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
RELIABLE CONSCIENCES
"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

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
THINGS THAT LAST
"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

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
FEAR CAN BE A PRISON
"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
WHEN GOD SEEMS FAR AWAY
"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 KNOCKING
"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
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
FORGIVENESS: UNCONDITIONAL GRACE
    "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