Monday, November 30, 2015

Hope During Persecution

Chuckle:  After several unsuccessful attempts, a mother finally reached a game warden. “Are you a game warden,” she asked. “Yes,” came the reply. “Great,” said the mother. “Could you give me some help with my son’s birthday party?”  
Quote:  “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
As He concluded His teachings on the beatitudes, Jesus had this to say: “God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too”  (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT).
Today, around the world, Christians are being imprisoned, tortured, and even slaughtered for one simple reason – they profess their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and refuse to deny their Lord. This is particularly true in those areas with radical Islamic regimes. If you are a Christian, I’m sure you have thought about what your reaction would be if you found yourself experiencing intensely painful and life-threatening persecution. As you become aware of Christians suffering for their faith, please remember they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. They are part of our family of God, and they deserve our prayers and other support as we become aware of their needs. 
It seems certain that things are going to get much worse for all Christians. When teaching about what would happen prior to His return, Jesus predicted: “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because of your allegiance to me. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:9-10 NLT). An amazing fact remains, in New Testament times, the Christian church grew and flourished while Christians were enduring harsh persecution. The following occurred around 160 AD.
One of the most inspiring examples of courage in the history of the church was the martyrdom of Polycarp, who was burned at the stake for his faith. The aged Polycarp had been arrested by the Roman authorities and brought to the arena for execution in from of the cheering crowd. The proconsul pressed him hard and said, “Swear, and I will release you. Revile Christ.” Polycarp replied, “Eighty and six years I have served him, and he never did me wrong, and how can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?” (Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, chapter 15.)
Jesus tells us his followers will be severely persecuted by those who hate us because of our loyalty to Christ and His teachings. But He also tells us that even during the most severe persecution we can have hope, because we know our salvation is secure. If you should find yourself pressured to give in and deny your faith in Christ, please don’t yield to the temptation. Remember the eternal benefits if we stand firm and continue to live in obedience to Christ by spreading the gospel (Good News) message with Christ-like love and compassion.   
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Spirit of Thanksgiving

The next post will be on Monday, November 30th.
Chuckle: "Americans are getting stronger. Twenty years ago it took two people to carry ten dollars' worth of groceries. Today, a five-year old can do it."
Spirit of Thanksgiving
"Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation! Let us come before Him with thanksgiving. Let us sing Him psalms of praise" (Psalm 95:2 NLT).  "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done." (1 Chronicles 16:8 NIV)  
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, millions of Americans will gather to enjoy family, fun, food, and football. Sadly, many will minimize, if not ignore, the spiritual and historical significance of the day. To many, It will be just another day off from work and a day of self-gratification and over indulgence. Many will even refer to it as "turkey day," rather than Thanksgiving Day. And it's so easy for us, as Christians, to fall into this same mindset.
Thanksgiving Day should be a day of rejoicing and is a wonderful time for families to reunite, enjoy one another's company, and feast on the bounty which a merciful and gracious God has made and provided. However, when we see thanksgiving from God's point of view, the day takes on a whole new meaning for us. We will be reminded that thanksgiving should not be a single day, but rather a perpetual condition/attitude of the heart. It should be a day of worship and genuine gratitude toward our loving God.
The apostle Paul reminds us to be thankful at all times and in all circumstances because of our priceless relationship with Christ our Lord and our total dependence upon God in every situation. The following words by an unknown author illustrate an attitude of thanksgiving.
                                 EVERYDAY THANKSGIVING
Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings,                     thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.                           Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long                as possible, thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.                            Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising, thank you, Lord,                  that I have the strength to rise. There are those who are bedridden.                   Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost,                    toast is burned and tempers are short, my children are so loud,                         thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.                          Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines        and the menu is at times unbalanced, thank you, Lord, for the food                     we have. There are many who are hungry.                                                           Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous, thank you, Lord,          for the opportunity to work. There are many who have no job.                             Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my       circumstances were not so modest, thank you, Lord, for life.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, please don't forget the original gratefulness to God by early Americans who had suffered so much. Let the spirit of thanksgiving fill your heart as we celebrate one of the oldest American holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Truth or Consequences

Chuckle: Bob: Did you hear about the camper who was killed by a garter snake? Betty: That's impossible. A garter snake is not poisonous. Bob: It doesn't have to be if it can make you jump off a cliff!
Quote: "What God's Son has told me, take for true I do; Truth Himself speaks truly or there's nothing true." --St Thomas Aquinas
"Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever, Amen" (Romans 1:25 NLT). "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23 NLT).
As I read our passages, I thought of a popular game show that aired from 1940 to 1988, first on radio then television. Contestants were required to tell the truth by answering impossible trivia questions in two seconds or suffer the consequences, which consisted of performing zany, hilarious, and embarrassing stunts. The show was "Truth or Consequences." In our passages, spiritual truth or consequences is laid out. it's not tell the truth, but rather believe the truth or suffer eternal consequences.
An amazing attribute of God is His granting to humankind the freedom to choose. People can choose to believe God and accept God's love and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ or they can refuse to believe God's truth and reject Him. When we choose not to believe, God will honor our choice and reluctantly allow us to muddle along in sin and suffer the eternal consequences of our unbelief separated from His presence in a place the Bible calls hell. It is the most terrible of human tragedies when a person deliberately and knowingly refuses to believe and rejects the truth.
The first chapter of Romans is a harsh indictment of people who suppress God's truth with their wickedness. Because of God's great love, mercy, and grace, He has revealed Himself in creation, His Holy Spirit, His written Word, and His one and only Son. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The word, "believes" in this verse means to trust in, have faith in, and commit one's life to Jesus.  We are without excuse if we reject the truth.
Whenever we are confronted with a Biblical truth that contradicts, or does not reinforce, our own selfish personal beliefs, we will: (1) Realize our error, accept the truth and allow God to change the way we think and live; (2) Recognize the truth but deliberately choose not to believe it; (3) See the truth as relatively unimportant and choose to ignore it; or (3) Deem the truth to be archaic and no longer relevant in today's culture. Number (1) should always be our choice.
God's Word, the Bible, is the only reliable standard of truth, and we are wise to evaluate our beliefs in light of its teachings.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Grace or Goodness

Chuckle: (church bulletin blooper): "For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs."
Quote: "The death and resurrection of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Preaching Jesus as merely a good person who is an example of good living falls short of preaching the Gospel." --John Danforth
"God saved you by his special favor (grace) when you believed (had faith). And you can't take credit for this: it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT).
In his book, "Faith and Politics," former Senator John Danforth uses the term "protestant liberalism" to describe a disturbing tendency in some Christian churches to preach and teach what I will call a "social gospel," which places major emphasis on living moral and ethical lives based on Jesus' teachings and example. Many of these same preachers seldom, if ever, bring listeners face to face with the stark reality of their sins and the eternal truth that repentance and faith in the atoning blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the only way to receive God's forgiveness, His free gift of salvation, and assurance of eternal life in heaven.
There is a place for such preaching and teaching, but not at the expense of the good news (gospel message) that God sent his Son to die on that cruel cross outside Jerusalem so that you and I can be redeemed, reconciled (made acceptable) to God. We all know that Christians and non-Christians alike are capable of living moral lives and doing much for the good of humanity. However, the problem arises when people are misled to depend upon their good deeds to earn God's favor -- trying to earn their way into heaven by being good.
Our passage clearly points out the sequence of experiences that result in salvation and then our doing the "good things" that God has planned for us to do. We are told that God "created us anew" when we accepted his gift of salvation through faith. This tracks with another message: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). James also addresses this faith versus good deeds issue. "But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18 NIV). You see, we can say we have faith, but do nothing to show it; or we can do all sorts of good things without having faith. Neither approach will impress God.
Once we have a genuine salvation experience, our good deeds performed for the glory of God will bless the lives of people and ultimately result in our being rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. "For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our (physical) bodies" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT). Here, Christ will reward us Christians for how we have lived. Each of us must give account for how we have lived out our faith. Being a "good" person without a life transformed by faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. But being saved by God's grace through faith followed by doing good deeds for His glory is what God desires for each of us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Love as a Practice

Chuckle: Why did the bowlegged cowboy get fired? He couldn't keep his calves together!
Quote: "We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small." --D.L. Moody
"Serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13 NIV).
Have you ever wondered why we call a physician's work a "practice?" I don't think any of us want a doctor "practicing" on us -- we want him to attend to us only after he has perfected his skills. Of course we understand that in this case the word "practice" means he is applying his skills for the benefit of his patients. However, when it comes to Christian love, we need to practice it day in and day out in a life-long effort to get it right -- to love as Jesus loves. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us . . .” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV) 
Most Christians are pretty good at expressing their love to one another, verbally, or maybe even with a hug. Such expressions are rooted in warm and fuzzy feelings we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Telling others that we love them is a good thing and should never be neglected. But words alone just won't cut it when we apply the Biblical standard to the way we should love one another.
Christian love is more than words and more than a warm emotional feeling. Christian love is serving the ones whom we love. It is demonstrated by our actions. It means getting our hands dirty as we help meet the needs of others. It means having the heart of a servant like our Lord who wrapped himself in a towel and washed the dusty or muddy feet of his disciples (see John 13:1-17).
Jesus set the bar extremely high for us when it comes to loving one another through acts of kindness and service. While none of us has reached the point where we can love like Jesus loves us, we must never stop striving to be like Him. Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35 NIV).
You know Lord how I serve you, with great emotional fervor, in the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for you, at a women's club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote a fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder, if you pointed to a basin of water,
and asked me to wash the calloused feet
of a bent and wrinkled old woman, day after day, month after month,
in a room where nobody saw, and nobody knew?
                                                                            --Ruth Harms Calkin
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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Motives Matter

In a very dark church building, a man said, "I make a motion we buy a chandelier." Another said, "I'm against it for three reasons: No one knows how to spell it to order it. There isn't anyone in the church who can play it. And third, we need more light in here!"
Quote:  “It is motive alone that gives character to the actions of men.” –Jean De La Bruyere
“. . . let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16 NLT).  “Take care!  Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired (by other people) because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 NLT).
Our passage is from the lips of Jesus Himself as He delivered what is called the Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, Jesus teaches His followers the finer points of godly living.  Here we discover that Jesus is more interested in the condition of our hearts than He our specific acts of kindness.  He teaches us to do good deeds in ministry to others, but our motives for these good deeds determine their acceptance by God and our ultimate rewards in heaven.
Notice the apparent contradiction in our two Scripture verses.  First, Jesus tells us to do good deeds for all to see.  Then He tells us not to do acts of righteousness to be seen of people.  But close study of Jesus’ words reveals no contradiction at all.  The differential factor is motive – why do we do good deeds.  Do we do them to bring attention, honor, and glory to ourselves by the praise of other people, or do we do them to bring praise, honor, and glory to our Lord?
In our first verse, Jesus says our motive for our good deeds should be to cause people to praise our Father in heaven.  In our second verse, Jesus warns us about doing good deeds to be seen by people to bring their praise to ourselves.  Doing good to bring honor to God will result in His rewarding us for such service.  On the other hand, if our motive for doing good is to bring glory to ourselves, we will not be rewarded by our heavenly Father.  So, we see that motives really do matter to God because they reveal the condition of our hearts.
Satan will tempt us, in his sly and subtle ways, to pervert our motives for serving our Lord.  We may have the purest intentions when we begin to do acts of kindness for others and honestly want them to bring glory to the Father.  Then, low and behold, people begin to praise us for our actions and Satan tells us it’s OK to bask in the warmth of that praise for what we have done. Then pride begins to raise its ugly head and our motives gradually change from bringing honor to God to bringing honor to ourselves. This is what Jesus is warning us about.
The Lord’s searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive. God loathes the sacrifice of an evil person, especially when it is brought with ulterior motives”  (Proverbs 20:27; 21:27 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse     

Friday, November 13, 2015

Take Time To Be Holy

Chuckle: "Don't get annoyed if your neighbor plays his stereo loudly at two o'clock in the morning. Just call him at four and tell him how much you enjoyed it. . . .!!"
Quote: "Things that are holy are revealed only to men who are holy." --Hippocrates
"As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV).
One meaning of "holy" is "to cut or separate. It denotes apartness, and so the separation of a person from the common or profane for a divine use." In this context, God is the one that separates us from the world and designates us as holy and consecrated to Him. ", . . you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9 NLT).
God has set us apart as holy and belonging to him and has given us a mission -- to declare His goodness to others. When we accept Jesus Christ as Savior, we become members of his body, the church, and we are to join Him in His priestly work of reconciling people to God. We have been called to represent Him to others. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV).
The word "holy" also means being totally devoted and dedicated to God in all we do. A holy person shows those spiritual, moral, and ethical qualities which God expects of those He has called and chosen as His people. Thus, God wants us to be holy as He is holy. As God's witnesses, we are to strive to live holy lives which will give credibility to our witness. As a reminder of what it means to live a holy life, please listen to, meditate on, and digest the words of this old hymn, "Take Time to be Holy."
Take time to be holy, Speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, And feed on His Word;
Make friends of God's children; Help those who are weak; Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, The world rushes on; Spend much time in secret With Jesus alone --
By looking to Jesus, Like Him thou shalt be; Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, Let Him be thy guide, And run not before Him, Whatever betide;
In joy or in sorrow, still follow thy Lord, And looking to Jesus, Still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul; Each tho't and each motive Beneath His control;
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, Thou shalt be fitted For service above.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Not Work?

If you wish to purchase my new book, “God’s Daily Word,” here’s a link to 
Chuckle:  A man was showing his new clock to a friend. “This clock," he said, "will go for 14 days without winding." "Really?" replied his friend, "and how long will it go if you do wind it?"
Quote: "Lose yourself in productive, creative and necessary work, and you will brighten, improve and enhance your own corner of the world. This is your responsibility, your privilege, and your calling." --William Arthur Ward
"We were never lazy when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that we would not be a burden to any of you . . , we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'Whoever does not work shall not eat'" (2 Thessalonians 3:7b-10 NLT).
I want to preface this message by saying that we as individual Christians, churches, other charitable organizations and society in general have a God-given responsibility to care for those who are legitimately in need of assistance -- financial or otherwise. We should never shirk caring for the sick, poor and needy. See the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46.
Our beloved country was built by industrious people with a strong personal work ethic. Most of those in my dad's generation took great pride in their work and never wanted to be accused of being a slacker. They were reluctant to accept charity from anyone as long as they were physically able to earn their own way. Even those who desperately needed help were often embarrassed by accepting it. They cherished their personal independence and worked hard to avoid being dependent upon others. Most would never seek personal gain through dishonest and fraudulent means.
Now, contrast the above with an all to common attitude today that says: "I deserve to be taken care of. I deserve what others have without having to work for it." Some even take pride in the fact that they can dishonestly manipulate the system to receive undeserved financial benefits. Sadly, the stigma formerly attached to dishonest gain no longer exists in the minds of many today. I once had a "Christian" neighbor ask me why I didn't dishonestly claim a disability to increase my tax-free retirement income.
In our passage, Paul advised the church to stop financial support to those who refused to work and persisted in their idleness. He was not advising the church to become cold, uncaring, and cruel to those with legitimate needs. No, just the opposite. However, he knew that idleness by the able-bodied could only be overcome when they learned to value work, not charity, for their livelihood.
The "something for nothing" attitude is all too pervasive in our society. We as Christians need to set the example by reflecting unwavering integrity in every aspect of our lives including our work habits. Like Paul, we should set an example for our family members and others with whom we interact. We must recognize that character and morality in our society can never be legislated, and will come only "If my (God's) people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).
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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Remember, Then Thank God

Chuckle: “If you talk to God you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.” –Thomas Szasz
Quote: “You realize there are a lot of amazing people out there to be grateful for . . . and a loving God, That’s what life is about.”  --Robin Williams
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3 KJV).  “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (NLT). 
A kind and thoughtful lady, who is a member of a church I once served as pastor, closes her e-mails by quoting our passage. There’s something comforting and reassuring in knowing someone cares enough to think about you on a regular basis, and even more comforting that he or she prays for you and thanks God for you and your influence on their lives. Do you sense that you are fondly remembered by others with joy because of your acts of kindness and faithful service to our Lord?
Are there special people who have touched your life in the past that often come to mind and for whom you are deeply grateful? It might be that person who always knew when you needed a pat on the back, a comforting hug, a kind word of encouragement, or help with some other special need.
In this brief passage, we find two amazing abilities given to us by God our Creator that we often take for granted – the gifts of memory and gratitude.  God gave us the ability to remember those who have loved us and contributed so much to our life experiences and to be grateful for them as blessings sent by God Himself. Perhaps you would like to join me today in remembering someone who has been a positive influence on your life in the past.  Further, perhaps you will feel a desire to express your love and appreciation to that person using the words of Paul or similar expressions.
I’m sure the congregation in Philippi was encouraged by these words from the apostle Paul because of their love for him and his influence in starting their church -- teaching them how to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Paul leaves no doubt how thankful he is for the faithful Christians in Philippi. He goes on to say: “I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now” (Philippians 1:4-5 NLT).
Andrew Murray reminds us that “we think of Paul as a great missionary, the great preacher, the great writer, the great apostle . . We do not sufficiently think of him as the (great) intercessor.” Like Paul, we should be faithful in our prayers of intercession, especially for those we remember with extraordinary love and appreciation.
Love, Jerry & Dotse