Friday, January 29, 2016

Worship Only God

Chuckle: Bumper Sticker: "A word to the wise is sufficient; but who can remember the word!"
Quotable: "Genuine worship consists of humble adoration and devoted service."

"Get out of here, Satan," Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God; serve him only.'" (Matthew 4:10 NLT).
Please notice two words in our Matthew passage. "Worship" means to fall face-down to the ground before God in humble adoration; and "serve" means the outward actions which express an inward attitude of reverence and humility. In other words, worship is incomplete without service.
A.W. Tozer made this statement in his book, "The Pursuit of God:" "It [the new birth] is, however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end."
We can be certain that God is bigger than our finite minds could ever imagine or understand. As I thought about greatness of God, I was struck by the feeling that the magnificence of my God is often lost in the inadequacy of my worship. As we worship, I wonder how much of what we call worship is really a set of rituals and routines that make us feel better for another week rather than an experience that helps us grow in our knowledge and understanding of our indescribable God.
Often our worship at the altar of wealth, materialism, and pleasure is in direct competition with our worship of God. If there is anything that draws us away from continually exploring the depths of God's being, we can never worship in a way that pleases Him. The more we learn about our awesome God, the more we realize how much we don't know and the more we desire to learn of Him. Worship must begin by recognizing the "bigness" of God and proceed toward complete surrender to Him.
If you find yourself searching for and desiring what the world has to offer, the words of Jesus to Satan should come to mind: "You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." If our worship is too small for the size of our God, He wants to grow us to the point that our worship becomes increasingly more worthy of Him. As your worship pleases God, He will reveal more and more of Himself and help you become more spiritually mature and Christ-like.
Is your worship incomplete because you have reduced God to conform to your small mental image of Him? Are you committed to constantly exploring the depths of the Triune God who has no limit and no end? If so, your worship will become more and more pleasing to God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 28, 2016

God's View of Success

Chuckle: Newspaper Ad: "NORDIC TRACK $300. Hardly used, call Chubby."
Quote: "Let us work as if success depends on ourselves alone, but with the heartfelt conviction that we are doing nothing and God everything." --St Ignatius Loyola

"After the death of Moses, the Lord's servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun. . . Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess the land I swore to give their ancestors. . . Obey the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do" (Joshua 1:1, 6-7 NLT).
What is success, and how do you measure it? Many think that success is achieved through power, influence, personal contacts, and a relentless desire to get ahead financially. If Christians aren't on guard, we can begin measuring our success by the world's standards rather than God's. In Joshua's case, God showed him a different strategy for gaining prosperity that goes against the views of the world. God also told him to be strong and courageous because the task would not be easy. Let's glean some important truths about achieving success God's way.
First, we should seek God's purpose for our lives. If we are to have a standard against which to measure our success, we must understand where God is leading us and why. God's purpose for Joshua was for him to lead his people to the promised land. If you recall, a previous generation had failed to possess the land because of their fear and lack of trust in God. Now, God set a condition before Joshua -- be obedient, strong, and courageous. If we are to know success, we must ask God what he wants us to do. What has God revealed to you about his purpose for your life?
Second, we must claim the promise that God is always with us. Imagine how Joshua must have felt as he stepped into Moses' shoes. He must have realized his own strength was totally inadequate to complete the task God had given him. In verse 5, God said to him, "No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you." This same promise is repeated in the New Testament. "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" Hebrews 13:5 NIV). "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Romans 8:31 NIV).
Third, we must obey God's Word. God told Joshua not to let his Word ever leave his lips. He instructed him to think deeply about it day and night and not to depart from it either to the left or the right. He was to constantly read and study God's Law. If you follow the instructions for success that God gave Joshua, you may never achieve success by the world's standards, but you will be a success in the eyes of God, the only One that really matters.
Each of us has a choice in life: Will we follow the rules for success determined by our secular society which only matters in this life, or will we follow God's rules for success that have eternal implications and consequences. By continually asking God to direct us we can avoid the pitfalls of pride, greed, selfishness, and unbelief, while conquering all the challenges that face us and achieve his purpose for us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Making Worship a Habit

Chuckle: “I suppose a fellow can worship on the golf course — but it’s almost as unhandy as playing golf in church.”
Quote: "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.” --Sir William Temple

