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
"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
"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
"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
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 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
"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 
"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