Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Loving God with All Your Heart

Chuckle: "There would be fewer problems with children if they had to chop wood to keep the television going."
Quote: “I did not hear the words you said, instead I heard the love you showed.” --Unknown source
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31 NIV).
What does "with all your heart" mean to you and me? Obviously, when Jesus says we are to love God with all our hearts, he's talking about something much different than the organ in our chests that pumps blood throughout our bodies. In Scripture, the heart is mentioned numerous times and usually describes the very center or totality of your being. All your heart, as used in our passage known as the Great Commandment, includes your appetites, emotions, passions, intellect, will, thoughts, and spirit. One scholar has suggested the Great Commandment might be better translated: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart -- that is with all your soul, mind, and strength."
When you love God completely, with every fiber of your being, then you have fulfilled the intent of God's command. However, I think many of us want to love God with only parts of our hearts. We may love God with our emotions but insist on holding back our passions and wills as private property belonging only to us. That tendency explains God's command to love Him with ALL your heart -- holding nothing back.
God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than he is in our actions for Him. You may be involved in every activity of your church, but activities will not satisfy God and will not cause Him to overlook a disobedient and sinful heart. It doesn't matter how active you are in your church unless you devote yourself to knowing Him and loving Him with all your heart.
As a Christian, you remember full well, the joy, excitement, and peace that entered your heart and life when you first gave your heart to Christ. But over time, temptations of the world may have drawn your heart away and you no longer love God with all your heart. If so, you are being disobedient to the Great Commandment and need to turn your heart back to Him in an attitude of repentance and ask his forgiveness. When you do this, the great joy of your salvation will return and you will be amazed at how clearly you will once again hear God's voice as He reveals His will for your live.
As you face each day life and are uncertain about which course of action to follow in a given situation, just ask yourself which action best demonstrates love for God and love for others. We are reminded that "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (I John 4:20 NIV). One of the best indicators that we love God with all our hearts is how we love other people.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day, 2016

                            A Memorial Day Weekend Scripture
 
         Memorial Day Clip Art Microsoft | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart Images
  May 30, 2016
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“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
 
 Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering those who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated in 1868 to honor both Confederate and Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to remember those who have died in service to our country in all wars. This Memorial Day, It's important that we remember, and teach our children that the freedoms we enjoy come at a terrible price.
Also, please pray for those now serving around the world in the U.S. Armed Forces. 
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 27, 2016

When Least Expected

Chuckle: "Wrinkled is not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up!"
Quote: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." --Winston Churchill
"You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected" (Matthew 24:44 NLT).
I think most of us like being prepared to deal with the unexpected. But, by the same token, we all dread the unexpected for which we have no warning or time to prepare. Then there are certain things we know will happen, like our deaths, but we don't know when. Even though the coming of the event is certain, it is the "when" that's least expected. So it is with Christ's return.
The second coming of Jesus is a major tenet of the Christian faith and we all anticipate His return. In His own words, Jesus tells us that He will return, but He will do so according to the timing known only by God the Father. We cannot predict the exact date of His return, but we should always be prepared as if His return were today. In the same way we stay prepared for the unexpected quiz by a college professor by keeping up with our studies and assignments, we must always be prepared for Jesus' return.
Jesus never intended for us to speculate about the date of His return. Rather, His words were intended as a warning to be prepared for His coming at all times. His coming will be swift and sudden. "So be prepared, because you don't know what day your Lord is coming" (vs. 42).
Yes, Christians should live as if Christ were returning today. But the most urgent preparation is needed by those who have not received Christ as Lord and Savior. When Jesus comes, it will be too late to prepare because the opportunity will have passed for repentance and turning to Him. The choices made in this life will determine our eternal destiny.
Jesus has told His followers not only to wait for His return, but promises a special blessing for those who also watch for His coming. The difference in waiting and watching is illustrated by this story:
After days at sea, a fishing boat was nearing the shore. The men gazed eagerly toward the dock, where a group of their loved ones were waiting. The skipper, looking through his glass, identified some of the women as wives of his crew. But one man was anxious because his wife was not with the others. He left the boat with a heavy heart and walked up the hill, where he saw a light in his cottage. As he opened the door, his wife ran to meet him, saying, "I have been waiting for you!" He sadly replied, "Yes, but the other men's wives were watching for them."
An old hymn goes like this: "Say, will He find you and me still watching, waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A New Life Has Begun