"He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom." (Luke 4:16 NIV)
I'm amazed at how many "Christians" see little or no connection between public worship and their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You hear such statements as: "I'm a Christian but not a part of any organized religion or church; or, I can worship God anywhere -- I don't have to worship in church." These and many other reasons (excuses) are offered to rationalize why some don't regularly attend worship services with God's people. However, such an attitude goes against the example Jesus set for us and other Biblical instructions. Dr. Mark Kemp had this to say:
"Regular worship with God's people is as important to our Christian journey as regular stops at the gas station are important when traveling across the country. (It is a lot cheaper and more filling to go to worship than the gas station!) To live the Christian life without taking time to fill our tank in worship and fellowship with God is a recipe for burn out. Jesus made time for both private prayer (But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed, Luke 5:16) and public worship, (Luke 4:16). If Jesus depended on these two great encounters with God to keep His tank filled and His life focused on the Father's purpose, how much more do we need to make both private prayer and public worship habitual in our lives."
Then, here are some additional instructions from Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as we see the Day approaching."
Besides the obvious benefits of public corporate worship, we encourage one another as we share love, understanding, and support for one another. There's nothing that can compare to the value of a gathering of God's people as they pray, sing, study God's Word, and minister to one another through warm and loving fellowship.
If you are out of the habit of worshiping with a church, please think and pray about getting involved anew in regular public worship. You will be blessed and strengthened and you will enrich the lives of those with whom you worship. There are six Biblical functions of a church: worship, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, ministry/missions, and fellowship. To follow Christ’s teachings, we should worship God by our active involvement in each of these church functions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jesus: Our Source of Rest

Chuckle:  A group of kindergarteners was on an outing to a police station. One youngster pointed to a picture and asked if it really was a wanted person. “Yes,” answered the policeman. “Well,” wondered the child, “why didn’t you keep him when you took his picture?” 
Quote: "Christ's life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived: tempest and tumult, tumult and tempest, the waves breaking over it all the time. But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there." --Henry Drummond
Jesus said "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).
A yoke is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of an ox or oxen. It is attached to a piece of equipment, like a plow or a wagon, the oxen are to pull. It should come as no surprise that Jesus was a master at using familiar objects and circumstances to teach deep spiritual lessons. Doubtless, everyone hearing Him speak was familiar with oxen and the yoke they endured. A "yoke of oxen," meaning a team of oxen, is a familiar term to many of us older folks, even today.
Jesus used the "yoke" to suggest that a person may be carrying heavy burdens of (1) sin, (2) excessive demands of religious leaders (Acts 15:10), (3) oppression and/or persecution, or (4) weariness in the search for God. He understood the toll such burdens could have on the spirit of the bearer, and His concern caused Him to provide a way for us to have relief and rest.
How about you? Are you suffering from severe burdens? Is there a sin in your life that has you enslaved? You may be bearing the burden of disappointment, grief, stress, overwork, or loneliness. If so, Jesus wants to make these burdens lighter for His followers, and the rest that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor. It is a refreshing and uplifting rest that can change our whole attitude toward Him and toward others. His rest is the absence of guilt, worry, anxiety, and lack of meaning. He promises meaning, hope, assurance, peace, and joy even in the troubles we must endure in this life. A relationship with Jesus changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose.
Jesus said, "Come to me" for spiritual refreshment and rest as you labor. We must make a conscience decision to "go to him" and allow him to give us his rest. This means the end of trying to relieve our burdens with our own strength. Jesus, and only Jesus, can give the kind of rest and peace that will change your life.
"When God's work is done in God's way for God's glory, it will never lack God's supply. God is not obligated to pay for our selfish schemes. He is obligated to support his ministry." --Hudson Taylor
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 25, 2016

Believe and Receive

If you would like a copy of my new book, “God’s Daily Word,” here is the link to Amazon.com where it can be purchased: http://amzn.to/1kPv584
Chuckle:  What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?  A cat has its claws at the end of its paws; a comma is a pause at the end of a clause.
Quote: "If you are too busy to spend time alone with God, you are busier then God intends for you to be." --Unknown Author

