Monday, August 31, 2015

Peace in a Chaotic World

Chuckle: "Two men were shipwrecked and floating on a raft. One started to pray -- 'O Lord, I've broken most of the commandments, I've been an awful sinner all my days. Lord, if you'll spare me, I'll --' The other man shouted -- 'Hold on, don't commit yourself -- I think I see a sail!'"
Quote: "All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace." --Thomas A. Kempis
"For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. 'I am the Lord,' he says, 'and there is no other'" (Isaiah 45:18 NLT).
Every day, it seems our world sinks deeper and deeper into a chaotic state. Wars are raging and terrorists are killing innocent people around the world. All sorts of unreasonable violence occurs constantly. Adults are shooting kids. Kids are shooting each other. Parents are shooting their children and each other. Random violence is everywhere and the perpetrators seemingly have no remorse -- no consciences.
What in the world is going on? Well, one thing is certain, God is not the instigator of such chaos. We serve a God of peace and joy who wants us to live in serenity and happiness even in the midst of chaos around us. How then can you find order and peace in your spirit during these troubled times?
As we seek to know our Lord God better each day, the One who created order and peace, he will fill us with his peace. It is your relationship with Jesus Christ that gives you peace. It is his gift to you, and he wants that peace to become more complete in your life every day as you follow him. "Since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us" (Romans 5:1 NLT).
Everywhere you look, destructive forces seem determined to take away your safety, peace, and contentment. If you turn to the world for solutions, they cannot be found. It's only from your relationship and fellowship with God through Christ that the solutions become apparent. Troubles and chaos will always be found in life which can threaten your peace of mind and spirit. To find inner peace in the midst of chaos, seek to better understand God's perspective on life. As your faith deepens, peace will come.
"Picture a massive hurricane raging over the ocean. On the surface of the sea the violent winds whip the water into giant waves and create a scene of havoc and chaos. Yet, a mere twenty-five feet below the surface, the waters are clear and calm. The fish there go on living their lives totally unaware of the thunderous tumult just above them. Where there is 'depth,' there is peace. So it is in the Christian life."  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green. 
"May God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better" (2 Peter 1:2 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 28, 2015

Search Me, O God

Chuckle: "Smartness runs in my family. When I went to school I was so smart my teacher was in my class for five years.” --George Burns
Quote: "When God measures a person, he puts the tape around his heart and not his head." --Author Unknown
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life" (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT).
We do not know our own hearts well enough to search and test them for ourselves. David asked God to search his heart and mind and point out any wrong motives that may have been behind his strong words against his enemies. This request is important because "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve" (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT).
Our tendency is to want to examine our own hearts, but, in our own strength, we are incapable of doing so by God's standards. If we sincerely ask God to examine our hearts, while studying his Word and praying, He will reveal secret motives, weaknesses and sins that we never knew existed. Have you ever acted in a sinful way, then asked yourself, "Why did I do that?" Your actions may be the result of some hidden motive that only God can reveal when you let him do a thorough heart and mind search.
In a similar way, we may think we can make ourselves good enough to be acceptable to God by cleaning up our lives according to the best of our abilities. But God knows our actions mean nothing without a change of heart. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7 NIV).
God makes it clear that we sin based on the condition of our hearts. Our hearts are inclined toward sin from the time we are born. Even Christians can forget God and slip into sin, but to sin or not is our choice. We can yield our lives to Satan's temptations, or we can turn to God, confess our sins in repentance and allow God to cleanse and purify our hearts as he removes the motives for our sinful actions and words. See 1 John 1:9.
When people observe your life, does what they see accurately reflect the condition of your heart? It can -- if you ask God to search your heart, as David did, and reveal any hidden motive or condition that offends him and causes you to bring dishonor to his Name. Once God has cleansed your heart and forgiven you, then your joy will return in full measure.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rapture of the Church

