Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Disappointment With God

Chuckle: "If you saw a lawyer and an IRS agent drowning and you could only save one of them, would you go to lunch or read the newspaper?"
Quote: "The circumstances of a saint's life are ordained by God. . . All our circumstances are in the hand of God, therefore never think it strange concerning the circumstances you are in." --Oswald Chambers
DISAPPOINTMENT WITH GOD
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:29 NLT).
Let's face it, life is full of disappointments. Sometimes we are even disappointed with God because He doesn't do as we expect Him to do, want Him to do, or think He should do. When it comes to disappointment with God, please remember that God does not conduct Himself by our standards, but rather by what is best for us as He carries out His plan for our lives. God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8 NIV). We should, however, bring our disappointments to God in prayer and be honest with Him. After all, He knows our thoughts anyway, so there's no point in trying to hide them.
You may not always understand why God allows pain to come into your life, but consider that God may be trying to teach you and work his power through you in those circumstances. When you are disappointed with God, it's a good idea to ask God: "Lord, what are you trying to teach me through this experience?"
In our disappointments, it's important that we move toward God, not away from him. Getting angry with God and running from the very one who can help you through your pain is not the way of the spiritually wise. "O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you" (Psalm 63:1 NLT). Listen to and trust God, even when it seems to make no sense.
You can reduce, or eliminate, disappointment with God by putting him first in your life. When we make self all important, we are setting ourselves up for God to disappoint us. But when He is first, our goal is to please Him, not ourselves. Then it becomes much easier for us to understand God's ways and his intentions. "As the Scriptures express it, 'I am placing a stone in Jerusalem, a chosen cornerstone, and anyone who believes in him will never be disappointed'" (I Peter 2:6 NLT).
To believe in Christ means to have faith in Him, to trust Him, and commit our lives to Him. As we place our complete trust in the Lord, our expectations of Him will change. As our Creator, He knows what is best for us and we can learn from Him as He reveals to us His master-plans for our lives. "Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you" (Psalm 55:22 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 28, 2015

Prejudices That God Condemns

Chuckle: A child's comment on the Bible: "Lot's wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire during the night."
Quote: "One may no more live in the world without picking up the moral prejudices of the world than one will be able to go to hell without perspiring." --H. L. Mencken
PREJUDICES THAT GOD CONDEMNS
"Then Peter replied, 'I see very clearly that God doesn't show partiality. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right'" (Acts 10:34-35 NLT).
In my ministry, I have actually heard church members say words like: "We don't want that kind of people in our church. They would not fit in. They are not like us, etc." How sad for us not to realize that the church was not instituted solely to make us feel comfortable, but as a living organism, powered by the Holy Spirit, with a mission of making disciples of All people, without exception. God expressly condemns prejudices based on:
Outward appearances. Prejudicial views toward people based on color, size, shape, or dress, offend our Lord. "Don't judge by his appearance or height. . . . The Lord doesn't make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person's thoughts and intentions" (I Samuel 16:7 NLT). A person’s real value is on the inside.
Unconcern for the poor. God has a special concern for the poor. Providing for the poor is not just a suggestion in the Bible; it is a command that may require a change of attitude. God specifically condemns prejudicial actions against the poor. "Those who oppress the poor insult their Master, but those who help the poor honor him" (Proverbs 14:31 NLT).
Favoring the wealthy. God condemns favoring the wealthy and socially elite over the poor and needy. We should not ignore the wealthy, but we must not favor them for what they can do for us or for our church. God wants us to understand that wealth is not necessarily a measure of character -- and certainly not a measure of a person's value to God. "But if you pay special attention to the rich, you are committing a sin" (James 2:9 NLT).
Social class. We need to remember that God loves people from both sides of the tracks. We must be careful not to only love people who look like us, act like us, talk like us, or even smell like us. During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent much of his time ministering to the needs of the poor, sick, and socially shunned people. Example: the Samaritan woman at the well.
Age. In many societies, the elderly are honored and provided tender care. However, In our society, youth is worshipped and the elderly do not always receive the respect and care they deserve and need.  The Bible speaks on this subject. "Never speak harshly to an older man (person), but appeal to him respectfully as though he were your own father. . . ." (1 Timothy 5:1 NLT). Physical age does not necessarily translate into spiritual maturity, but older Christians often have great wisdom to share and should be made to feel loved and valued.
Our love should be equal for all people because of who they are -- God's precious creation, whom he loved enough to give his one and only Son to die for their sins. When we harbor prejudices against others for any reason, we are being disobedient and committing sin in the eyes of our Lord. "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians -- you are one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 25, 2015

Overcoming Racial Prejudice

Chuckle: The accountant's prayer: "Lord, help me be more relaxed about insignificant details, starting tomorrow at 10:53:16 am, Eastern Daylight Savings Time."
Quote: "Our wholesome attitudes about others can increase the whole sum of our happiness and successful human relations." --William Arthur Ward
OVERCOMING RACIAL PREJUDICE
"Peter told them, 'You know it is against the Jewish laws for me to come into a Gentile home like this. But God has shown me that I should never think of anyone as impure'" (Acts 10:28 NLT).
Last time, we saw Jesus as He crossed racial and cultural barriers to share the Good News with the hated Samaritan woman, and we who follow him must do no less. Peter's vision was a fresh insight for him. Perhaps no prejudice is more dangerous or difficult to displace than one held in place by religious tradition. Place of birth, cultural tradition, color of skin, sex, race, and nationality can also separate us. However, the gospel calls us all together as one family in God's church.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule and considered the father of his country. He is internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolence for achieving political and social progress.  Gandhi says in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the Gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert, since Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a nearby church to attend services. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. Gandhi left and never came back. "If Christians have caste differences also," he said to himself, "I might as well remain a Hindu."
Just stop and think about the impact it could have had on Gandhi's life and India if he had become a Christian. Gandhi's experience is a sad indictment of the "Christians" of his day. However, before we harshly judge those Christians, we would do well to examine our own hearts. What is your attitude toward people of other races and cultures? If you are experiencing prejudice towards someone that is hindering your ability to love and be concerned for that person, you would do well to ask God to help you overcome those feelings and open your heart so you can begin to see that person as God sees him or her.
Above all else, remember that God loves every other person in the world just as much as he loves you. When you are willing, God will give you a new heart and a new love and appreciation for all people. If we harbor prejudices against those of other races, I believe not allowing God to change our hearts and attitudes is an act of disobedience and rebellion against the teachings of Jesus.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living in the Truth

Chuckle: To her doctor: "I have metal fillings in my teeth. My refrigerator magnets keep pulling me into the kitchen. That's why I can't lose weight."
Quote: "The commandment of absolute truthfulness is really only another name for the fullness of discipleship." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer
LIVE IN THE TRUTH
"How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father" (2 John 4 NLT).
Have you thought about all of the places and circumstances in your life where you take truth for granted? When you slide your credit card, you expect truth to prevail and be charged the proper amount for your purchases. When you put fuel into your car, you expect it to be true that you're getting a full measure of gasoline as indicated on the pump. We expect the truth even when there is no easy way for us to verify the truth. As a society, we demand truth in advertising, transparent pricing information, accurate lists of ingredients, and demand compensation when our expectations are not met.
If we expect truth in our relationships, it should come as no surprise that God wants His children to walk and live in the truth of His Word. We should never intentionally distort God's truth either by our words or our actions. God's truth is eternal and never needs updating or revision. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35 NIV). ". . . , but the word of the Lord stands forever" (1 Peter 1:25 NIV). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever"  (Hebrews 13:8 NIV).
An old music teacher picked up a hammer and struck a tuning fork; then said to his friend as the note sounded across the room; "That is A today, it was A five thousand years ago, and it will be A ten thousand years from now. The soprano upstairs sings off-key, the tenor across the hall flats on his high notes, and the piano downstairs is out of tune." He struck the note again and said, "But that is A, my friend, and that's the good news of the day."
In our passage, the apostle John expressed his delight in finding Christians following the truth of God's Word. They were members of the church to which he was writing. He went on to warn them against false teachers who were distorting the truth and discrediting Christianity. If we live with integrity, holiness, and a penchant for absolute truth as God defines it, we will be living in truth. Jesus said, "if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (from sin). . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:31-32, 36 NIV).
“Men turn this way and that in their search for new sources of comfort and inspiration, but the enduring truths are to be found in the word of God.” –Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Grace for the Humble

Chuckle: Mortal: "What is a million years like to you?" God: "Like one second. Mortal: "What is a million dollars like to you?" God: Like one penny. Mortal: "Can I have a penny?" God: "Just a second."
Quote: "Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all he has. It is costly because it costs man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer
GRACE FOR THE HUMBLE
He (God) gives us more and more strength (grace) to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, "God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor (grace) to the humble" (James 4:6 NLT).
If you are a parent or grandparent, your deepest desire is to give the best to your children and grandchildren. You want them to have everything they need to live a healthy and productive lives. You want to instill in them the strength and humility necessary to face the trials and temptations that will surely come. The only things you ask in return is love, respect, and gratitude for what they have received. We want them to be thankful for what they have and unselfish when it comes to giving to others.
In a similar way, God wants to give us more and more grace and strength to help us combat the influences of the world, resist our evil desires, and live as His victorious children. God's amazing love for us is the reason for His amazing grace. As we humble ourselves before God, His grace freely flows to us without interruption. Grace is often defined as God's "unmerited favor." To put grace in perspective, remember that Justice is receiving what we deserve; mercy is not receiving what we deserve; but grace is receiving what we do not deserve. By humbling ourselves, we experience God's mercy and grace.
If a needy man rejected your one dollar gift, you might decide not to give him more. However, if he received the dollar with sincere gratitude, you would be more inclined to give him more. The dollar might be insufficient to meet his total need, but if refused, it would be sufficient to cut him off from further help. If we gratefully and humbly accept what grace God has given us, it opens the door for more and more grace to be given to us.
Pride makes us selfish and causes us to think we deserve all we can see, touch, or imagine. The result is greed and desire for much more than we need. God wants to release us from self-centerdness and evil desires it brings, and to realize that what we really need is more and more of God's grace. This grace comes from a generous God when we honor Him and treat Him with reverence, love, and respect. To receive God's favor and grace, we need to humble ourselves before Him with gratitude. So, the remedy for evil desires begins with humility and ends with an outpouring of God's grace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 21, 2015

Praying In Jesus' Name, Part 3

Chuckle: Why is the person who invests all your money called a broker?
Quote: "Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble; prayer is a life attitude." --Walter A. Mueller
RESULTS OF PRAYING IN JESUS' NAME
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11 NIV). "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:23b-24 NIV).
In our last two studies, we have seen that praying in Jesus' name is the only way to gain access to the Father. Also, we saw that we must remain joined to Jesus and hide his words in our hearts if we are to expect to receive what we ask of God. We must pray according to the character and will of Jesus. Today, let's focus on how our lives will change if we pray this way.
We can readily see in our passages that our joy is of primary concern to our Lord. He shares the secrets of living in complete harmony and fellowship with him which will bring about this joy. He also says that when we sincerely pray in the name of Jesus, we will receive the desires of our hearts and our joy as Christians will be complete.
Previously, people had approached God through priests as mediators. After Jesus resurrection, any believer could approach God directly. A new day has dawned and now all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9), talking with God personally. That's why Jesus said his disciples had not previously asked anything in his name. When we pray in Jesus' name:
(1) our joy will be complete -- it is dependent upon exercising the privilege of prayer. Prayer is the spiritual life-sustaining breath to the believer. A praying Christian is a joyful and happy Christian. (2) God's power will be evident through in and through us. Someone has said, “Prayer is the only omnipotence God grants us.”                                                                                                             (3) We will receive increased spiritual illumination. This new spiritual insight then allows us to increasingly pray in more perfect accord with His character and his will.
Our rewards for praying according to the will of the our Lord in Jesus' name will be answered prayers, sweet fellowship in His presence, and complete joy. The disciples no longer could rely on Jesus' physical presence for strength, comfort, and joy. The new experience of asking in the name of the ascended Christ brought them new power and new joy. Such power and joy remain available to all believers today.
Let me close with the words of Leonard Ravenhill. "The church has many organizers, but few agonizers; many who pay, but few who pray; many resters, but few wrestlers; many who are enterprising, but few who are interceding. The secret of praying is praying in secret. A worldly Christian will stop praying and a praying Christian will stop worldliness. Tithers build a church, but tears will give it life. In the matter of effective praying, never have so many left so much to so few. Brothers and sisters, let us pray."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 18, 2015

Praying in Jesus' Name, Part 2

Chuckle: "The man who is forever criticizing his wife's judgment never seems to question her choice in a husband!!"
Quote: "Don't pray to escape trouble. Don't pray to be comfortable in your emotions. Pray to do the will of God in every situation. Nothing else is worth praying for." --Samuel M. Shoemaker
HOW TO PRAY IN JESUS' NAME:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . . If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:7-8 NIV).
Last time, we saw that it is only through Jesus that we have access to the Father (John 14:6). We heard Jesus tell us that whatever we ask for in His name He would give it to us. I posed the question: "Does this mean we can ask anything our hearts desire in Jesus' name and God is obligated to grant our request?" I then said the answer is both "yes" and "no."
In our passage for today, Jesus answers this question by laying out the conditions for praying/ asking in His Name and having what we ask given to us. If we meet this condition, we can pray in Jesus' name with confidence that our requests will be granted. That condition: "If you remain in me (joined to me) and my words remain in you."
Just as branches are one with the vine/tree, in Jesus' analogy, God desires that we be one with Christ. If we remain in Him, we will realize that all our spiritual sustenance comes from Him through his Spirit within us. We will learn to depend upon Him and grow to (1) Understand the mind of Christ and think more like Him; (2) Understand His will, His ways, and His words; (3) Pray the will of the vine which Christ will honor; and (4) Ask only for that which is consistent with His character.
Suppose you send your child off to college with a credit card for use in meeting legitimate financial needs. You would never expect that child to use the card for purchases that are not consistent with your character. You would not expect that child to purchase pornography, drugs, alcohol, etc. Likewise, if we remain in Christ, we will not try to use our spiritual line of credit for selfish requests not consistent will His character and His will.
If we remain in Him and He is in us, we will pray in His name, ask unselfishly, listen to the Vine, and we will bear fruit. James 4:3 NIV says, "When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your (selfish) pleasures." God will not grant requests contrary to His character (nature) or His will, and we cannot use His name as a magic formula to fulfill our selfish desires. If we are sincerely following God and seeking His will, then our requests will be in line with what He wants, and He will grant them.
Our motive for everything in our prayers should be to glorify God and help us bear fruit. Notice that Jesus said His granting our requests "is to my Father's glory." We bring glory to the Father when we pray according to His will. Because our hearts have been reconditioned by His Spirit, we can now pray for anything our hearts desire and we will receive.
Finally, when we get to this point in our relationship with our Lord (the Vine), we will pray with complete faith. Jesus said, "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24 NIV). James puts it this way: "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Praying In The Name Of Jesus, Part 1

Chuckle: "God put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind, I will live forever."
Quote: "Man is never so tall as when he kneels before God -- never so great as when he humbles himself before God. And the man who kneels to God can stand up to anything." --Louis H. Evans
PRAYING IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 NIV).
For a Christian, praying should be as natural as breathing. In the same way that breathing is the body's physical response to the presence of air around us, so prayer should be the response of spiritual life to the presence of God's Spirit who is also around us, in us, and with us. Prayer is our spiritual breath and is indispensable for our spiritual life.
We talk a lot about prayer, and many attempt to pray. Some understand the secret to a powerful prayer that God will honor -- others do not. Praying in Jesus' Name is the only acceptable way for us to pray. Often, when we come to the end of our prayer, we say something like, "I pray these things in the Name of Jesus, Amen." Do we really think about the meaning of these words, and their importance to the effectiveness of our prayers?
If I'm not careful, I catch myself repeating these words at the end of my prayer without even thinking about them. I find myself saying them out of habit. In reality, they are the most important words we pray. If we are serious about praying with power, we must learn: (1) what it means to pray in Jesus' name, (2) how to pray in Jesus' name, and (3) the results of praying in Jesus' name. First: What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?
"And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:13-14 NIV). Jesus said He would do whatever we ask in His name -- thus validating his oneness with the Father. In this promise, does Jesus mean we have the right to ask anything our hearts desire, and be assured the request will be granted? The answer is "yes" and "no." We'll discover what I mean in our next two studies.
The name of Jesus is our authorization, or legal warrant, to enter into God's presence in prayer. As we saw in John 14:6, the only way for us to approach the Father is through Jesus. To have access to the throne of grace, there is no other way. Praying in His name gives legitimacy to our prayers and testifies as to the condition of our hearts.
"A father took his children to the county fair. He bought a roll of tickets to the rides. At one ride, a strange boy came and held out his hand for a ticket. The father drew back his hand. But then his son Stephen said, 'It's OK, Dad, this is my friend and I told him you would give him a ticket.' The father gave the boy the ticket in his son's name, even though the boy did not deserve the ticket."
When Jesus says we can ask for anything, we must remember that our asking must be in His name and consistent with his character and will.  More on this subject next time.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cure For Lukewarm Christians

Chuckle: "Mama," asked the little girl, "if men go to heaven, too, why don't angels have whiskers?" "Because, dear," her mother answered, "men get to heaven by a very close shave." --Gertrude Pierson
Quote: “Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.” --Elie Wiesel
CURE FOR LUKEWARM CHRISTIANS
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are Lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV).
If, after yesterday's lesson, you find yourself "lukewarm" toward God and His church and you have been convicted by the Holy Spirit of your need to change, how would God have you go about it?
First, we must see ourselves as God sees us. If we have grown indifferent, comfortable, self-reliant, content, and without a burning spiritual purpose, we are lukewarm. Each of us has likely been lukewarm at some point in our Christian life, but God does not want us to stay that way.
Second, we must have a sincere desire to change. This desire comes from the Holy Spirit as we yield to His direction. This may be where you are right now. If so, please listen to these words from our Lord to the lukewarm Christians in the church of Laodicea. "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on you eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 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 (fellowship) with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:18-20 NIV).
Third, we must repent and allow God to change us. Let Him totally rework our attitudes and priorities. Listen to these words with an open heart! "Never be lacking in zeal (lazy in your work), but keep your spiritual fervor (enthusiasm) in serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11 NIV). "Maintain your spiritual glow" (Moffett). Also, the psalmist says, "Zeal (passion) for your (God's) house consumes (burns within) me" (Psalm 69:9 NIV). Repentance and cleansing are the keys to regaining that spiritual fervor. Our renewed zeal will result in the following (See Romans 12:12):
(1) We will be a joyful people. "Be joyful in hope." (2) We will endure difficulties with patience. "Be patient in affliction." (3) We will "Be faithful in prayer." (4) We will serve others. "Share with God's people who are in need." (5) We will "Practice hospitality to everyone" (Romans 12:12-13 NIV). (6) We will seek opportunities for service. The body of Christ (church) "grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work"  (Ephesians 4:16 NIV). (7) We will speak boldly about Jesus. "For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20 NIV). (8) We will not neglect church attendance and fellowship. "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).
God's kingdom, and this church, urgently need God's people to return to the "red-hot" zeal for Him and His work. We need spiritual revival! We need to get excited. We need to get back to the basics of being a Christian: (1) One in whom Jesus dwells; (2) One whose life Jesus controls; and (3) One through whom Jesus is revealed. If you have slipped into spiritual apathy, indifference, or unconcern, won't you ask God's forgiveness and ask Him to restore the joy and excitement of your salvation and the fervor for His service. Become a contributing and happy Christian.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lukewarm Christians

Chuckle: "I wonder why people say 'amen' and not 'awomen'? Bobby asked. His little friend replied, "Because they sing 'hymns' and not 'hers,' silly?"
Quote: “The danger of our becoming lukewarm is not from without—the danger is within.” --Reed Smoot
LUKEWARM CHRISTIANS
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are Lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV).
Laodicea was a wealthy city that had always had a problem with its water supply. At one time, an aqueduct brought water to the city from some hot springs. But by the time the water reached the city, it was neither hot nor refreshingly cool -- only lukewarm. Because the Laodiceans had become lukewarm, they had become distasteful to the Lord - like a lukewarm drink. This metaphor describes a church that had become complacent and self-satisfied, and was destroying itself with the status-quo. They saw no need for change nor to be concerned.
I believe there is nothing more repugnant to God than a lukewarm, half-hearted, self-sufficient Christian or church. There should be excitement, zeal, and fervor in everything we do for our Lord. "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11 NIV). However, sadly, the greatest sickness that plagues the church today is half-hearted complacency by its members. What constitutes a Lukewarm-warm Christian?
First, lukewarm Christians are not those who stay home on Sundays without cause and make no pretense of living for God. No, those are the "cold" ones. However, these seem to be more preferable to God than the lukewarm ones because they are not pretending to be something they are not. "I wish you were (hot or cold) one or the other." On the other hand, the "Lukewarm" ones are the ones who may attend church, but give little of their attention, time, finances, and energy in worship or service to our Lord.
Second, to the lukewarm Christian, church has become little more than a ritual in their lives. They attend and go through the motions of worship -- and feel they have fulfilled their religious duty for the week. They don't give much serious thought to spiritual matters again until the next time they take their Sunday clothes out of the closet. Their lives do not reflect active service for their Lord.
Third, the lukewarm Christian has a sense of contentment and peace about their Christianity. They are unaware of how far they are from where God wants them to be. Jesus said to the Laodiceans, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Revelation 3:17 NIV).
Each of us has become "Lukewarm" at some point in our Christian experience. However, this is not a state in which God wants us to remain. The longer we stay in this lukewarm state, the more hardened and calloused our hearts become to the wooing of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to draw us back into a love relationship with our Lord. He wants us to be happy, loving, excited, and active Christians deeply involved in the fellowship and ministries of the local church.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 14, 2015

From Facts to Faith

Chuckle: "My doctor told me to start my exercise program very gradually. So, today, I drove past a store that sells sweat pants."
Quote: "Faith consists in believing not what seems true, but what seems false to our understanding." --Voltaire
FROM FACTS TO FAITH
"This Good News tells us how God makes us right (righteous) in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has (eternal) life'" (Romans 1:17 NLT). "The righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22 NIV). "So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith" (Hebrews 11:6a NLT).
My heart breaks when I see a person who just cannot (or will not) make the transition from believing the facts about Jesus Christ to placing his/her faith (trust) in Him as personal Lord and Savior. Many of these are good people, morally. The Scriptures, including many words from Jesus Himself, teach us to live clean moral lives as evidenced by integrity, compassion, kindness, and ministry to others. But is living a morally good life enough?
By both words and actions, many have come express their intellectual belief in the facts about Jesus and have adopted His moral teachings as the standard for their lives. In essence they say, "If I do my best to live a good life and treat others as I would like to be treated, then I will be right with God." Nothing could be further from the truth. This attitude begs the question; how good is good enough? Answer: None of us can ever be good enough to please God or earn the salvation of our eternal souls and gain entrance into heaven. Faith is the only way. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Trying to earn your salvation by any means except sincere faith in Jesus Christ is to proclaim yourself as God and, as such, see yourself as fully capable of preparing for eternity in your own strength. Please don't let Satan entice you into adopting this mindset. Instead, let the love of Christ draw you into placing your faith in Him and Him alone. If being good was the solution to our sin problem, why did Jesus need to die?
Please go back up to our Scripture passages and read them prayerfully with an open mind and allow God's Holy Spirit to give you the courage to begin living by faith every day. If you have not done so, pray to receive Jesus Christ into your life, trust Him as Savior and Lord, and commit your life to Him by serving Him. Then receive the joy which awaits you in Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 11, 2015

Stepping Stone Or Stumbling Block

                           11 Remembrance Clip Art        Lest We Forget

Chuckle: Places to visit: "I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump to get there, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore."

Quote: "Appreciation is thanking, recognition is seeing, and encouragement is bringing hope for the future." --Anonymous

STEPPING STONE OR STUMBLING BLOCK

"Think of (consider) ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24 NLT).

I once read about an elderly lady who said: "As a Christian, you can either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block. It's your choice." As I thought about this passage and this woman's statement, I realized that, at times, I have been both a stumbling block and a stepping stone to others. We are always being one or the other depending upon the one we choose to be.

"Think of" and "consider" are translations of a word that means a kind of rivalry. The thought may be translated, "let us rival one another as we stir up, spur, and encourage one another to love others and do good deeds for them." This is a kind of rivalry which is not contentious or bitter but both constructive and productive. It is a spiritual rivalry which causes us to utilize all our spiritual resources as we encourage and rival one another in love and acts of kindness.

Every day we make choices that influence the lives of those around us. Not making a choice is to choose to be a stumbling block -- there is no neutral ground. We are either encouraging others by our words and actions or we are discouraging others by our words and actions. Just as Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters," we cannot be neutral. There is no such thing as Christian non-responsibility.

Think with me about your life. Do you know fellow believers who need a kind word, a pat on the back, or an understanding ear to listen? Have you chosen to be a stepping stone by spurring other Christians on toward greater faithfulness? When you choose to make a difference, you not only benefit your brothers and sisters but bring great joy to yourself as well. It's been my experience that a serving Christian is a happy Christian.

If we take the time to be sensitive to the needs of others, with the accompanying opportunities for service, we can be stepping stones. Being a stepping stone may be as simple as making a phone call, sending an e-mail, or posting a thoughtful card. Or it may mean making significant personal sacrifices of time, money, and effort to help and encourage other believers. If we choose to do so, you and I can brighten the day of someone and be a stepping stone for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 7, 2015

Courage to Face Death

Chuckle: "You know you're getting old when you bend over in the morning to tie your shoes and realize you didn't take them off the night before!"
Quote: "It is we ourselves and not outward circumstances who make death what it can be, a death freely and voluntarily accepted." -- Deitrich Bonhoeffer
COURAGE TO FACE DEATH
"For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord" (Romans 14:7 NLT). "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:54-55 NLT).
The Bible has much to say about death: it's certainty, its meaning, and its defeat for the Christian. For those facing imminent death and suffering severe pain, death often becomes a welcomed relief. But most of us want to avoid death as long as possible. The will to survive has to be the strongest instinctive human trait.
As Christians, I think we are most afraid of the process of dying rather than death itself. We often talk about having no fear of death, but most of us want to live in this life as long as possible. Having said this, every one of us should be planning for the day our lives will end. Life is so terribly brief, fragile, and uncertain. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, much less next month or next year. "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'" (James 4:14-15 NIV).
It takes faith and God-given courage to look death in the face and see it for what it is: the transition from this earthly physical life to our eternal life in God's presence in a place the Bible calls heaven. And the truth of God's Word is that when we know God through faith in Jesus Christ, we should not waste our time worrying about or dreading death. We should not be afraid. Instead, we should spend our time preparing for it. By his resurrection, Jesus was victorious over sin, death, and the grave.
How then can we have the courage to face our death without fear? It's really very simple -- we must surrender our lives totally to Jesus Christ and trust him completely in death as well as in life. As we claim his promises of our resurrection and eternal life, he will give us all the courage we need -- even to face death. "Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me." (Psalm 23:4 NLT).
"There are many instances of those whose faith has triumphed in the hour of death. D. L. Moody, the great evangelist of the past century, said on his deathbed, 'Earth is receding, heaven is approaching. This is my crowning day!'"
In summary, the reality of death casts a frightening shadow over our lives because we are entirely helpless to prevent it. Death may be delayed by healthy living habits, but it cannot be avoided and comes to each of us. ". . . it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment . . ." (Hebrews 9:27 KJV). But there is One who promises to walk with us through death's dark valley and bring us safely to the other side. We, then, should have the courage to fearlessly follow the Good Shepherd who has promised us eternal comfort and peace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Will You Be Remembered?

Chuckle: A three year-old kissed his Mom goodnight. "I love you so much, that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window."
Quote: "As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death." --Leonardo da Vinci 
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED?
"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him . . ." (Psalm 103:15-17 NIV).
If you are a Christian, no doubt you are well versed on God's eternal plan for you following your physical death. This morning, I want to share with you about death from a different perspective. Let's begin with these questions: If you were to die today, how would you be remembered? How do you want to be remembered by your family, friends, and acquaintances after you are gone? What would you like people to say about your life?
I think most of us would answer these questions something like this: "I would like to be remembered as a godly, kind, loving, caring, compassionate, and giving person -- as a good parent who gave his best to his family, etc." I doubt any of us would say we want to be remembered by how much money we made, the size of the house in which we lived, or the kind of car we drove. Yet, many of us are driven by a selfish desire for such material things in this life. However, when we come face to face with the prospect of death, our values immediately take on a more wholesome and spiritual quality. How about those values while you live?
So, you must live today the way you want to be remembered. People's opinions of you are being formed today by what you say and do; and each of us would be wise to pause and think about how we would want to be remembered, then work our way backwards to the present. Then start doing those things: loving, serving, giving, etc.
At the end of your life, what evidence will there have been that you were a Christian? Jesus said, "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:16 NIV). Here are some things that will determine how we are remembered, according to A. W. Tozer:  1. What we want most. 2. What we think most about. 3. How we use our money. 4. What we do with our leisure time. 5. The company we enjoy. 6. Who and what we admire. 7. What we laugh at.
Robert Morris said, "I hate funerals and would not attend my own if it could be avoided, but it is well for every person to stop once in a while to think of what sort of a collection of mourners he is training for his final event."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Adversity Brings Blessings

Chuckle: "The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public." --George Jessel
Quote: When you think of the blessings of God, remember one child's description of an elevator: "I got into this little room and the upstairs came down." --Unknown Author
ADVERSITY BRINGS BLESSINGS:
"The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41 NLT). "God blesses the people who patiently endure testing" (James 1:12 NLT).
Have you ever thought of blessings being the outcome of persecution and suffering? It is alien to the world's way of thinking to say that adversity and suffering could be reasons for rejoicing. However, sometimes the greatest blessings come out of difficult times because these experiences can serve to deepen your relationship with your Lord and dependence upon Him.
Our passage is referring to the beatings Peter and others had suffered. This was the first time any apostles had been physically abused for their faith. But to them such abuse was reason for joy. They fully understood how Jesus had suffered on their behalf and praised God for allowing them to share in that suffering -- to be persecuted for their Lord.
When I think about blessings coming as a result of trials and troubles, I'm reminded of the beatitudes. "Blessed (happy) are those who mourn, are persecuted, are insulted." To be happy and blessed when everything is going wrong requires viewing life from God's perspective. Such blessings come solely from our relationship with Jesus Christ.
The rewards from having Christ in your life can make all the adversity and trials of this life appear as insignificant compared to the joy of belonging to him. For blessings to come from adversity, that adversity must be the result of our faithfulness to our Lord. If trouble comes to us because of our sinful actions, there's no way God can bless us. However, when we suffer trials, persecution, or other hardship because of our loyalty to Christ, He will be with us all the way.
"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad -- because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world" (I Peter 4:12-13 NLT). Be happy if you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God will come upon you . . . it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his wonderful name" (I Peter 4:14, 16 NLT).
The apostle Paul puts joy and praise into perspective because of God's blessings for his people. "How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ" Ephesians 1:3 NLT). Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, . . ." Someone has said, "A brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks."
Love, Jerry & Dotse