"When you ask, you must believe (have faith) and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV). Jesus said, ". . . whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (have faith) that you have received it and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24 NIV).
Think back with me to yesterday. From the time you awoke until you went to bed last night, how many times did you feel inadequate and lacking in wisdom to deal with a situation you were facing? If, after careful reflection on this question, you answer "none," then you probably went through the day depending upon your own strength and wisdom to make decisions and deal with issues that arose. You see, even if we think we know the best answer to a problem, or the best way to handle a situation, we are settling for second best wisdom -- ours.
In our first passage, James is referring to prayer for wisdom. However, when we ask God for wisdom, or anything, we must believe and not doubt. From our two passages, we see that believing (having faith) is essential for God to answer our prayers and grant our requests. Faith is believing God and acting on that faith. "If God says it, I believe it, and I will ask him!" When you pray, do you do so with confidence that God will answer, or is prayer just one more possibility among other resources you depend upon to handle life situations? Maybe you pray something like this: "OK, Lord, I'm asking, but I don't really think you will answer my prayer." What kind of faith is that? A doubting Christian is one who says he trusts God, but really trusts himself or someone else more. He says he has faith but he really doesn't.
A doubting mind is not completely convinced that God's way is best. Such a person makes God's Word just like human advice and retains the option to disregard or disobey it. This kind of person vacillates between allegiance to his subjective feelings, the world's ideas, and God's commands. He is divided inside. God's Word says he is "double-minded." "That person (without faith) should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded person, unstable in all he does" (James 1:7-8 NIV).
A double-minded Christian is one who knows Christ as Savior and is going to heaven, but on a daily basis does not have the faith to trust God in all situations and depend upon his divine wisdom to guide his life. We can pray all night to no avail unless we believe God and take him at his word. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). A pastor said this: "True wisdom enables us to do the right thing in the face of moral dilemmas and to interpret life's experiences in light of eternal values." Only God can grant this true wisdom for living. If we pray with God's will uppermost in our minds, our prayers will be pleasing to him and we can express our desires to him with the expectation that he will answer.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, January 22, 2016

God's Glory

Chuckle:  An honest seven-year-old admitted to her parents that Billy had kissed her after class. "How did that happen?" gasped the mother. "It wasn't easy," admitted the young lady, "but three girls helped me catch him!"
Quote:  “Set God apart from mortal men, and deem not that he, like them, is fashioned out of flesh. Thou knowest him not; now he appeareth as fire, now as water, now as gloom; and he is dimly seen in the likeness of wild beasts, of wind, of cloud, of lightning, thunder and rain. All power hath he, lo, this is the glory of the Most High God.” –Aeschylus  

"Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. And all of us have had the veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT).
We often hear the term, "God's Glory." These are words we use to describe the totality of God's attributes or characteristics: holiness, love, grace, truth, goodness, mercy, justice, knowledge, power, eternality -- all that He is -- the very essence of His being. When we attempt to understand and describe the dimensions of God's Glory, we immediately run into the limitations of our finite minds and the inadequacy of words to accurately describe God's Glory. But as we walk with God and grow in our faith, the Holy Spirit gradually lifts the veil of mystery and more and more of God's Glory is revealed to us and through us.
God's glory is as intrinsic and essential to His nature as light is to the sun, as blue is to the sky, as wet is to water. We don't make the sun light, it is already light. We don't make the sky blue, It's already blue. We don't make the water wet, It's already wet. Light is intrinsic to the sun; Blue is intrinsic to the sky; and wetness is intrinsic to water. So it is with God. All His attributes are intrinsic to His nature and constitute His Glory which cannot be added to or subtracted from. It's the reality of His very being.
Contrary to God's intrinsic glory, we have no glory of our own, and our only glory is that which God grants to us. Even an earthly king has no glory except that granted to him by his subjects. He has no intrinsic glory, and His robe, scepter, and throne only depict the glory granted to him.
Likewise, we have no glory except that which is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit. We are like the moon, which has no intrinsic light of its own, that is limited to only reflecting the light from the sun. But as we continually gaze at God's nature with Spirit-enlightened minds, we can become more understanding of His glory, become more like Him, and more accurately reflect His nature and glory.
"The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling with us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Living in Peace

Chuckle: Golfer: "I'd move heaven and earth to be able to break 100 on this course." Caddy: "Try heaven. You've already moved most of the earth."
Quote: "Where people are praying for peace the cause of peace is being strengthened by their very act of prayer, for they are themselves becoming immersed in the spirit of peace." --John Macquarrie