Chuckle: "Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on. . . .!!"
Quote: "Martin Luther said he only had two days on his calendar -- today and that day (Rapture)."
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (I Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV).
Nowhere in Scripture do you find the word "rapture" as it relates to the second coming of Christ. It is a word coined by theologians, and adopted by most Christians, to describe the events surrounding the appearance of our Lord to take up to heaven both dead and living believers that make up his eternal church. When the "rapture" will occur remains a mystery to us and only God the Father knows the day or the hour that Jesus will return.
I won't attempt to answer all the questions surrounding Christ's return, but, for your consideration, I want to present some of the many Scriptures that confirm that He will return. Our understanding of Christ's second coming is expanded by the words of Jesus himself. "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am" (John 14:3 NIV). Here Jesus promises His followers that He will return to earth a second time to take us with Him to our eternal home in heaven -- to a place He has prepared for all who believe in Him.
Concerning the timing of His return, Jesus said: "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the heavens . . . No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:26-27, 32 NIV). Because of Biblical prophecies that have been fulfilled, we have strong indications that we may be approaching the time of Jesus' return. However, no one can predict with certainty the date and time of the glorious event.
In our primary passage, we are told that when Christ returns for his church, those believers who have died in Christ will be raised first and those who are still alive will be changed into their glorified bodies suitable for God's presence. "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed -- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:50-53 NIV). It's interesting to note that at the "rapture" Christ does not physically come to earth. Instead, we, in our glorified bodies, will join him and all other believers in the air.
There are differing interpretations of Scripture concerning the exact sequence of events following the "Rapture" of the church such as the seven years of tribulation, Christ's return to establish His millennial reign, the Great White Throne judgment, etc. Perhaps I will address these events later. Have a wonderful day as you look forward to Christ's return!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blessings From Forgiving

Chuckle: A little boy was asked, "What is a lie?" The boy replied, "It is an abomination unto the Lord and a very present help in the time of need!!"
Quote: "There is so much for us all to forgive that we shall never get it done without putting in a lot of practice." --J. Neville Ward
"Then came Peter to Him, and said, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' 'No,' Jesus replied. 'seventy times seven!'" (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT).
Jesus taught that if we remain in him and he remains in us, we can pray and receive what ever we ask (John 15:7). He also taught us that we should pray and believe by faith. Then He states that if you have anything against anyone when you pray, forgive that person. If you hold a grudge, and refuse to let it go, the flow of blessings that God wants to give you will be interrupted. As long as such resentment and grudges are allowed to continue, God's forgiveness for you will be withheld as well.
Jesus said: "Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too" (Mark 11:24-26 NLT). Jesus spoke again on unwillingness to forgive and offensiveness when He taught the disciples how to be reconciled with a brother who had offended them. Peter thought he was being generous when he suggested we forgive someone seven times, but Jesus not only taught us how many times to forgive, but how to forgive -- he modeled it for us.
Forgiveness is the act of pardoning an offender in spite of the offender's shortcomings and errors. It's the last thing Jesus did on the cross! When With His life almost at an end and His body in total agony, he asked the Father to forgive His tormenters. "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NLT). When we exercise genuine forgiveness, we are freed from the most powerful bondage that the enemy can impose on us.
"You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony"
(Colossians 3:13-14 NLT).
Jesus didn't say we are to forgive when we feel like it. He said it is a duty and no limits can be set on the extent of forgiveness. It must be granted without reservation, by faith and not feelings. Regardless of the hurt, we are to forgive as God does, without limits. You and I can never be free and happy if we harbor grudges, so put them away. Get rid of them. Collect postage stamps, or collect coins, if you wish -- but don't collect grudges. Such ability to forgive will result in an outflow of blessings -- peace, joy, and contentment.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Law of Love and Freedom

Chuckle: A man goes to an eye doctor. The receptionist asks him why he is there. "I keep seeing spots," explained the man. The receptionist asked, "Have you ever seen a doctor?" "No, just spots," replies the man.
Quote: "Love is the child of freedom, never that of domination." --Erich Fromm
"So whenever you speak, or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law of love, the law that set you free" (James 2:12 NLT).
During my military career, I was an Army pilot and flew both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. During my training, I became more keenly aware of the effects of gravity on our lives and especially as it impacts the loading and flight of aircraft. Everything we do physically is impacted by the law of gravity. As we exercise, our muscles are strengthened by repetitive exertions against the gravitational pull on our bodies. Gravity is a constant.
Think for a moment what life would be like without gravity. Flying would be easy but getting back on the ground would be a challenge. Food would levitate from our plates and liquids in our glasses would float out into the air. We would struggle to keep from floating off into space ourselves. Yes, life would be much different without gravity.
Likewise, life would be a lot different without the drawing power of God's love. Yes, our lives would be a lot different were it not for the law of love that sets us free. Every day the constant law of love is at work as God demonstrates that love through his mercy and grace. His love is constantly tugging at our hearts, drawing us closer and closer to Him. God's law of love is no longer an external set of rules, but it is a "law that sets you free" when by faith you give your heart and life to Christ.
As the law of gravity keeps everything in order in our world, God's law of love keeps our spiritual lives in order. The most beautiful thing about this picture is that when we stand before Christ to be judged (2 Cor. 5:10), "we will be judged by God's (constant) law of love." In our first passage, this truth is made abundantly clear. Yes, our lives would be a lot different without God's law of love that sets us free.
The challenge for us is to love others as Christ loves us. Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34b NIV). Our living out God's law of love and freedom is not optional but an obligation. It is God's plan for us to radiate His love and be His instruments for drawing others to Himself. We should extend to others the same love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness that God has extended to us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

God's Presence

Chuckle: Father and son are watching Television; "Dad, tell me again how when you were a kid you had to walk all the way across the room to change the channel."
Quote: "Goodness makes greatness truly valuable, and greatness makes goodness much more serviceable." --Matthew Henry
Jesus replied, "All those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and live with them." (John 14:23 NLT).
There are times in our lives when circumstances cause us to question whether God's presence is still with us. When these thoughts come, they usually accompany a difficult time we are experiencing. We are tempted to ask, "God, if you're really here with me, why do you allow this to happen to me?" Why can't I sense you with me?
When we feel as if God has left us, more than likely it's because we have allowed some sin to enter our lives that has distracted us and caused us to move away from God rather than His moving away from us. The Bible says, "Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts, you hypocrites" (James 4:8 NLT). James gives us five ways to draw near to God and experience his presence anew:
1. "Humble yourselves before God" (4:7). Yield to his authority and will. Allow His Holy Spirit to fill and control your life -- be willing to follow him.
2. "Resist the Devil" (4:7). Don't allow Satan to entice you, tempt you, and draw you away from Godly pursuits.
3. "Wash your hands . . and purify your hearts" (4:8). Be cleansed by confessing your sins (1 John 1:9) and lead a pure life. Replace your desire to sin with a desire to experience God's presence and purity.
4. "Let there be sorrow and deep grief" for your sins (4:9). Don't be hesitant to express to God your heartfelt sorrow for what you have done.
5. "Bow down before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (4:10; I Peter 5:6 NLT).
If you don't sense God's powerful presence in your life, remember Jesus' words in Revelation 3:20 to the church members at Laodicea: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Here, Jesus is speaking to Christians and is desiring fellowship with them. Notice that Jesus does not assume that his knock or his voice are being heard. He says "if anyone hears my voice." We must actively seek him and listen for his voice to fully experience his presence with us.
Our Lord longs for you to enjoy a warm and loving fellowship with him. You will experience God's presence daily as you look to His Holy Spirit for guidance in every area of your life. You cannot exclude him from certain areas of your life and still sense the fullness of his presence.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Stain of Sin

Chuckle: "Some churches are now serving coffee after the sermon. Perhaps this to get people thoroughly awake before they drive home!"
Quote: "Sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent, and self-sustained." --Augustine
"Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18 NIV).
God has a way of communicating with us that leaves no doubt about His meaning. In the New Testament, Jesus often spoke in parables (common story to communicate a deep spiritual lesson) using familiar references easily understood by his audience. These parables are sometimes called, "earthly stories with heavenly meanings." Here in Isaiah, God, through the prophet, used metaphors, which had clear meaning in the culture of that day, to describe the sins of his people.
Crimson was the color of a deep-red permanent dye which was a stain almost impossible to remove from cloth. The stain of sin seems equally permanent, but God can remove sin's toughest stain from our lives as he promised to do for the Israelites. Earlier in this chapter, God had chastised his people for having blood on their hands because of the misery and injustice they brought upon less fortunate people. The bloodstains on the hands of murderers are probably the reference here. "Your hands are full of blood" (vs. 15).
But we don't have to go through life permanently soiled by our sins, regardless of their severity. We are assured in God's Word that if we are willing and obedient, Jesus Christ will forgive and remove our most indelible stains. "Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1-2 NLT).
When we pray for forgiveness as did the psalmist, God has promised to "forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV). God wants to forgive and cleanse us. That's why he allowed his beloved Son to die -- so he could offer us a complete pardon for our sins. When we come to Christ, he forgives all our past sins and we don't need to keep on confessing them again and again. They're gone forever!! We never again need to fear God's rejection because of our sins. However, we must remember that true confession and repentance involves a commitment not to continue to sin.
Do you fully appreciate what it means to have your sins forgiven and the stain of those sins removed by the Creator of the Universe through faith in his one and only Son? We all are wise if we take the time to just dwell on this truth and wallow around in God's love.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 17, 2015

When Should We Pray?

Chuckle: A cop to an offender: "If you run . . . you'll only go to jail tired."
Quote: "I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours of each day in prayer." --Martin Luther
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise . . . Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man (person) is powerful and effective" (James 5:13, 16 NIV).
We should pray when we are in trouble. This original Greek word translated as "trouble" means stress, difficulty, affliction, suffering. These are emotional stresses brought on by outward difficulties (finances, family, work, etc.). What should we do first? We should pray -- even before we seek help from a friend, a counselor, parents, or pastor, etc. David quoted the Lord as saying: ". . . call upon me in your time of trouble; and I will deliver you."  (Psalm 50:15 NIV). We must come into God's presence so his power can be brought to bear on our problems.
We should pray when we are happy. Our prayers should take the form of songs of praise. "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his Temple; praise him in his mighty heaven. Praise him for his strength; praise him for his greatness. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 150:1-2; 6 NIV). Songs/sounds of praise should rise to God spontaneously from the basic mood of joy which marks the lives of the people of God. God's attributes give us all the justification we need to praise him -- His love, mercy, power, majesty, presence, etc.
James is telling us that prayer of some kind is appropriate in all situations -- whether we are troubled, happy, or sick. He is confirming the instructions of the apostle Paul to "pray without ceasing." This means we go through life in a constant attitude of prayer -- constantly seeking God's wisdom in every situation. We should value our privileged communications with the Creator of the universe in the name of Jesus.
"Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might." -- C. H. Spurgeon
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 14, 2015

Praying With Power

Chuckle: A little boy was overheard praying, "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."
Quote: "For the Christian, praying should be like breathing. Just as breathing is the response of physical life to the presence of air, so prayer should be the response of spiritual life to the presence of God." Unknown source 
"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16b NIV)
According to Scriptures, there are certain principles which we must understand if we are to be righteous and pray with power.
(1) Pray with a clean heart. Our first step in praying with power is to confess our sins and allow God to forgive those sins and cleanse our hearts and minds. Remember from our last lesson, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV).
(2) We must ask. "You do not have because you do not ask God" (James 4:2 NIV). Ask for specific things in your prayers . "Lord bless all the Christians, heal all the sick, and save all the lost, and bless all the missionaries" is too general. We should pray for specific people and specific needs. God wants us to care for individuals -- like Jesus did, and pray for them with love, concern, compassion, and persistence for their specific needs. Pray for the unsaved by name and with great burden. Jesus says to us, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7 NIV).
(3) Pray with the right motive. "You ask and do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you might spend what you get on your own (selfish) pleasures"  (James 4:3 NIV). After we have been cleansed and forgiven of our sins, and when we pray in accordance with God's will, self will be last on our prayer list and others will be first. We should not just pray for "me and mine," but pray God's heart with His kingdom in mind."
(4) Pray in faith. "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV). Praying in faith is described in I John 5:15 NIV: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him." Jesus said: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you" (John 15:7 NIV). If we remain in Christ, we will never pray selfishly for anything contrary to his character or his will.
Jesus set the example for us by praying to His Father often and persistently. This truth was captured well by St. Cyprian who said, "If He prayed who was without sin, how much more it becomes a sinner to pray." It is God's desire that our prayers be powerful and effective.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Praying Effectively

Chuckle: "The healthiest part of a donut is the hole. Unfortunately, you have to eat through the rest of the donut to get there."
Quote: "Prayer is not learned in the classroom but in the closet." --E. M. Bounds
"The (fervent) prayer of a righteous man (person) is powerful and effective. "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops" (James 5:16b-18 NIV).
Sometimes, we think we must call in a prayer "expert" to handle the "heavy-lifting" type prayers for us. Please notice that the Bible says Elijah was a man just like us. You may think you need to get someone else to pray for things you're concerned about. Of course, requesting others to pray for you is a wonderful thing as long as such requests are not driven by a feeling that somehow your own prayers don't carry as much weight with God as the prayers of someone else. You have the same access to the Father as any other Christian. Each of us has the power of prayer at our disposal.
"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Let's consider two types of righteousness:
(1) Imputed righteousness. This is the righteousness of Christ which we have received as Christians. ". . not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ. . ."  (Philippians 3:9 NIV). We have no righteousness of our own. After Christ becomes my Savior, God doesn't see me and my failures -- He sees the righteousness of Jesus that clothes me and secures me as a child of God.
(2) Practical righteousness. 1 John 1:9 tells us "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." If there is unconfessed and unforgiving sin in our lives, we cannot qualify as the righteous person whose prayers are powerful and effective. Sin breaks the link of fellowship with the Father but "The Lord hears the prayers of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29 NIV).
I want to challenge you to become a man or woman of prayer. If you accept this challenge, you can be a mighty force for your Lord, your family, your church, and your community. You may feel you are not as spiritually talented as some, but by seeking God's face in prayer, you can help release God's power which can change lives and rearrange the world.
James 5:16 tell us we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other. Confession and intercession are the tasks of all Christians. These responsibilities are not limited to ministers, priests, or teachers. You see, with the Holy Spirit resident within you, you have the same access to the Father in prayer as any spiritual leader. The problem is that far too few of us exercise that privilege as God would have us to do.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Prayer and Healing, Part 2

Chuckle: "If you put a crouton on your sundae instead of a cherry, it will count as a salad."
Quote: "What cannot be questioned is God's willingness to heal and the provision He has already made for that purpose to be fulfilled." --Colin Urquhart
"Is anyone of you sick: He/she should call the elders of the church to pray over him/her and anoint him/her with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up" (James 5:14-15 NIV).
There are basically four kinds of sicknesses addressed in the Bible:
(1) Sickness leading to death. At some point illness or accident will take our lives regardless of our faith. There is a time to be born and a time to die. "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, . ." (Hebrews 9:27 NIV).
(2) Sickness as discipline. When we rebel against God and dishonor Him, He may allow a sickness to bring us back to Him. In I Corinthians 11, the "Christians" were criticized for the way they participated in the Lord's supper -- they were not genuinely worshiping God. Paul said "That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died). . When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined. . ." (vs. 30, 32 NIV). God disciplines those he loves (Rev. 3:19).
(3) Sickness for God’s glory. John 11 says Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead for God's glory. In John 9, a man was born blind. People asked: "Who sinned that this man is born blind? Was it him or his parents?" Jesus said: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned." Rather, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” It was to bring glory to God.
(4) Spiritual sickness. We should pray when we are sick and hurting spiritually. "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed"  (James 5:16 NIV).
Many of our physical illnesses are the result of sin. Of course, many are not. Alcohol and drug addictions destroy our bodies. Smoking and over eating also harm our bodies. In the same way, sins of resentment, anger, and bitterness can create spiritual sickness.
Someone may have sinned against (hurt) you, but you sin when you harbor resentment and bitterness which literally destroys you spiritually and makes you spiritually sick. The cure for such spiritual illness is to ask God to forgive you for your bitterness, and then ask for forgiveness from the person toward whom you are bitter and angry. Release of such burdens to God in prayer will make you feel better, spiritually.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Prayer and Healing, Part 1

Chuckle: "You know it’s a bad day when you call your spouse and tell her that you'd like to eat out tonight, and when you get home, you find a sandwich on the front porch.
Quote: "The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes." --Martin Luther
"Is anyone of you sick: He/she should call the elders of the church to pray over him/her and anoint him/her with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up" (James 5:14-15 NIV).
The subject of prayer and healing became very personal for me when I dealt with a cancer diagnosis followed by two major surgeries. I became aware of the power of prayer in a fresh and comforting way as I prayed and as many brothers and sisters in Christ prayed with me and for me. If you've experienced something like this, you can understand my feelings.
James says we should pray when we are physically sick. He is also talking about times when we may be too sick and weak to pray because of serious life-threatening illnesses. When you are in this situation, James says you should call the leaders of the church together for prayer.
Anointing with oil was a first century custom (Mark 6:13, Luke 10:34). Oil was used both for medicinal reasons and as a symbol of God's healing power. But the medicinal use of oil is not the issue here. Being anointed is to be symbolically touched with oil -- not rubbed in, poured on, or taken internally as a medicine.
The oil symbolizes the healing power of the Holy Spirit. However, the main teaching is that healing comes through prayer, not the oil. Today, Christians should pray while using all available medical treatments -- always trusting the Great Physician to bring healing. We have seen people healed when we have prayed while others have died. We are reminded that we serve a sovereign God whose ultimate will is expressed in His decision whether or not to heal an illness. We should pray in faith and trust in Him.
“Healing is one of the most striking manifestations of the redemption of our bodies which salvation will bring, but it is an anticipation graciously and mysteriously vouchsafed to some and, equally graciously and mysteriously, withheld from others.”  --John Gunstone 
None of us has everything figured out about Divine healing. Some say God doesn't do miraculous healing today. Not true. But we must understand it is not God's will to heal everyone just because we want it to happen. We should pray but leave the ultimate outcome to God and His sovereign will. Robert Lawford put it this way: "Prayer is not getting our will done in heaven, but getting God's will done on earth."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pray In All Circumstances

Chuckle: "No, the handle on your recliner does not qualify as an exercise machine."
Quote: "The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays." --Soren Kierkegaard
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise . . . Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man (person) is powerful and effective" (James 5:13, 16 NIV).
God didn't give all of us the ability to sing beautifully. He never intended for all of us to preach. He never intended for us to have the same spiritual gifts. But one thing He intended for every believer to do is pray. Prayer can change your life and the world around you. We can sing and we can preach without the power of God, but when we get alone with God to pray, we can't do it in a meaningful way without His power.
James was a man of prayer. He talks about it in Chapter 1, Chapter 4, and here in chapter 5. The main thrust of this passage is the power of prayer and its appropriateness in every life situation. It is said that James became known as "camel knees" because his knees became hard and calloused from spending so much time in prayer. I venture to say none of us prays as we should.
"Eight-ninths of the bulk of an iceberg is below the waterline and out of sight. Only one-ninth is visible above the water's surface. Our prayer-life should be like an iceberg, with about one prayer out of nine being in public group prayer and eight-ninths out of sight in our private prayer time."
When we dip our cup in the ocean of prayer, we come up with more than a cup full of blessing. Nancy Speigelberg put it this way: "Lord I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better I'd have come running with a bucket."
All situations call for prayer -- whether we are experiencing happiness, trouble, or sickness. However, prayer never is a means by which God can be manipulated into doing my will. Faithful disciples accept God's answer to prayer whatever it may be. The same God that created all things, died, and rose again, will listen to you and to me. He will respond as we talk together with Him in faith. This miraculous provision from God himself grants us the privilege of talking and listening to the Almighty God of the universe in the name of Jesus. Wow!!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Foolish Arguments

Chuckle: Visitor: "Wow, you have a lot of flies buzzing around your horses and cows. Do you ever shoo them?" Cowboy: "Naw, we just let them go barefoot."
Quote: "All that is good in you comes from God, all that is bad, spoilt and corrupt comes from yourself." --Jean-Pierre de Caussade
"Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start (quarrels) fights. The Lord's servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people" (2 Timothy 2:23-24 NLT).
We live in a culture where people seem to become more angry and vindictive each day. Some display the attitude that "if you don't agree with me, you are my enemy and I have every right to destroy you." When we become angry with someone, the issues of disagreement often become no longer important -- then we begin to attack his or her character.
I've heard politicians use the expression, "the politics of personal destruction." We seem to be losing the ability to have civil discussions of differing points of view while respecting the value and dignity of the person who disagrees with us. Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to the political arena; it is alive and well among "God's people" in the church.
No doubt, there are people who are difficult to get along with -- those who think their points of view are the only ones that matter. They seem to say, "don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up. As he was instructing young Timothy on the finer points of teaching, Paul saw arguments and quarrels with difficult people as a significant and destructive issue for Timothy and all Christians. Paul says patience and kindness are key to effective teaching and interaction with other people.
Isn't it interesting that patience and kindness are among the fruits of the Spirit along with love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22 NIV). If you find yourself leading a Bible study, preaching, or having a one-on-one theological discussion, remember to respectively listen to questions and opposing points of view and avoid foolish debates and arguments. If you project an attitude of love and kindness, those who oppose you will be much more likely to listen to what you have to say and perhaps be persuaded by the truth of God's Word.
Finally, as we think and pray about dealing with difficult people, we must be careful that we do not appear as difficult in the eyes to those we are trying to teach and influence for our Lord. Common courtesy goes a long way. . .
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Family Traits

Chuckle: A man was looking at himself in a mirror. He said, "I look horrible, I feel fat and ugly. Please pay me a compliment." The wife said, "Your eyesight is near perfect!"
Quote: "Spiritual growth involves a constantly changing conception of a changeless God." --William Arthur Ward
"Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35 NLT). “Listen to your father, who gave you life”  (Proverbs 23:22 NIV). “Honor your father and mother –which is the first commandment with a promise” (Ephesians 6:2 NIV).   
On several occasions, I have been told that my son’s voice sounds like mine, especially during telephone conversations. How often have you observed that someone walks, talks, acts, or looks like his or her parents? We call these characteristics family traits, and we sometimes hear words like, "it runs in the family." We all are aware that the DNA of our parents, grandparents and more distant ancestors determines our physical characteristics and their influence on our lives determines how we sound and how we act.
In our passage, Jesus says if we do the will of God, we are His family. Also, in Ephesians 2:19, we are told that we are "members of God's household." If we are members of His family, our lives will reflect the traits of Jesus -- we will become like Him. People will be reminded of Him when they see or hear us. I'm reminded of the words of the apostle Paul: "Your attitude (mind) should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 NIV). Of course, it is our attitude/mind that determines how we talk and act. It is God's will that we become more and more like Jesus each day and exhibit the family traits that we see in Him.
When Jesus was here on earth, he walked daily in close communion with and submission to His Father. When we do the same things, we share a family trait with Jesus as His brothers and sisters. The Bible tells us that we should "be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV). Our voices and our actions should be modeled after those of our Lord Himself.
Just as children imitate their parents who love them, it should be our desire to imitate our Lord. His great love caused Him to sacrifice Himself for you and me so that we might live. Our love for others should be just like Jesus' love for us -- a love that goes far beyond affection to self-sacrificing service. This kind of love should be a spiritual family trait in the family of Christ. It should run in our family. "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Heart Turns Away, Part 2

Chuckle: "Patient: Doc, what should I do with all the gold and silver in my mouth? Dentist: Don't smile in a bad neighborhood."
Quote: "(God) You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." --St Agustine of Hippo
"But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen for (wilt not hear) my voice and are not obedient), and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship (serve) them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 30:17 combined KJV, NIV, NLT).
Our passage shows the classic pattern for God's people rebelling against Him. This is how it happens.
First, The heart turns away from God. This is the first step in a fractured fellowship with God. Our hearts and minds can be drawn away by selfish ambition, materialism, worldly standards of success, or pursuit of sensual pleasures. The same principle applies to marriage partners. Often, the first step in a troubled marriage occurs when the heart of one partner turns away from the other. What happens when our hearts turn away from God?
Second, We no longer hear God's voice. Communications with God cease. We no longer lift our voices to God in prayer and praise, and we don't want to hear Him speaking to us for fear He will ask us to do something we've already decided we don't want to do. We may stop attending church where we might hear God speak to us. We may reason that as long as we don't hear God, we're not faced with the decision whether or not to obey Him. We become disobedient by not hearing and heeding God's voice. Likewise, communications will stop between marriage partners when the heart of one has turned away. As a pastor and marriage counselor, I've often heard, "he/she doesn't listen to (hear) me any more."
Third, We begin to disobey God. Godly principles that once guided our lives become less important and we no longer obey God's commands. Sadly, if our hearts are far enough away, we may no longer feel guilty about our disobedience because we don't hear God's Spirit dealing with us. The attitude of our hearts and minds control our spiritual ears.
Fourth, We create substitutes for God. When anything takes precedence over our love relationship with our Lord, we have created "other gods." Not only is God dishonored, but we lose the joy of our salvation and daily fellowship with our Lord. This joy can only be restored by making a conscious decision to turn our hearts back toward God, listen intently for His voice, and obey Him. Then our fellowship with Him will be restored and great joy will fill our lives.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Heart Turns Away, Part 1

Chuckle: Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited - until you try to sit in their pews!
Quote: “The hearing ear is always found close to the speaking tongue.” --Douglas Jerrold
"But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen for (wilt not hear) my voice and are not obedient), and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship (serve) them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 30:17 combined KJV, NIV, NLT).
When I was a boy, my family lived in a rural area (back in the sticks) in the mountains of North Arkansas. In the summer, I loved to spend time exploring the woods, streams, and caves around our home. But I knew that about sundown my Mother would step onto the back porch and call me to come in because it was getting late. But often I didn't want to come home because I was having so much fun doing what I wanted to do.
In my childish mind, I came up with the perfect excuse for not answering Mother's call. If I could get far enough away from home at sundown, so that I could not hear her voice, how could she possibly hold me responsible for not obeying her? Later, I could say, "Mom, I didn't hear you calling me!" My heart and mind were turned away to other things which had become more important than listening for and obeying Mother's voice.
I think our attitude toward hearing God's voice is sometimes quite similar. If our hearts are turned away from God and other things become more important than hearing God's voice of instructions for our lives, we will be out of earshot and will not want to hear Him and obey Him.
As a pastor, I have heard Christians say, "I just haven't heard God telling me to take that Sunday School teacher position" -- or some other ministry responsibility within the church. Could it be that some have turned their hearts away from God and can no longer hear Him and don't know if God is speaking to them or not?
To hear God, we must draw near unto Him and listen intently for His voice. When our hearts turn away from God, we have allowed something, or someone, to draw us away and become more important to us than hearing and obeying God. In our passage, we see the classic pattern of God's people rebelling against Him.
This pattern includes: (1) we allow our hearts to turn away from God; (2) because we aren't listening, communication with God stops; (3) we begin to disobey God's commands; then (4) we are drawn away and begin to worship substitute gods. Next time we will look more deeply into each of these steps in rebellion against God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse