Friday, April 29, 2016

Well Done, Faithful Servant

Chuckle: "Shin: An excellent device for finding furniture in the dark."
Good Quote: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." --unknown source
"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness"  (Matthew 25:23 NIV).
I hope you will open your Bible and read the entire parable told by Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30. Jesus often taught using parables, which are earthly stories with spiritual meanings. This is a lesson from Jesus on being a faithful steward of that which God has entrusted to you. The master was going on a journey and he gave money to three servants to be managed in his absence. In accordance with their abilities, he gave five talents to the first servant, two talents to the second, and one talent to the third. A talent was a unit of money valued at approximately $1,200. A key point is that each servant was given responsibility for something significant.
Put yourself in the shoes of each of these servants. If you were the servant receiving only one talent, would you have been angry because the others were given more than you? Sometimes we may be so concerned with what others have that we fail to appreciate what God has given us. While it is true that some are blessed with more than others, financially, we should never lose sight of the Biblical truth that we all are blessed with different gifts and we should use them faithfully and responsibly.
While the master was away, the servant with the five talents invested the money wisely and gained five more talents. The one with the two talents did the same and gained two more talents. But the servant with one talent merely dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money for fear of losing it if he had invested it.
When the master returned, he was pleased that two of the servants had put the money to work and his money had been doubled. The master called them faithful servants as our basic text indicates. But he was disappointed and angry that the one-talent servant had not invested and increased his money and said, "You wicked, lazy servant!" . . . Take the one talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him" (vv. 26, 28-29).
If we are not faithful in our work for the honor and glory of our Lord using the gifts and resources He has given to us, we will miss out on the eternal blessings God wants to give us. The main lesson from this parable is that our preparedness for Jesus' return is reflected in our stewardship of all the resources God has entrusted to us. What are you doing with the resources the Master has entrusted to you? This includes your time, spiritual gifts, skills, abilities, and monetary resources.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 28, 2016

God's Way Out of Temptation

Chuckle: "I can resist everything except temptation." --Oscar Wilde
Quote: "Blessed is he who has never been tempted for he knows not the frailty of his rectitude (good moral character)." --Christopher Morley
"When you are tempted, he (God) will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it" (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).
As Eve and Adam were tempted and sinned by eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, we all face various temptations every day of our lives. But temptation does not necessarily result in sin. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness but he never gave in to the temptation -- He never sinned. An amazing truth is that God has given us His Spirit to provide us the strength to avoid yielding to ever-present temptations. He provides us a way out. The operative question is: will we chose the way out?
Make no mistake, being tempted is a normal part of the Christian life and sin only comes when we do not take God's "way out," but give in to the temptation. Do not be surprised when you are tempted and never allow yourself to feel guilty because you have been tempted. Rather, concentrate on your relationship with your Lord. As you grow in your faith and draw closer to Him, it will become easier to resist Satan's temptations. Our goal should be to live in the Spirit to such a degree that temptations become less and less attractive to us as our fellowship with Christ becomes closer.
Our culture is becoming more and more tolerant of ungodly living. Moral depravity and sin-inducing pressures are on display everywhere and are made to seem attractive as normal human behavior. However, each Christian should recognize that God's standards of morality never change. Sin is sin in God's sight regardless of our opinions on the subject. Each time we resist temptation we become stronger as a follower of Christ.
The word Paul uses for "temptation" can also be translated as "testing." We must remember that God does not tempt anyone, but He certainly does allow our faith to be tested from time to time. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone," (James 1:13 NIV). In the King James Version, the Bible says that God tempted Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But, in reality, God tested him to determine the strength of his faith and willingness to obey Him no matter the cost (Genesis 22).
Whether we are tempted to sin or tested to strengthen our faith, God will show us the way out and to give us victory in every situation. "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation" (2 Peter 2:9 NASB). Keep your spiritual ears tuned to God's voice and He will show you the way out of every temptation.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to be Holy

Chuckle: "No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn."
Quote: If you think you can walk in holiness without keeping up perpetual fellowship with Christ, you have made a great mistake. If you would be holy, you must live close to Jesus.” --Charles Haddon Spurgeon
"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 as I am Holy'" (I Peter 1:14-16).
"Holy" is an often used word among Christians. What does it mean in practical terms in our lives and how do we attain a state of holiness? In the simplest terms, the word "holy" means to cut or separate, it denotes apartness -- set apart, and so the separation of a person from the common or profane life for a divine purpose. It also means pure or chaste. To be holy is to be set aside by God for his service and to be as nearly like Christ as possible. For unlike other creatures, man was made in the image of God and capable (through the power of the Holy Spirit) of reflecting the holiness of God.
When a Christian realizes who Christ is and what Christ has done for him through his grace, it tends to have a dramatic effect on his or her life, not only in salvation but in holiness." To be "holy" and to be "righteous" are quite similar terms. We are told in Scripture that we have no righteousness or holiness on our own, but any righteousness we might have comes from Christ in us. "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:11 NIV). "But now a righteousness from God . . . comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:21-22 NIV).
C.S. Lewis once commented to an American friend, "How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, . . . it is irresistible. If even ten percent of the world's population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year's end."
Howard Hendricks wisely observed, "It is foolish to build a chicken coop on the foundation of a skyscraper." The Christian who fails to live a holy life is failing to utilize the foundation for his life that Christ has given him. So, we can say that to be holy is to be chosen, set apart, and strengthened by God's Holy Spirit to be like Christ. If we know Christ as Savior and Lord, his Holy Spirit lives within us to teach us, convict us, and to comfort us as Christ lives out his holiness and righteousness through us. For this to happen, you must surrender every aspect of your life to his control and direction. Then the true joy will be yours in abundance.
"But the day of the Lord (Jesus' return) will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (2 Peter 3:10-11 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 18, 2016

Freedom and Slavery

Chuckle: "People say that hard work never killed anybody, but on the other hand, I've never known anybody who rested themselves to death."
Quote: "The will of God never takes you to where the grace of God will not protect you." --Unknown source
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1 NIV).
A major hurdle we all have to clear is the one that says we have to earn our way into God's favor by doing good things for others and complying with a set of behavioral standards. The writer of our passage, the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul, once persecuted the church and was zealous about keeping the Jewish Law and traditions because he believed he could earn God's favor through these activities. He tried his best to stamp out the early church because he felt that was what God would have him do.
Saul's persecution of the church may appear totally without justification to us. It's hard for us to understand how he could be so off-base in his understanding. However, when Saul met the crucified and risen Lord Jesus he realized that favor with God comes through God's grace by faith in Christ alone, not in blind obedience to a set of rules.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Christ transformed Saul and gave him the name, "Paul," and sent him as a missionary to the gentile (non-Jewish) world. We can be just as off-base as Saul was if we depend upon our being good to earn us salvation.
Through Christ we stand in God's favor -- accepted, beloved, and free from the power and penalty of sin! Stand firm then in the freedom of God's favor today. Don't try to earn it but just stand in amazement and let your life show your gratitude for it.
The freedom God has given us through Christ is the freedom to serve Him, not freedom to do what ever we want, because that would lead us back into sin by making us slaves to our selfish desires. Some might say that freedom to serve Him doesn't sound much like freedom.
Listen to this illustration: Some years ago in Los Angeles as man was walking down the street with a sign on his shoulders. The front of it read, "I'M A SLAVE FOR CHRIST." The back of the sign read, "WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?" That's a good question, because all of us are slaves to one of two masters -- sin or righteousness -- Satan or God.
Let Paul put this freedom and slavery in perspective. "But now that you have been set free from (slavery to) sin and have become slaves (servants) to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:22-23 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 15, 2016

Righteousness from Christ

Chuckle: “Children aren’t happy with nothing to ignore, And that’s what parents were created for.” --Ogden Nash
Quote: The essence of repentance is that we cannot be repentant until we confront our own self-righteousness with God's righteousness." --Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, DD
God made him (Jesus) 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).
You may think you are a good person and take pride in the fact that you can't be accused of a terrible crime and that you have a good reputation in your community. Being the prideful human beings that we are, we have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back for being a good parent, a good grandparent, a good friend, a good neighbor, etc. Often, inherent in such an attitude is "look what I have done." We want to take the credit for any and all good resulting from our lives. We want to say we "pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps" and made the world a better place because we were here.
I don't suppose there is anything wrong with feeling satisfaction from our living a good moral life as long as we don't depend upon our "good" life to make us right with God. Without Christ, your "good" moral life may bring happiness to the lives of others; but it will never bring you into a saving relationship with God. You are still a sinner in need of a Savior. That brings me to the subject of righteousness according to God. As used in the New Testament, the Bible Dictionary describes "righteousness" from God's point of view: "The gracious gift of God to men whereby all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are brought into right relationship with God. The person who trusts in Christ becomes the righteousness of God in Him."
It is the righteousness of Christ, not our own, that makes us right with God. When we place our trust in Christ, we make an exchange. He takes our sins and, in return, makes us right with God -- gives us His righteousness. In the secular world, bartering only works when two people exchange goods and services which are perceived to be of equal value. But God, in His love and mercy, offers to trade His righteousness for our sin -- something of immeasurable value for something totally worthless. As Christians, we must let God's Word remind us constantly that, outside of Christ, "There is no one who is righteous; not even one" (Romans 3:10 NIV).
Every sin of every person who ever lived, or will live, was placed on Christ. By His sacrifice, His righteousness was made available to all who place their faith in Him. We receive His righteousness the moment we became Christians. Therefore, any righteousness we have is not our own but the righteousness of Christ which has been imputed to us -- credited to our account.
"The Chinese character for 'righteousness' is most interesting. It is composed of two separate characters -- one standing for a lamb, the other for me. When 'lamb' is placed directly above 'me,' a new character -- 'righteousness' is formed. This is a helpful picture of the grace of God. Between me, the sinner, and God, the Holy One, there is interposed by faith the Lamb of God. By virtue of His sacrifice, He has received me on the ground of faith, and I have become righteous in His sight." –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lose It to Find It

Chuckle: “I couldn’t wait for success, so I went on ahead without it.” --Jonathan Winters
Quote: "Our self-searching prayers rise higher than our self-seeking prayers." --William Arthur Ward
"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life" (Mark 8:34-35 NLT).
The words in the Bible spoken by Jesus take on the greatest importance to me. These words from the lips of our Lord cut right to the heart of our battle within ourselves over our love for the things of this world and our love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you thought lately about your definition of success? Do your measures of success include the amount of money you have, the size of your house, or the horsepower of your car? Do you value most the world's trappings of success or God's definition for success?
In our passage, Jesus speaks both in the negative to drive His point home -- losing versus finding. He was teaching His followers about the cost of following Him -- the cost of discipleship. By asking us to take up our cross and follow Him, Jesus says we must be willing to publicly identify with Him, even in the face of opposition, and be willing to suffer and even give our lives for His sake. Henry Blackaby defines discipleship this way:
"Discipleship is more than acquiring head knowledge and memorizing Scripture verses. It is learning to give Jesus Christ total access to your life so He will live His life through you." --Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God Day by Day
If we cling to the things of this life, we may forfeit the best life that Christ wants us to have both here on earth and in heaven. The more we love wealth, popularity, power, etc., the sooner we will learn how empty this life can really be. So, if you want to live a full and successful life according to God's standards, loosen your grasp on things of this world and its rewards, and take hold of Christ. I like this definition of success: "Success is fulfilling the purpose for which God created you!"
If we fail to fulfill God's purpose for our lives, there's no way we can claim success. As we invest our lives for Jesus' sake, we will find the meaning and significance of the life that God has planned for us from the beginning. We are truly successful when we allow Jesus Christ to live His life through us. Then we will "lose" this life for His sake and "find" His true life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Running From God

Chuckle: "Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare." --Ed Asner
Quote: "Very few things motivate us to give God our undivided attention like being faced with the negative consequences of our decisions." --Charles Stanley
"The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.' But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD" (Jonah 1:1-3 NIV).
Our great God is omnipresent -- there is no place where He is not. No matter how far you may try to run from Him or Hide from Him, He is with you. This can be disturbing news if you are trying to run from God in disobedience, as was Jonah; but it is wonderful news if you know Him, love Him, and wish to draw near to Him in obedience. No matter where you go or what you do, His comforting presence is always with you. "I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! (Psalm 139:7 NLT).
Our old pal, Jonah, learned first hand the futility of trying to run and hide from God. He found there was no place to hide. Jonah was a prophet for Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.). This story of Jonah took place around 759 B.C. The terribly wicked and cruel city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, an arch enemy of Israel. Jonah had no desire to preach to such horrible people, and I'm sure he feared for his life if he went there. Nineveh was 550 miles northeast of Jerusalem in what is now Iraq. Rather than obey God, Jonah went to the port city of Joppa and boarded a ship for Tarshish, 2500 miles west (in Spain) of where God had told him to go. He tried to get as far away from God as possible.
Jonah's disobedience brought extreme misery upon the sailors on the ship and upon himself as they endured a terrible storm. Jonah was thrown overboard and was swallowed by a giant fish. When he repented, the fish spat him out on dry land. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim the message I gave you:'" Now Jonah was ready when God commanded him a second time to go preach to the city of Nineveh. As a result, the whole city and surrounding communities repented and turned to the Lord. When Jonah stopped running and began to trust and obey God, he was used by God to accomplish mighty things.
This story is not about Jonah, a great storm, a great fish, or even a great city. It's about a great God who loves us and responds to our repentance with love, compassion, and mercy. He proved to Jonah that He was a God of second chances. Perhaps you have been running from God. If so, repent and God will give you a second chance to become what he wants you to be.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

God's Peace

Chuckle: When asked if he wanted his pizza cut into 4 pieces or 6. The man thought for a moment and said, "Just cut it into 4 pieces; I don't think I'm hungry enough to eat 6 pieces."
Ponder This: "No God, no peace; know God, know peace."
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27 NIV).
A hurricane is a storm with cyclonic winds exceeding 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes can be very fierce storms with relentless pounding winds and rain that continue hour after hour. But the storm's "eye" is a place of perfect calm in its center. So it is with the storms of life. With the Lord as our center, there is calm and peace, even in the worst of storms.
Peace! What a beautiful and comforting word. Just hearing the word has a calming effect on me, and causes me to consider the level of serenity, calmness, and comfort that exists in my life. Peace is a state of mind that everyone seeks after, but many never find the secret of genuine peace.
Jesus is called "The Prince of Peace." When his birth was announced, the angels heralded, "peace and good will toward men." In our passage, Jesus was comforting his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion. In announcing his going away, he promised the gift of his peace. In the preceding verses, Jesus had also promised that the Holy Spirit would come to be with us and in us. The result of the Holy Spirit's presence and work in our lives brings deep and lasting peace.
Jesus made a distinction between the peace the world offers and the peace he has given us. In earthly terms, peace is usually described as the absence of conflict, but the peace Jesus gives includes confident and calm assurance in every circumstance. With Christ's peace, we never need to harbor fear, anxiety, or worry -- not now, not ever.
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
Just imagine never having to worry about anything ever again! Impossible, you say! Paul tells us to turn our worries into prayers. If you want to worry less, then pray more. True peace is not found in positive thinking, absence of conflict, or in good feelings. It comes from knowing that God is in control. As a Christian, your citizenship in Christ's kingdom is assured, your destiny is set, and your victory over sin and death has been won. So, why worry? Let the peace that Jesus gives guard your heart against worry and anxiety. Like the calm in the eye of the hurricane, Christ keeps us in the eye of his care even as the storms of life roar all around us. Claim this promise and live with a peace that defies understanding by those who have not experienced it.
Love, Jerry & Dotse