"Do your part (best) to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible" (Romans 12:18 NLT).
When it comes to living peacefully with everyone, I think many of us just give up long before we have done our best. It's a fact that some people are just hard to get along with, and our natural tendency is to throw in the towel and quit trying to build relationships with such folks. You may become frustrated when your desire for peace is ignored and the other party seems to thrive on conflict and disharmony. What are we to do in such situations?
The Golden Rule Principle makes it clear that we are to treat others as we desire to be treated. It does not say that we should stop treating others with love and respect simply because they do not return the favor. If we love others the way Christ loves us, we will not give up on being instruments of peace and grace no matter how difficult it may be. As believers, we are recipients of God's amazing grace and love and we should pass such grace and love on to others regardless of whether or not they deserve it or are receptive to it.
Remember, grace is unmerited favor and is extended without regard to it being deserved. Aren't you glad that God extended His grace and love to you when you did not deserve it? That hard to get along with person is as deserving of love, grace, and kindness as you and I are. So, to comply with God's instructions, we must not respond in anger or back away. Instead, we should continue to treat those difficult people with kindness and perhaps, eventually, your desire for peace will prevail and cause them to respond in kind. While you are busy making peace, you may be making a friend.
"Do what the Scriptures say: 'If your enemies are hungry, feed them . . . and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.' Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good" (Romans 12:20-21 NLT). "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3 NIV). In the Beatitudes Jesus said, "God blesses (makes happy) those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dealing with Disagreements

Chuckle: A Sunday School teacher asked a new boy, "who led the Israelites across the Red Sea?" "It wasn't me," he said. "We've just moved here from Missouri."
Good Thought: “We need not all agree, but if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable in our disagreements.” --Martin R. DeHaan
 
"And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement" (Philippians 4:2 NLT).
Disagreements are inevitable when two or more people interact. But, with God's help, we can learn to disagree without bitterness and rancor. When you think about it, wouldn't it be a dull world if we all agreed on everything. Usually disagreements occur when we don't get our way. Often we want something done one way and someone else wants it done another way.
Not getting our way can sometimes cause us to react in anger, frustration, and bitterness to a degree that others are surprised and taken back by our actions. They may never have seen this side of us before. Christians are not immune to immature reactions when things don't go the way we think they should, or the way we want them to. Sadly, disagreements that lead to anger and bitterness can destroy the sweet fellowship of God's people.
The two women mentioned in our passage had been co-workers for Christ in the church at Philippi, and their broken relationship was a matter of great concern to Paul. Many had come to know Christ through their cooperative efforts, but the credibility of their witness was in danger of being destroyed because they couldn't get along. We may work hard for Christ's kingdom, but the fruits of our labor can be diminished or non-existent if we can't get along with others in the church. There is no excuse for Christians to be at odds with one another when they are committed to the same cause.
We must remember that when we form strong opinions about something, we are no more entitled to have our opinions accepted by others than others are to have theirs accepted by us. It's a "human" thing to believe that "my idea is the best one and I don't understand why everyone can't see that which is so obvious to me." A Spirit-filled Christian will not allow selfish desires to get in the way of pursuing the common good.
If you find yourself angry and frustrated because you didn't get your way, or things did not go the way you wanted (felt they should), you would be wise to listen more closely to those who disagree with you -- with the intent to better understand why they feel the way they do. This requires an open mind and a cooperative spirit. We must learn to handle disagreements in a loving and kind way -- never with anger and hostility.
"Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself" (Philippians 2:2-3 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dealing With Anxiety and Worry

If you would like a copy of my new book, “God’s Daily Word,” here is the link to Amazon.com where it can be purchased: http://amzn.to/1kPv584
Chuckle: Driving along I-90, just west of Chicago, I passed a sign posted by the police department: "Report drivers using a cell phone. Please call *99." --Lane Martin
Quote: "Trust God for the unexpected, and let him surprise you by doing the unexplainable." –Unknown source

"Do not worry (be anxious) about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
"A doctor had to give a painful shot to a four-year-old girl. When she learned what the doctor was about to do, her face showed her anxiety and her body tensed. As the doctor picked up what looked to the little girl to be a needle large enough to kill an elephant, she turned her eyes to her father, who then took her hand and fixed his eyes on hers. An expression of confidence and calmness came on her face. She knew she was not alone and found comfort, not in her father's spoken answer, but in his presence with her in her time of trial."
Just imagine never worrying or being anxious about anything ever again! We are tempted to say this is an impossibility; all of us have worries and anxieties in our professional life, our homes, at school, etc. God understands our tendencies to worry and fret, but Paul tells us to turn our worries into prayers. If you want to worry less, then pray more. I believe God intends for worry and prayer to be mutually exclusive. Maybe you are anxious about a financial matter, the health of your child, a rebellious child, your own health, etc. Any situation in life which we see as threatening to our peace and contentment can bring on anxiety and worry. Some people even suffer from panic attacks brought on by extreme anxiety, worry, fear, etc.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to us, "So don't worry about everyday life -- whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? . . . Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not" (Matthew 6:25, 27 NLT). Here, Jesus is telling us he is aware of everything we need and promises to meet our needs. To worry is to deny the power of God in our lives, according to Dr. Edward Poldosky. God's Word gives us assurance that he will care for us and meet our every need. When we fail to live by this promise, worry and anxiety creep into our lives and destroy our peace of mind.
God's peace is much different from the worlds peace. Jesus said, "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14:27 NLT). True God-given peace is not found in positive thinking, the absence of conflict, or in good feelings. This peace comes from the assurance that God is in complete control and that our citizenship in his kingdom is sealed and sure. God wants you to let him guard your heart and mind against anxiety every day of your life. Just stop worrying, spend more time praying, and experience God's supernatural peace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 18, 2016

Putting Down Roots

If you would like a copy of my new book, “God’s Daily Word,” here is the link to Amazon.com where it can be purchased: http://amzn.to/1kPv584
Chuckle: "I received some bad news today. You know the money you get from those ATM machines? All that money comes from your account . . .!!"
Quote: "Only Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit can open blind eyes, give life to the dead and rescue slaves from Satanic bondage." --John Stott

"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God" (Psalm 92:12-13 NIV). "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither" (Psalm 1:3 NIV).
Spring is my favorite time of the year and I’m hoping the next one will be beautiful with all the colorful wildflowers and green fields. However, sometimes, here in Texas, droughts destroy the natural beauty of spring. Normally, spring is a time when many are busy tilling the soil in their gardens or fields in preparation for planting. If there's one thing a gardener and a farmer have in common, it is the understanding that there must be a deep and healthy root system if a plant is to flourish and bear a bountiful crop. Our Christian lives are like that.
God has commissioned us to "go and make disciples" -- to bear a harvest of fruit for His honor and glory. But we must realize that we cannot bear fruit unless we have deep roots in God's Word and His presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. When our lives are rooted in Him, His Spirit will provide all the life-giving spiritual sustenance and direction we need to grow spiritually and bear much fruit for His kingdom.
How do we go about putting down deep roots in His presence? Jesus' own words will give us the answer. Jesus said this: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5 NIV).
When we spend time in God's presence through Bible study, prayer, worship, and faithful obedience, we are practicing the essentials for maintaining the life-giving connection with Him and being used by Him in His work with people all around us. Are you rooted in Him? Are you drawing His life-giving sustenance into your life? Only by remaining in Christ can we have the fruitful life God desires for us.
As points of reference, the psalmist compares righteous people to palm trees and cedars. Palm trees are known for growing straight and tall with long lives. The cedars of Lebanon grew to 130 feet in height and up to 8.2 feet in diameter. In our passages, Christians are seen as standing straight and tall and unmovable. When their roots go deep into God's presence, they will, inevitably, produce fruit for God's kingdom.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, January 15, 2016

God, Where Are You?

Chuckle: The best kind of church is a Honda church, "All together in one Accord."
Ponder This: "Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake!" --Victor Hugo
"O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?" (Psalm 10:1 NLT).
An amazing truth about Scripture is that Bible characters often express the exact same feelings we experience today. In my life, there have been times when God seemed so far away that I could no longer sense His promised presence and I have asked the same question as the psalmist, David.
Sometimes it seems that God is the furthest away when our troubles are the greatest. When times are the darkest, you may feel that God is intentionally hiding himself from you. Perhaps you or a loved one are battling with a potentially terminal illness. Maybe the love of your life has recently passed away. Maybe a child has broken your heart. Maybe a dear friend has betrayed your trust. At times like these, you must trust God's promises instead of your feelings. Sometimes you may be the one who has drawn away from God which leaves you feeling God has moved away. To restore that feeling of God's nearness, you must move toward him.
I am reminded of the little story about a married couple riding along in their pickup truck. The wife asks, "why is it that we no longer sit close together like we did when we first married?" The husband thought for a moment, then responded, "I haven't moved!" Could it be that over time you have drifted away from the intimate fellowship with your Lord? Listen to the psalmist's later expression of God's nearness. "You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought. . . . I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence"  (Psalm 139:2, 7 NLT). This affirms the truth that God is always near even though you may feel otherwise.
When you became a Christian, God never promised you a life without troubles; but just the opposite. Jesus said to His followers, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV). God promise to be with you even in your darkest hours. Again, the psalmist expresses this truth in Psalm 23:4 NLT: "Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me."
When you find yourself experiencing the dark times of trouble, pain, sorrow, or loneliness, please remember that God is close beside you. Jesus said, "Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lawsuits and Christians

Chuckle: A patient told her doctor she had an episode of hallucinations. The doctor asked what they looked like. "Well, doctor, I really don't know," she said. "I wasn't wearing my glasses at the time."
Quote: "It is more important to maintain integrity than to amass a fortune." --William Arthur Ward
"When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to another Christian to decide who is right? I am saying this to shame you. Isn't there someone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these arguments? But instead one Christian sues another -- right in front of unbelievers. To have such lawsuits is a real defeat for you" (I Corinthians 6:1, 5-6 NLT).
Should Christians go to court against one another? Perhaps this question has never crossed the minds of most believers, but it deserves our careful and prayerful consideration. We live in a society obsessed with lawsuits. People sue each other over the most insignificant and ridiculous matters. It must be the "something for nothing" mentality that somehow being wronged even a little entitles a person to a windfall without working for it. Obviously, lawsuits are justified in some circumstances, but, as we study this lesson together, please remember the conduct of Christians should be different from the secular world. Our lives should give testimony that God has made us "a new creation" in Christ. We should have a different world view.
Here, Paul teaches how we should handle problems between Christians. We should not have to go to a secular court to resolve our differences. As Christians, we have the wisdom of God's Word and His Holy, so why go to those who lack God's wisdom to resolve our differences? In love, we should be able to resolve disputes among ourselves.
Here are a few reasons why Christians should not take their differences to secular courts? (1) The judge and jury may not be Christians, and may not to be sensitive to Christian values; (2) The reason for going to court is often revenge, and this should never be a Christian's motive; (3) Lawsuits between Christians harm the cause of Christ and cast the church in a bad light; and (4) Our love for each other should prevent our differences from rising to the level of anger, bitterness, revenge, or retribution.
"Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace" (Ephesians 4:2-3 NLT).
If we have this kind of relationship with one another as Christians, I don't think we will resort to lawsuits in most circumstances. Do you? It's true that some things must be settled in civil courts, but the bottom line for Christians is that we should take every precaution to avoid using them. By settling our differences in love, kindness, and understanding we send an important message to the world about the miracle God has performed in our hearts.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Faith is Revealedd by Actions

Chuckle: TEACHER: "John, why are you doing your multiplications on the floor?" JOHN: "Because you told me to do them without using tables!"
Quote: "Faith has no merit where human reason supplies the truth." --St Gregory the Great
"Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did . . . In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" (James 2:21-22, 25 NIV).
In summarizing his teachings on faith and works, James gives two examples of genuine faith from the lives of Abraham and Rahab. These two were so very different: Abraham was a man, Rahab a woman -- a patriarch, a prostitute -- a major Old Testament character, minor character -- a Jew, a gentile. They had one thing in common -- real life-changing faith. Abraham believed God and followed Him. He put his total faith in God, and God made him righteous. He understood that faith is taking God at His word and obeying him.
Rahab lived in Jericho, a pagan city, the first walled city the Israelites must defeat to claim the promised land. The Israelites sent spies to get the lay of the land and evaluate the defenses. When they got there, they stayed in Rahab's house and told her about God. She believed and put her faith into actions by hiding them, thus putting her life at risk. Both Abraham and Rahab are listed in Hebrews 11 among the great heroes of faith.
There are four basic truths about real faith. It: (1) is consistent with God's word; (2) is always centered on Christ alone, the object of our faith; (3) always involves the mind, emotions, and will; and (4) always results in good works (deeds). Jesus referred to these acts of kindness to others as "bearing fruit." "By their fruits you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:16 NIV).
For us to have the maximum impact on the world for our Lord, our faith and actions must be consistent. "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him" (Titus 1:16). Ephesians 2:8-10 puts faith and deeds in perspective: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not of works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." We are saved first by faith and then as God's new creation (workmanship), we are to do the good works that God has planned for each of us to do.
Finally, good deeds/works can never earn salvation; however, true faith always results in a changed life that produces good deeds. The true joy of being a Christian comes from the assurance that we have eternal life through faith in Christ, from obedient service to our Lord, and benevolent deeds of kindness and love to others.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Depraved Generation

Chuckle: "Two lawyers walked into the office one Monday morning, talking about their weekends. "I got a dog for my kids this weekend," said one. The other replied, "Good trade."
Quote: "You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person." Unknown Author
"The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve" (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT). "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, . . ." (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV).
The word "depraved" means totally wicked. It describes the condition of the human heart without the transforming work of the Holy Spirit through faith in the atoning blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When used in a Biblical sense, it implies that there is absolutely nothing we can do, in our own strength, to make ourselves less depraved. Most of us would agree that we live among people of a depraved generation. When I read the paper or hear the news, I'm amazed and appalled by the utter wickedness within the human heart. We sometimes forget how evil the world really is.
Paul admonished the Christians at Philippi to be different and "shine like stars in a universe"  (Philippians 2:15 NIV), while living in an otherwise evil generation of people. Paul's words remind me of the prayer of Jesus to his Father: "My prayer is not that you take them (his followers) out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one . . . As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:15-18 NIV). God does not want us to blend in with the world, but he wants us to stand out as different even while we remain in the world as his messengers and ambassadors.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world to those around us. He goes on to say a light should be put on a stand so that its light can shine for all. "In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NIV).
When we blend in with the depraved crowd, we hide the light of Christ that has been entrusted to us. Here are some ways we hide our light: (1) by being quiet when we should speak, (2) going along with the sinful ways of the crowd, (3) denying Jesus, the true Light, (4) letting sin dim our light, (5) not explaining our light to others, or (6) ignoring the needs of others.
Let's face it, a Christian has influence, either positive or negative. We must not hide from the world but let our influence count for Christ in such a way that God will get the glory for all the good we do. We should be a beacon of truth -- and not allow our light of Christ be hidden from the rest of the world.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 11, 2016

Running with Skunks

Chuckle: "A mother found her young sons playing with a litter of baby skunks. Remembering a smelly experience she'd had with one when she was a child, she shouted out, 'Run, children, run!' Each boy grabbed a skunk and ran!!!"
Quote: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." --Winston Churchill

"As God said: . .Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you" (2 Corinthians 6:16-17 NLT).
"When Jesus calls us out of the world, he doesn't invite us to bring our smelly way of life with us. But many church members still come to church every Sunday smelling like a skunk. The proof of Christianity is not a great church attendance record or a baptismal certificate, but a changed life. Following the Lord includes giving up unsavory friends and habits. And if we're really converted (saved), that choice isn't hard to make. When Jesus calls us, we have to leave our sinful ways behind. We can't follow him if we're running with skunks." (This quote is from an article by Doug Fincher, San Augustine, Texas).
It's true that after we become believers, God wants us to come out from among the sinful elements of the world. We have been set apart by God to take on the image of Jesus Christ. He doesn't want us to act like the world, look like the world, be like the world, or have loyalty to the world. But He does want us to remain in the world as a positive influence for Him. In John 17:15, Jesus prayed to the Father for His disciples and all believers, including you and me, as follows: "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 (the world)."
It is God's plan that we be in the world but not of the world. To allow God's plan for your life to unfold, your allegiance and devotion must remain centered in your Lord while being used of Him to touch the lives of desperate people around you. You can do this by consistently avoiding even the "smell" of the world as a part of your life. The world follows Satan's agenda, and Satan is the avowed enemy of Jesus and his people.
As a Christian, the strength to remain free of worldly influence on your life comes from the Holy Spirit who resides within you. Just surrender your will completely to his and let him have complete control. We can never separate ourselves completely from sinful influences; however God wants us to resist becoming tainted by the sin around us, while, in the power of the Spirit, never giving in to sin or giving up on the sinner.
“Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins” (Jude 22-23 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, January 8, 2016

Toes or Woes

Chuckle: Son to dad watching TV: "Dad, tell me again how when you were a kid you had to walk all the way across the room to change the channel."
Ponder this: "Nothing spoils a confession like repentance." --Anatole France

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).
I hope you participated in a worship service with your church last Sunday. If so, did being in God’s presence with other worshipers cause you to make changes in the way you live? Did the preaching of God's Word pierce and convict your heart of sin in your life? Did you respond to God's message by changing your attitudes, daily activities, and faithfulness to your church? Answers to these questions are terribly important in making our worship acceptable to God.
Years ago, I became aware of something that has caused me to evaluate my own worship and to better understand how people participate in and react to public worship. At the end of worship services, I noticed that some people would routinely say something like this to the pastor: "Pastor, that was a great message. You really stepped on my toes this morning." Then I noticed that, for some of those same people, experiencing God's presence in a public worship service did not result in observable changes in their behavior. Apparently they felt having their toes stepped on week after week was the goal of their worship experience.
Now, look with me at the attitude of Isaiah when he found himself in the presence of Almighty God. When confronted with God's Holiness, he immediately saw himself as an unworthy and sinful person in desperate need of God's mercy and forgiveness. He was so distraught about his condition that he exclaimed, "Woe to me for I am a man of unclean lips." When we find ourselves in a worship service and become aware that the God of the universe is present, that His Holy Spirit is working, and that He is speaking His Word to us through the music, the message, and prayers, our first reaction should be the same as Isaiah's: "Lord I am unworthy to be in your presence. Please forgive my sins and cleanse my unclean lips/life. Help me to adjust the way I live to bring honor and glory to your name."
Is it "Toes" or "Woes" when you go to church? Does your total experience leave you feeling good and happy, or is there also a time of self examination and repentance that makes you feel anything but happy? You see, it is not enough to go to church each Sunday, enjoy the music, listen to the message, and tell the pastor he stepped on your toes. Every worship experience -- every encounter with God -- should change us from the inside out. We should go into every service with open hearts anticipating what God wants to do in us. We should recognize that being in God's presence and hearing his voice should change our lives forever. If our lives are not changed after being in God's presence, we best examine our hearts to find out why.
Isaiah's reaction at being in God's Holy presence was to recognize his total depravity and unworthiness and to see his need for forgiveness and cleansing. When we reach this point of awareness in our worship, God can then change us and transform us into useful instruments for his kingdom's work. Once we have been cleansed, we can then rejoice and praise him for what he has done. Our worship should be a mixture of sorrow for our sins, repentance, confession, praise, joy and thanksgiving. But often I think we focus on the praise, joy, and thanksgiving, but neglect the repentance and sorrow for our sins. When we experience God's presence, each of us should ask, "do I experience woes or only stepped on toes?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Difficult Principle

Chuckle -- A child's prayer: "Dear God, Did you intend for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?" Norma
Quote: “Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living. It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish.” --Barbara B. Smith
"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get" (Matthew 7:12 MSG).
Living by the Golden Rule principle is not just difficult, it's impossible in our own strength. How then can we say to an unbelieving world, "if we would only treat each other like we want to be treated," the world would be a better place?" This is a principle to live by for believers who have been changed from the inside out -- those who know Christ. When Jesus spoke these words, he was teaching His followers during his Sermon on the Mount. To fully understand and apply His words in our daily living requires a transformation by the Holy Spirit. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
A missionary was sharing this verse (Matthew 7:12) with some natives. When he finished, the head of the group said, "If the God who made us would give us a new heart, then we could do this, but that's the only way."
Only if we have a new heart can this principle be applied as Jesus intends. William Barkley said, "to obey this principle, a man must become a new man with a new center to his life." Families and churches have been torn apart because people wouldn't treat one another as they want to be treated.
To be true to the teachings of Jesus, we must never apply the Golden Rule principle solely to get better treatment for ourselves. It should always be applied out of Christ-like love and compassion for others and to make their lives better. More than likely, it will result in better treatment for ourselves, but that should not be our motive. Agape (Christ-like ) love for others is unconditional -- it expects nothing in return.
Here is a challenge for each of us today. First, be sure you have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Then pray every day for the power to treat the people in your life with love, kindness, consideration, understanding, and acceptance in the same way you want to be treated. Ask God to help you refocus on building relationships. If you do this, your life and the lives of those around you will change dramatically and you will be happier and more completely fulfilled. One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it is usually returned in even greater measure than that which was given.
Love, Jerry & Dotse