Chuckle: Father to son, "What did you learn in school today?" Son: "three and three are seven." Father: "But three and three are six." Son: "Then I guess I didn't learn anything today."
Quote: "Lord my God, you have formed me and reformed me." --St Anselm
"What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons (new creations). They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone, A new life has begun" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).
The greatest mystery and most wonderful miracle recorded in the Bible is what happens when a person is "born again" spiritually and becomes a totally new life in Christ from the inside out. This miracle is only possible by God's grace through faith and the saving power of God's Holy Spirit who transforms a lost sinner into a brand new creation in Christ. Such a person is ". . .God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
When we are born again and are "in Christ," we are not rehabilitated, or reeducated -- we are re-created (new creations). This means that nothing will ever be the same in our lives -- we are totally remade. We have not just turned over a new leaf and made some promises, but have received new life with a new nature and a new Master.
You may be thinking, "but what happens to all those bad habits, addictions, and sinful actions in which you may have indulged?" When you are born again, you are justified before God who remembers your sins no more and removes them as far as the east is from the west. It's as if you had never sinned. God provides us a full pardon through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our record before God is wiped completely clean and all sin is forgiven and forgotten. Wow!! Just take a moment and let that sink deep into your heart and mind.
One of the reasons this truth is so difficult for many is the mind-set that we need to make changes in our behavior by our own will rather than giving our total being over to the One who gives us new life. Godly changes in our behavior will come as the result of our new life. I like the words of Henry Blackaby:
"The profound testimony of Scripture is that the blood of Jesus Christ and the death of the Son of God is sufficient to completely free you from your sin. Satan will seek to convince you that it is not. Whom will you believe?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Our Secret Sins

Chuckle: "TEACHER: John, why are you doing your math multiplication on the floor? JOHN: You told me to do it without using tables."
“If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV).
"When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.' And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone" (Psalm 32:3-5 NLT).
In a previous lesson, we dealt with our hidden motives for what we do as Christians. We can definitely do good things for the wrong reasons -- to impress people and bring attention to ourselves rather than to God. Today, how would God have us deal with the secret sins of our hidden lives?
First, we can begin by recognizing that God sees our hidden lives. The Scriptures repeatedly declare that God knows all our secrets. We may deceive others, but not God. "Men look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7 NIV). It's unfortunate that many of us live as if we can hide our true motives and sins from God. ". . . for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts" (I Chronicles 28:9b NIV).
Second, we can consciously open ourselves to God by confessing our sins. Since God already knows everything about us, we're not telling Him anything he doesn't know. But Confession can restore us to peace with God and contentment of spirit. This was the experience of the Psalmist in Psalm 32. Secrets can be heavy and burdensome, can rob us of joy, and can stunt our spiritual growth. Guilt harbored in the heart rather than confessed openly to God is devastating. On the other hand, guilt entrusted to God is dead and gone, freeing us to enjoy God's love. Confession and forgiveness are how we allow God to lighten our load and fill our hearts with a new song.
Third, we can open our hidden lives to God by paying more attention to what's going on inside of us. We need to take the time to stop, look, and listen -- to examine ourselves, and discover what's been happening to our soul -- the deepest center of our being. This is why we have to learn to pray the prayer of silence -- the prayer of quietly listening as God speaks to us.
Prayer is much more than flooding God with our requests, our pleas, and our cries for help. Prayer is also about listening. In our silence, we need to listen for the voice of God. He will show us our hidden motives and secret sins. Have a great day as you confess secret sins and let God forgive you, cleanse you, and restore the joy of your salvation!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm Thankful for You

Chuckle: We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
Quote: "Love is not only something you feel. It's something you do." --David Wilkerson
"I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God" (Ephesians 1:16-17 NLT).
I feel the need to tell you who receive these daily e-mails that I never write them without praying for you and your family. We may not have met, personally, but we are connected by the Holy Spirit because of our faith in Jesus Christ. My heart stirs with thanksgiving that God has caused our lives to intersect in cyberspace, if not face to face. I sense your spiritual presence each day as we connect through our computer screens and I thank God for that relationship. I never stop thanking God for you.
From our passage, we see the most tender side of the apostle Paul. You can sense the deep and sincere feelings of love and compassion he has for the believers at Ephesus and all who will receive his letter. We should feel this way about all our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christians, we are challenged to be mindful and thankful for those around us whether they be family, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, or just casual acquaintances. Those with whom we interact enrich our lives and give us a sense of belonging to a loving family -- God's family.
As you read this today’s message, I pray it gives you comfort from knowing someone is giving thanks for you, and for the lives that you touch in the name of Jesus each and every day. You are a treasure to those who know and love you as you are a treasure to your Lord. Hear Paul once more. "I can never stop thanking God for all the generous gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:4 NLT).
Not only am I thankful for you, but I'm even more thankful that you know Jesus and have received His precious gift of salvation. I'm thankful that He is working in your life right now as you bear witness of His amazing grace and indescribable love to those around you.
Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for the person reading this message and for the privilege you have given me to share your Word with him or her and for growing me spiritually in the process. Lord, give him or her a new appreciation for your love and may his or her love grow for you and for others. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tempting Versus Testing

Chuckle: "Statisticians are people who know that if you put a man's head in a sauna and his feet in a deep freeze, he will feel pretty good -- on average!"
Quote: "Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible!" –Unknown source  
"But he (God) knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lip; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread" (Job 23:10-12 NIV). "Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance . . . so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything" (James 1:2-4 NIV).
In the simplest terms, Satan tempts, God tests. The dictionary defines "test" this way. "An examination or trial to find out what something is like, what it contains, how good it is, etc." This non-Biblical definition gives us some insight into the reasons God allows His children to be tested. We find, in James 1:13, that God cannot be tempted and neither does He tempt anyone.
In Scripture the word translated "tempt" can also mean "test." In the New Testament, the root word translated "temptation" (peirazo) has two shades of meaning. When used to describe God's testing a person, it carries a positive intention to bring out the best in a person. However, when it refers to Satan's temptation, the word implies a desire to bring out the worst in a person. Temptation, as we understand its meaning, comes from within -- as a result of uncontrolled appetites and evil passions. Testing comes from temptation, or trial, from without. Even though temptation does not come from God, He does watch over his people while they endure it, and by it He tests them to strengthen and mature them in their faith.
Even Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. God, the Father did not tempt Him; Satan did. But God the Father allowed it as a means of testing Jesus' strength and resolve prior to His earthly ministry and journey to the cross. See Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus passed the test by not yielding to Satan's temptations.
God tests us not only by allowing us to undergo temptation, but tests us directly by his commands and actions. He tested Abraham's faith when He told him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-12). The King James Version says God tempted Abraham. But the NIV, and other translations say God tested Abraham. How could a father be tempted to kill his own son? God had no intention of letting Abraham kill Isaac, but was testing Abraham's faith and his willingness to obey God no matter what the cost. God tested Abraham to develop his character.
Just as fire is used to extract pure precious metals from the dross, God refines us through difficult and mysterious circumstances. When tested, we can complain, or we can try to see how God is stretching us to develop our Christian character and make us more like Jesus.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 20, 2016

Another Side of Temptation

Chuckle: "A three-year-old's explanation for being atop a kitchen chair, eating cookies: 'I just climbed up to smell them, and my tooth got caught.'"
Quote: "A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission." --Marcus Aurelius

"Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it" (James 4:17 NLT). "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (NIV)
In the last two lessons on temptation, we have focused on Satan tempting us to sin by doing something that is wrong. However, there is a more subtle type of temptation that we see in our basic passage. Satan often tempts us not to do something we should do in the same way he tempts us to do something we should not do. You may have heard the phrases, "sin of commission", which is doing something we know we should not do; and sin of "omission," which is failing to do something that we know we should do.
When we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, his Spirit comes to reside in us and our lives are transformed. ". . . those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). God, through his Word and Indwelling Holy Spirit, begins to reshape our consciences so that we understand what is wrong that we should not do, and what is right that we should do. To do wrong or fail to do right is sin.
Most of us give far more attention to sins of doing wrong (thou shalt nots) than to sins of failing to do right/good. But temptations not to do something can be both subtle and destructive in a Christian's life. In the same way that it is a sin to lie, it can also be a sin to know the truth and not share it to someone who needs to hear it. It is a sin to speak in an evil way about someone, but also it is a sin to avoid that person when you know he or she needs your help and friendship. We should be willing to help as the Holy Spirit guides us. If you sense God directing you to do an act of kindness, render a needed service, or to restore a fractured relationship, do it. Not only will you avoid sinning, but such actions will result in great blessings for you and add a fresh vitality to your faith.
As a teacher, you may yield to the temptation not to spend the required time in study and prayer necessary to lead a quality Bible study -- and your class members are short-changed because of your negligence. You know what you should have done but didn't do it. Such temptation can come to a person in any position of leadership in the church or any Christian who fails to do what he or she knows God desires.
Paul said, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (I Corinthians 10:24 NIV). "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3 NIV). If we keep the welfare of others uppermost in our hearts and minds, we will be sensitive to people's needs and be motivation to help meet those needs. Read Matthew 25:31-46 some time for a better understanding of the good things we should do for others, and ultimately for our Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Resisting Temptation

Chuckle: "Frequent naps prevent old age, especially if taken while driving."
Quote: “If you don’t want temptation to follow you, don’t act as if you are interested.” --Richard L. Evans

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (I Corinthians 10:13 NIV).
Last time, we dealt with the nature of temptation -- how Satan goes about tempting us to sin. Today, let's think about how we can resist temptation and never give Satan a foothold in our lives as Christians. Please notice several things in our text passage. (1) Your temptation is no different from that of others. (2) God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear with the Holy Spirit's help. (3) If you let him, God will always provide you a way out so you can resist the temptation. "Since he himself (Jesus) has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18 NLT). So then, with the Holy Spirit's help, here are some practical steps we can take to neutralize Satan's temptations:
1. Stay close to your Lord through prayer, Bible study, and public worship. Your fellowship with your Lord will provide you the strength to resist temptation.
2. Fill your mind with wholesome things. Avoid TV programs, movies, and literature that are filled with immoral content, especially in those areas where you are weakest.
3. Stay busy in God's work. Participate in the ministries of your church and help meet the needs of others. I'm reminded of the old saying, "An idle mind is the Devil's workshop!"
4. Choose your close friends carefully. Make certain they share your Christian values, lest you be influenced to adopt ungodly standards. Only attend social events where wholesome activities that honor God are featured. 
5. Find a close Christian friend for a prayer partner and confidant. Reach an agreement with him or her to hold each other accountable for your thoughts, words, and actions.
6. Remove yourself immediately from any situation where you feel tempted to compromise your Christian values. Even a minor yielding to a temptation makes it increasingly difficult to extract yourself from similar situations in the future.
The Bible says "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:7-8 NIV). Although God and the Devil are at war, we don't have to wait until the end to see who will win. However, Satan is here now, and he is trying to entice us over to his evil way of thinking and acting. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we can resist the Devil each time he approaches and he will flee from us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Nature of Temptation

Chuckle: "What did George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Christopher Columbus have in common? They were all born on holidays."
Ponder This Quote: "Temptation yielded to is lust deified, and is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before." --Oswald Chambers
"Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour" (I Peter 5:8 NLT).
Temptation is not sin. Sin occurs when we yield to temptation. Temptation is defined as Satan's attempt to get a person to do, or want to do, something that is forbidden by God. If Satan can get you, as a believer, to yield to temptation and lead you into sin, he has effectively neutralized you as an instrument of God in your church and your community. Satan knows he can never snatch you away from the protection of God's love; but if he can entice you into sin and cause you to lose the joy and excitement of your salvation, he has rendered you of no use to God and His work.
We must understand that temptation is never from God. "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). How then does Satan go about tempting us? He uses many different approaches, but one of his favorites is to isolate you from other Christians -- to get you to stop attending church and worshiping in fellowship with God's people. Other Christians serve to encourage us, strengthen us, pray for us, and generally hold us accountable for our actions.
If you have seen how a lion stalks its prey, you can visualize how Satan tempts us to sin. The lion first picks out a weak antelope and begins to patiently stalk it and waits until he can isolate it from the protection of the herd, then closes in for the kill. We become easy prey when we disassociate ourselves from the protection/strength of fellow believers.
Like the lion, Satan always attacks you where you are the weakest. Is there some particular sin in your life that you have a hard time overcoming? Is there a recurring illicit thought or desire that you cannot keep out of your mind? Do you find yourself desiring to succumb to temptation in that area of weakness? You can be certain that such temptation is Satan's way of enticing you to sin. Here's how the process works. "But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; . . . (James 1:14-15 NIV).
We all are tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). Temptation is not something we can deal with and put behind us once and for all. Even if you are successful in resisting a temptation in a particular circumstance, rest assured Satan will keep coming back and tempting you over and over again in your weakest areas. Resisting temptation is a life-long battle for a Christian. "When the Devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came" (Luke 4:13 NLT). Satan is watching for his next opportunity to tempt each of us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Snatching Them From Danger

Chuckle: Only a Southerner knows the difference between a "hissie fit" and a "conniption fit," and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.
Quote: "Let those who thoughtfully consider the brevity of life remember the length of eternity." --Thomas Ken
We know Jesus wants Christians to be in the world but not of (like) the world. In the little book of Jude, we find some graphic words of instruction and warning. "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).
As I read today's passage, I'm reminded of the times I've cooked hotdogs or hamburgers on our backyard grill. More than once a patty or wiener has fallen through the grill into the red-hot coals below. My instant reaction was to quickly snatch the meat out of the fire before it is was consumed while, at the same time, trying to avoid being burned myself. To me, that's the picture Jude paints for us here. He says we are to show mercy to the unsaved, and to those who have fallen into sin, mixed with fear lest we become stained (burned) by the same sinful (corrupted) ways of the world.
The first thing we see from this passage is that we should look with mercy upon non-believers and those who are doubters. We are to see them through the eyes of Jesus with the same love and compassion that He has for them. In love and mercy, we are to do everything we can to "snatch" them from Satan's clutches and bring them into the comforting love of Christ -- as the Holy Spirit gives us strength.
When reaching out to those to whom we witness, we must be careful not to fall into the quicksand of compromise. Always be careful not to become so much like non-Christians that no one can tell who you are or what you believe. Draw others for Christ, but don't allow them to draw you into sin.
How can we avoid being drawn away from our Lord and into the ways of the world while maintaining contact with those who need Christ in their lives? By keeping our eyes focused on Jesus; By spending time regularly in prayer and Bible study; By relying everyday on the Holy Spirit for strength to resist the various temptations that Satan places before us; By being faithful and active members of a Bible believing church; and by "Living in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you" (Jude 21 NLT).
We also have responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Christ who stray into sin. At the first indication that they are being drawn away from our Lord and into the ways of the world, we should befriend them and do everything in our power to love them back into the warm and loving fellowship of believers. In my experience as a pastor, I have discovered many "Christians" who have left the fellowship of the church for various reasons, and are convinced that nobody cares. It's up to us to prove them wrong. . . .
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 16, 2016

Finding Peace of Mind

Chuckle: Examiner: "You know very little about the Bible. Can you quote any passage?" Student: "Judas departed and went and hanged himself." Examiner: "Can you quote another?" Student: "Go thou and do likewise."
Quote: “Peace is the gift of God. Do you want peace? Go to God. . . Live your religion, and the very peace of God will dwell and abide with you, for that is where peace comes from, and it doesn't dwell anywhere else.” --John Taylor
"I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe" (Psalm 4:8 NLT). "The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace" (Psalm 29:11 NLT).
Peace of mind is an elusive condition longed for by all but never found by many, even though they continue to search for it. When I reflect on the concept of peace of mind, I cannot do so without being drawn to the only source of such peace -- God himself. It's so easy for us to slip into the world's state of mind and search for peace in all the wrong places and from all the wrong things.
Many of us lie awake at night worrying and fretting about every conceivable thing that has or might go wrong in our lives. Of course, some physical conditions also can prevent us from sleeping soundly. Generally though, I suppose the ability to sleep comfortably and restfully is the best indicator of peace of mind. I read somewhere that if you are having trouble sleeping, stop counting sheep and talk to the Shepherd.
Notice in our first passage that peace and sleep came from knowing that God would keep the psalmist safe. A sense of safety and security are key ingredients for peace of mind. As a Christian, you live in the eternal safety of God's loving arms and you can take solace from His promises never to leave you nor forsake you. If you truly want peace of mind, take God at His word and trust Him in every situation. As I observe the chaos in our world and all the things that cause us anxiety and fear, I'm reminded of this:
"Picture a massive hurricane raging over the ocean. On the surface of the sea the violent winds whip the water into giant waves and create a scene of havoc and chaos. Yet, a mere twenty-five feet below the surface, the waters are clear and calm. The fish there go on living their lives totally unaware of the thunderous tumult just above them. When there is "depth," there is peace. So it is with the Christian life." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael Green
The depth of your peace of mind is dependent upon the depth of your faith. You can have peace of mind by always remembering that God is in control and the trials you may be enduring are only temporary. Take heart and let God fill you with his peace. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 13, 2016

God Prepares Us for Service

Chuckle: "I got a letter from my sister. She just had a baby, but she didn't say whether it was a boy or girl. So I don't know if I'm an uncle or aunt."
Quote: "Personal humility is a spiritual discipline and the hallmark of the service of Jesus." --Franklin Graham
"Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:21-22 NIV).
Here, Jesus again identified himself with His Father by informing His disciples by whose authority He did His work. Then He passed to them the responsibility of spreading the good news of salvation locally and around the world. You will notice in this passage that Jesus fully equipped His followers for the task he gave them. Let's look at the gifts He has given us to make possible the accomplishment of this task.
First, He gives us His peace. This is a supernatural peace that only Christ can give. Just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words: "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). This is a divinely given peace that transcends all human understanding (Philippians 4:7). It is the kind of peace that does not depend upon external circumstances, but is a condition of our hearts that endures no matter what.
Second, He gives us a purpose. "I am sending you." "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV). Our mission is clear.
Third, He gives us His power in the form of His Holy Spirit. Giving His Spirit to His disciples appears to be a foretaste of the Holy Spirit that would come to all believers on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). It is the Holy Spirit that provides us the power to fulfill our purpose of ministry in His Name. His Holy Spirit is with us and in us (John 14:17) and will never leave us. Without the Holy Spirit living within us we can do nothing.
"If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5 NIV). "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26 NIV).
In Summary, our basic passage gives us a synopsis of God's plan to bring the good news to the whole world. He has no plan B -- we are to be His witnesses who move and function under His direction and in the power of His Spirit (Acts 1:8).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Broken and Repentant Heart

Chuckle: "Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?"
Quote:  “The repentance of man is accepted by God as a virtue.” –Voltaire
"The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17 NLT).
This is our last lesson from Psalm 51 that records King David's repentant prayer for mercy, forgiveness, and restoration of his joy following his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. Our passage for today summarizes what God desires from us, his people.
In David's repentant state, he came to realize that no offerings he could make could bring him back into fellowship with God. David knew God is not interested in our offerings unless these offerings are accompanied by a broken and repentant heart. "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings" (vs. 16). Now see our basic passage again. We cannot give our money or other possessions to God and His work as a substitute for an unrepentant heart and expect God to grant us His favor. We cannot bribe God into overlooking our sin.
Notice that what God wants is "a penitence-broken spirit" and a "shattered and crushed heart." Such a heart condition is called a "sacrifice." For something to be a sacrifice, it must be of value and cost us something. When we are truly repentant, we sacrifice by surrendering our will, our desires, our plans, our goals, and our treasures to God. In other words, our love relationship with Him becomes more valuable to us than anything else. An old hymn goes like this: "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I'd rather have Him than riches untold. I'd rather have Jesus than any thing this world affords today."
We can never please God by offerings alone. No, God is concerned about the condition and attitude of our hearts. When our sacrifice leads to a broken spirit and a repentant heart, our bodies will follow with acceptable offerings and actions. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV).
You can determine the attitude of your heart by answering these questions. Are you genuinely sorry for your sin? Do you intend to stop indulging in that sin? Do you intend to turn your heart toward God and rejoice once again in His presence? God is pleased by this kind of repentance, and he will respond to you with mercy, forgiveness, and inexplicable joy.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Restore My Joy

Chuckle: "I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it!"
Quote: "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer." --Corrie Ten Boom
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me" (Psalm 51:12 NIV).
Today we continue to learn from King David's prayer of repentance after he had sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband, Uriah, killed so he could have Bathsheba for himself.
When we find ourselves out of touch with God and mired in sin, the first thing to go is our joy. Feelings of guilt and shame take the place of joy and make us miserable. Then we begin to doubt our salvation because we don't feel secure in our relationship with God.
Often, when we get to this point, we want to get as far away from God, fellow believers, and the church as possible because we feel unclean and unworthy. King David was suffering from these symptoms, but in his despair, he realized that God was the only one who could restore the joy of salvation that he had known prior to falling into sin. In his despair he asked God to restore his joy.
Jesus talks a lot about joy for his followers. Joy and happiness are often used as synonyms to describe euphoric feelings of peace, contentment, safety, and security. But for the purpose of our discussion, let's say that joy is a condition of the heart and mind that is not affected by external circumstances. It is a result of our loving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, happiness comes and goes depending upon circumstances. The kind of joy that God wants for his children is the kind that remains constant regardless of what is going on around us. Such joy causes us to praise God with an attitude of thanksgiving even when things around us are falling apart. It is that inner feeling that everything is under God's control and will ultimately be alright.
God wants us to be in close fellowship with Him and does not want sin to drive a wedge between Him and us. He wants us to experience His full, complete, and joyful life. But unconfessed sin makes such intimacy with God impossible. When you confess your sin to God, you may still have to face earthly consequences, as David did, but God will restore joy to your relationship with Him. Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love . . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:9a,11 NIV). Only sin can remove that joy that God has given us and only God can restore it when we repent and turn back to Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Create in Me a Pure Heart

Chuckle: "I'm supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one."
Quote:  “The heart in the biblical sense is not the inward life, but the whole man in relation to God.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"Create in me a pure (clean) heart (mind), O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 NIV).
We continue to learn from Psalm 51 as we study King David's prayer of repentance following his adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband, Uriah, killed so he could have Bathsheba for himself. In verse 1, David pled for God's mercy and forgiveness. In verse 2, he asked God to wash and cleanse the stain of sin from his life. Then in verse 10, he asks God to give him a pure heart and mind and renew his spirit.
What does it mean to have a clean/pure heart and mind? Simply stated, every sin we commit begins as a seed of impure thought and desire within our minds. Because we are born sinners (v. 5), our natural inclination is to please ourselves rather than God our creator. Only the power of God can cleanse us within by filling our hearts and minds with new and pure thoughts and desires. We can only live a righteous life after our minds have been transformed. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:2 NIV).
Listen to James as he describes the process of sin from it's conception to it's devastating conclusion. "When tempted (to sin), no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire (thought), he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire was conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:13-15 NIV).
David was so distraught over his sin that he asked God to do major spiritual surgery on his heart and mind -- a heart transplant if you will. He asked god to "create" a pure heart. The very word, "create" suggests the making of something completely new and fresh. It's as if David didn't want just an overhaul of his old heart; he wanted a brand new pure one. When it comes to avoiding sin, a new God-created heart is the only answer. Listen to God's words by the prophet, Ezekiel concerning His people. "I will give you a new heart with new desires, and I will put a new spirit in you" (Ezekiel 36:26 NLT). Have you asked God to create a pure heart and spirit within you??
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cleanse Me of My Sin

Chuckle: "Arbitrator (ar'-bi-tray'-ter): A cook that leaves Arby's to work at McDonald's."
Quote: "There is always an advertised price for sin. But that price is always lower than the actual price it carries." --Unknown source
"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2 NIV).
Today, we continue with David's prayer for mercy and forgiveness after his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. In verse 1, David asked God for mercy according to God's unfailing love. It is only because we know God loves us that we can ask His mercy, forgiveness of our sins, and restoration to our love relationship and fellowship with Him.
Notice the words David used in Verse 2 of his prayer. He uses the terms "wash" and "cleanse" to describe God's forgiveness of his sin. Washing away our sins is common phraseology among Christians. When something or someone is washed, it/he becomes clean and presentable once again to the one doing the washing or cleansing.
In the New Testament, we are told it is the blood of Jesus that washes away sin. An old hymn goes like this: "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." When your sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, you can rest assured that not a single stain from those sins remains. It's as if you had never sinned. In verse 7, David voiced his confidence in God's forgiveness and said: "Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
Hebrews 9:22, remind us that, "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin." This tells us that it was Christ's sacrificial death and the shedding of His blood that makes our salvation possible and the subsequent forgiveness of individual sins.
David found that God can and will forgive any sin, but he also learned that God does not erase the natural consequences of our sin. After his sin, David's life was filled with strife and his family was never the same because of what he had done. He had to live with the consequences of sin in this life, but was completely cleansed from God's perspective.
". . . and the blood of His (God's) son, purifies (cleanses) us from all sin . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7b, 9 NIV). David confessed his sin to God and God was faithful and just and forgave him, cleansed him, and restored him. He will do that today for you and me if we pray the sincere prayer of repentance that David prayed.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 6, 2016

Faith of Our Mothers

Good Morning:           https://sp.yimg.com/ib/th?id=OIP.M80e1455c7382c06f3d36ff36b448506eH0&pid=15.1&rs=1&c=1&qlt=95&w=159&h=112#inline
Chuckle: "All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys don't go for it." --Antonio, age 9
Quote: "A godly mother will point her children to God by the force of her example as much as by the power of her words." --Unknown source
FAITH OF OUR MOTHERS
Paul said to young Timothy: "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first was lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV).
Parenting a child is an awesome responsibility, but one filled with unspeakable joy and fulfillment. The home is the place where children learn who they are, what they are capable of doing, and what is expected of them. The first step in building strong families for our Lord is to have a deep and abiding faith to impart to our children and grandchildren.
For parents who release their children into the Lord's care and will for their lives, it requires great faith and love. We watch our children grow up and recognize our inadequacies in rearing them in a way pleasing to God if we depend upon our own strength. But when we come to the point of prayerfully entrusting them into God's care, great peace and joy will come over us. This is because we know that God loves them even more than we do. They are in good hands when mothers and dads entrust them into God's care.
This beautiful passage, penned by the apostle Paul, reminds us of the importance of godly parents -- in this case godly grandmothers and mothers. When Paul exhorts Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God which is in you" (verse 6), he also acknowledges the role his mother and grandmother had in developing young Timothy's faith. It's a reminder for us to give thanks for the roles our parents or grandparents have played in shaping our faith.
God uses the role of a parent to teach about Himself. Not only do parents get a new perspective on God's love for them when they have children of their own, but they are put in a position of need. We will never know that God can provide for us until we have a need. Therefore, concerns for the future of our children can be the tool God uses to teach us to rely on Him.
God has given mothers a unique capacity for showing gentleness and compassion, and for influencing the spiritual direction of children. There is only one thing children need more than a mother who is devoted to them -- and that's a mother who's even more devoted to God. Let us be thankful for our mothers and for those who have been like a mother to us!
"Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her. Their are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised" (Proverbs 31:28-30 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse