Thursday, March 31, 2016

What is a Christian? Part 2

Chuckle: Kid's lyrics: "O Susanna, O don't you cry for me; for I come from Alabama with a Band-Aid on my knee!"
Quote: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” --William (Billy) Sunday
WHAT (WHO) IS A CHRISTIAN? Part 2
"If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives" (Galatians 5:25 NLT). "Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you" (Ephesians 5:18 NLT).
Last time, we saw that first, a Christian is "one in whom Jesus Christ resides/dwells." Second, a Christian is "One whose life Jesus Christ Controls." The title "Christians" was given by others to the believers at Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their lives and actions showed they were Christ's followers and were controlled by His teachings. They didn't need to go around telling people they were Christians -- people knew it immediately by the way they lived.
Today, many who wear the name "Christian," and maybe even attend church, do not show in their daily lives that they are His and controlled by Him and His indwelling Spirit. A Christian should be loved and respected for whose name he or she bears -- because he or she belongs to Christ.
Let's look a little deeper into what it means to be controlled by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It means our lives take on the characteristics of Jesus Himself. We begin to think more like Jesus each day as we are instructed in Philippians 2:5. "Let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus." The Holy Spirit wants to control your temper, your tongue, your mind, and your actions. If we fully surrender our lives to the control of the Spirit, He will mold us into the representative of Christ that He desires us to be. Those controlled by the Spirit can be identified by:
Fruit of the Spirit: When we are controlled by the Spirit of Christ, we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit recorded in Galatians 5:22 NIV: Love, Joy, Peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. These traits give ample evidence that our lives are under the control of our Lord's Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit as He produces in us the character traits found in the very nature of Christ. 
Godly Decisions: When we are controlled by the Spirit, we consult with Him routinely and seek His direction before making life decisions. His control helps us avoid costly and humiliating mistakes. Our decisions reflect the guidance of God's Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Wisdom: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" (James 5:17 NIV). If your life reflects this kind of wisdom, it is evidence that you are controlled by the Holy Spirit. We should not be concerned with how much of the Holy Spirit we have but with how much of us the Holy Spirit has.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What is a Christian? (Part 1)

Chuckle: "Humility is like underwear -- essential, but indecent if it shows." --Helen Neilson 
Quote: “Morality does not make a Christian, yet no man can be a Christian without it.” --Daniel Wilson
WHAT (WHO) IS A CHRISTIAN? (Part 1)
    " . . The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:26 NIV).
The term "Christian" is sometimes used indiscriminately. We use terms like Christian nation; Christian family; Christian because we attend church; Christian by association or ancestry. Some may even use the term for selfish reasons to gain stature in the community. Let's see what God's Word says about being a Christian. The term "Christian" is used only three times in the Bible (Acts 11:26, 26:28; I Peter 4:16). Using these and other Scriptures, we will discover what or who is a Christian. A Christian is first: One in whom the Spirit of Christ resides:
In Acts 10:43 NIV, as he was preaching to the gentiles in the house of Cornelius, Peter proclaimed "that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus Christ) receives forgiveness of sins through His name." In verse 44, we find that "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message." Note the Holy Spirit came without delay, mediation, or condition other than simple faith in Jesus Christ.
In John 14:16-17 NIV, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit resides/lives/dwells in each of us as believers. "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you." This indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens the instant we place our faith in Jesus. Unless we know Him as Savior and Lord, we cannot call ourselves Christians -- no matter how much we want to do so.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV, we read: "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God." This relationship with Christ is possible only when we repent of our sins, ask His forgiveness, and accept Him as our personal Savior. In Rom. 8:9 NIV, Paul tells us: "And if anyone does not have the (Holy) Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."
If you have the Holy Spirit of Christ within you, you have received God's gift of salvation and are assured of eternal life in heaven. Remember our initial question: "What, or who, is a Christian? Once you have received Christ, you are 100 percent "saved," but in a matter of speaking, you are one third a Christian. Hang on! Don't get too excited! Our next study will deal with the second and third criteria for a being a Christian: "One Whose Life Jesus Christ Controls" and "One Through Whom Jesus Christ is Revealed."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Living Free in Christ

Chuckle: "Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf." --Will Rogers
Quote: "When by the Spirit of God, I understand these words, 'The just shall live by faith,' I felt born again like a new man. I entered through the open doors into the very paradise of God!" --Martin Luther
"So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law" (Galatians 5:1 NLT). "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1 NIV).
Christ died to set us free from sin and a long list of laws and rules. Christ came to set us free, but not to free us to do what ever we want because that would lead us back into slavery to our selfish desires. The life of freedom is possible only through the Holy Spirit. Sin is slavery, not freedom.
In the New Testament, we are told that those who practiced Judaism constantly called for new Christian believers to obey the Old Testament Law. On the other hand, the apostle Paul preached that we should live by faith in God's grace. The main differences in these two approaches to living is that one requires living by a set of rules and focuses on self-effort to make ourselves good enough to be acceptable to God. The other approach stresses that we are justified (saved) by God's grace through faith. The righteousness that makes us acceptable to God comes from our Lord Jesus Christ and from no other source.
Paul warns the Galatians Christians, and us, to be resolute in living free from the slavery of the law of self-effort. We are free to know and enjoy God's favor through Christ. We make a terrible mistake if we try to mix self-effort (good works) and grace. We cannot earn our way to heaven by obeying a set of rules, but by faith in Jesus Christ, our crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended Lord and Savior. Our salvation and freedom does not come from faith in Christ plus something else, but by faith in Him alone.
By grace through faith in Christ we have been saved (freed) from the penalty of our sins. We are being saved (freed) from the power of sin by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We will be saved (freed) from the presence of sin when we reach our eternal heavenly home in God's presence.
No religious ritual has any saving value to those in Christ. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6b NIV). As we live in freedom, our primary desires will be to serve our Lord and other people. "You, my brothers (sisters), were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 28, 2016

Be Biblical in Worship

Chuckle: “I hooked up my accelerator pedal in my car to my brake lights. I hit the gas, people behind me stop, and I'm gone.” --Steven Wright
Quote: "There is only one perfect act of worship ever offered and that was the life of Jesus Christ himself. From His conception to His ascension, He ever offers that life to the Father as the perfect act of worship in Heaven, and when we worship all we do is join Him." --Fr Peter Ball

"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). "Do not worship any other gods besides me" (Exodus 20:3 NLT)
The Biblical vocabulary for worship is extensive. However, I think the primary components of worship are summarized in adoration and service, with special emphasis on service. As we look at these two acts of worship, we should always do so in light of what the Scriptures tell us about God and what it means to truly worship Him. We must exercise great care that we worship God only as He has instructed us in His Word. Basically, worship is always pictured as human response to God's revelation of Himself.
Adoration is the foundation of worship and pictures the redeemed person contemplating the grandeur of God and loving and praising Him in his holy perfection. The Biblical picture of worship is to prostrate oneself on the ground before God in adoration, awe, and reverence.
Of course worship can be perverted and directed to false gods. In Biblical times people often fashioned gods out of stone, wood, gold, silver, etc. We Christians are quick to say we are beyond such fallacious worship of idols. However, If possessions (cars, houses, boats, jewelry, money, etc.) become more important to us than our worship of God, we have in reality bowed down to false gods. In worship, we are to seek after the God of Scripture and walk with Him and worship only Him in spirit and in truth.
The other Scriptural essential concept of worship is service. A Greek word in the New Testament (latreuo) is particularly helpful in our understanding of worship. This word is sometimes translated "to worship" (Philippians 3:3), and is often translated "to serve" (Matthew 4:10).
There is no doubt that reverent adoration and faithful service are both Biblical expressions of worship. However, both must be directed only toward pleasing God and bringing Him glory. We see in Isaiah 6 that both concepts, adoration and service, were combined beautifully. Isaiah was brought to a reverent recognition of God's holiness and his own sinfulness before God could purify and use him for His service (Isaiah 6:1-9).
Prayer, music, confession, adoration and service are all actions of Biblical worship. However, these actions must be performed with attitudes of love, reverence, humility, faithful submission, obedience, thanksgiving, and rejoicing. It is through both individual and corporate worship that believers discover their God-given purpose in adoring (loving) and serving God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 25, 2016

Happy Easter from Jerry & Dotse

Easter Clipart Religious    
                                                           ... easter clip art in your publications easter sunday bulletins with the

Separate Yourself From the World

Chuckle: On a highway billboard -- "ILLITERATE? Write for a free brochure!"
Good Quote: "Each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life -- not by our standard of living; by our measure of giving -- not by our measure of wealth; by our simple goodness -- not by our seeming greatness." --William Arthur Ward
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers" (Psalm 1:1 NIV).
The psalmist begins by emphasizing the joys that come to us when we obey God and refuse to listen to those who are out to discredit or ridicule Him. The word "blessed" means happiness of the kind that only God can give -- a state of pleasurable satisfaction. Those who obey God's Word and live holy lives will have this kind of happiness. However, if we choose to habitually associate with ungodly people, this happiness can become threatened by their influence, causing us to drift away from God and become indifferent to His will. When we get to this point we not only become useless to God, but our happiness is drained away.
Friendships are wonderful, but friendships and associations with those who are indifferent to, or openly oppose, God can do you much harm by undermining your faith. God pours out His blessings on those who are holy and remain obedient to Him. Holiness requires separation from the sinful ways of the world. Peter wrote, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV).
Jesus wants us to be in the world but not of (like) the world (John 17:14-19). If we are to be faithful witnesses to those who need Christ, we must love them as Jesus loves them and establish relationships with them while remaining faithful to our Christian principles and conduct.
In the little book of Jude, we find some very clear instructions. "Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins" (Jude 22-23 NLT). The theme of our passages is that we must share the love of Christ with sinful humanity without becoming comfortable in their lifestyles to the point that we become like them, enjoy their company, and adopt their sinful ways.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 24, 2016

God is Patient

Chuckle: "It's frustrating when you know all the answers and nobody bothers to ask you the questions."
Quote: "Patience is more than a virtue; it is a daily necessity. It is not an elective; it is a required course in the school of life." --William Arthur Ward

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (Luke 9:54-56 NIV)
When you observe people indulging in a sinful lifestyles and refusing to respond to the love of Christ, what is your reaction? When someone rejects you and your Christian message, does anger and frustration produce bitterness in your heart? In our passage, those in a Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus, and James and John wanted to exact vengeance upon them. They were not content to merely shake the dust of the village from their feet (9:5) and move on. No, they wanted to retaliate in a harsh and destructive way, but Jesus responded to their rejection with love and patience.
When others reject or scorn us, we, too, may feel like retaliating in a harsh way. We must remember that judgment is God's business, not ours, and we have no right to expect that He would use His power to help us carry out our personal vendettas. We are sometimes quick to condemn but Jesus abounds in patience and compassion. With patience He teaches the disciples and with patience He deals with those who initially reject Him by giving them another opportunity to find eternal life through faith in Him.
God's patience with us, when it comes to our accepting His gift of salvation through faith in Christ, is pointed out in 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise (of judgment and destruction), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
God proclaimed to Moses, "I am the LORD, I am the LORD, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so I do not leave sin unpunished..." (Exodus 34:6-7a NLT). In His own time God will deal with the those who reject Him and remain unrepentant, but now is a time of patience and an opportunity for repentance. If it were not for God's patience, we would all be doomed. Aren't you thankful that God let you live long enough for you to claim eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

God's Retirement Plan

Chuckle: "Did you hear that one of Santa's reindeer now works for proctor and Gamble? It's true . . . Comet cleans sinks!"
Quote: "Esteem age and you will always have life to look forward to. Esteem youth and you proclaim your own obsolescence." --Unknown Author
"My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever" (Psalm 73:26 NLT). "The Lord gives strength to his people and increases the power of the weak" (Isaiah 40:29 NIV).
During a men's Bible study, I heard someone comment that some people feel that when they retire from their professional careers, they should also retire from the Lord's work through His church. Some may say, "I've done my time; now it is time for the younger people to take over." Is this the attitude God wants for us?
Of course, it's true that many older folks have physical limitations that prevent them from serving as they once did. However, I can't find anywhere in Scripture that we should ever retire from service to our Lord and to others. The work of the Lord should continue throughout our lifetimes as God gives us strength. Then we will benefit from God's fantastic retirement plan which includes resting from our labors in His presence throughout eternity (Praise) .
Our passage tells us that even though our health may fail and our spirits may grow weak, God is still with us and will provide strength and increase the power of His people. Senior Christians have much to offer in valuable wisdom and skilled service to others. I believe God would have us continue to do all we can for as long as we are physically able. Even the physically disabled can pray, use the telephone, send an e-mail, or write a note, thereby blessing the lives of people in unbelievable ways.
It is a terrible tragedy when older persons come to think of themselves as no longer useful and crawl into the prison cell/shell of self-pity, despair, and loneliness. Medical science tells us that long and productive physical lives result from remaining active and challenged. I believe this is true in both our physical and spiritual lives.
Remember, as you become weak and tired, God's power and strength will never diminish. His strength is our source of strength. When you feel you cannot go another step, you can call upon God to renew your strength. "For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need" (Philippians 4:13 NLT). This verse says we can do everything God wants us to do in His strength. Your faithfulness to your church and ministry to others in your later years will bring you much joy and serves as welcomed inspiration and encouragement to younger people as well as to others who share circumstances similar to yours.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Law or Faith

Chuckle: At the first session of a class on salvation, the minister asked, "What must we do before we can expect forgiveness from sin?" One of the men in attendance raised his hand and said, "sin?"
Quote: "Faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake." --Martin Luther
"Clearly no one is justified (made right) before God by (trying to keep) the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Galatians 3:11 NIV). "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).
The Old Testament Law was given by God to His people to protect them by giving them a standard to live by and to reveal their sins. The law governed their relationships with God and one another. However, when it came to making people righteous before God, it fell terribly short -- the law definitely has its limitations.
Our traffic laws are for our safety by preventing accidents and making for the smooth flow of vehicles on our streets and highways, but they have their limitations. Assume you are approaching an intersection where the law says you legally have the right-of-way, but you see another car failing to stop. You realize that merely obeying the law will not save you from danger. What should you do? Obviously, the law cannot protect you in this situation and you should take action that will keep you safe -- allow the unlawful vehicle to proceed. Just because an action is lawful doesn't always mean that it's the sensible and safe thing to do. You could be lawful and be very dead or seriously injured.
Likewise, God's laws are for our good and protection; however, even God's law has limitations. Obeying the law as a standard for moral and spiritual conduct is the wise thing to do, but the law cannot save you and justify you before God. We can never earn our way into God's favor by obeying a set of rules and being a "good" person. However, our passages tell us that it's only by God's grace and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we are made right with God. It's only the righteousness of Christ that covers our sins and makes us right before God who will keep us safe during our earthly journey and throughout eternity. The law cannot justify and save -- it only can condemn.
"A plumb line can only prove that a crooked wall is crooked. No matter how you use it, a plumb line can't make a crooked wall straight. The law was God's plumb line, designed to show all people that they are crooked and sinful. It was never intended to make us straight or righteous -- and, indeed, it never could." "The righteous will live by faith."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 21, 2016

Religious Christians

Chuckle: "When I was in the seventh grade, I once made an F plus on an English paper. F plus!! I failed alright, but obviously, I was good at it!"
Quote: "Let us beware of becoming so broadminded that we are unable to enter the narrow gate." --William Arthur Ward
"The disciples were called Christians (Christ-ones) first at Antioch" (Acts 11:26 NIV). "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27 NIV).
As a Christian, do you consider yourself religious? To be religious is to practice our Christian faith by carefully showing a strong adherence to the tenets of our faith -- living out each day what we say we believe. This includes both authentic worship of our Lord as well as acts of service and ministry to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others. To claim to be a Christian without being religious is a contradiction.
Why is it important that we think about this? Well, I continue to read about people who want to be identified as Christians but without being labeled as "religious." To be identified as religious has taken on a negative connotation in the minds of some people. They see Christians as mean-spirited, judgmental, critical, condemning, and with a battle mentality of "them" and "us." And they want to be seen as more tolerant, loving, caring, and understanding of others who do not share our beliefs.
In an effort to be seen as tolerant and politically correct, some "Christians" are becoming more accepting of adulterous relationships, the homosexual lifestyle, same sex marriages, abortions, and other behaviors that are contrary to the teachings of God's Word. They have a hard time dealing with the truth that sin is sin, no matter how we try sugar-coat it or try to make it into an acceptable lifestyle. In the political realm, some want to be "Christian" without being labeled as part of the Religious Right. But politics aside, to claim to be a Christian without being religious and living by the teachings of God's Word is to not be Christian at all.
We can stand firmly for our Christian beliefs without being mean-spirited and judgmental. But to compromise our beliefs for the sake of political correctness is to deny who we are in Jesus Christ. Jesus warns us that when we stand for Him, without compromise, we will be criticized, marginalized, and otherwise persecuted. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering . . . If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (Christian)" (1 Peter 4:12, 14, 16 NIV).
So, the question for us is, how can we stand firm in Christian beliefs while presenting the gospel message in a loving, caring, and Jesus-like way -- in a way that makes Christianity attractive to people who are searching for meaning in life? "And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way" (1 Peter 3:15b-16a NLT). I believe God would have us demonstrate that having Christ as our Savior and Lord has transformed our lives and has a positive impact on the way we think, speak, and act.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 18, 2016

Vine and Branches, Part 2

Chuckle: I heard Jeff Smith, a.k.a. The Frugal Gourmet, read this letter from a viewer on the air: "I have had my turkey in the freezer for a year and a half. Will it take longer to thaw?"
Quote: "The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts." --Blaise Pascal
PRUNING FOR PRODUCTION
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce more fruit" (John 15:1-2 NLT). Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5 NLT).
Today, we continue to think and learn about the way God prepares us to be fruitful in his vineyard/kingdom. Please remember that Jesus is the vine and the gardener/vinedresser is God, the Father, through His Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, Paul writes: "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." When we are filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit, we are remaining in Christ -- we are firmly attached to him and are the recipients of his life-giving power. His power flowing through us causes us, the branches, to produce much fruit for God's glory. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, He will produce through us love, peace, joy, etc.
You may be producing some fruit for God's kingdom; however, you may feel as if you're not being as fruitful as you should be. You may say, "But I have in my life a lot of dead leaves (sins) of idolatry, anger, hatred, envy, etc. How can I get rid of all these dead leaves and spoiled fruit? How can I have the fruits of the Holy Spirit produced in me and through me?" If you are sincere in these questions and genuinely want to be used of God to bear fruit for His glory, "Standby for NEWS!!" -- as Paul Harvey said for years.
I have learned that dead leaves don't fall off trees -- they are pushed off. As the sap of life flows through the branches, it pushes off the dead leaves to make room for new growth and new fruit. We Christians sometimes try to prune ourselves by trying to pull off the dead leaves of sin from our lives -- bad habits, filthy language, or an impure mind." That's not the way to do it.
We cannot prune ourselves -- that's God work as the vinedresser. We just need to yield ourselves to Christ in repentance, and He will forgive us and fill us with the fullness of His Spirit. We need to focus on Christ, the Vine and allow His Holy Spirit to fill us and flow through us. He will push off (prune away) all those dead leaves and prepare you for bearing fruit. Then, He will produce fruit through you that will amaze you and glorify Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Vine and Branches, Part 1

Chuckle: "To become an angel you first must die. Then you go to Heaven, and then there's still the flight training. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes." --Matthew, age 9
Quote: "Those who seek to live like Christ must also relinquish ourselves to God, that we might learn to be and do nothing but his will. Realizing that we have not the ability to think or do anything good or holy within our own power, we must be willing to submit every faculty or body, soul, and spirit to Jesus." --Andrew Murray

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5 NLT).
Jesus had a wonderful way of teaching his followers by using metaphors and parables familiar to his audience. Vineyards were common in New Testament times and everyone understood the principles of how a vine produces grapes. Accordingly, Jesus used bearing fruit to describe the Christian life which is totally dedicated to spiritual growth, sacrificial service, and leading others to Christ. Jesus went so far as to say we can do nothing apart from him. It is not the branch that bears the fruit, but the vine. The branch is just a rack to hang grapes/fruit on, but it is the vine through whom the spiritual life flows and fruit is produced. Jesus said all he wants from us is to be faithful branches and let him hang the fruit on us.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you" (John 15:1-4 NLT).
Christ is the vine, and God (the Father) is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them more fruitful. Branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. But those who become unproductive -- those who turn away from Christ after making a superficial commitment -- will be separated from the vine. Unproductive followers are as good as dead to God's kingdom and will be cut off and tossed aside.
Notice the two kinds of pruning God accomplishes: (1) cutting off and (2) cutting back (pruning) of branches. Branches showing no life and producing no fruit are cut away at the trunk because they are worthless and also because they often infect the rest of the tree. Those who don't bear fruit, or try to block the efforts of God's faithful followers, risk being cut off from his life-giving power. Perhaps Jesus was making reference to Judas Iscariot, or to others like these: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (I John 2:19 NIV). God prunes the fruitful branches to make them even more fruitful.
As we consider these words of our Lord, we must be careful not to assume God's role by setting ourselves up as the Gardener, and judge, to determine who should be cut off and who should be pruned -- that is God's business. This passage deals with God's relationship with individual branches (Christians) and He is the one who will cut off or prune them according to His own will and purpose without any help from us. We know that God deals with all His children from an attitude of love, compassion, and patience. His goal is to make each of us fruitful, and His heart must break when rebellious branches render themselves useless in His vineyard.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Do I Exist?

Ponder This: “Mankind's role is to fulfill his heaven-sent purpose through a sincere heart that is in harmony with all creation and loves all things.” --Morihei Ueshiba
WHY DO I EXIST?
"For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible. . . everything got started in God and finds its purpose in him" (Colossians 1:16 MSG).
Do you ever think about and wonder how much value you are to God and to others around you? I suppose it is a common human trait to want our lives to amount to something -- to have value -- to make a difference. We like to think the world is a better place because we are alive. However, sometimes we become convinced that we are relatively insignificant and really aren't very important in God's grand scheme of things. Many people suffer from feelings of low self-worth which can bring on depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.
The truth is, you were made by God and for God. Until you understand this, life will never make sense. You may have heard the old saying, "necessity is the mother of invention." In other words, the purpose of an invention/creation of anything is preceded by a need or purpose to be fulfilled by that creation. In the same way that you may have made something to fulfill a purpose, God has a purpose for your life to fulfill a need/desire in his heart. You and I are here on earth because God has a purpose for our lives.
Some time ago, I preached a message on this subject. I began by holding up a strange looking and ancient contraption and asked the congregation if anyone could tell me the purpose of the gadget. Some tried, but most were not sure. I made the point -- if you really want to know the purpose of a gadget, or your life, ask the one who made it. . . . God made you, so look to his Word for the answer to the question, "what is my purpose in life?"
It doesn't matter what your age is, if you have not come to terms with your purpose in life, it's not too late to discover God's plan for you. Through prayer, study of God's Word, and input from others you can find purpose. Once you have a sense of purpose, it will surprise you how God will speak to you about how you can fulfill that purpose. He will provide you opportunity to accomplish his purpose for your life. You are unique, one-of-a-kind, and God has a purpose for you uniquely suited to your spiritual gifts, abilities, and personality. A sense of purpose will add peace, contentment, and give clarity to God's call on your life.
"A man (or woman) without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder--a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you." --Thomas Carlyle
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 14, 2016

God Loves You

Chuckle: Adult-living class completed a questionnaire. One question: "How far apart would you like to have your children?" One student filled in, "About 300 miles." --Phyllis Schaefer
Ponder this: "Isn't it strange how a 20 dollar bill seems like such a large amount when you donate it to your church, but such a small amount when you go shopping?"
HOW MUCH DOES GOD LOVE YOU?
"Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39 NIV).
A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. Of the 200 in the room, he asked. "Who would like to have this $20 bill?"                                              
Hands started going up all around. He said, "I am going to give this $20 bill to one of you, but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" As before, the hands were up.
"Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.
"My friends, you have just learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It is still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.
When God created us, He built into our nature the need to be loved and to love in return. The Bible tells us God's love for you and me is never ending. He is constantly reaching out to us with expressions of His love, patience, mercy, and grace. And, even though you may think otherwise, there's nothing you can do that will make God stop loving you -- and nothing you can do to make Him love you more. If, on occasion, you feel unloved because you perceive something in your life makes you unworthy of love, please remember how precious you are in God's eyes. After all, He loved you so much that He was willing to sacrifice His one and only Son to demonstrate that love to you.
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him" (I John 4:9 NIV). "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 ).
Hold on to these comforting words even in the darkest times of your life. They will help you to realize how loved, important, and valuable you are to our Lord. It doesn't matter how crumpled and dirty you may feel because of sin in your life. God still loves you and He yearns for you to come to Him in humility and repentance. He will forgive you, lift you out of sorrow and shame, and give you a new joy, all because He loves you unconditionally.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 11, 2016

Living Faith

The second of my 3-book devotional series, “God’s Daily Word,” is now available at Amazon.com. Book 1 contains devotionals for January – April; and Book 2, for May – August. Book 3 (September – December) will be available in July. To order book 2, you can use (Click on) this link: God's Daily Word 2- May-August by Jerry Stratton. To order Book 1, use this link: God's Daily Word by Jerry Stratton. If you prefer, book stores can order the books for you. 
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Chuckle: One preacher asked for a discount at a store saying, "You know I'm just a poor preacher." "I know," said the storekeeper. "I heard you last night!"
Quote: "Trust God as if your salvation depended entirely on faith; serve God as if your salvation depended entirely on works." --William Arthur Ward

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)
Please notice, in our passage, that faith "lived" in young Timothy's grandmother and mother . As I study this passage, I'm reminded once again that our faith is to be living, dynamic, and demonstrated by actions. It is a faith of "doing," not just something we have been given by God. It is true that faith has its beginning in our hearts when we commit our lives to Christ; however, God does not intend for it to just remain there. It is to be revealed to others through our actions. James expresses this concept like this:
"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. Now someone may argue, 'Some people have faith; others have good deeds,' I say, 'I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds; but I will show you my faith through my good deeds (by what I do)'" (James 2:17-18 NLT).
We can never earn our salvation by obeying God through service to others. We can never earn our way into God's favor. However, our actions show that our commitment to God is real. Acts of loving service are no substitute for, but rather a verification of, our faith in Christ. When we become Christians, "We are God's workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
It takes very little effort just to express our faith verbally, but it requires a serious effort to always express our faith by our actions -- to meet the needs of others, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual. "As gloves are to a surgeon's hands, so are Christians in service for God. It is actually God's hand doing the work. We are but used by Him and therefore have nothing to boast about."
Let's pray together that God will help our faith become more alive and more evident by our Godly actions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Life of Righteousness

Chuckle: Dad to his son: "Don't be selfish. Let your brother use the sled half the time." Son: "I do, Dad. I use it going down the hill and he gets to use it coming up!"
Quote: “Will we listen to 'Satan, the author of all lies ... ? Or are we going to believe a loving Heavenly Father, who is the source of all truth and righteousness?” --Richard C. Edgley
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)
Righteousness is a word often used by Christian people, and for good reason. It is often found in Scripture to describe a condition of a Christian's heart as demonstrated by a godly life. But there is much we should learn about righteousness as it relates to our eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and our lifestyles.
We cannot become righteous in our own strength by living a good moral life -- by good deeds. Becoming righteous requires the supernatural power of almighty God working within us to totally transform our sinful hearts. Righteousness begins on the inside and works its way out -- not by our actions on the outside to work its way inside. And we must realize that any righteousness we have is not of our doing, but rather God's righteousness in us. Martin Luther said this about the quest for righteousness by works:
"He who would gain righteousness by faith and works is as the dog who runs along a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, and, deceived by the reflection of the meat in the water, opens his mouth to snap at it, and so loses both the meat and the reflection."
Righteousness occurs when we allow God to conform us to the character and will of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we see in our Scripture, God both requires and blesses righteous people. Jesus came to make us righteous by dying to pay the penalty for our sins and rising on the third day victorious over sin, death, and the grave. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Again, the only way we can become righteous is through faith in Christ and then we progress in righteousness by cooperating with the indwelling Spirit's work within us.
Let's pray together that God will give each of us a renewed passion for His righteousness in our daily lives to bring glory to Him and to receive His approval and blessings. "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last . . . The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Life at its Best

Chuckle: "Dad are you growing taller?" "No, son. Why do you ask?" "Because the top of your head is poking up through your hair."
Quote: “To God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in One, Be honour, praise, and glory given by all on earth, and all in heaven.” --Isaac Watts

Jesus said to his disciples: "But it is actually best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) won't come. If I do go away, he will come because I will send him to you" (John 16:7 NLT).
Just imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus said He was leaving them to return to the Father who had sent Him. It must have been terribly difficult for them to understand that Jesus' going away was really the best thing for them. In reality, Jesus' going back to the Father after his redemptive work on earth was done opened yet another vista of God's love and provision for those who love Him. The gift of the promised Holy Spirit provides for His unending presence and amazing power in our lives.
We can intellectually accept the Biblical truth that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us when we become believers and followers of Christ. But if we treat Him like something to be ignored except in times of emergency, He provides us no real assistance or direction for our daily lives. Just to know He dwells within us is not nearly enough. I like this statement by Dr. Mark Kemp: "We must daily recognize, seek, and yield to the Holy Spirit so that we can experience the presence and power of God each day of our lives. He is ours for the asking." Jesus said, ". . . how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Luke 11:13 NIV).
If Jesus had not died, there would be no good news of God's love, and our sins could not be removed. He could not have risen from the grave and defeated death. If He had not gone back to the Father, the Holy Spirit would not have come to be our companion, counselor, and comforter. By God's choosing, Christ's presence on earth was mainly limited to one place at a time. But His return to the Father meant He could be omnipresent (present throughout the whole world at the same time in the person of His Spirit).
Grasping the significance of the Spirit's omnipresence helps us understand why Jesus could say to his followers, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12 NIV). Just think for a moment about what the Holy Spirit has accomplished in the 2000 years since Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father.
The Holy Spirit, working in, and through, people just like you and me, has caused literally millions of people to come to know Christ. Yes, because Jesus returned to the Father, even greater things have been accomplished for God's kingdom. Are you taking advantage of the precious gift of the Holy Spirit by allowing Him to bring the power of God's presence into your life each day? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to grow God's kingdom through you? Are you enjoying life at its very best in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Revenge: Not the Answer

Chuckle: "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them quite as much."
Quote: "Revenge, like suicide, is as impractical as it is self-destructive." –William Arthur Ward
Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written (Deut.32:35), "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, 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 12:19-21 NLT).
Given our human nature, this is one of the most difficult areas of our lives to conquer. Often our immediate reaction when someone inflicts a perceived injustice on us is to want the guilty party punished swiftly and painfully, according to our personal concept of justice. But God tells us that to exact vengeance on someone is neither our right nor responsibility. God has promised that He will take care of things like that -- His business. Instead of seeking revenge, or getting even, Jesus tells us our responsibility is to return kindness and forgiveness for evil. "But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45a NLT).
The instructions from Paul and the words of Jesus may sound preposterous and almost impossible, but God's Word is specific and clear. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what you think he deserves, Paul says to befriend him and shower him with kindness. What a revolutionary concept! Here are some reasons why we are so instructed:
          (1) Kindness and forgiveness may break the cycle of revenge and retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation. After all, reconciliation with others is a Christian responsibility.
          (2) Your kindness may make the one who hurt you feel ashamed and change his or her ways. God may use your loving overtures to touch the heart of someone who needs a fresh encounter with our Lord.
          (3) Repaying evil for evil does more damage to you than the offender. Even if the offender never repents, forgiving him or her will free you from frustration and bitterness.
We live in a day of lawsuits and incessant demands for our legal rights to immediate justice. But our rights are not the issue here -- our testimony for Christ is. If you are no different than those who do not know Christ, how is anyone going to know you are a Christian? How can God use you as an instrument for his work in the hearts of people? Forgiveness involves both our attitudes as well as our actions. Perhaps you are in need of a attitude transplant. If so, please remember that our Lord, through his Spirit, is the chief transplant surgeon. . . .
Only God can ensure that the proper justice is carried out. By our impatience for swift justice and revenge, we are saying we know better than God how to deal with justice, and we show that we do not trust him and his sovereign wisdom. If we refuse to trust God for justice, we can become enslaved to bitterness and anger.
Love, Jerry & Dotse