Friday, October 30, 2015

When Crises Come

Chuckle: "I'd really like to die in my sleep like my grandfather. Not kicking and screaming like those others riding in the car with him."
Quote: "It is motive alone that gives character to the actions of men." --Jean De La Bruyere
"Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, 'My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.' So Jesus went with him" (Mark 5:22-24 NIV).
As a pastor, my heart has often been deeply moved as I stood in the pulpit and looked out over a congregation, many of whom were suffering through severe crises in their lives. There's the wife of an abusive husband. There's the grieving family who recently lost a loved one. There's a husband and father who has just lost his job. There are the parents in extreme emotional pain because of a rebellious child. These are only examples of the pain and heartache that people suffer. Each of these situations represents a serious need for a loving, caring, ministering hand.
More than likely you have been the recipient of a ministry of kindness and love in your own life in a time of crisis. If so, you are keenly aware of the comfort you felt from just knowing someone cared. Knowing that someone loves you enough to share your burden or hurt gives added strength to see you through even the most difficult of times. Jairus' heart was broken at the plight of his beloved daughter, and because of his sorrow, he set aside his pride and threw himself at the feet of Jesus. He was desperate for help and recognized both his need and his helplessness.
If you are suffering through a crises, the lesson for you here is that you must seek help if you are to make it through. Likewise, if you are aware of a crisis in someone else's life, Jesus would have you be sensitive to that need, as He was, and be willing to do what ever it takes to help that person endure the crisis and be strengthened by it. Because of his love and compassion, Jesus went with the man and restored life to his little girl who had died even as Jairus was searching for Jesus.
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes what our reaction should be to those in crises and need. We are to visit the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, satisfy the thirsty, etc. Jesus saw such actions as indicative of our relationship with him, and he had harsh words for those who choose to ignore the needs in people's lives around them. We are taught to imitate Jesus in our ministry to others, and do so with the same love and compassion he has shown us.
So, if you are in a crisis, first draw close to your Lord, then swallow your pride, and seek help. If you know someone in crisis, make the time to minister to that need in the name of Jesus as you would want someone to minister to you. It is a struggle for each of us as Christians to find the right words or action that will help alleviate the pain. But the important thing is for us to be willing to help. Then God will show us the best way to minister to a given need. God will bless you as you bless others!
 Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Jesus Is Always In The Boat

Chuckle: "Did you say that you fell over 50 feet but didn't hurt yourself? Yes, I was trying to get to the back of the bus."
Quote: "It was a Person that God gave, it is a Person that we need, and it is a Person that we accept by faith.” --Walter Lewis Wilson
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" (Mark 4:37-38 NIV)
Jesus and the disciples were in a boat together when a fierce storm came up. Think about the storms in your life -- the situations that cause you great anxiety, fear, and maybe even panic. Through this account, Jesus taught his disciples, and us, a beautiful lesson about our faith during the storms of life. Here are four wonderful principles Jesus teaches us.
First: Even though Jesus was in the boat, the storm still came. This reminds me that even though Jesus is always with us in the form of his indwelling Spirit, storms will continue to rage in our lives. Jesus never promised that our lives would be free of troubles and trials. No, just the opposite is true. He tells us we will encounter these difficult times, but that he is ultimately in control and will give us strength to see us through them. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take Heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV)
Second: Even though a storm was raging, Jesus still slept. During our storms of life, it's tempting sometimes to think that God is sleeping, has deserted us, or just doesn't care. The disciples had seen Jesus perform many miracles and he had taught them much about faith and his kingdom. But, somehow their faith and trust in him became weakened, or non-existent when faced with a difficult situation. Jesus says, "And surely I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b NIV). "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5b NIV).
Third: Even though Jesus was present, the disciples were still terrified. Whatever your difficulty, you have two options: You can worry and assume that Jesus no longer cares; or you can resist fear, putting your trust in him. When you feel like panicking, confess your need for God and then trust him to take care of you. "In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal men do to me?" (Psalm 56:4 NIV).
Fourth: Even though they had little or no faith, Jesus still saved them. Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" The beautiful lesson here is that, if we belong to Christ, he will never release us out of his tender love and care. Not only will he give us the strength and peace to deal with life's storms, but we have the assurance that ultimately we belong to him and he has saved us for eternity.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Being A Good Neighbor Family

Chuckle: "Middle age is when the broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places!"
"I do not ask for mighty words To leave the crowd impressed; But grant that my life may ring so true My neighbor may be blessed." --Unknown Author
"Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8 HCSB). "Love does no harm to a neighbor. . ." (Romans 13:10 HCSB).
Christianity is a religion of relationships -- a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and relationships with other people. One lady made this observation: "I've watched Christian families over the years. One thing I have noticed is that they seem to be more interested in being at church day and night for meetings or services than in developing their family relationships. Why should I sacrifice my family in order to serve God?" Unfortunately, this observation has a ring of truth for some of us. It is our responsibility to model the Biblical Christian family for our neighbors and let them see the love of Christ demonstrated by the way we live day by day?
In this technological society, more and more communications are being conducted electronically and interpersonal exchanges and relationships are suffering as a result. Kids live on their cell phones, watching television, listening to their ipods, or playing video games. Families seem to spend less and less time together. Next door neighbors often do not know one another's names and never develop personal relationships. As Christians, our goal should be to model the life of Jesus. He sought one-on-one encounters with people of all walks of life and he taught us to love our families and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
How many of our neighbors see Christ being modeled in your life and mine? Because of our reluctance to build warm relationships with family and neighbors, how many are forced to observe our Christian life from a distance and form their opinions about Christianity based on those observations? To live out the sacrifice of worship is a Christian duty that extends beyond our church families to how we live as citizens, family members, and neighbors.
In our passage, Paul's emphasis is on the obligation of Christians to love others -- an obligation that can never be paid in full since the law of love has no limits. This love should extend well beyond our own church families to non-Christian neighbors -- the kind of self-sacrificing love produced only by God's Holy Spirit.
I encourage you to reflect on the quality of your relationships with others, beginning with your own family and nearby neighbors. Is your life one that draws others to Christ or pushes them away? Jesus socialized with sinners who considered him a friend. How do your neighbors see you -- as engaging or isolated? Do they know you up close, from a distance, or not at all?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spirit Controlled Life

Chuckle: A child's comment on the Bible: "Christians have only one spouse. This is called monotony."
Quote: "God has given us the freedom to withstand the Holy Spirit's activity in our lives. When we ignore, disobey, or reject what the Spirit is telling us, we quench His activity in us." --Henry Blackaby
"Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control your life" (Ephesians 5:18 NLT).
Here, Paul contrasts getting drunk with wine, which produces a temporary feeling of "euphoria," to being filled with the Spirit, which produces lasting joy in a Spirit-controlled life. We should not be concerned about how much of the Holy Spirit we have but rather how much of us the Holy Spirit has.
As a branch subjects itself to the will of the tree, we should subject ourselves daily to the Spirit's control and draw constantly on His life-giving power to produce fruit in our lives. We have a choice every day we live: to be in control of our lives ourselves, or to be controlled by God's Holy Spirit. Which do you prefer? If we choose to allow the Spirit to fill us and control us, this choice involves two things.
First, it means saying "no" to self. There can only be one controller of the Christian life -- the Spirit or self. You must recognize that you are not your own; you are bought with a price -- the blood of Jesus. You must dethrone "self." "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23 NIV). "In every person's heart there's cross and a throne. You are on the throne until you put yourself on the cross. If you refuse the cross, you remain on the throne." --A.W. Toser
Second, you must enthrone Jesus every day as the Lord of your life. When you really make Jesus your Lord, there is love, joy, peace, etc. These are the first fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22. This means that you have made Jesus Lord after his Holy Spirit awakened a need in you. This awakening is the work of the Spirit and it is He who gives you the desire to make Jesus Lord and allow His Spirit to fill and control your life.
To be filled with the Spirit is to be continually controlled by Him. The words in Ephesians 5:18 literally mean: ". . . . let the Holy Spirit continually fill and control you." This means a daily walk with, and remaining in, Christ and continually being filled with the Spirit. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "if you remain in me and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit." Is He, at this very moment. controlling you?
There are two prerequisites to being filled with the Spirit. (1) First, I must instantly confess my sin. The moment I become aware of a sin in my life, I need to confess it and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9). (2) Second, I must practice immediate obedience to God. The moment God's Spirit impresses on me the need to minister, witness, pray, or whatever, I will obey. These two practices will lead to continually being filled by the Spirit.
When we begin to love Jesus and begin to enthrone Him as the Lord of our lives and begin to appropriate the fullness of the Holy Spirit, everywhere we go we will be witnessing for Christ and sharing his love. Unselfish service and ministry are indications of a Spirit controlled life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 23, 2015

Prioritizing Our Prayers

Chuckle: "Pharaoh's daughter was a great financier -- she went down to the banks of the Nile and drew out a little prophet."
Quote: "Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jesus said: "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one'" (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV). Some late manuscripts add: "for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
The "Lord's Prayer" is quoted widely and has been beautifully set to music. It ranks with up there with John 3:16 as a beloved passage. These words from Jesus were meant to teach His disciples and us how to pray. Perhaps it is more accurate to call this the "Model Prayer." To me, John 17 is more appropriately called the "Lord's Prayer." But, as most do, we will call our passage the "Lord's Prayer." When we pray, we are tempted to jump right in with our shopping list of personal requests for God to grant. But let's look at how Jesus prioritized the contents of this model prayer.
First, we take time to focus our prayer on God, not our requests. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." In reverence and awe, we are to seek the face of God and express the content of our hearts in worship. By addressing God as our Father, we are acknowledging Him as not only majestic and holy, but as the very personal, caring and loving God. We praise Him for who He is and for His loving relationship with us.
Second, Our concern is for God's universal spiritual kingdom. "your kingdom come." In verse 33, Jesus said: "But seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these (material) things will be given to you as well." As we become concerned about the broader work of God's kingdom, our selfish desires fade into the background. Our concern for the kingdom also reveals our confidence that God will meet our needs.
Third, Our desire is for God's will to be done, not ours. "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Here, we must resist the temptation to put our personal desires ahead of God's will for our lives. If we have adequately conditioned our hearts through worship, we can say with joy that God's will is paramount and we exchange our wills for His. We acknowledge that His will is best for us. We want His perfect will to be accomplished in all things.
Fourth, Now we are prepared to make our personal requests to God, including our physical needs as He wills. "Give us today our daily bread." We may think we provide for our physical needs ourselves by our ingenuity and hard work. But when we ask God for His provision, we acknowledge that He is our sustainer and provider. He wants us to ask even though "your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (vs. 8).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 16, 2015

Living Without Fear

Chuckle: "A little boy had a part in the school play that read, 'It is I; be not afraid.' He came out on the stage and said, 'It's me and I'm scared!'"
Quote: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4 (NIV).
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. . . When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. . . You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:1-5 NIV)
Webster defines "fear" as, "That strong sense of personal danger whether real or imagined." There are many kinds of fears today: (1) Physical fears (cancer and other illnesses); (2) Financial fears (bills, losing job, etc.); (3) Future fears (divorce, aloneness, etc.); (4) Family fears (for children, parents, etc); (5) Fear of rejection; (6) Fear of the unknown - FEAR!
We all can have fears. But God does not want his children to be afraid. Today, God has a message of assurances that will calm your fears and restore peace and contentment to your life. Our passage gives three primary reasons why you should not fear.
First, God has redeemed you. To redeem means to buy someone out of slavery. God delivered the Hebrew people from over 400 years (1700-1300 b.c.) of physical slavery in Egypt. Even more miraculous is the truth that God has redeemed you from the slavery of sin by the blood of Jesus and delivered you from the fear of spending eternity separated from his presence. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed . . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (I Pet. 1:18 NIV).
Second, God says, "I am with you." In all of life's trials, He is with us. In verse 2, God says "when," not if, you pass through troubled times (waters, rivers, storms, fires, trials, problems). The psalmist wrote, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4 NIV). Are you walking through the valley of the shadow of depression, discouragement, despair, disease? As your Savior, Christ is always with you. "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart" (Isaiah 40:11 NIV). "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we can say with confidence, the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid" (Heb. 13:5-6 NIV).
Third, God loves you. He says, "You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you." The King of the universe thinks you are well worth His Son dying for you. You're precious in his sight (valuable and rare) like a Rembrandt. You're honored, which means you carry weight with God. "Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you" (I Peter 5:7 NIV).
To see how much God loves you, just substitute your name for "the world" in John 3:16. Jesus loves you unconditionally just the way you are. Max Lucado put it this way: If God carried a wallet, your picture would be in it. God will not abandon you -- because he loves you. If you have Christ as Savior, you need not be afraid. You and I can say with the psalmist, "When I'm afraid, I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will never be afraid, what can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 12, 2015

Praying For Our Loved Ones

Chuckle: "I haven't spoken to my wife in 18 months. I don't like to interrupt her." --Red Skelton
Quote: "Prayer moves the hand which moves the world." --John Aikman Wallace
"It (this letter) is written to Timothy, my true child in the faith. May God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace" (I Timothy 1:2 NLT).
My wife, children, and grandchildren are so very precious to me that praying for them is as natural as breathing. Such prayers emanate from a heart filled with gratitude to God for sharing them with me and allowing me to enjoy the blessings they bring to my life. I'm thankful for the privilege of approaching Almighty God, in the name of Jesus, on behalf of those I love. We can look to Scripture to learn how to pray for those closest to us. Notice the three specific gifts that Paul requested for his beloved son in the faith, Timothy.
First, he prayed that grace would be extended to Timothy. God's grace is his unmerited favor and the gifts He grants us reflect His abundant love and compassion for His own. In other words, grace is receiving what we do not deserve. It is through grace that God relates to us and allows us to experience His presence. God's grace brings us daily blessings even during difficult times. Most important, It is by God's grace through faith that we are saved. (Ephesians 2:8). But after we are saved, his grace blessings just keep on coming. "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 1:14 NIV).
Second, he prayed that Timothy would be granted mercy. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. Each of us deserves punishment for our sins, but our merciful God, who wants everyone to be saved, provided his own Son to receive our punishment. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 NIV). God, in his merciful patience, delays our punishment until we have had a chance to accept His gift of salvation. Nothing is more important than our praying that our loved ones will come to know Christ as Savior and Lord.
Third, he prayed that Timothy would be granted peace. Peace comes to us when we become confident that God's grace and mercy has been granted to us. Genuine peace will come when we claim the promise that his grace and mercy will give us sustenance even in the most troubling of times. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7 NIV). The knowledge that God forgives us, even when we fail him, brings us indescribable peace.
Jesus' own words help us to understand the difference in His peace and the peace that comes from the world. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27 NIV). Henry Blackaby says, "The world seeks to sedate us from the problems we face through counseling or drugs or temporary pleasures. The peace that God gives goes right to the soul, relieving the heart and mind."
From Paul’s prayer, we can all learn how to pray for our loved ones. What more important things could we ask God to do for them than to grant them his abundant grace, mercy, and peace?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 9, 2015

Living By The Spirit

Chuckle: Ben watched his dad build a pine bookshelf. "What are the holes for?" asked Ben. "They're knot holes," said his dad. Ben asked, "What are they then if they're not holes?"
Quote: "He that once sins, like him that slides on ice, Goes swiftly down the slippery way of vice: Though conscience checks him, yet those rubs gone o'er, He slides on smoothly and looks back no more." --John Dryden
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature" (Galatians 5:16-17 NIV).
Sometimes, godly parents have their hearts broken by wayward children who rebel against the spiritual, moral, and ethical standards they experienced and were taught in the home. When they left home for college, or to pursue a career, and were away from parental guidance, they fell under the influence of worldly company. They began to gratify the desires of their sinful nature which were contrary to what they had been taught.
Similarly, If we remain under the influence of our "Spiritual Parent" -- the Holy Spirit, our lives will reflect the standards God sets for our lives. Jesus said, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26 NIV). But if we allow ourselves to move away from our Lord, we become indifferent to things of God. We then rebel against the Holy Spirit's influence and open the door for Satan to lure us into gratifying our fleshly desires. We can easily fall into sin and out of fellowship with our Lord.
Our passage tells us that two major forces are at work in our lives: the cravings of our old sinful nature (evil inclinations and desires stemming from our bodies), and the power of the Holy Spirit within us. When you stop praying regularly, meditating on God's word, faithfully participating in worship services, and ministering to the needs of others, beware: Satan's enticement to satisfy the desires of your sinful nature has already taken root in your heart. However, if you do not yield to temptation and consistently follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, He will empower you to resist the cravings of your sinful nature and help you live by the Spirit's power.
Jesus said, "Those who remain in me, and I (my Spirit) in them, will produce much fruit" (John 15:5 NLT). Paul writes, "When the Holy spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (vs. 22-23 NLT). Are these characteristics evident in your life? If so, you are controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is by far the strongest of the two forces vying for control of our lives, but the choices we make determine which force will have control in this never-ending conflict within us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse