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

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

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

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