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

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

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

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

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016, A Wonderful Year

Chuckle: A woman went to a marriage counselor and complained of her husband's overwhelming self-interest. "It was evident from the minute we married," she said. "He even wanted to be in the wedding pictures."
Quote: "If you truly love Him, your service for Him in the new year will be of the quality that He desires." --Henry Blackaby
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
If you love the Christmas season as much as I do, you wish it would never end. But, for Christians, the spirit of Christmas need never end. Our joy should continue all year long just from reflecting on the love of God that has given us eternal life through faith in the crucified and risen Babe of Bethlehem. With the passing of Christmas, our minds logically turn to the new year. Let's listen to God as we prepare our hearts for 2016. There's a story about a happy little boy with a baseball cap, glove, bat, and tremendous confidence.
"Cocking his bat, he tossed the ball into the air, saying, "I’m the greatest batter in the world!" Then he swung and missed. "Strike one," he said. He picked up the ball, examined it, and then threw it into the air again. As he swung, he repeated, "I’m the greatest batter in the world." Once again he missed. "Strike two," he said. This time, he stopped to examine his bat to make sure there wasn’t a hole in it. Then he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, and tossed the ball into the air for the third time, and again said, "I’m the greatest batter in the world," and swung with all his might - and missed for the 3rd straight time. "Wow" he cried, "What a pitcher. I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!"
Are you a great batter or a great pitcher? One thing is for sure, at times we have all struck out. So, it’s good to start over afresh with the new year. As you face a new year, you may be painfully remembering how you failed your Lord in 2015. Maybe you were not faithful to His calling on your life. Maybe you lived a life of disobedience. Like the little boy, may I suggest that your attitude will largely determine whether 2016 is a year of victory or a year of defeat. The Bible says: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus"  (Philippians 2:5 NIV).
In our basic passage, God is calling each of us to make a conscious decision to come to him for comfort and rest, and to learn from him - learn to have his attitude about life, love, and service to others. Jesus said, "I have come that they (you and I) may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV). He's talking about life in the here and now as well as in eternity.
We all enter the New Year asking, "What will it mean to me?" "What can I do with it?" These are natural new year thoughts. We don't know what the future holds -- but we know who holds the future and that the new year will be what we allow God to make of it. Without a promise of tomorrow, We can plan, with God's help, to make 2016 the best year of our lives.  If this is to be a Happy New Year, a year of usefulness, a year in which we shall live to make this earth better, it is because God will direct our pathway. How important then, to feel our dependence upon Him!  --Matthew Simpson
Love, Jerry & Dotse