Friday, July 29, 2016

The Joys of Ministry

Chuckle: A mother learned by raising boys: "The spin cycle on the washing machine doesn't make earthworms dizzy. It will, however, make cats dizzy, and cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy."
Quote: "There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, there is only the discovery of joy." --Joyce Grenfell

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV).
Serving God as a minister/pastor/preacher is an awesome and humbling calling. During my years of vocational ministry, I have experienced many joys and a few heartaches along the way. But it is the joys that I remember most vividly, and each time I remember a specific joyful experience it produces even more joy. 
After attending a morning worship service sometime back, Dotse and I were walking through our church parking lot toward our car. A middle-aged couple, whom we did not immediately recognize, approached us, extended their hands and said, "You married us 23 years ago and we want you to meet our daughter and her fiancé who will be getting married soon. Joy!
At a funeral I attended, I saw a young man leading the music and singing with a beautiful solo voice. I recognized him as someone I had baptized when he was a young boy. He has grown into a talented young man with a heart for reaching and ministering to people in the name of Jesus through music. Joy!
While serving as pastor, I was driving down a country road and came upon a young man mending fence along the roadway. I stopped and we struck up a conversation and talked about the Lord and his spiritual condition. To make a longer story short, I had the privilege of baptizing him and watching him grow in his faith over the years and become the spiritual leader of his family. Today, he serves as pastor of a local church. Joy!
I share these three representative joy producing experiences not to bring undue credit to myself but to remind each of us of the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit. No other joy equals that of touching the lives of others in a positive way in the name of Jesus and seeing the Holy Spirit draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Such joys are certainly not exclusively for pastors. Every Christian is called to be a minister and can experience the joy that comes from leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ or ministering to other spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those around us. Are you experiencing such joy?
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Happiness in a Promise

Chuckle (church bulletin blooper): "Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation."
Quote: “God never promises exemption. He does promise companionship, which is better. He does not promise to deliver you or me or any other individual from pain, sorrow, or economic disaster, but He does give assurance that He will help us through and that there will be compensations. 'I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.' These are the words of Jesus.” --Daniel A. Poling
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV).
Jesus said that all who endure persecution for following him will be both blessed (happy) and rewarded. Of course, we should never do anything for our Lord just to receive a reward. We serve him out of love and gratitude for what he has given to us and done for us. The reality of a reward will be wonderful but should not be our motivation. Having said that, happiness is produced in us from knowing our service will be rewarded. From our studies of the Beatitudes, there are several truths about this promise.
The promise is for the here and now. In verse 10, Jesus says, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Notice the present tense, "is" the kingdom of heaven. If we truly know and love Jesus, we can find joy in suffering for Him and our faith right now. Suffering brings us closer to our Lord, and one another, and the kingdom becomes a reality. Paul knew suffering with and for Christ would bring him closer in fellowship with him. He says in Philippians 3:10: "I want to know Christ and . . . the fellowship of sharing in his (Jesus') suffering."
The promise has a definite future dimension. "Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven." It has been said that "heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create." "No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV). We know from John 14:2-3 that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven. Having a place reserved for us in heaven is reward enough, but Jesus says that's only the beginning. We will personally experience his presence and glory for ever.
The promise applies to all faithful Christians down through the ages. Jesus tells us not to feel like lone rangers, "for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." To suffer for what is right is to be a part of a great procession of faithful Christians. Even though what we are called upon to suffer for Christ today, our suffering pales in comparison to what others have suffered. The greatest compliment a Christian can receive is to be persecuted because of righteousness, for then he or she has been identified with God's choicest.
In summary, persecution of Christians is rampant in parts of the world. Persecution can range from the life-threatening to an insidious word from non-Christians or fellow Christians. If we are willing to suffer for righteousness we will experience happiness. The promise, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" continues to bless those who endure through persecution.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happiness and Persecution

