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

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