Monday, November 23, 2015

Praying in Secret

Chuckle: "Two times a week, my wife and I go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good food and companionship. She goes on Tuesdays, I go on Fridays." --Red Skelton
Quote: "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?" --Corrie Ten Boom
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen of men. . . . But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father. . . Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6 NIV).
Here, in His "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus makes a basic assumption that His followers would pray. Notice, He said "when" you pray, not "if" you pray. Jesus was telling us that prayer should be a natural part of being a Christian.
Jesus gives us some basic instructions on how we should pray to make our prayers acceptable to the Father. He warns us of the danger of being a hypocrite when it comes to prayer. Hypocrites appear to be something they aren't. They are play acting. They are wearing a mask. Perhaps they appear to be something on Sunday that differs from what they are during the week. Jesus says they are more interested in men hearing their prayers than God -- thus drawing attention to themselves instead of the Father.
Jesus' teaching here, reminds me of an ice berg analogy. Approximately 10 percent of an iceberg is visible above the water, and 90 percent cannot be seen because it's below the water line. This is how our spiritual lives should be. We should spend 90 percent of our prayer time out of the sight of others, never drawing attention to ourselves. The 10 percent of our spiritual lives that people see should be the result of the 90 percent that only God sees as we fellowship with Him.
We can glean some basic truths from being genuine in our prayers and Christian living: (1) It gives credibility to our witness -- we are believable because we're real and genuine. (2) Praying in secret results in the rewards of having God hear and answer our prayers. This is because we will pray in the will of God -- not for our will to be done.
Secret Bible study and prayer will help us experience the joy of God's presence in our lives because our relationship and fellowship with Him is our primary goal -- not to impress those around us with our piety. This passage does not prohibit public prayers, but deals with the attitude of the heart when we pray. Upon whose ears do we want our prayers to fall?
"Little of the Word with little prayer is death to the spiritual life. Much of the Word with little prayer gives a sickly life. Much prayer with little of the Word gives emotional life. But a full measure of both the Word and prayer each day gives a healthy and powerful life." --Andrew Murray
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Value of Gratitude

Chuckle: After forgetting his wedding anniversary, his angry wife told him, "Tomorrow morning, I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in 6 seconds AND IT BETTER BE THERE!!!" The next morning, she found a gift-wrapped in the driveway. She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale. . . Bob has been missing since Friday!
Quote: "It is difficult to be grateful and gripey at the same time. It is hard to be thankful and touchy at the same instant. It is impossible to be prayerful and pessimistic at the same moment." --William Arthur Ward

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).
In our passage, continuous joy and unceasing prayer are companions with being grateful in any and all circumstances. In her newspaper column, Mary Hunt pointed out numerous ways we benefit from having and expressing gratitude for even the smallest blessings of life. Does being grateful bring benefits to us in our physical, emotional, and spiritual health?
The approach of Thanksgiving Day, and Mary Hunt's column, have caused me to think about all the benefits that accrue to the person who is genuinely grateful to God and to other people on a daily basis. Sadly, as we celebrate an annual day of Thanksgiving, hearts and minds are often drawn away to everything in the world other than gratitude and thanksgiving. For some, the day becomes little more than a special time of self-indulgence. Let's be thankful on Thanksgiving Day, but remember that God wants us to be thankful every day and in all circumstances.
Throughout God's Word, we are instructed to be grateful for what we have and to express that gratitude to our Lord and to others who bless our lives in so many ways. God, in all his wisdom, knows that grateful hearts produce content and happy people. Ingratitude, selfishness, and greed produce the opposite in people -- malcontented, bitter, self-centered, and unfulfilled lives. By considering the good things that Mary Hunt says will happen to us if we are grateful, we may discover that God wants us to be thankful people for our own good. She suggests that:
- Gratitude reminds us of the positive things in life.                                              
- Gratitude calms our minds and lowers our blood pressure.
- Gratitude reduces stress, the source of many physical and emotional problems.
- Gratitude makes us optimistic about the future, and boosts our immune systems.
- Gratitude makes us content with what we have.
- Gratitude is appropriate during difficult times because we grow during hardships
- Gratitude is possible even in time of tragedy and great loss.
- Gratitude is 100 percent free in any amount you desire. Let's "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Freedom In Christ

Chuckle: "Warning notice at a seminary swimming pool: "First-year students are only allowed to walk on the shallow end."
Quote: "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.” --Jean-Paul Sartre
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1 NIV). When we think of freedom, I hope we think of our relationship with Christ? However, many times we think of freedom as being released from some restriction which has prevented us from exercising our own free will. But, in the Biblical sense, freedom has a totally different meaning. Think about this illustration:
"Many people think that freedom is the license to do whatever a person wants, but true freedom is the ability to do what is right. It takes obedience in order to have true freedom. I can sit at a piano and be at liberty to play any keys that I want, but I don't have the freedom, because I can't play anything but noise. I have no freedom to play Bach, or even 'Chopsticks.' Why? Because it takes years of practice and obedience to lesson plans to be truly free at the piano. Then, and only then, does one have the freedom to play any piece of music. The same is true of freedom in living. To be truly free, we must have the power and ability to be obedient."Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
As a Christian, You have been set free from sin, and have become slaves of righteousness"  (Romans 6:18). Christ sets us free to enjoy the boundless gift of God's favor, but this freedom comes only with an obedient faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul contends that we will always be slaves (servants) of something -- either to sin or to righteousness. Before coming to Christ, we are slaves to sin. Afterwards, we should become slaves/servants of our Lord. After we’ve been changed by the Holy Spirit, we no longer see freedom as doing our own thing but the will of the Father. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come"  (2 Corinthians 5:17). As a child of the King, our whole concept of freedom changes.
In Scripture, we find two contrasting words to help us understand the biblical meaning of being free -- Grace and Law. We have been set free from the Old Testament Law and now live in the freedom of God's grace. We’re not free to break God's laws, but our freedom and salvation are not earned by our obedience to laws. They are gifts of God's grace. As Christians, we were saved from the penalty of sin when we accepted Christ as Savior; we are being saved from the power of sin over our lives; and we will be saved from the presence of sin when Jesus comes again. Our freedom is a call to be free from sin, and is the opposite of freedom to sin. 
Finally, I'm reminded of the song, "Freedom isn't Free!" Of course, it refers to our personal freedoms that have been bought with the blood of our armed forces. But, our freedoms from sin are likewise not free. They cost our Lord everything when he gave his life for our freedom on the Cross. He shed his blood that we can be free! Free! Freeee! Freeeeeee!! We should be thankful and lift our praise "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood . ." (Revelation 1:5). Are you rejoicing in your freedoms as a believer? Are you free from the burdens of guilt, fear, worry, and anxiety? Do you have the sense of freedom God wants for you? Do you have a burning desire to use this God-given freedom to serve your Lord?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Help for the Helpless

                                       Veterans Day - Miscellaneous wallpapers, backgrounds                                             Have a great holiday as we honor our veterans on this Veterans Day.                
Chuckle: "An attorney specializing in personal injury decided to branch out, so he added libel claims to his practice. He wanted to add insult to injury." --Sharon Berkey
Quote: "When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. . . For I am the Lord, your God" (Isaiah 43:2-3 NLT).
"The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid" (Hebrews 13:6 NLT).
Have you ever been in a situation when you felt totally helpless? Have you come to the point where no escape seemed possible unless there was direct Intervention by God Himself? This can happen to us on many levels such as with health, relational, or financial issues. Your circumstances right now may find you feeling trapped with no way out. Perhaps God has brought you to this point to help you realize your inability to move forward unless He helps by making a way.
Joshua had the Israelites camp by the Jordan river for three days before crossing it to claim the promised land. He had to make them realize their own helplessness. They were unable to move forward into that raging river and needed to acknowledge that it would take the hand of God Himself to calm it for crossing. See chapter 3 of Joshua.
Most times our feelings of helplessness comes from issues within our own hearts. We begin to despair because our own solutions are inadequate for our problems, especially our biggest problem -- the fact that our hearts are naturally set against God. There are patterns of sin and rebellion in our lives, and we feel helpless in the face of our own sinful tendencies.
Like the Israelites, it's only when we begin to recognize our helplessness in the deepest level of our hearts that we begin to cry out to God, "Oh, Lord, I need the answer which only You can provide." "But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears" (Psalm 18:6 NLT).
For God to do his greatest work in our lives, we must come to see ourselves as totally helpless and desperate. Helpless people are the most receptive to help. Self-sufficient people tend to struggle with life's problems in their own strength and refuse to seek God's help. But, when it comes to sin, we are all in the same boat. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV).
In our hopeless and helpless state of sin, God came to us in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is in our helplessness that God's glory and the might of His power are displayed most. Only then will our lives make sense and we will begin to move against the current of our problems. We can go into any storm knowing that the Lord, the good Shepherd, brings calm and peace in the midst of our chaos. God does not always remove the problem, but He always walks with us and gives us strength to overcome it. "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46:1 NLT). God is not merely a temporary retreat; he is our eternal refuge and can provide strength in any circumstance.
Love, Jerry & Dotse           

Monday, November 9, 2015

Indulging in Idols

Chuckle: "Detective: "How did you get into counterfeiting?" Criminal: "I answered an ad that said, 'Make money at home.'"
Quote: "Your idol is shattered in the dust to prove that God's dust is greater than your idol." --Rabindranath Tagore
"So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do will sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5 NLT).
If I were to ask you if you worship idols, your initial response would likely be, "No, of course not!" But, after carefully digesting God's Word, we must come to understand that most of us likely have, or have had, idols in our lives. Let's think about this together.
When the apostle Paul was alive, idol worship was rampant. Perhaps the most revered idol was in the city of Ephesus -- the goddess Diana. The huge statue was the centerpiece of a magnificent temple recognized as one of the major wonders of the world. In those days, many people made their livings from the manufacture of idols.
From our passage today, we can readily see that anything that diverts our attention and devotion away from God can become an idol to us -- making a god of earthly things. This can happen to us without our even being aware of what has happened. Today, our society is perhaps even more idolatrous than in Paul's time. Instead of worshiping carved statues, we worship possessions, power, pleasures, or position as gods and pour our energies and financial resources into attaining such things.
You and I may say we have no idols and are placing God first in our lives. But Paul shows us some specific sins that can divert our attention away from God and become idols to us. He talks about earthly things lurking within us -- our sinful nature. Many in our society are addicted to pornography, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. These can become the controlling forces over our lives and leave no room for allegiance to the true God. Paul specifically mentions greed as a sin of idolatry. Being Greedy is wanting or taking all that one can get with no thought of what others need. It is the insatiable desire for what you don't have -- making a god of gain.
Here, Paul admonishes us to "put to death" all the sins produced by our earthly nature. If you are struggling with a sin that Paul points out in our passage, please be assured that God will grant you strength to overcome it in the power of His Spirit. The worst mistake we can make is to harbor some hidden sin while trying to portray the outward characteristics of a committed Christian -- to live a lie. This will result in a feeling of terrible guilt and rob you of the joy God wants you to experience with him.
If you know someone who is struggling with an idolatrous sin, please pray for that person and be an example to him or her by upholding Christ as most important in your life. Perhaps God will use you to help restore that person.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, November 6, 2015

Finding Faults in Others

Chuckle: "The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. Conclusion: Eat what you like. It's speaking English that's killing you!"
Quote: "Close your eyes to the faults of others, and you open the doors of friendship." --William Arthur Ward
Jesus said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3-4 NIV).
If we aren't careful, we will catch ourselves feeling some sort of perverse pleasure from pointing out faults in others, while, at the same time, having difficulty seeing our own. Sometimes, a startling realization comes over us when we discover that the faults in others that are so bothersome to us are the very traits we find in ourselves. Often, our own bad habits and weaknesses are the very ones we most want to point out in others.
We can find it much easier to magnify the faults of others while finding excuses or justifications for our own. Perhaps this is because we experience satisfaction by classifying our own faults as serious only when seen in others. By seeing ourselves in the shadow of someone else's faults, we can feel better and not be so concerned about the relative insignificance of our own -- as we see them.
Jesus tells us to examine our own motives and actions rather than sitting in judgment of others. Jesus said this in verses 1-2 of our chapter: "Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged." Here, Jesus is identifying the kind of hypocritical attitude that wants to tear down someone else in order to make oneself be seen in a more favorable light -- trying to make ourselves look better at the expense of others.
We are wise if we look at ourselves in the mirror of God's Word before focusing our attention on the faults of others. After doing this, you may be surprised at how your desire to find faults in others will diminish. You will likely become increasingly concerned with asking God's help and forgiveness in dealing with your own faults.
A man was applying for the job of private secretary to Winston Churchill. Before introducing him, an aunt of Churchill's told the man, "Remember, you will see all of Winston's faults in the first five hours. It will take you a lifetime to discover all his virtues." Let’s pray that God will make us aware of our faults while seeing the virtues in others.  
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Contentment and Circumstances

Chuckle: "When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra." --Will Rogers
Quote: "The best of blessings, a contented mind." --Horace, Epistles
"I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living (being content) in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. . . . And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:12,19 NLT).
It is our natural tendency to depend on life's circumstances to determine our degree of happiness and contentment. Therefore, we focus our efforts on trying to control our circumstances. It's sometimes difficult for us to understand that the true contentment God wants for us wells up from within us, and is not dependent upon life's circumstances.
The secret to real contentment is learning to see the world from God's point of view. We learn to do this when we begin to focus our attention and effort on doing what God wants us to do rather than on what we would like to have -- doing versus having. Paul did not waste his time in pursuit of wealth and possessions, but focused his energy on doing what God called him to do. His priority was his relationship with his Lord.
If we depend upon what we have to bring us contentment, we will have missed out on experiencing the kind of contentment we see in Paul. True, when we are blessed with plenty, we may experience self- satisfaction from what we have earned by our skills and perseverance. But such selfish feelings can't compare with the serenity and contentment God wants to give us by his presence within us and by our trusting his promises.
Paul was grateful for everything God had given him, whether little or much. Like Paul, we should detach ourselves from the least important and nonessential and focus on the eternal. In God's grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter how much of this world's "stuff" we accumulate. What matters are the treasures we have laid up in heaven. See Matthew 6:19-21.
In summary, our yearning for physical comforts and possessions is our effort to fill an empty place in our hearts that only God can fill. God wants us to trust him and rejoice in his presence rather than depending upon our circumstances to bring us contentment. Believing his promises to meet our needs brings indescribable contentment and peace.
"A Puritan sat down to his meal and found that he had only a little bread and some water. His response was to exclaim, 'What? All this and Jesus Christ, too!' Contentment is found when we have the correct perspective on life."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Judgment or Discernment

Chuckle: As Shadrach said to Meshach and Abednego, "Is it just me or is it hot in here?"
Quote: "Righteous indignation is often nothing more than self-righteous irritation." --William Arthur Ward
Jesus said, "Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37 NLT).
Because of our pride, It's so much easier to judge others than to deal with our own shortcomings. In dealing with this subject, we must understand the difference between being judgmental and discerning right and wrong. Only God knows the hidden motives behind a person's actions and only He can decide if that person deserves to be punished. Ultimately, we, as Christians, will all be judged by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
I believe a key motive behind Christ's warning against judging others is His knowledge that there's no way we can be judgmental and redemptive at the same time. After all, as Christians, we are God's ambassadors and his messengers to lead others to Christ. When you are judgmental, you usually are angry or bitter toward that person you are judging and criticizing. If you find yourself with such a critical attitude toward someone, before judging try praying for that person. You will find praying for someone difficult, If not impossible, as long as your harbor your critical attitude. You will either stop praying for them or God will remove your critical judgmental attitude. If you continue to pray, you will find yourself loving that person rather than judging him or her. Jesus tells us we will be judged if we persist in judging others.
You may say, "OK, Jerry, I understand that I am not to judge others, but how do I deal with those I know are conducting themselves contrary to the standards set forth in God's Word?" This is a good and important question. It's answer deals with what the Scripture calls "spiritual discernment." Jesus tells us that we will know the spiritual condition of their hearts by the way they live -- by the way they act -- by the fruit they bear (Matthew 7:16). It is the Holy Spirit who gives us spiritual discernment.
As we grow in spiritual wisdom, we become more and more adept at discerning between good and evil; between true and false; between the spiritual and secular. As believers, we are to observe the actions of others and discern whether or not they are pleasing to God, not so we can judge or criticize, but so we can, in love, help them become what God wants them to be.
Simply stated, God wants us to see others as he sees them. That is, we discern a persons sins while viewing that person through the filters of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Always have as your goal to reconcile that person to Christ. "And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you" (2 Corinthians 5:18b-20a NLT). I pray that you and I will see others as objects of God's unconditional love, mercy, and grace, and that God will give us the ability to see everyone through His eyes.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, November 2, 2015

Eating With Tax Collectors

Chuckle: "You know it's going to be a bad day when your twin forgets your birthday!"
Quote: "We are the only Bible the careless world will read. We are the sinner's gospel. We are the scoffer's creed. We are the Lord's last message, Given in deed and word. What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred? --Annie Johnson Flint
That night Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. The Pharisees were indignant. "Why does your teacher eat with such scum?" they asked the disciples (Matthew 9:10-11 NLT).
Tax collectors were among the most despised people in the Jewish society. They were seen as traitors because they collected exorbitant taxes for the hated Roman authorities who ruled over the Jewish people. The terms, "tax collectors and sinners" were used in the same breath. For Jesus to socialize with such people brought rebuke from religious leaders. Undeterred, Jesus found Matthew, a tax collector, established a relationship with him, changed his life, and made him one of the twelve. But the Pharisees were more concerned with their own appearance of holiness than with helping people. They showed their self-righteous attitude by criticizing of Jesus.
The longer we are active Christians, the fewer unsaved friends and acquaintances we are likely to have. We tend to become comfortable around those who share our Christian beliefs, values, and lifestyles. But if we follow Jesus' example, we will not be afraid to reach out in a friendly way to those who do not know Christ. We do this by getting out of our comfort zones and seek opportunities to establish relationships with the unredeemed -- with leading them to Christ as our goal. Jesus' mission on earth was to reach out to those often shunned by "respectable" people. Following Jesus' example, we should share the good news with the poor, immoral, lonely, and outcast, not just the rich, popular, respectable, and powerful.
As we establish relationships with unsaved people, we must be careful that their lifestyles do not contaminate us. Listen to what God says in Jude 22 NLT: "Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins." As we reach out to the lost in friendship, we must be careful not to become so much like non-Christians that no one can tell who we are or what we believe. Lead others to Christ but don't let them influence you to sin.
This is what Jesus meant when he prayed for the disciples. "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (John 17:15-16 NIV). Like Jesus, we should relate to people who need to be saved, but we should not become like those we are trying to reach.
Love, Jerry & Dotse