Chuckle (Church bulletin blooper): "Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First
Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance."
Quote: “There is no place for fear among men and women who trust the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing. .” --Ezra Taft Benson
"Blessed (happy) are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10 NIV).
Have you asked questions like these? Why do bad things happen to good people? How could a loving God let this to happen to me? How could a merciful God allow my child to be so sick or to die? Why are the righteous persecuted? As we study this beatitude, let's ask God to increase our understanding of His ways.
One of the most inspiring examples of courage in the history of Christendom was the martyrdom of Polycarp, who was burned at the stake for his faith. As an old man, Polycarp was arrested by the Roman authorities and brought to the arena for execution in front of the cheering crowd. The proconsul pressed him hard and said, "Swear, and I will release you. Revile Christ." Polycarp replied, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me wrong; and how can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?" (From Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Chapter 15).
Hopefully, none of us will face the fate of Polycarp, but I wonder how willing we are to accept persecution, ridicule, or harassment because of our faith. "Persecution" means "to keep on treating someone in a cruel and harsh way." It also means to "harass." or "Ridicule."
God made us to enjoy being loved and liked. When we are in the presence of good friends in an atmosphere of love and acceptance, we live and breathe most freely. To be ridiculed as a child is heartbreaking, and the pain is not lessened as we grow into adulthood. Persecution by harassment and unfair accusations may destroy our feelings of security and cause great anxiety. Of all injuries that can be inflicted on a human being, persecution comes the closest to making life feel like hell on earth. With this in mind, the Lord's final beatitude is the most difficult to understand and accept. "Happy (blessed) are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Persecution seems to be the absolute opposite of happiness. Also, it seems strange that a compassionate Lord would encourage the persecuted to rejoice in their persecution. this is a paradox -- a statement that seems to contradict itself -- or appears to be false even when it's true. The statement, "Blessed are those who are persecuted" seems contradictory, confusing, and humanly impossible.
I came across this statement by Oswald Chambers: "To choose to suffer means there's something wrong; to choose God's will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy Christian ever chooses suffering; he chooses to do God's will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not." As we digest this statement, we can better understand what Jesus meant by this beatitude. How can a person be happy when persecuted for his or her faith? The happiness comes from knowing we are a part of God's eternal kingdom -- that we are following him and pleasing him -- that he will give us the strength to endure.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, July 22, 2016

Happiness for Peacemakers

Chuckle: A pastor visiting a nursing home said to a resident, "Do you know who I am?" The lady replied, "No, but the person at the desk can probably tell you."
Quote: “Anyone can love peace, but Jesus didn't say, 'Blessed are the peace-lovers.' He says peacemakers. He is referring to a life vocation, not a hobby on the sidelines of life.” --Jim Wall

"Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9 NIV).
The term "peacemaker" occurs in Scripture only in this passage. Sadly, it seems we live in a time when hostilities, disagreements, feuds, and suspicions are the rule rather than the exception. Even the stress of life's daily routine can cause a person to explode in hostility and anger. To those who restore relationships by calming the troubled waters of human conflicts, Jesus promises happiness. Also, the reward of this beatitude is to be called the children of God. Being a peacemaker is one of the most obvious characteristics of a Spirit-filled person. Unfortunately, too many "Christians" are "troublemakers" rather than "peacemakers."
Peacemakers enjoy an indescribable peace with God. This beatitude has as its foundation the six previous ones. We can only be effective peacemakers when we admit our spiritual poverty, mourn (sorrow) over our sin, submit to God's control (meekness), hunger and thirst after righteousness, show mercy, and become pure in heart. Our need to make peace with God does not mean God is angry with us or that he is standing aloof and unwilling to interact with us. The only barrier between us and God is our sin and willful unbelief and disobedience.
Peacemakers have an inner peace with themselves. Those who are always at war with fellow workers, family, and friends are fighting a battle within themselves. When there is a pattern of saying hurtful words, whether true or false, it is obvious to everyone around us that we are not at peace with ourselves. Peacemakers must begin with themselves. When Jesus was about to leave his disciples and go to the cross, he said, ". . . my peace I give you. . ." (John 14:27 NIV). Peacemakers enjoy the peace of our Lord in their hearts.
Peacemakers are at peace with others. Jesus had this to say: "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to (make peace with) your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew. 5:23-24 NIV). The acceptability of our worship depends upon our relationships with others. Here, Jesus is telling us if our worship through offerings are to be pleasing to God, we must be at peace with others.
Peacemakers recognize that the ending of overt hostility and absence of conflict is not necessarily peace. Two people may stop unkind speech to one another, but retreat into long periods of bitterness and angry silence instead. They are neither friends, nor at peace. They simply refuse to communicate or associate with one another. Two countries might declare a cease fire, but that does not guarantee peace. Peace is a positive thing. It is wholesome relationships from which constant goodwill is produced. Peacemakers reach out -- they take the initiative. Their concern is not who is to blame, but how can peace be attained or restored. They are not faultfinders or criticizers -- they are healers. They are the children of God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happiness and a Pure Heart

Chuckle: Child's prayer, "Dear God, I bet it's very hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four in our family and I can never do it." Nancy
Quote: “Clear water flows from a pure spring.” --Proverb
"Blessed (happy) are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:8 NIV).
Obviously, in Scripture, the word "heart" means much more than the organ beating away in our chests. Because our "hearts" represent the very core of who we are, we must hear and understand what it means to have a pure heart. Thus, the proverb, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life!" (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). The heart is the center of not only your intellectual, physical, and emotional life but your spiritual life. So, what did Jesus mean by "pure" when describing the heart?
We could say that Becoming "pure" in heart is a process by which God makes us into the person he desires us to be. Purity is the result of cleansing. This purity of heart manifests itself in the way we relate to other people. Note the order of the words in this beatitude. First, purify your heart, then you will see God. Clean up the heart and then a pure life will follow.
The pure in heart have been cleansed and purified by their faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. Initial cleansing occurs when a person commits his or her life to Christ. Purity is not the result of human will, but it comes from God. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV). This happens when we are born again. To be saved, however, is not enough. Purity of heart for Christians is produced by daily repentance and confession of sins to God. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and to purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV).
The pure in heart are guided by one aim or purpose -- to glorify God. The further you expect to go in your spiritual life, the more important your aim becomes. I was a pilot in my military days, and when planning a flight, I always tried to plot an accurate course toward my destination. But with changes in wind direction and speed along the route, midcourse corrections were required to stay on course and arrive at the desired destination. As the Holy Spirit guides us and helps us with midcourse corrections, we can stay on course and stay true to our purpose -- to glorify God.
Out of a pure heart will come clean thoughts. The Mighty Mississippi River is 2,350 miles long and a mile wide as it approaches the gulf of Mexico. However, it begins as a tiny, clear, and clean stream less than two feet deep flowing out of the northern end of Lake Itaska in North-Central Minnesota. We must visit its beginnings to understand the river's meandering course and powerful flow. The flow of our lives begins with our smallest hidden thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that. "As a person thinks in his heart, so is he." A pure heart will produce clean thoughts and clean thoughts result in a clean life.
Jesus promised that the pure in heart will see God. When we experience salvation by grace through faith in Christ, God forgives our sins and begins to cleanse and purify our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit. Each time we confess our sins to God and seek forgiveness, He forgives us and purifies our hearts. As we experience cleansing, God begins to reveal more and more of himself to us. Our fellowship with him grows more intimate as we experience God's presence and begin to understand who God is and His will for our lives. Praise!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Happiness from Showing Mercy

Chuckle: A child's prayer: "Dear God, it is great the way you always get the stars in the right place. Why can't you do that with the moon?" Jeff
Quote: “Who will not mercy unto others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have?” --Edmund Spenser
"Blessed (happy) are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7 NIV)
The story is told of a mother who sought from Napoleon the pardon of her son. The Emperor said it was the man's second offense, and justice demanded his death. "I don't ask for Justice," she said. "I plead for mercy." "But," said the Emperor, "he does not deserve mercy." "Sir," cried the mother, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask." "Well then," said the Emperor, "I will show mercy." And her son was saved.
It's mercy, not justice, that each of us needs from our Lord. In a parable, Jesus said, "Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant just as I have had mercy on you?"  (Matthew 18:33 NIV). John Wesley once visited General Oglethorpe governor of the colony of Georgia. The General mentioned a man who had angered him and said, "I shall never forgive him!" Wesley replied, "Then I hope, sir, you never sin."
Are you living today with deep resentments toward someone who has done you wrong in the past? Have you allowed resentment to turn into burning anger and rage? If so, is your motive to have revenge and get even? Living without showing mercy is a prelude to dying without receiving mercy. But, showing mercy to others will result in your being treated with mercy. As Jesus said it: "Blessed (happy) are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
The word for "mercy" appears many times in Scripture. Sometimes it is rendered as "mercy," at others, "kindness," or "lovingkindness." Mercy, as demonstrated by Jesus, involves the way a person truly feels. Mercy is to see others as Christ sees them and feel toward others as he feels toward them. In short, mercy is to have the attitude of Christ toward everyone. It is unconditional and equal compassion and forgiveness for everyone -- even when they don't deserve kindness or forgiveness.
God shows his love and mercy to each one of us in that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). If we have an attitude of mercy, our actions will reflect it. When Springtime comes, it can't be kept a secret because it has too many expressions (blooming plants, singing birds, green leaves, etc.). Having a merciful heart makes itself known in a multitude of ways by your actions toward others.
If we show mercy as God has shown us mercy, we will be kind and gracious to others and quick to forgive. We will always look for the best in people. Redemption, not condemnation, will be our concern. If we are merciful, we will strive to lighten the loads of others by our actions, not by just our words and feelings. Even when you may have every right to be resentful, the practice of mercy will help you forgive. Happiness will then come from reflecting on God's mercy to you and from knowing you have shown mercy, a characteristic of God himself.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Happiness from Spiritual Hunger and Thirst

Chuckle: A child prayed, "Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I asked for was a puppy. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up." Joyce
Quote: “It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” --George Eliot
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
Have you ever been terribly hungry or thirsty? I mean, really hungry or thirsty -- the kind of hunger that makes your stomach scream and growl, or the kind of thirst that makes your mouth feel like a piece of sandpaper and a ball of cotton combined. If you have, one thing is certain, your hunger or thirst was the only thing on your mind and everything else became secondary until this urgent need was satisfied. You were totally focused on finding food or water.
I once read a story about a mother and little daughter who were trapped under a pile of rubble for days following an earthquake. As the hours and days wore on, the child began to cry and scream because she was so thirsty. Imagine the anxiety and stress on the mother because she had nothing to give her child. Then she remembered, she had her blood to offer the child. So, she pricked her finger and gave it to the baby to suck. After a while, the baby cried "more mommy, please mommy, cut another finger." To make a long story short, the life-giving blood of the mother kept her child alive until they were rescued.
As you read this story, did any other "blood" come to mind? The eternal life-giving blood of our Savior that has given us life without end. This same Savior said we would be blessed and happy if we hunger and thirst after the righteousness he so generously wants to give us. We have no righteousness of our own -- only that which is given to us by our Lord Himself. He will fill us with his righteousness if we sincerely seek it. "There is none righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10 NIV). "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22 NIV).
We know that the things of this world will never provide permanent satisfaction, and if we depend on the satisfaction of our physical appetites, we will never be fulfilled nor find true happiness. That's why Jesus said: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (food, water, clothing, etc.) will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33 NIV).
Righteousness is not merely the absence of sin. When we accept Christ as Savior, we are spiritual infants in Christ -- saved but not mature. We grow, spiritually, by hungering and thirsting for righteousness and allowing God to fill us with His goodness and holiness. We allow his Holy Spirit to fill us and make us more and more like Christ each day. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5 KJV: "Let this mind (attitude) be in you that is also in Christ Jesus." To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to yearn to be like Jesus.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 18, 2016

Happiness Through Meekness

Chuckle: A child's prayer: "Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother." Larry
Quote: “Meekness is great power under complete control.”Unknown Source
"Blessed (happy) are the meek for they will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5 NIV).
Before we look at the third Beatitude, we must understand that the Beatitudes picture a step-by-step process of God restructuring the hearts and lives of believers. Jesus' teachings provide a moral standard by which we can measure ourselves. The beatitudes refer to both present and future blessings of the kingdom. "Beatitude" means happiness but much more. It implies the wonderful and enviable place of those who make up God's kingdom. They do not insure pleasure or prosperity here on earth. But being blessed means to experience hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. This is possible when we follow Jesus regardless of the cost.
I don't know of a word used in Scripture that is as misunderstood as the word "meek." Just the sound of the word seems to communicate weakness, not strength. But the word used by Jesus has a totally different meaning, and weakness is not even a part of its definition. "Gentle, lowly, easy, and mild" are better definitions. His picture is that of a giant animal, like a horse or an ox. Each of these magnificent animals has tremendous strength. You've probably heard the phrase, "strong as an ox." However, each of these, when trained, bring their great strength into subjection to its master. The ox has lost none of its strength; but it's will and strength are now channeled and controlled by its master.
As Christians, being meek requires that we submit our wills totally to the Lord. The biggest difference in submitting our will to our Lord and the ox submitting to its master is that the ox already has strength which is brought under control. But our strength comes only after we have submitted our wills to the Master. His Spirit gives us all the strength the Father chooses to give us and he controls that strength. Meekness means a life that is submissive to the Holy Spirit -- a life that allows Him to change us in any way He sees fit to make us more useful to Him. When we doubt the Father, we are likely to act in our own strength, instead of relying on His power.
The first two beatitudes deal with the "poor in spirit," and "mourning" (sorrow), and they stress the need to admit our inadequacy and swallow our pride, repent, and ask forgiveness. This, the third beatitude asks us to realize that our meekness leads us to the source of great strength -- God, Himself. Renewal comes when we become meek -- when we humbly give our lives to God to be used by him for his honor and glory. Now, we can claim the promise of Jesus that we will gain the abundant life -- even here on earth -- a life of peace, joy, and contentment. Jesus said: "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly (to the fullest)" (John 10:10). As believers, the best things in life are available to each of us right now!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, July 15, 2016

Happiness From Sorrow

Chuckle: "Troy: “I’m a very famous  speaker. I spoke to thousands of people at the Boston Gardens.”  Paul: “Really? What did you say?  Troy: “Get your peanuts, popcorn, and cold drinks here.”  
Quote: “The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved.” --Victor Hugo
"Blessed are those who mourn (sorrow), for they will be comforted" (Matt. 5:4 NIV).
Oswald Chambers on the beatitudes: "The teaching of Jesus is out of all proportion to our natural way of looking at things and it comes with astonishing discomfort to begin with. We have to slowly form our walk and conversations on the line of precepts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies them to our circumstances. The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations; it is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting His way with us."
Today we can glean valuable lessons from the second beatitude. Let me begin with this question: Has your pride ever prevented you from admitting you were wrong? Has your pride ever caused you to argue your case relentlessly even when you knew you were wrong? Has your pride ever prevented you from saying "I'm sorry" to someone you have wronged? Have you ever taken pride in concluding that your sins really aren't all that bad? You see, we can easily become prisoners of our pride. Pride causes our jaw to jut out; our upper lip to become stiff; and our neck to bow in stubbornness. Pride can prevent us from ever understanding the happiness that comes to those who experience genuine regret and sorrow over their sins.
Jesus did not speak the beatitudes to unbelievers. Those were his disciples (followers) who gathered around him and sat down on the mountainside to hear Jesus. Only those who have experienced God's love personally can understand this beatitude. God wants us to experience His joy (John 15:11). However, we cannot experience this kind of joy and comfort until we learn to swallow our pride and be sorrowful for our sins. Henry Blackaby says: "If we do not grieve over the weight of our sin, we have no concept of sin's devastating power. If we take our sin lightly, we demonstrate that we have no sense of the enormity of our offense against almighty God."
There are two basic kinds of sorrow: "Godly sorrow," and "worldly sorrow." Godly sorrow always leads to repentance, forgiveness, comfort, happiness, and life. Worldly sorrow brings only misery and death. This distinction is found in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NIV: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."
Worldly sorrow might mean being sorry that we got caught; or being sorrowful because we must endure the consequences for our actions. However, Godly sorrow is admitting our sin to God, being sorry (mourning) and heart-broken for that sin, and, in repentance, depending upon God to forgive us and give us the happiness He has promised. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV).
Jesus said, those who mourn "shall be comforted." This is strength, peace, and contentment that comes from companionship with God. Only those who experience the abundance of God's love can receive divine happiness and comfort.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Happiness in God's Kingdom

Chuckle:  What would America be if all its people were in their cars?  An INCARNATION.
Quote: “Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.” --Henry van Dyke

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3 NIV).
When we come to God with empty hands unable to help ourselves -- spiritually broke and destitute, God promises to bring us happiness in his kingdom. Are you happy this morning? I mean "really happy?" If not, would you venture a guess as to the reason? If you are truly happy, I doubt you would have any difficulty understanding the reason for such happiness. When Jesus says the poor in spirit are blessed (happy), he is teaching us the secret to supreme and enduring joy.
In our passage, the literal Greek reads: "Theirs and theirs alone is the kingdom of God." And furthermore, it is theirs right now -- "is," not "will be." Even now the Holy Spirit dwells within you if you know Christ as Savior. That's where God's kingdom is today -- in the hearts of Christians. Jesus said: "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here is it," or "there it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21 NIV).
As believers, God's kingdom is ours right now. However, the sad reality is that many are left out. The kingdom is only for the poor in spirit. Others are left in darkness because of unbelief, arrogance, and pride. Oswald Chambers says: "The bedrock in Jesus Christ's kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not decisions for Christ, but a sense of absolute futility -- I cannot begin to do it for myself. Then Jesus says -- 'Blessed (happy) are you!'"
So, how do we become poor in spirit? First, we repent of and ask forgiveness for our sins -- we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Then, as Christians, we should turn off the voices of the world and listen to the voice of the One true God. Find out who this holy God really is. Study his Word faithfully to see the eternal, almighty, true and infinite God. Then pray that He will humble us and make us broken-hearted, contrite, and poor in spirit. The one who breaks your heart and humbles you will exalt you with inexplicable joy in his kingdom. Consider this definition of "humility."
"Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above me is trouble." Andrew Murray
In Summary: God wants to give you His kind of happiness and peace. What do we have to do? We must tell God, "I am nothing. I am a sinner. I am guilty." We should pray: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." As Christians, when we humble ourselves before Him, and realize He is the only source of real happiness, His Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with unspeakable joy.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happiness in Spiritual Poverty

Chuckle: "Every time I think about exercise, I lie down until the thought goes away!"
Quote: “Angelic happiness is in service, from service, and according to service.” --Emanuel Swedenborg
"Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3 NIV).
Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with words that seem to contradict each other. In the teachings of Jesus, we find many paradoxes that challenge the way we think as human beings. We picture the poor as having little or nothing, and Jesus says that we must see ourselves as spiritually poor, poverty stricken, and destitute to experience the happiness he desires for us. This beatitude contradicts the attitude of society which says, "Blessed (happy) are the powerful, the beautiful, the wealthy, and the popular." This passage says something entirely different.
Satan would have us believe that happiness comes from things of this world. No doubt sin can bring fleeting pleasures, but never the lasting joy of the Poor in Spirit? What we view as happiness from indulging in sin, more often than not, quickly turns to heart-break and misery. Jesus is talking about us having a joy like Peter spoke of in 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV: "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of souls."
Max Lucado describes "Blessed" as: "A joy which can't be quenched -- A peace which can't be taken -- A happiness which can't be threatened -- There is such a joy -- it is a holy gladness -- It comes from God, and it's within your reach." He calls it "Sacred Delight." It is the good news coming into your heart. It is what you dream but never expect to come true. It's too good to be true. It's having God as your best friend and constant companion. That is being poor in spirit -- recognizing our unworthiness for God's grace -- then experiencing true joy when God extends his grace to us.
This kind of joy is independent of external circumstances. This kind of joy originates deep within us and is the product of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to whom we have surrendered complete control of our lives. That's the reason some Christians maintain an air of optimism, excitement, peace, and contentment even in the worst of times.
The Greek word for "poor" means one who has nothing and is completely empty, a beggar. Jesus is not talking about being poor in reference to worldly possessions. He's describing the true happiness and joy from awareness of our "spiritual poverty." William Barclay concluded that "Blessed are the poor in spirit" means those who recognize their helplessness and have placed their complete trust in the Lord. They become detached from things, attached to God." Such an awareness results in our total dependence upon God who will not let us down. He will give us his joy!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Happiness That God Gives

Chuckle: Minister: "Do you know what's in the Bible?" Little Girl: "Yes, I think I know everything that's in it." Minister: "Please tell me." Little Girl: OK. There's a picture of my brother's girl friend, a ticket from the dry cleaners, one of my curls, and a pizza coupon."
Quote: “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” --Mary Wollstonecraft
"Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples (followers) came to him, and he began to teach them." (Matthew 5:1-2 NIV).
Often we try to manufacture our own joy by filling our lives with things and activities of no lasting value. If we want real joy, there is only one source -- our Lord himself. In his "Sermon on the Mount," found in chapters 5, 6, & 7 of Mathew, Jesus gives us some of the most profound and practical teachings in all the Bible on the important things in life and the way Christians should think and live. He suggests we should live in a state of supernatural happiness or joy. In chapter 5:1-12, Jesus gives us what are commonly called "The Beatitudes," which we will study in coming days. The word, "Beatitude" comes from Latin (Beatus) meaning complete or abundant happiness.
Jesus begins each Beatitude with, "Blessed are the . . . ." The word, "Blessed" means happiness as an indescribable divinely conferred joy. God wants each of us to have such a joy, but this joy does not come cheaply. It involves a radical restructuring of the heart and mind. It is obvious that Jesus wants us to be joyful people as his followers. But, his definition of "joy" may be completely different from our way of thinking. The kind of joy that Jesus talks about is not determined by life's circumstances, but, rather, it comes from God himself as we enjoy a deep and personal love relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
"If lasting happiness could be found in having material things and in being able to indulge ourselves in whatever we wanted, then most of us in America should be delirious with joy and happy beyond description. We should be producing books and poems that describe our state of unparalleled bliss. Our literature and art should rival that of the ancient Greeks and Romans and Renaissance craftsmen.
Instead we find those who have "things" trying to get more of them, for no apparent reason other than to have more. We find high rates of divorce, suicide, depression, child abuse, and other personal and social problems beyond description. We find housewives trading tranquilizer prescriptions. All this is surely proof that happiness is not found in the state of having all we want and being able to get more."Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Have you noticed that some people always have that contagious spirit of joy, even when they have little and their problems are the same as, or greater, than others? Even in the most severe tragedies of life, they smile, praise God, and give joy to others. Let the Lord bring true happiness into your life each day. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ten Commandments: Conclusion

Chuckle: A Sunday School teacher asked a new boy, "who led the Israelites across the Red Sea?" "It wasn't me," he said. "We've just moved here from Missouri."
Quote: "His Light gives wisdom and knowledge, and his Love gives power and strength, to run the ways of his commandments.” --John Bellers

"Oh, how I love your law! I think about it all day long" (Psalm 119:97 NLT).  "Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119-105 NLT).
In the limited space we have for these daily lessons, I have tried to make the Ten Commandments come alive in each of us in a new and fresh way. I believe a fresh study of the Ten Commandments is extremely relevant to our time. You are aware of the challenges to the Commandments being posted in court rooms and other public places -- even though they are the basis for our laws and legal system in this country.
A basic truth that we must never forget is that God and his moral laws do not change and are as binding today as they were when God gave them to his people. They are to govern our conduct. Unfortunately, dismissal and ignorance of the Commandments have become so prevalent in our society that fewer and fewer people have a clear understanding of the difference between right and wrong. Even worse is the fact that as long as they have what they want, many don't care about right and wrong.
"As far back as November 16, 1997, the Sunday times (in Britain) reported that the Church of England had decided to remove the Commandments from the holy communion service in the new millennium prayer book. Philip Gore, a leader in the church stated that many in the church do not want a God who makes too many demands on them. Therefore, they want to dismiss the Ten Commandments as irrelevant to our times."
Let me summarize for all of us what we should take from this study. First, God knows everything about us -- every joy, every sigh, every hardship, and every song. "He guards the course of the just and protects the way of the faithful ones" (Proverbs 2:8 NIV). One of the ways He guards us is through His commands. They reveal His heart! He cares deeply for us. What should our response be? Listen to the psalmist:
"I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees: I will not neglect your word. . . My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. . .Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. . . .I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. . . Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. . The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold" (Psalm 119:15-16,20,24,32,35,72 NIV).
Remember how God reminded Moses that "I carried them (my people) on eagles wings and brought you to myself" (Exodus 19:4 NIV). He still does. He keeps swooping down and plucking us out of danger and soaring with us into His presence. Jesus came to fulfill the law and to be your Savior. Hallelujah, He came so that I could trust Him to forgive my sins, give me the abundant life here on earth, and eternal life with him in heaven. My faith in Christ is manifested in my obedience to God's Word. Do you love God's Word as much as your favorite TV program? Do you depend upon it for direction in your life? Do you realize what a treasure you hold in your hand?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ten Commandments: Contentment

Chuckle: Church bulletin on a national Fasting and Prayer Conference: "The cost for attending the Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals."
Quote: "The contented man is never poor; the discontented man is never rich."Source Unknown

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife (or husband), or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17 NIV).
The term "covet" describes a severe and greedy craving for the possessions or circumstances of others. It can be a powerful force in our lives. "I want what you have, because I feel that is what will satisfy me and make me happy." A father was walking down the street with his two small sons, both of whom were crying loudly. A neighbor passing by inquired, "What's the matter? What's all the fuss?" The father responded, "The trouble with these lads is what's wrong with the world. One has a piece of candy and the other wants it."
The other commands, adultery, murder, stealing and lying dealt with actions toward others. This command goes even deeper into our very thoughts and feelings. All the commands can be divided into three basic categories: actions, speech, and feelings (heart). A basic motivation for stealing is coveting. Once our hearts begin to covet, we are never satisfied -- we never have enough. Contentment with our circumstances and with what we have is replaced with anxiety, frustration, and resentment. God's desire for us to be content and happy is the bottom line of this command.
God knows what can happen to us when we become caught up in uncontrolled envy and covetousness. He intends for us to be content with who we are. . . .content with what we have. . . .content in our relationship with Him. Instead of focusing on satisfying our needs, God wants us to be alert to the needs of others, and how we can meet those needs. God knows exactly what you and I need and when we need it. Psalm 23 tells us He is our Shepherd, that He will lead us and provide for us. Let's look again at a verse I used with the lesson on stealing: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).
God gave this command because He knows a thing or two about the dangers of coveting. He knows that what we covet has no lasting/eternal value. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). Jesus says,"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15 NIV).
In Philippians 4:11, Paul writes, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." He is saying, "There was a time when I wasn't content. I had to learn contentment." He is describing a process of leaning to depend on God for his needs and contentment regardless of external circumstances. He learned this contentment from spending time with his Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ten Commandments: Truthfulness

Chuckle: Church bulletin blooper: "Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at our church. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa!"
Quote: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." --Mark Twain

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16 NIV).
The last five Commandments tell us that a stable society must be built upon respect for life, property, marital commitments, and trustworthiness. A personal love relationship with God is the basis for this kind of society. God loves us but knows our weaknesses -- He knows the potential danger and harm which result from an unruly tongue. Solomon noted, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). Lying is a big deal to God. "There are six things the Lord hates . . . a lying tongue . . a false witness who pours out lies" (Proverbs 6:16-17, 19 NLT). "The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful" (Proverbs 12:22 NIV).
In some ways, lying is more serious than stealing. The thief takes only material things, while the liar creates injustice and misery. One of the main characteristics of God is justice, and truth as a precondition of justice. No doubt God had in mind the giving of testimony in judicial proceedings, as a means of attaining justice, when He gave this command. "A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape" (Proverbs 19:5 NLT). But, with other Scriptures, it's obvious that it includes much more than that. It includes the way we relate to one another in daily living.
Several years ago, a New York Times article said, "ninety-one percent admit they can't get through a single day without conscious, premeditated white lies." The same report said we, as a society, have moved far away from the age when a "man's word was his bond." We now accept exaggerations and falsifications as a normal part of life. We expect, and make jokes about, lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, and politicians who lie when it is convenient for their purposes.
Not only do our untruths about people do untold damage to them, but we also bring a pang to the heart of God by grieving the Holy Spirit. "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body . . . Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:25, 29-30 NIV).
Our words are also a witness to the world that is watching us. Jesus said, "By this all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35 NIV). Loving words and loving deeds can have great impact on our goal of reaching people for Christ. If you find yourself being less than truthful and prone to spread falsehoods and damaging gossip, what can you do to get your tongue back under control? First, recognize that only God can change you. You must cry out in repentance and ask for his forgiveness and cleansing. Listen to the cries of the psalmist: "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14 NIV).
A word spoken can never be called back, whether a word of truth and encouragement or a damaging falsehood. Dishonest reports, slander, and exaggerations of the truth all dishonor God, damage the character of the speaker, and pain to the victim. God knows that to establish justice, society must be able to believe the words of its members.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ten Commandments: Stealing

Chuckle: A minister took a drunk man home one night. He kept insisting that the minister go in with him. "Why do you want me to go in with you?" The minister asked. He replied -- "I want my wife to see who I've been out with!"
Quote: “In vain we call old notions fudge, And bend our conscience to our dealing; The Ten Commandments will not budge, And stealing will continue to be stealing.” --James Russell Lowell

"You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15 NIV).
The last five Commands deal with the moral values of honesty and integrity. They are especially applicable today because our society seems to get progressively more dishonest. Many have the idea that "It's not really stealing if you don't get caught." But these commandments remind us that "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). I'm reminded of the saying that "Reputation is what people think you are; character is what God knows you are."
We often tend to wink at stealing small things and are alarmed only by larger crimes. At one extreme, unscrupulous Charles Keating wiped out the savings of thousands of investors in a multimillion dollar swindle involving savings and loans. At the other end of the spectrum is the person who puts money in a vending machine for a snickers bar but nothing comes out. So he kicks the machine and out come ten snickers. Nine don't belong to him. What does he do? Stealing is stealing no matter the amount stolen.
Some justify stealing as alright if they steal from a company rather than a person or from someone who won't notice it's gone, because they have so much. They see it as unfair that they don't have what others have. It's not stealing If I mean to give it back eventually -- before they notice or need it. How about taking things from the church kitchen, etc.? By trying to hide our stealing, we often call it something else.
"You shall not cheat your fellow and you shall not rob"(Leviticus 19:13) "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him"  (Exodus 23:4). Stealing is (1) taking something that doesn't belong to you, (2) not returning something to its rightful owner; or (3) keeping something given you by mistake. I ran across this list of modern-day responses concerning stealing:
1. "Finders keepers, losers weepers." 2. "I didn't steal it -- it was their stupid mistake." 3. "It's only fair, considering all my past bad luck and problems." 4. "I deserve it because I don't have it." 5. "It's not hurting anyone." 6. "I was only borrowing it." 7. "He deserves it." or "It serves him/her right." 8. "I haven't really taken anything significant." "I only lie about my age for discounts." 9. "I did it for a good reason." 10. "Everyone else does it." 11. "All's fair in love, war, and in business." 12. "I'll pay when I can." 13. "I work here -- I've earned it." 14. "I couldn't help myself." 15. "I pay too much in taxes anyway." 16. "No one will ever know."
Why did God include "stealing" in with "murder" and "adultery?" The answer is all too obvious. What God is saying is: "I love you and want to provide what you need. I don't want you to steal, scheme, manipulate, and deceive to obtain things." When we steal, large or small, we say, "I will be my provider -- if I don't take it now, I will be the loser."
Bottom line: Unless you bought it, earned it, received it as a gift, or inherited it, it belongs to someone else and taking it is stealing. "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his/her hands, that he may have something to share with those in need" (Ephesians 4:28 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse