Monday, February 29, 2016

Are You a Saint?

Chuckle: "She took him for better or worse, and he was worse than she took him for!"
Good Quote: "He who lives to live forever, never fears dying." --William Penn
"Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi . . ." (Philippians 1:1b NIV).
When you hear the word "saint," what image comes to mind? Often, we think of a saint as someone who is a cut above others in his/her faith, commitment, and daily walk with our Lord. The term, "saint," literally means "holy" or "set apart" for God's use. We must guard against the idea that "saint" implies an extraordinary level of moral and spiritual attainment.
The word saint has come far from its original New Testament meaning. When we think of a "saint," we think of some stylized human figure depicted in stain glass, or a person long dead who has been officially declared as an ecclesiastical relic. However, one of the clearest definitions is, "A Saint is a dead sinner, revised and edited."Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
The setting apart comes from God, not the individual; but holy and Godly character should be the mark of every Christian. The church members at Philippi were saints because they were in Christ -- because they were Christians. Paul emphasized this point by addressing them as saints as he began his letter. If you are a believer, you are a saint as the word is used in our passage. As saints, what should our lives be like?
In I Peter 2:9 NIV, we are told: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." This describes you and me if we know Christ as Savior and Lord -- if we are in Christ. So, as Christians, as saints, as a chosen people belonging to God, we have experienced the wonderful light of God's love and are to declare his praises to others. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12 NIV).
A little boy attended a church that had beautiful stained-glass windows. He was told that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and other saints. One day he was asked, "What is a saint?" He replied, "A saint is a person whom the light shines through."Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Are you a saint? Is the Light of the World showing through your life? If so, you will experience the joy that comes from being in Christ and fulfilling God's purpose for your life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 26, 2016

God of Surprises

Chuckle: Two political candidates were hotly debating. Finally, one of them yelled at the other, "What about the powerful interest that controls you?" The other guy screamed back, "You leave my wife out of this!"
Quote: "You pray in your distress and in your need, would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and your days of abundance." --Kahlil Gibran

"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. . . .Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. . . . But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished." (Acts 12:5, 7, 16 NIV).
This passage reminds me how surprised and astonished we are sometimes when God actually answers our prayers. I must admit there have been times when I've prayed for something to happen while not really believing that God would grant my request. There have also been times when God totally surprised me by answering my prayers in ways I could never have imagined.
We may think these early Christians showed a lack of faith by praying while not expecting the answer they received; but is that really the way it was? I believe they had faith that God would answer their prayers; but when they saw Peter at the door, they couldn't believe it. They were astonished by such an amazing demonstration of God's power. Evidently, the middle of the night rescue of Peter from prison by an angel of God was far beyond their expectations. Perhaps they expected that God would answer in a more "normal" way. Do we expect God to answer our prayers by doing certain things in certain ways?
If we make a habit of praying earnestly and continually, no doubt we will be astonished by God's mighty works far beyond what we expect. If we are never astonished by what God does, is He really working in our lives and around us? Remember, it is God Himself who answers our prayers, not our finite mental image of God.
I believe God expects us to be a people of faith who always believes that God answers our prayers if we are praying in accordance with His will. When you pray, you should believe you will get an answer, and when the answer comes, be astonished but don't be surprised. Instead, just be thankful. "But when he (a person) asks, he must believe and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV).
A final thought: If we pray selfishly, we have every reason to doubt that God will grant our requests. James warns us about praying selfishly. "When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 25, 2016

God's Mercy

Chuckle: "After receiving the proofs of a portrait, a politician was very angry with the photographer. He stormed back to the photographer and arrived with these angry words: 'This picture does not do me justice!' The photographer replied, 'Sir, with a face like yours, you don't need justice, you need mercy!' "
Quote: "Two works of mercy set a man free: forgive and you will be forgiven, and give and you will receive." --St Augustine of Hippo

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. . ." (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV).
Mercy is a special gift of God to each of us. In its simplest form, mercy is not receiving what one deserves. It is withholding the administration of harsh justice because of God's love and grace. There is nothing we can do to merit God's mercy; rather it is a product of God's loving and forgiving nature. Like grace, mercy is completely unearned and undeserved.
The story has been told of a mother who sought from Napoleon the pardon of her son. The emperor said it was the man's second offense, and justice demanded his death. "I don't ask for justice," said the mother, "I plead for mercy." "But," said the emperor, "he does not deserve mercy." "Sir," cried the mother, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask." "Well, then," said the emperor, "I will show mercy." And her son was saved.
Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity and compassion; it assumes a need on the part of the one receiving it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of the one who shows mercy. God shows pity on us because of our sinful condition about which we can do nothing on our own, and he has provided a way of salvation through faith in Christ. Hebrews 4:16 tells us we should pray boldly for God's mercy: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it."
Often mercy and peace are found together in Scripture. When this happens, mercy is usually listed first. Mercy is the act of God, peace is the resulting experience in our hearts. Another way to define Mercy is to feel sympathy with the misery of another person, and especially that type of sympathy that is manifested by action to help that person.
"Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, 'Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well' -- but you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all -- it is dead and useless" (James 2:15-17 NLT). Mercy is never deserved. If you find yourself having difficulty in granting forgiveness and mercy to others, please take a moment to reflect on God's mercy which has been granted to you. . . .
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

To Live Or Die

Chuckle: "Question: What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth? Answer: Ruthless."
Quote: "The inevitable tomb is not a period at the end of the sentence of life, but a conjunction connecting us with the (glorious) life to come." --Unknown
"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body" (Philippians 1:21-24 NIV).
To a person who doesn't believe in Christ, life here on earth is all there is. So it is natural for him/her to live for the here and now -- to strive for the things valued by the world: money, popularity, power, pleasure, and prestige. However, for Paul, it meant living by eternal values and telling others about Christ, who alone could help them see life from an eternal perspective.
Being in prison, and facing possible execution, Paul was torn between two strong desires, to live and to die. In verse 21, he weighed the glory of living against the greater glory of dying, not knowing which to choose because each was a wonderful option. He would gain no matter which way his Roman trial went. His life would be wonderful simply because it was Christ-filled. Death would be gain because Paul's union with Christ would finally be realized fully.
In verse 22, He was weighing two possibilities, life and death. He didn't know which was best, so he would leave that to God. "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two . . ." In verse 23, he rationalized that he was needed in his earthly ministry, but his personal desire would be to go to be with the Lord.
To Paul, death was not an enemy, but a friend. He wrote: "We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it" (2 Corinthians 5:8).
I believe God would have each of us view live and death as Paul did. We should be eager to serve the Lord to our utmost while alive here on earth, but have no dread of death because of what awaits us in God's glorious presence.
To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. What a beautiful picture of our future as believers. If you're not ready to die, then you're not ready to live your life to its fullest. Make certain of your eternal destiny in Christ; then you will be ready and free to serve God and other people -- devoting your life to what is really important, without fear of death.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Together in Christ

Chuckle: New bride to husband: "Nonsense, dear. It's just a coincidence that I never liked you until you won the lottery." --Art Bouthillier
Quote: "We may not always see eye to eye, but we should always walk hand in hand."Unknown source 

"Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose" (I Corinthians 1:10 NLT).
Sadly, there are dissentions and divisions within many Christian churches. But the more I think about the problem, the reason becomes progressively more clear. The Bible tells us there is spiritual warfare going on in the world between the forces of evil (Satan) and the Holy Spirit of Almighty God. If Satan can divide us Christians and thereby damage our witness, he has neutralized the church, and scored a major victory.
In Paul's writings, unity within the church is a major theme. As background to our passage, Paul had founded the church at Corinth on his second missionary journey. Eighteen months after he left, arguments and divisions arose, and some church members slipped back into immoral life-styles. By using the term "brothers and sisters," He is emphasizing that all Christians are part of God's family and they share a unity that runs even deeper than that of blood brothers and sisters.
We should be united in spirit, thought, and purpose, but this does not require everyone to agree on everything. However, there is a great contrast between differences of opinions and divisions within the fellowship. Paul is encouraging all believers to behave in a way that will reduce arguments and increase harmony within the body. Petty differences should never divide us.
Most contentions today are the result of conflicting personalities -- basically the same as in the day of Paul's writings. They are usually caused by intellectual conceit, selfishness, or by a lack of consecration and humility. The idea that "God has revealed to me how the church should function, but not to you," is often a thread that runs through lack of unity. The evils connected with divisions in modern-day churches are many, and they only serve to weaken the church.
It behooves each of us to be agents of love and unity but never of division. This will be our attitude if we have the good of the church and the mission of God's kingdom uppermost in our minds and hearts. The appeal for unity is made with love and concern. "I appeal to you" -- and in love -- "brothers and sisters." Unity, then, is realized when each member of a congregation turns his or her thoughts to Christ rather than individual feelings.
The church filled with strife may do well to be reminded of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar who, coming on deck and finding two British officers quarreling, whirled them about -- pointing to the ships of their adversary -- exclaimed. "Gentlemen, there are your enemies."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jesus, Our Friend

Chuckle: Father: "What did you learn in school today?" Son: "That three and three are seven." Father: "Three and three are six!" Son: "then I guess I didn't learn anything today!"
Quote: "Value a friend who, for you, finds time on his calendar -- but cherish the friend who, for you, does not even consult his calendar."
"I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it -- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. You are my friends if you obey me. I no longer call you servants because a master doesn't confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me" (John 15:12-15 NLT).
Please take a moment to reflect on the significance of Jesus' words in our passage. How do they make you feel? Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master, and He should call us servants; instead, He calls us friends. These most comforting and reassuring words tell us we Christians have been chosen to be His friends.
Friendship implies the closest and most intimate non-romantic relationship there is between two individuals. As you read our Lord's words, the intimacy of Jesus' relationship with His followers becomes crystal clear -- and totally amazing. The circle of friendship we enjoy through Jesus Christ includes the saved, servants, and friends of Jesus.
Lest we get too carried away with this concept of Jesus being our friend, we must remember that He came as a servant and has called us to be servants. We are called to be servants while enjoying the privileges of friends with our Lord. Here's what Jesus said about Himself as a servant: "For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28 NLT). Here, Jesus was instructing his followers that their importance in His kingdom would be measured by their willingness to be the servants/slaves of others.
Notice the conditions Jesus requires us to meet if we are to be his friends. "You are my friends if you obey me." You see, love for Jesus translates into obedience -- love is also reflected by obedience. Jesus said, "All those who love me will do what I say" (John 14:23 NLT).
Let's not overlook the first command in our passage -- that we love one another in the same way Jesus loves us. This is possible only in the power of the Holy Spirit. In our own strength, we could never love with the love with which Jesus loved. We may not be called upon to die for a friend, but there are other ways to practice sacrificial love; listening, encouraging, helping, giving. Think of someone you know who needs this kind of love today. Give all the love you can, and then give a little more. Our friend, Jesus, did just that.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 19, 2016

Worshipers God Desires

Chuckle: Three retirees, each with a hearing loss, were playing golf. One remarked, "Windy, isn't it?" "No," the second man replied, "it's Thursday." And the third man chimed in, "So am I. Let's go have something to drink."
Quote: “I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.” --Henry Ward Beecher
 
"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23 NIV).
Have you given much thought to the question: why is God so interested in receiving our worship? Why does God's Word have so much to say to us on the subject of worship? When I think about these questions, I'm taken back to the Garden of Eden and the creation. The Bible tells us that God created us male and female in the spiritual image of Himself. He made us as spiritual beings with the capability to respond in love to His love for us -- our spirit connecting with His Spirit. From the beginning, it has been God's desire that we love Him. Jesus gave us the great commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30 NIV).
God is Spirit and this means he is not a physical being limited to one place or one time. He is timeless and present everywhere, and this makes it possible for us to worship Him anywhere. It is not where you worship that is all important but how you worship. The location of your private worship or public worship with your church family is not nearly as important as your attitude in worship. The Father seeks genuine worshipers that involves our spirit connecting with His Spirit in love, reverence, adoration, and submission. He wants us to worship Him out of love as we respond to His great love and amazing grace.
When we assemble for worship with our church families, it's essential that our attention be focused exclusively on the One we have come to worship. This means not letting our minds wander to other things, but keeping ourselves attentive only to hearing God speak to us and responding to His presence with love, repentance, prayers, and songs of praise. For our worship to be pleasing to God, we must focus our attention on Him and the great command by loving Him with all our being, holding nothing back.
"Many years ago, Thomas K. Beecher once substituted for his famous brother, Henry Ward Beecher, at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. Many curiosity seekers had come to hear the renowned Henry Beecher speak. Therefore, when Thomas Beecher appeared in the pulpit instead, some people got up and started for the doors. Sensing that they were disappointed because he was substituting for his brother, Thomas raised his hand for silence and announced, 'All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may withdraw from the church; all who came to worship God may remain.' The example of godly leaders is helpful, but only the Savior is worthy of our worship and devotion."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 18, 2016

God is Faithful

Chuckle: "Remember: Marriage is the number one cause of divorce." --Red Skelton
Quote: "No problem is too big for God's power, and no person is too small for God's love."Unknown Source
"God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (I Corinthians 1:9 NIV).
"Two young girls were talking, and one said she had ten pennies. The other girl looked at her hand and only saw five. She said, 'You only have five pennies.' The first girl replied, 'I have five and my father told me he would give me five more tonight. So I have ten.' She understood that her father's promise was as good as done."
Our passage reaffirms God's faithfulness in every situation. The problem with many of us is that we really don't trust Him in all circumstances. It is our human tendency to try to deal with hardships and solve our problems in our own strength. Often, it's only after our feeble efforts have failed miserably that we finally ask God to be faithful and give us a hand. The Bible says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). He was faithful when He paid the penalty for your sins and He is faithful today to meet your every need.
God is faithful in carrying out His plan and purpose for each of our lives. He gave us the freedom to choose whether or not we will have fellowship with Him. If we choose to accept His love through faith in Jesus Christ, He is faithful to fellowship with us through His Word and Spirit and meet our every need. He has a plan and purpose for your life and will be faithful to give you the strength to carry out that plan and fulfill that purpose.
God is faithful in the promises he has made. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23 NIV). He is faithful in answering prayer as He promised (Mark 11:24). He is faithful to supply our needs (Philippians 4:19). He is faithful in sending the Holy Spirit as our comforter and companion (John 14:8).
God is faithful to be with us in every circumstance. As we serve Him by reaching out to others in His name, he has promised to be with us (Matthew 18:20). Even in the valley of death and despair He is with us (Psalm 23:4). As a believer, there is no way we can ever escape from His presence (Psalm 139:7) or His love (Romans 8:38-39).
As the little girl trusted the promise of her father, so we should trust our Heavenly Father for our eternal salvation and to help us make the most of our lives today. "I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b NIV). There is no part of your life that you cannot trust God to make it rich and full. This old hymn says it all.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou has been thou forever will be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided;Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
(Thomas O. Chisholm)
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Honest Humility

Chuckle: "Sometimes I think I understand everything, then I regain consciousness!"
Quote: "Humility is a strange thing; the moment you think you have it, you have lost it." --Author Unknown
"You younger men, accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for 'God sets himself against the proud but he shows favor (gives grace) to the humble.' So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you" (I Peter 5:5b-6 NLT).
People of all ages can benefit from Peter's instructions. The opposite of humility is pride, and pride often keeps older people from trying to understand younger people and keeps younger people from listening to those who are older. Pride makes us continue to argue our point even after we know in our hearts that we are wrong. Let's see if we can learn from God's Word how we can live honestly with genuine humility.
I like Andrew Murray’s definition of humility: "Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all."
An humble person is more secure than a proud person because humility gives a more accurate perspective of one's self and the world. It does not mean that we should put ourselves down because we know we have great worth in God's Kingdom. Rather, we are to lay aside selfishness and treat others with understanding, respect, and common courtesy. When we consider others' interests as more important than our own, we become linked with Christ who is our true example of humility.
The importance of humility springs from the fact that it is found as part of the character of God himself. The word meaning humility is used in the New Testament to describe a condition of low estate brought about by the judgment of God; and also it describes a spirit of lowliness which enables God to bring special blessings to the humble. Paul teaches us to emulate the humility of Christ, who willingly and deliberately set aside His divine prerogatives and humbled Himself, thus receiving exaltation from the Father. "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on the cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place. ." (Philippians 2:8-9a NIV). Setting our desires aside for the sake of serving others is following Jesus' example.
Like all virtues, humility can be simulated or faked, and the danger of false humility is real. We can become proud of our own humility and thereby lose what humility we may have had. We have humility only when our motives are so pure we are unaware that we have it, even as others see it in us.
 Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

God's Amazing Grace

Chuckle: "Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together."
Ponder This: "Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see." --John Newton, 1725-1807
"But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 NIV).
Justice is receiving what we deserve. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. The Greek word translated "Grace" can also mean "favor." Grace is God's unmerited favor to us because of His great love and mercy. Like God's mercy, His grace is not something we can earn, but is bestowed by God according to His will. Being a recipient of God's grace brings peace, and joy to one's life. His amazing grace is the reason every believer can rejoice and be thankful to God for His love and compassion.
We become Christians through God's grace, not by our efforts, abilities, intelligent choices, or acts of service on our part. However, because of our gratitude for this free gift, our natural inclination is to serve others with kindness, love, and gentleness, and not merely to bring credit to ourselves but to please God. When someone gives you a gift, you don't ask, "how much do I owe you?" No, the natural response is "Thank you." Yet, many Christians, even after they have been given the gift of salvation by God's grace, feel obligated to work (earn) their way into God's favor.
Because our salvation and even our faith are gifts from God's by His grace, He expects our response to include gratitude, praise, and joy. Then we will be motivated to do good things for others. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). Doing good deeds cannot save us, but good deeds that please God should follow our salvation by grace. Kay Arthur summarizes the ways God's grace impacts our lives as believers:
"It is grace, grace, grace. God does it all. Ours is only to believe. Even the faith to believe is of grace. It is all of grace.
It is by grace that we are saved. It is by grace that we can know Him intimately. It is by grace that we live day by day. It is by grace that we deal with the traumas of life. It is by grace that we serve God. It is by grace that we please God. By grace we deal with our sins when we do not walk by the Spirit but yield to the flesh. By grace, and grace alone, we approach God and receive the things we need -- whether spiritual, emotional, or physical. Through faith, we lay hold of the grace of God, believing and walking in obedience to Him, no matter what."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 15, 2016

Preparing for Worship

Chuckle: A little boy asked, "Why don't you come to my church next Sunday?"  "Because I belong to another abomination," the answer came.
Quote: “The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure.” -- A. W. Tozer
Jesus said, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24 NIV). "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Psalm 95:6 NIV).
During the week, as you look forward to participating in worship services on Sunday, how do you prepare your heart and mind for worshiping with your brothers and sisters in Christ? For our Sunday worship to be what God desires, spiritual preparation during the week is a must. Daily private worship through prayer, Bible study, confession, praise and thanksgiving will prepare your spirit for congregational worship on the Lord's day.
Worship is not a performance to bring attention to those on stage, be they preachers, singers, instrumentalists, or laypersons. No, worship is an offering to God and must be done privately from the heart and is not visible to the human eyes -- it is done in the spirit. For our worship to be pleasing and acceptable to God, it must be genuine and emanate from the heart.
God is spirit, not a physical being whom we can see and touch. He exists in a different realm or plane from humans and He is not subject to the same limitations of a physical body like ours. Our relationship with God is deeply personal and He can be worshiped only at the intensely personal level. We worship God's Spirit from deep within our human spirits as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Worship in Spirit and truth requires spiritual preparation.
So, how can we prepare our hearts for congregational worship? As we go through the week, we can spend time daily alone in prayer and meditation on God's Word. We can confess and ask God to forgive specific sins in our lives (1 John 1:9). We can look forward with excitement to joining God's people in worship on Sunday. We can pray for the pastor, the music worship leader, and all the other worshipers. We can serve the needs of others. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us restore any broken relationships that detract from our ability to worship. We can recognize the benefits of public worship and anticipate that God will transform our lives each time we come together.
As we prepare our hearts through the week, we will discover that our worship becomes never ending. We will come to better understand what Paul meant when he said we should pray without ceasing. We will come to realize that we are worshiping our Lord continuously seven days a week, not just on Sunday morning. Then we will be prepared to join our brothers and sisters in meaningful, uplifting, and live-changing worship on Sunday. God will work miracles in the hearts of those who have adequately prepared for worship.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 12, 2016

Disowning Our Lord

Chuckle: "Adolescence is that period when a boy refuses to believe that someday he will be as ignorant as his parents."
Quote: "He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions." --J. F. Clarke
Jesus said to Simon Peter: "I tell you the truth, . . . this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same" (Matthew 26:34-35 NIV).
Jesus had predicted his death and resurrection to his disciples. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus ate the Passover meal with them. There he identified Judas Iscariot as the one who would betray him into the hands of his enemies. Jesus went on to tell his disciples they would all lose courage and "fall away" from him – in reality, disowning Him. Sure enough, when Jesus was arrested, all the disciples deserted him and fled even though they had all said they never would even if it meant their deaths.
However, Peter followed at a distance as they took Jesus away. After Jesus was taken before the high priest and the whole Sanhedrin, Peter was confronted three times by people who accused him of being a follower of Jesus. Each time, Peter vehemently denied that he even knew Jesus. After he had denied/disowned Jesus the third time, the rooster crowed.
"Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: 'Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:75 NIV).
As Christians, most of us, if asked, would say as the disciples did: "I will never disown my Lord." But how bold are we in being identified with him? How bold are we in expressing our faith before others out of fear of what they might say or do? How bold are we in letting others know of our allegiance to Christ in the workplace, classroom, or family gatherings?
We may be disowning our Lord by our actions -- by the way we live and our silence about our relationship with him. How much evidence is there in your life and mine that we are fully devoted followers of Christ? Is your love for your Lord overshadowed by a fear of what others may think or say about you? Like Peter, a time will come when we will deeply regret our failure to be identified with the One who loved us so much that he died for us.
In many places today, around the world, Christians are being tortured and hideously martyred simply because they boldly proclaim their faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. Sadly, persecution of Christians is likely to get even worse before it gets better. Let’s join our hearts in prayer that we will have the courage to be faithful to our Lord regardless of the persecutions we may endure. 
Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Overcoming Bitterness

Chuckle: "A human-resources manager was going over one candidate's application. At the end of the line, 'Sign Here,' the woman had written, 'Pisces.' " --James Dent
Quote: "The person who is busy counting his blessings has no time to take inventory of his injuries." --William Arthur Ward
"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15 NIV). "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble (NKJV).
Here is yet another way of saying the first phrase of this verse: "Look after each other so that none of you will miss out on the special favor of God" (NLT). You cannot miss the strong message that each of us should have a special concern for our fellow believers and help them grow in Christ. You can just feel the love, warmness, and oneness among believers that the writer of Hebrews is advocating. This kind of relationship is based on unconditional love and mutual respect for one another. Such a relationship among Christians will be used of God to bless the lives of non-believers and draw them to Christ.
We are also warned about letting bitterness disrupt our relationships. Like a small root that grows into a huge tree, even the smallest bitter feeling toward another can grow into a monster that destroys even our most cherished Christian relationships. Such bitterness, if left unchecked, can become so deep-rooted within our souls that it is difficult to weed out. A "bitter root" sometimes comes when we don't get our way; or when we allow disappointment in others to grow into resentment; or when we nurse grudges over past hurts. The fruits of bitterness include jealousy, dissension, and general disharmony in the fellowship.
It's so easy to rationalize and justify our bitterness, especially when we feel we have become the object of unkindness or mistreatment. You may say, "After what that person did to me, I have every right to be bitter." If you are trying to justify your bitterness, beware that if that bitterness is allowed to fester and grow, you can become so used to living with it that it becomes a permanent part of your personality.
You may become comfortable with your bitterness, but no one else will be. Others will be repulsed and driven away. God knows that bitterness will eventually destroy you. He understands the final outcome of uncontrolled bitterness and anger. If you are harboring bitterness, you should understand that there is nothing so deeply imbedded in your heart that God cannot root out and remove. When we allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to take control of our lives, he can heal even the deepest of hurts that result in bitterness.
If you choose to live with anger and bitterness in your heart, you are denying God's grace the opportunity to set you free from these horrible feelings that rob you of your joy. Why not go to God in prayer asking forgiveness for harboring that bitterness in your heart and let him take it away and replace it with his peace and joy? Then to complete your restoration process, go to the person to whom you are embittered and ask his/her forgiveness as well.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Prayer and God's Power

Chuckle: "If all the people who sleep in church were laid end to end -- they'd be more comfortable!"
Quote: “Time spent on the knees in prayer will do more to remedy heart strain and nerve worry than anything else.” --George David Stewart

"Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16 NIV).
The story is told of a young girl who said, "Lord, I am not going to pray for myself today; I am going to pray for others." But at the end of her prayer she added, "And please give my mother a handsome son-in-law!"
We just can't seem to end a prayer without asking something for ourselves. However, when we become disciplined enough to pray for others, we become partners with God in His work of salvation, healing, comfort, and justice. Of course, God can accomplish those things without us, but in His plan we are given the privilege of being involved with Him through prayer.
When we intercede for someone in trouble, facing surgery, who needs Christ, has lost a loved one, or a pastor who needs strength, we are asking God to provide for that person what we cannot give ourselves. We are interceding for God to direct His power in a specific direction.
Prayer is not a magic wand for satisfying our own desires and wishes, but it's a God-given opportunity to work with our Lord in accomplishing His purposes. "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14 NIV).
You may not feel like praying for others because you are so in need of prayer yourself. However, there is a basic truth about God's kingdom; we find healing for ourselves by ministering on behalf of others.
Many of us go to church looking for healing that will make us whole and make us more effective ministers for our Lord. But Jesus wants us to get out there, with all of our own needs, and minister to others. When we do this, it's amazing how we will find the needed healing and strength which we're seeking! Fervent intercessory prayer for others, that comes from a pure heart, will result in God doing mighty things in the lives of both the intercessor and the one for whom he/she is interceding. Have a great day as you focus on the power of prayer!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dispelling the Darkness

Chuckle: "These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after."
Quote: “Help me reach a friend in darkness; Help me guide him through the night. Help me show thy path to glory By the Spirit's holy light.” --Lorin F. Wheelwright

“In him was life; and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. . . The true Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:3b-5, 9 NIV).
We are told in Genesis 1:1-3 (NLT) that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
Notice how God spoke light into existence -- "Let there be light." It boggles our minds to think of God doing such things in His creation; but when it came to dispelling darkness with His light, God was just getting started. The next light from God was when He sent His one and only Son, the Light of the World, to dispel the darkness of sin within human souls.
The word "darkness" is used often in God's Word to describe the sinful condition of mankind and the evil of the Prince of Darkness (Satan). The word "light" is used to describe Jesus Christ as He transforms the souls of people into His righteousness and makes us acceptable in God's presence. In John 1:6, we are told that John the Baptist was sent to tell everyone about the "True Light" (Jesus Christ) that was coming into the world -- a Light that can never be overcome by darkness.
This means that the darkness of evil never has and never will overpower God's light. In the light of Jesus Christ, we see ourselves as we really are (in the darkness of sin and needing a Savior). When we follow Jesus, the true Light, we can avoid walking blindly and falling into sin. He lights the path ahead for us so we can see (know) how to live for Him. He removes the darkness from our lives.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12 NIV). Give your heart and life to Christ and let Him guide your life, and you will never need to stumble in darkness again. He will bring you unspeakable joy, peace, and assurance.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 8, 2016

God Shows Us the Way

Chuckle: A boy thought this line in the Lord's Prayer was, "Lead a snot into temptation," and meant he was praying for his little sister to get into trouble.
Quote: "Seek in reading and thou shalt find in meditation; knock in prayer and it shall be opened to thee in contemplation." --St John of the Cross
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21 NIV).
How can I know for certain what God's will is for my life? I'm pretty sure you have asked a similar question at some time in your life. As Christians, knowing and obeying God's will should be our primary focus in everything we do. Our passage tells us that God will make His will known to us if we are listening for His voice. There have been times in my life when I was focused on doing what I thought was best while hoping God would agree with me. What a terrible mistake it is to decide on a course of action and then ask God to bless you in that decision.
If you are seeking to know God's will for your life, you must listen for His voice before you decide which way you will go, not afterwards. For us to hear God's guiding voice, we must be listening. We must have our hands cupping our spiritual ears, so to speak, for fear that we might miss something God is saying to us. The secret is walking so close to our Lord each day that his guiding us is a foregone conclusion. But, let's face it, sometimes we don't want to hear God's voice because we know He will tell us to do something we really don't want to do. This is when our total devotion to Him becomes suspect.
God's voice comes to us in many ways if we are really listening: through His written Word; through His indwelling Holy Spirit; through prayer; through other people; and even through circumstances He allows, or causes, us to experience. Sometimes God's voice is muffled by our lack of attention and we find ourselves confused and uncertain about which path to take. But, often it isn't that God's will is obscure, but that we are unwilling to hear and obey. I think it was Mark Twain who said something like this: "It isn't what I don't understand in the Bible that gives me the most trouble, but rather it's what I do understand."
One thing is certain, God's voice will never tell us to do something that is contrary to the written instructions in His Word. Like Mark Twain, we often understand a lot more about God's will than we are willing to admit and follow. Complete surrender of our wills to God will cure our spiritual deafness and allow us to hear more clearly the guiding voice of God.
"I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble" (Proverbs 4:11-12 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blessings From Delegating

Chuckle: Dad: "Why is your January report card so bad?" Son: Well, you know how it is, Dad. Things are always marked down after Christmas!"
Quote: "Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. . So God put the body together. . If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts (rejoice) are glad" (1 Corinthians 12:14, 24, 26 NLT).
Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe the function of the body of Christ, the church. Like the human body, the church has many members and each of them is important to the life and function of the spiritual body. For our physical bodies to perform at their best, each and every part must perform its function as it was designed by our Creator. The same is true of the church.
Have you ever made the statement: "If I want something done right, I do it myself?" This statement says we think we can do the job better than anyone else in our organization or the church. Even though such thoughts come naturally to us, any organization can be a winning team only if leaders are willing to delegate even the good jobs to others.
All sorts of misgivings can lead us to be reluctant to delegate. Are they capable? Are they dependable? Will they follow through? Are they team players? Yes, it's natural to ask such questions, but the highly successful person recognizes that trusting others is critical for a cohesive and successful team. It takes a person with a healthy self-image to be secure enough to share both responsibility and credit.
I have known pastors and other leaders, including myself, who have tried to do too many jobs themselves because they didn't have faith in others. Perhaps they had been disappointed in the past when they tried to delegate tasks to others. No matter the reasons, failure to delegate and allow others to exercise their God-given gifts and abilities is to rob them of the joy of service as an important member of the team.
Until you learn to delegate, you won't have time to dream, plan, study, and be creative. You will seriously limit your own effectiveness and that of your organization or church. The beautiful thing about delegating is that you will now have the time to do those things that only you can do -- that cannot be delegated. If you are a leader in your church, you are wise to recognize the value of each member, allow them to function as members of Christ's Body, and rejoice with them and give them credit when they do well.
Love, Jerry & Dotse