. In the name of Jesus, we can now speak directly to God and have him speak to us through his Word and his Holy Spirit. The New Testament refers directly to the priesthood of believers five times: 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10; 20:6. The priesthood of believers involves both privileges and clear responsibilities.
Our Priestly privileges include:
    (1) Direct access to God in the name of Jesus, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). "For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. . ." (I Timothy 2:5 NIV);
    (2) The right to interpret Scripture. This right and privilege means you and I, as individual Christians, can study and interpret Scripture for ourselves while depending upon the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance.
Our Priestly responsibilities include:
    (1) Offering spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5). According to Lavonn Brown, this involves four dimensions; "(a) a spiritual sacrifice of worship (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15); (b) a spiritual sacrifice of witness for Jesus (I Peter 2:9); (c) a spiritual sacrifice of stewardship (Philippians 4:18); and (d) a spiritual sacrifice of service (Hebrews 13:16)."
    (2) Being priests to others. The overriding principle here is that Christians have the God-given responsibility to minister to the needs of others in the name of Jesus. Although churches set aside (ordain) vocational ministers for certain ministry positions, all believers are personally and equally called to be ministers. Our most important ministry is to help others come to faith in Jesus Christ -- the ministry of reconciliation.
"And he (God) has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:19b-20a NIV). Faithful exercise of your priestly privileges and responsibilities will please our Lord and bring you much joy and fulfillment!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Choosing the Important

Chuckle - A Child's Prayer: "Dear God, we read that Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday School they said you did it. So I bet he stoled your idea." Donna
Quote: "To every man is given the power of choice."Unknown author
"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul" (Matthew 16:26 NIV)? "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize (wins). Run in such a way to get (win) the prize" (I Corinthians 9:24 NIV).
The most important message I can relay to you from God's Word is to learn to choose what is really important in life. If we choose God's values, then we can have a victorious life. What's most important to you? Do you know? Let's make God's values our priority and align our lives with them. Let's think together about the importance of values.
First, Godly values reduce stress in your life. A Gallup survey of baby boomers (Born 46-64) asked what causes the most stress in their lives. It wasn't time, nor lack of money, nor conflict within their families, even though these were all problems. The number one cause of stress was conflicting values. In other words, there was a huge gap between what people said their values were and the values actually reflected by the way they lived.
For example, (1) most said family is very important to them, but the average father spent only five minutes a day talking with each of his children. Work, recreation and other pursuits took first place in importance. (2) Many said "health" is very important, but, in the survey, many were overweight and didn't exercise. (3) Materialism is bad and yet they spend all they make on "stuff." (4) Many said God was number one, but when asked, "is God number one in your time and your finances?" Most said "no."
Stress comes when you say, "I know what's important," but don't live that way." Such conflict in values, brings anxiety, guilt, and frustration. James tells us that such a person, "is a double- minded person, unstable in all he does" (1:18 NIV). We're pulled by competing values (God's and the world's). If we know the right values and bring our lives into line with them, then we can enjoy life without an unhealthy level of stress and guilt.
Second, your success is influenced by values. Values determine the choices you make and everything you do. Proverbs 4:23 NIV reminds us, "Above all else, guard your heart (affections), for it is the wellspring of life." Living by God's values will help you make the right choices, and with your success will come a sense of peace, joy, and fulfillment.
Third, and most important, your values affect your eternal salvation. You may be financially well off, but, you may be spiritually bankrupt. Pleasure and possessions can become our gods and, if so, we miss the true God and his saving grace. That's why Jesus warned "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul; or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" For what are you giving your life? Are you living to win the "Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me (you) on that day" (2 Timothy 4:8 NIV)?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fear Can Be A Prison

Chuckle: A drill sergeant had chewed out a young cadet, and as he walked away, he said to the cadet, "I guess when I die you'll come and dance on my grave." The cadet replied, "Not me, Sarge! I promised myself that when I got out of the Army, I'd never stand in another line."
Quote: "Fear is never a good counselor and victory over fear is the first spiritual duty of man." --Nicolas Berdyaev
"And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ" (Philippians 1:14 NLT).
I read about a woman who never shared her faith at work because she feared repercussions from her superiors and possible rejection by her own workmates. She was even afraid she would lose her job. She was encouraged by a friend to entrust her fear to the Holy Spirit and be bold in sharing the love of Christ with others. She did so, and in her case, there were no negative consequences as she had feared.
In our passage, Paul was in prison in Rome and his boldness to proclaim the gospel, even while in chains, served as encouragement to others. Paul saw his circumstances as an opportunity to spread the good news of Christ. He looked for ways to demonstrate his faith even in the most difficult of times. Because of his boldness, Roman soldiers of the palace guard heard the gospel as well as other Christians and they were encouraged to put aside their fears of persecution and be faithful witnesses for Christ.
Fear of being rejected or persecuted is a major factor in the failure of many Christians to share their faith. I dare say we have all experienced such fear at some point. Fear can become a prison far stronger than the chains that held Paul. Fear can literally paralyze and prevent us from doing anything for our Lord. If you are imprisoned by fear when it comes to sharing your Christian testimony, you are depending upon your own strength rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself will unlock the doors of you prison of fear and give you the bold words He wants you to say if you are willing to trust Him.
Another important deterrent to your fear is the strong conviction that God has given you a message to deliver that your audience needs desperately to hear. Such a conviction will help free us from our prison of fear. When commanded by Jewish religious leaders not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus or face punishment, Peter and John replied, ". . . we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20 NIV). Later they prayed, "Now, Lord consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" (Acts 4:29 NIV).
Let's pray together that our fear will not imprison us and that we will be courageous enough to speak fearlessly in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 20, 2015

When God Seems Far Away

Chuckle: "I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on." --Beryl Pfizer
Quote: "We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to God." --Dietrich Bonnhoeffer
"I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!" (Psalm 139:7 NLT).
There are times in our lives when God seems far away and unreachable. It seems as if he has left us all alone. When you feel this way, it is time to do two things: (1) Examine your heart. Is there is sin in your life? Have you truly been seeking God through faithful obedience? (2) Trust God's promises, not your feelings.
God's Word is replete with assurances of God's presence with us believers at all times. God has said: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5b NIV). "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b NIV). These are solemn promises from our Lord himself -- never will he abandon us -- never will he break his promises. How, then, is Jesus with us? He was with his disciples physically until he ascended into heaven and then through His Holy Spirit. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be his presence that would never leave them or us. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor (Holy Spirit), who will never leave you" (John 14:16 NLT). This promise is to each of us if we have been born again.
If you need further assurance of God's never-ending presence in your life, listen again to the psalmist: "You (God) both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. . . . I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence" (Psalm 137:5, 7 NLT). God is always with you, and absolutely nothing can ever separate you from his love. "I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me" (Psalm 16:8 NLT). You can take these truths to the bank. . .!! When you feel like God is far away from you, claim these promises.
God's Word tells us that our lives are temples of the Holy Spirit because the Spirit of Christ lives within us. However, it would be wrong to assume by this that our lives are always pleasing to him. Instead, we must prepare our hearts so that God will choose to reveal his presence in our lives. "Draw close to God and he will draw close to you." If you're not sensing God's presence, go to him in prayer and ask for the faith to experience him once again. Faith is unconditional trust even when you feel that God is far away.
I'm reminded of a little story about a man and his wife who were riding in their pickup truck. The wife asked the husband who was driving, "why don't we sit close together like we did when we were younger?" The man replied, "I haven't moved." God does not move away from us. If you feel like He is far away, you are the one who has moved away from Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hindrances To Our Prayers

Chuckle: Another perk of growing old: "You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room."
Quote: "On my head pour only the sweet waters of serenity. Give me the gift of the untroubled Mind." --Joshua Loth Liebman
". . . you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. If you don't treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard (I Peter 3:7 NLT).
Listen up guys -- and gals too! There are many things that can hinder our prayers: bitterness toward another person, disobeying God, or other unconfessed sins. However, there is one hindrance we may not often think about -- our relationships to one another as husbands and wives.
Today, let's think about husband and wife relationships as they impact our prayer life. Let's begin with this question: Have you ever tried to pray when you were out of sorts or angry with your spouse? If you have, you know it's impossible to do. When you're angry or bitter toward someone, the last thing you feel like doing is praying. Treating a spouse as an equal partner with unconditional love, understanding, and kindness will help to restore your prayer life. Any resentment, anger, or bitterness must be removed before you can effectively pray.
Although our passage is directed to husbands, the same principles apply to wives as well. In essence, Peter tells us that how we treat each other in our marriage relationships will determine the effectiveness of our prayers. Christian marriage partners are to demonstrate their self-giving love for each other with honor and respect, since together they are partners in the grace of life. "Weaker partner" refers to women being physically weaker than men, not weaker in spirit as members of God's kingdom.
With the strains on marriages in our society these days, what better time to evaluate our marriage relationships to determine if our attitudes toward one another are what God would have them to be. God desires that you live out your Christian faith quietly and consistently in your home, so that your family will see Christ in you. The bottom line is that if a husband and wife are not lovingly considerate and respectful of each other, their prayers will not be acceptable to God. This is because a loving relationship and fellowship with God depends on congenial relationships with others, especially our marriage partners -- our most precious gifts from God.
After his wife had died, Thomas Carlyle paid many pathetic tributes to her, whom he had sometimes neglected in life. In his diary there is what has been called the saddest sentence in English literature. Carlyle wrote: "Oh, that I had you yet for five minutes by my side that I might tell you all."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Keep On Knocking

Chuckle: Preacher: "Jimmy, do you say your prayers at night?" Little Jimmy: "Yes, Sir." Preacher: "Do you say your prayers in the morning, too?" Jimmy: "No, Sir. I ain't scared in the daytime!"
Quote: "Prayer is not conquering God's reluctance, but taking hold of God's willingness." --Phillip brooks
"Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking (seeking) and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7 NLT).
During his discourse in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus instructs us on the need for persistence in our prayers. We are never to stop asking, seeking, and knocking at the door of God's throne of grace. Disciples are followers and learners of Christ, and, as such, we are to be constantly allowing him to teach us and help us grow into spiritual maturity. There are three truths from this verse that we should never forget.
1. We are Christ's disciples. As such, we should be perpetually committed to Him with an insatiable desire to learn from Him. This means we are willing to adjust everything else in our lives in order to please Him and grow stronger in Him. Nothing should take precedence over our desire to become more like Him each day.
2. Christ wants kingdom commitment. The overall theme of the Sermon on the Mount is God's kingdom. "Seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (physical needs) will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33 NIV). Sometimes we may commit ourselves to our church, our Bible study class, or to a project to help others. These are well and good, but God wants us to seek him first and commit ourselves to a personal love relationship with him. Once such a relationship is established, God knows our faithfulness in service to Him and others will follow because of the condition of our hearts. To commit to his work without a commitment to Him and His kingdom results in drudgery, but commitment to Him first makes our service pure joy.
3. Christ wants us to persist in asking, seeking, and knocking. In the same way, we eventually react favorably to the requests of a persistent child, God honors our persistence with Him. "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1 NIV). Jesus assures us that we will be rewarded for our persistence. Continue to ask God for more knowledge, patience, wisdom, love, and understanding. He will give them to you.
Asking suggests dependence; seeking suggests yearning; knocking suggests persistence. When we ask, seek, and knock, as believers, we must keep in mind that we should only pray for those things consistent with Christ's character. If we keep this in mind, we will not pray selfishly, but with God's will and the good of His kingdom in uppermost in our minds.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Spiritual Warfare

Chuckle: A child prayed, "Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I asked for was a puppy. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up." Joyce
Quote:  “Man’s difficulty today is that he is so immersed in the temporal that he has lost sight of the spiritual, has lost sight of God.”  --Gilbert Shaw; Spiritual Warfare
    "Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:11-12 NLT).
I'm sure you are aware that you, as a believer, are daily involved in spiritual warfare. If you and I are to be victorious in these battles, we must put on all the spiritual armor that God has made available to us. Ephesians 6:10-18 clearly shows us how to put on the spiritual armor of the believer, equipping us for the great spiritual battles we must win every day.
Paul warns of the "wiles" of Satan, which means he has specific plans directed toward each of us. In other words, Satan tailors his attacks to fit each person's vulnerabilities. He knows where we are the weakest and most vulnerable to temptation. We must remember that we are also fighting a great host of demons who are now in league with Satan.
British pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote, "If you are not seeking the Lord, the devil is seeking you." We are wise to think ahead and make preparations for the certain attacks by the evil one. We must have our strategy to escape the very enemy of our souls. Seek the Lord early each day and remain keenly alert because "your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
Since we are in a very real war, we need to have on our best and most effective spiritual armor. Then we can go into battle knowing that we are not alone -- God's Spirit is with us with all his power. Ephesians 6:18 tells us the Holy Spirit is there with us with His supernatural strength. We know Satan has already been defeated and the ultimate victory is certain because of Christ's victory on the cross. Remember, "the one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4b NIV).
The psalmist, David, expressed his need for God's help. He came to the Lord early in the morning, seeking His guidance and protection (Psalm 5:3). Let's make certain we begin every new day with an awareness of our urgent need for our Lord's strength and protection. There is no substitute for preparedness if we are to fend off Satan's attacks.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 13, 2015

Forgiveness: Unconditional Grace

Chuckle: Mom shouted to her young son, “Be careful, I just waxed the floor.” Jimmy said, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m wearing cleats.”
Quote: "Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury." --E. H. Chapin
    "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father Who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." (Mark 11:26 NIV). "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matthew 6:14 NIV). “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as, in Christ, God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
In the New Testament, four Greek words are used in dealing with “forgiveness.“ They mean: (1) to deal graciously with, (2) to dispatch or send away, (3) to release, and (4) to overlook. If we digest these meanings, we can better understand the Psalmist when he says God’s forgiveness “removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.” Our sins are remembered no more -- as if they never occurred.
Forgiveness is a word of such unconditional grace that its true meaning often challenges each of us to go beyond where we are willing to go to reconcile with our brother or sister. In the New Testament several points are made clear. First, the forgiven sinner must forgive others. "Forgive and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). Second, forgiveness is to be whole-hearted and complete. It is to be like Christ’s forgiveness: "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).
Have you ever been so consumed by anger or felt such severe pain that you wanted to withhold forgiveness until your offender begged for it? Do we demand that the offender grovel at our feet in apology -- sometimes over and over again? By making our forgiveness so dependent on the actions of the offender, we grant considerable power over our lives to the one who injured us -- setting us up to be a victim twice!
Thus we continue to harbor anger which we allow to fester and rob us of our joy as Christians. We should never allow the actions of another person to deprive us of the joy and contentment that our faith in Jesus Christ has brought to us. Simply stated, if you enjoy eternal forgiveness from God, you need to be willing to forgive others here in the present, which is an act of unconditional grace.
Let's not allow the actions of others to become a stumbling block in our walk with our Lord. We have been forgiven much and, in the same way, we must forgive others and release to the Lord those who've hurt us. He has promised that He will repay, if payment is due, and God keeps His word. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). By releasing our offender, we truly set ourselves free!
By graciously forgiving those who offend you, and letting them know of that forgiveness, you serve as an inspiration to them and others. As you model Biblical forgiveness, you become useful in God’s hands to impact other lives. One final thought. As we develop a Christ-like forgiving spirit, we will find that our threshold for becoming offended will continue to rise and we will become less easily offended. Also, our tolerance for the faults in others will increase dramatically.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Encouragement and the Holy Spirit

Chuckle: A young couple invited their elderly pastor for Sunday dinner. While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the minister asked their son what they were having. "Goat," the little boy replied. "Goat?" replied the startled man of the cloth, "Are you sure about that?" "Yep," said the youngster. "I heard Dad say to Mom, 'Today is just as good as any to have the old goat for dinner.'"
Quote: “There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else."Unknown source 
    "But the Counselor (Helper), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of every thing I have said to you" (John 14:26 NIV)
We have just completed three lessons on being an encourager. After reflection, I have one more truth to share with you on this subject. The Greek word for "encouragement" in Hebrews 10:25 NIV is from the same Greek word used for the "Holy Spirit" in John 14:26. In each case it means "helper." The word literally means "one called along side to be our companion and to help us."
Being an encourager is as close as we can come to doing the work of the Holy Spirit. What a thrilling blessing it is to know we have been called along side someone to help them. If all of us could grasp the significance of being an encourager, there's no limit to what God could do through us to stimulate one another as Christians -- what we could accomplish for our Lord.
Being an encourager to others is among the highest and most important privileges any of us can have. It is easy to pour cold water on someone's enthusiasm, excitement, and optimism. It is easy to discourage others and the world is full of discouragers. But, we have a Christian responsibility to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a person on his or her feet.
Any of us can be an encourager if we have allowed God to put in our hearts just an extra measure of love, concern, and understanding. God will give you the skills you need. However, it does take a large measure of compassion and commitment to be an encourager. A brother or sister may be withering on the vine spiritually and emotionally for lack of affirmation and encouragement. They may be suffering from feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and worthlessness. Feelings of worth are fostered by encouragement.
Some need encouragement to attend church with us. After all, God instructs us as to its value. "Let us not give up meeting . . . but let us encourage one another. . . ." (Hebrews 10:25 NIV). Those who have fallen out of the fellowship need someone to show them the way back -- to encourage them. You can be the Holy Spirit's mouthpiece to lift the spirits of those who need someone to care. Please join me in praying that God will direct our paths to someone who needs encouragement; and that He will give us the courage and concern to meet that need.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Becoming an Encourager

Chuckle: Child's prayer: "God, did you really mean for a giraffe to look like that or was it and accident?" Norma
Quote: “Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken a word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and our thoughts, as well as our success.” --George Matthew Adams
    "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (I Thessalonians 5:11).
The art of being an encourager is not an innate ability -- it must be developed. The virtue is first developed and cultivated in the home. Children learn it up from their parents as they hear words of love, affirmation, praise, and approval. Of course, sadly, all homes are not like that. Evangelist Bill Glass once asked a group of prison inmates, "How many of you had parents who told you you would end up in prison?" Almost every one of the inmates raised his hand. No encouragement here. . . .!
Now back to Hebrews 10:24: "we are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds." We are to give thought to specific ways we can lift up, affirm, and help others. God's commands are not theoretical -- they are for specific practical application, especially those that relate to people in need. Here are some examples: (1)Tell someone how much they mean to you -- how he or she blesses your life. (2) Observe and mention admirable character qualities you see in others. (3) Correspond with others through calls, thank you notes, etc. (4) Notice and comment on something done well by others. (5) Cultivate a positive and reassuring attitude -- be a source of optimism and cheer. (6) Be supportive of someone who is hurting -- a hug, a kind word, a note, etc. (7) Help someone strengthen his or her faith.
"And we urge you, brothers (sisters), warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (I Thessalonians 5:14 NIV). We must be careful to be encouragers with no thought of getting anything in return. If we selfishly expect something in return, our attempts at being an encourager will result in giving guilt-trips rather than encouragement.
Let me share a summary of Hebrews 10:25 from my Life Application Study Bible: "To neglect Christian meetings is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians. We gather together to share our faith and to strengthen (encourage) one another in the Lord. As we get closer to the day when Christ will return, we will face many spiritual struggles, and even times of persecution. Anti-Christian forces will grow in strength. Difficulties should never be excuses for missing church services. Rather, as difficulties arise, we should make an even greater effort to be faithful in attendance." By our faithfulness, we will be encouraged and also encourage others.
You may not be physically able to attend worship services on a regular basis, or you may know someone in such a condition. If so, you can still be an encourager by maintaining contact with other Christians who need encouragement. In doing so you will also be encouraged as well. Kindness is difficult to give away -- it just keeps coming back to us!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Encouragement and Worship

Chuckle:  Parachute recall notice: On page 7 of the instruction manual, please change the words ‘state zip code” to “Pull rip cord
Quote: “There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.” --Katherine Butler Hathaway
    "Let us not give up (not forsaking, KJV) meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).
We may attend church services out of devotion to our Lord; to participate in worship; to pray; to enjoy the beautiful music; and to hear a relevant sermon. These are all appropriate reasons for faithful attendance which benefit us greatly. But, have you thought about how your presence encourages others? Notice what God's Word says:
"Not forsaking" is the more clear KJV rendering. The call of these words is for faithfulness in common worship and fellowship. Here, God issues a solemn warning against setting a bad example by abandoning public worship. The active Christian life, inspired by love, is kept alive and growing by people who care enough for their Lord and one another to assemble together.
"Encouraging one another" reminds each of us to consider the discouragement we bring to the Christian church when we deliberately remove ourselves from its services. We see there is much more to worship than listening to a sermon and saying a prayer, as important as these things are. In this passage is more evidence that God is interested in having our relationship with Him borne out by the way we relate to other people. Encouraging one another should be a major objective every time we come together, as well as other times when we make contact.
I have heard people say, "I'm a Christian and have a close relationship with the Lord but I can maintain that relationship without attending church." Or, "I can worship the Lord without attending church." Of course we can worship God other than in a corporate worship service, but it is God's plan and instructions that we should not neglect coming together. In addition to worshiping God, the interpersonal relationships which are developed provide a source of encouragement even in the worst of times. Relationships are strengthened, fellowship becomes warmer, and mutual encouragement becomes a powerful force in the lives of worshipers.
I've heard people say "it doesn't matter which church I go to," when they really meant, "it doesn't really matter which church I stay home from!" How about you? If you are already a faithful church attendee, then consider this an affirmation of your faithfulness. If not, perhaps it has given you another reason to be faithful -- to be an encourager. Your faithful participation in worship services serves as a witness to your devotion to our Lord
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 6, 2015

Encourage Someone Today

Chuckle: (child's prayer): "Dear God, I like the story about Noah the best of all of them. You really made up some good ones. I like walking on water, too." Glenn
Quote: “We live by encouragement and die without it - slowly, sadly, angrily.” --Celeste Holm
    "And let us consider how we may spur (stimulate) one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another. . . ." (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).
Today, there may be issues in your life that cause you to need a pat on the back, an understanding hug, a knowing look, or a word of encouragement. You may feel as if the good things you do for others go unnoticed and unappreciated. We all experience these kinds of feelings and needs from time to time. And when we do, isn't it wonderful to have someone sensitive to our needs who responds with the right gesture at just the right time?
How would you define the word "encouragement?" It seems to me that it is something we do that inspires others to have renewed courage, spirit, or hope. By encouraging someone, we stimulate and affirm him/her as a person of value. It's important to note the distinction between appreciation and affirmation. Appreciation is expressed as a result of something accomplished. However, affirmation brings encouragement by addressing the value of the person. Most of us need mass doses of affirmation and encouragement.
If I were to ask you why Christians assemble for a worship service, how would you answer? You might say: "to participate in life-changing worship through the singing of hymns, praying, giving tithes and offerings, hearing inspirational music, and finally, listening to a helpful sermon." Although these answers are accurate, there is another important reason which should be included. Our Scripture passage will help us to discover that reason -- to encourage one another.
In the early church, persecution was prevalent and martyrdom was commonplace. As a result fear gripped the hearts of individual believers and whole congregations. Some defected, others drifted away to safety. A letter began to circulate among the Christian Jews addressing those who persevered and endured the persecution. Today, we know that letter as Hebrews. The writer understood the value of people coming together for corporate worship and fellowship. He warned them not to compromise their beliefs and then informed them of the importance of those times they spent together. He points out the following:
(1) Let us seriously consider how to stimulate one another (vs. 24) (2) Let us faithfully assemble ourselves together (vs. 25) and (3) Let us encourage one another (vs. 25) - the major point of this passage.
I read somewhere that "encouragement is like a peanut butter sandwich -- the more you spread it around, the better things stick together." Encouraging one another is a major responsibility of each Christian. Let's encourage someone today.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Life in the Pits

Chuckle: "A little boy told his pastor he was giving up something: His Mom was giving up candy; his Father ice cream, and he was giving up squash!"
Quote: "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!" --Will Rogers
    "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God" (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV).
Erma Baumbeck once said: "If life is a bowl of cherries, how come I'm always in the pits?" A good question! Are there times when you feel everything is going wrong? Do you feel depressed at times with the hand you have been dealt in life? Are you discouraged because of physical limitations? Are your circumstances causing an attitude of despair? If so, you have a lot of company -- many feel, or have felt, this way.
There are two basic kinds of pits: those that come upon us and those we dig for ourselves. We do well to examine the reasons we are in the pits. We are all subject to such feelings from time to time, but for Christians, there is a solution -- God can deliver you. From Psalm 40, the psalmist David shares with us how God lifted him out of a terrible situation in his life. What can we learn from our passage?
When we find ourselves in the pits, wait on God in an attitude of faith and expectancy. Notice how David waited patiently on the Lord to help him in his time of need. The Hebrew word for "waited" means to wait with hope and expectation. This is a picture of "tip-toe" expectation, not "finger-tapping" impatience. We are an impatient people who want everything right now, if not sooner! We might be praying something like this: "Lord, give me patience and give it to me right now!"
God always has a purpose for making us wait for his timing. He wants us to exchange our strength for his. "But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31 NLT). While David waited, God was strengthening and shaping and him for future service.
Waiting for God to help us is not easy, but David received at least four clear benefits from waiting. God (1) changed his attitude and lifting him out of his despair; (2) gave him a sense of security by setting his feet on solid ground; (3) gave him new strength and steadied him as he walked, and (4) filled his heart with joy and put a new song of praise in his mouth. There is no better place than the pits for God to get our attention, test our patience, and force us to wait upon Him with optimistic expectations.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Failures Need Not Be Permanent

Bumper Snicker: "I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money."
Quote: "If you have recently experienced failure, you may be on the brink of receiving a profound revelation from God!" --Henry Blackaby
"People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy" (Proverbs 28:13 NLT). If we are serious about overcoming defeat and failure, we must do two things;
First, we must accept responsibility for our failures. We should resist blaming God or someone else for our own failures. God gives us the capability to make choices and our choices often lead us to failure. However, we are greatly blessed to serve a God who specializes in second chances. Where would any of us be if it were not so? Can you honestly say, "I've never needed a second chance?" I doubt it. I've needed multiple second chances in my lifetime. Losers blame others, but those who learn to deal with defeat/failure say, "I have sinned/failed - it's my fault - I want to start over - I want God to do something special in my life." We can say to our family, our friends, our church family, "I'm the one who failed - I take responsibility - I need to admit it."
In 1977, after 88 straight wins, the UCLA bruins lost a basketball game to Notre Dame. The next day, the LA papers had this headline, "blame me, says the coach!." He said, "I let my team get over-confident."
Until you say, "I am a sinner -- I'm at fault -- I need a Savior," you can never be saved and become a Christian. As Christians, we can never experience the real success God wants for us until we recognize our failures and sins and ask forgiveness. "For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again" (Proverbs 24:16 NIV). God reaches down his hand in the midst of life's failures, our sins, and our defeats to lift us up and restores our joy and fellowship with him.
"The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time" (Jonah, 3:1 NIV). Jonah failed miserably the first time God called him to a mission in Nineveh. But after his repentance (accepting responsibility), God gave him a second chance. Today, He's saying to you and to me; "no matter how many failures you've experienced, or the severity of those failures, I will give you another chance." Maybe you're paralyzed by fear -- or wallowing in self-pity -- or caught up in pride or stubbornness. God wants you to admit your failure and let Him help you start again.
Second, we must accept God's grace and forgiveness. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). No matter what has happened in your life, God will give you a new and transformed life through faith in Jesus Christ. He took our sins upon Himself on the cross.
I want to challenge you to love our Lord with all your heart and love your brothers and sisters as Jesus has loved us. "Love never fails." There is only one failure, we need to fear. "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12-9 NIV). His grace prevents eternal failure through faith in Jesus Christ. For Christians, His grace is sufficient to pick you up in the midst of your defeat and failure and give you a new start. He will restore your joy and peace if you turn to him in repentance.
Love, Jerry & Dotse