Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Getting Money the Right Way

Chuckle: Two girls were working with a coat hanger to unlock a Mercedes. Soon one girl said, "Hurry up! It's starting to rain, and the top is down!"
Quote: "If you want to feel rich, just count up all the things you have that money cannot buy." -- Daniel Webster

"Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty"  (James 5:4 NIV).
God cares about every aspect of your life, including how you get money. Through James, He talks about farmers who hired some poor workers to harvest their fields, and then refused to pay the laborers for their work. The poor had no power to collect their wages -- no recourse. James says: "The cries of those you have cheated have reached the ears of God."
If you get money in a dishonest or unethical way, perhaps no one will hold you accountable here on earth, but there's One who knows all about it and you will answer to Him. "You will always reap what you sow" (Galatians 6:7b NLT). How do you and I measure up to God's standard in this area?
If you do not give a full days work for a full days wage, you are cheating your employer. If you are an employer and do not pay a full days wage for a days work, you are cheating your employee. Either way, you are cheating yourself and you are cheating God. An all too common practice is to call in sick to avoid going to work. They aren't really sick, they just want a day off. That's cheating and it's wrong.
If a dad receives a call from his boss and his little son answers the phone, and the dad tells the boy to tell his boss that he is not at home, that's lying. What are we teaching our children by such examples? Christians should always be counted on to be honest and ethical in all situations. Our integrity should never be called into question. You may ask, "how much can I work and earn and still please God? Work and earn as much as you want:
(1) As long as you don't damage your health. Proverbs 33:4 says "Don't wear yourselves out to get rich - have the wisdom to show restraint." Be careful not to abuse your body.
(2) As long as you don't hurt your family. Some are workaholics - sold out to their work at the expense of their families. This is an issue I have dealt with personally. It's far better to have a child say, "My dad/mom loved me and spent time with me" rather than, "My dad/mom made a lot of money."
(3) As long as it doesn't hurt other people. God says we should never victimize others in our quest for riches. We should be fair, kind, and considerate of our subordinates and coworkers at all times.
(4) As long as you are pleasing God. If you have reason to question whether a practice is right or wrong, it's probably wrong. Our consciences, if properly trained by Bible study and prayer, will alert us to practices which do not please God. Our primary goal should always be to honor God in every thing we do.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Just Passing Through

Chuckle: An accountant says to his doctor, "I just can't get to sleep at night." The doctor asked, "Have you tried counting sheep?" "That's the problem. I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it."
Quote: "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither." --C. S. Lewis
Jesus said, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world" (John 15:19 NIV). "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20 NIV).
I remember an old hymn that goes like this: "This world is not my home; I'm just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven's open door; and I can't feel at home in this world any more."
As Christians, we should grow in our faith and feel less at home in this world every day. As our society drifts further and further away from the tenets of God's Word and becomes progressively more ungodly, our eternal home with our Lord should become even more attractive. If we feel comfortable in this perverse world, we need to examine our spiritual priorities.
During my military career, I often found myself stationed in strange lands inhabited by  strange people. But I usually had plenty of food to eat, a comfortable bed in which to sleep, clothing to wear, a motor vehicle or aircraft for transportation, and all the other supplies I needed to live comfortably. But all these physical comforts did not make it home. No, home was where those I loved and those who loved me were.
As believers, we don't always feel welcome here on earth. Growing hostility towards Christians causes us to wonder if there is a place for us here. When we consider the promises of God concerning our eternal home, we should feel less and less at home in this world. Right now, our Lord is preparing an eternal home for us in His Father's house. Jesus said, "I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2-3 NIV).
"A man who has a layover at an airport does not go into the bathroom, frown at its decor, and start redecorating! Why? Because he doesn't live there. He has a home in another place. While he is away he will get by with only what he absolutely needs, to have more money with which to furnish his permanent home. Why do we Christians work hard at trying to make our life in this world more comfortable? This is just the airport and we are in transit (just passing through). We should spend our energy on enhancing our eternal reward, and not worry so much about the bare walls in the airport restrooms." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green.
Every day, we should praise our Lord with thanksgiving that He is right now preparing our home in His eternal heaven. We are members of God's household and citizens of heaven, and we should never feel truly at home this side of heaven.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 29, 2016

Remain in My Love

Chuckle: "Be nice to your children. Someday, they will choose your nursing home!"
Quote: "The God of love my Shepherd is, And he that doth me feed: While he is mine, and I am his, What can I want or need?" --George Herbert

"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love" (John 15:9-10 NIV).
As believers, we all know that God loves each of us unconditionally. His love is expressed over and over again throughout the Bible -- His amazing love letter to you and me. In our passage today, Jesus was teaching his disciples just prior to his being betrayed and crucified. You can sense His indescribable love and compassion for his followers in His tender but pointed words for each of them, and for us.
First, Jesus declares that His love for us is like His love relationship with His Father. This amazing love caused Jesus to choose us and appoint us to "go and bear fruit" (vs. 16). Jesus made the first choice -- to love us unconditionally and to die for us. Now It's up to us to choose to accept or reject His love. If He hadn't made His choice, there would be no choice for us to make. In verse 13, Jesus describes the kind of love He has for us and the kind of love we should have for each other. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus is describing "agape" love which is unconditional, sacrificial, and perfect love. It is the highest level of love -- the kind of love with which God loves us.
Second, Jesus commands us to remain in His love and makes us a promise. "Remain in me and I will remain in you" (vs. 4). I know from personal experience that it is possible to drift away from my Lord and to no longer remain in Him as my source of strength, comfort, peace and encouragement. Here, Jesus is admonishing us to stay put in our love relationship with Him. He wants us to stay connected to Him as a branch is connected to the tree from which flows spiritual life and fruitfulness.
Third, Jesus tells us how to remain in His love -- by keeping His commands. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching" (John 14:23 NIV). If we love Him by keeping His commands, He will reveal Himself to us. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him" (John 14:21 NIV). From these words we can see that obedience is the key to remaining in Christ's love.
Fourth, Jesus sets us an example by His relationship to His Father. He wants us to love and obey Him just as He loved and obeyed His Father. If we experience the love of Christ, we are experiencing the love of the Father. From our love for our Lord comes our love for others. ". . . As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 26, 2016

God's Invitation

Chuckle: Patient: "Doctor, I'm really nervous. This is my first operation. Doctor: "I know exactly how you feel. You're my first patient."
Quote: "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel." --Unknown source.

"Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17c NIV).
God's invitation to receive eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ is a universal one, and it is proclaimed repeatedly throughout Scripture and by Christians empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the final verses of Scripture, Jesus extends His invitation one last time. No one is outside God's circle of love and no one is left off His invitation list.
The entire Bible is God's love letter to all people. In our passage, we see God's invitation to come and take His free gift of eternal life which Jesus sometimes calls the "water of life." God knows we all get thirsty for water, and he used the term "water of life," to help us understand that we should thirst after His living water, and how that water will satisfy our eternal thirst.
You may recall the account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan women at a well (John 4:10-15). There He introduced her to the living water that only He could give her, and invited her to drink of that water as a gift from God. The same image is portrayed in our passage and expanded to include all people in Christ's invitation to come and drink of the water of life. The water of life is a metaphor for salvation and it is a free gift of God which can be obtained by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6 NIV). The psalmist wrote, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:1-2a NIV). How about you; do you thirst after the things of God? Do you yearn for that living water that will quench your spiritual thirst forever? God's invitation is for you. "For the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10 NIV).
In our world, many are dying of spiritual thirst all around us. Once you become a Christian, you become God's voice to extend His invitation to people everywhere as His Spirit provides you the strength, courage, and persistence to do so. While Jesus was on the earth He actively sought out the lost and personally invited them to follow Him. Now, He wants to continue to extend that invitation through us. My prayer is that each of us will be found faithful in extending God's invitation to those around us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 25, 2016

As God Intends

Chuckle: Mortal: What is a million years like to you? God: Like one second. Mortal: What is a million dollars like to you? God: Like one penny. Mortal: Can I have a penny? God: Just a second.
Quote: "I looked at God and He looked at me, and we were one forever." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

To his brothers, Joseph said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people" (Genesis 50:20 NLT).
Sometimes we face difficult situations in life which test our faith and our dependence upon a Holy God. It can be difficult for us to see that God is in control and intends to use each situation for His glory and, ultimately, for our own good. We may even entertain the thought that God doesn't really love us or He wouldn't allow these desperate situations to enter our lives.
The story of the life of Joseph is one of the most powerful and inspiring in the Old Testament. Because of his older brothers' jealous hatred, they sold him into slavery. In Egypt, God was with Joseph as he was betrayed, spent time in prison, and later found great favor with the Pharaoh and ultimately attained power and authority second only to the Pharaoh himself. During his early years in Egypt, I'm sure there were many opportunities for Joseph to question the love of God and why his God would allow such terrible things to happen to him. But Joseph's faith remained steadfast.
God brought good even from the evil actions of his brothers. God saw him through the false accusations by Potiphar's wife, sustained him in prison, and used him powerfully to lead Egypt in preparing for and managing seven years of drought so that there was sufficient food not only for the Egyptians but for others who came to Egypt to escape terrible famine. Joseph forgave his brothers and eventually saved their lives, along with that of his father.
As I read the story of Joseph, I was reminded of the powerful words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:28 NLT). "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Does this mean that everything that happens to us will be good and make us happy? Of course not. However, as He did for Joseph, God is always working in every situation to bring about good in your life. The "good" comes from our being strengthened by God to accomplish His purpose for and through our lives, which should be our purpose as well.
From the story of Joseph we learn that God can bring good to those who trust him even if situations result from evil deeds and trying circumstances. Can you think of some ways God has used your own difficult circumstances for your good, as He did in the life of Joseph?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

God's Power in You

Note:  A complete set of three daily devotional books by Jerry Stratton is now available. Book 1 includes devotionals for January through April; Book 2, May through August; Book 3, September through December.  They can be ordered singly for $14.99 or as a set of 3 for $29.99.  Here is the link to where the books can be viewed and ordered: http://www.armoniapublishing.com.  Then click on Books/Devotionals.
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Chuckle: "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most!"
Good Quote: "If we would be vessels to receive the Spirit of God, we must first be willing clay in the hands of the Maker." --William A. Ward
"Understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead" (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT).
This is a most awesome passage for us as Christians. Just imagine the divine power that it took to raise Jesus from the dead! This is the same power that parted the Red Sea, caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down, and allowed Jesus to call Lazarus from the tomb after he had been dead four days. Not only did God's power raise Jesus, but that same power (Holy Spirit) is overcoming sin in people's lives every day. It is the same power that will one day bring about the resurrection of all believers who have died.
God's power works in you. The grace of God which has redeemed us through faith in Christ reveals His limitless power and amazing love. He gives us victory over sin, death, and the grave with the promise of eternal life. This power has forever changed our relationship with the God of the universe, our Heavenly Father Himself. Faith in Jesus Christ releases God's power into our lives both now and throughout eternity. Our problem is that we often fail to let God's power (Spirit) have control and exercise His will in our daily lives.
God's power works for you. Sadly, many of us go through life without ever recognizing that this same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us and will meet our every need. There is nothing you will encounter in life that will require more power than that which is already available to you. There is nothing too difficult for God to handle on our behalf. Oh, we believe in God and may call ourselves Christians, but many of us never trust and experience the full power of God in our daily walk with Him.
God's power works through you. When a person is at work effectively for God, we must recognize that it is the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, not the man's efforts, that is producing the results. Jesus promised His followers, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV). The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us. What will you allow that power to do in your life?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

According to Your Faith

Chuckle: "You know it's going to be a bad day when you put both contacts in one eye!"
Quote: "Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?" --Oswald Chambers

When he (Jesus) had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe (have faith) that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord, they replied." Then He touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you;" and their sight was restored. (Matthew 9:28-30 NIV).
Jesus performed many miracles during His ministry here on earth, and often these supernatural displays of divine power were in direct response to a person's faith. In other words, Jesus' miracles were a demonstration of human faith and God's willingness to respond with divine power and mercy. Notice the blind men's confession of faith that prompted Jesus to heal them.
We know that faith pleases God. "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). The God of miracles is still alive and well and continues to perform miracles in the lives of people who have faith. Christian life begins by affirming that "God exists." This acknowledgement leads to the confession of our sins, repentance, and experiencing the greatest miracle in God's repertoire, our personal salvation.
As Christians, we can still see God's miracles, but we may not see them in our lives unless we are living by faith. Large faith produces large miracles. Jesus said, "according to your faith will it be done to you." If Jesus were to work in your life and answer your prayers "according to your faith" how much would He accomplish? No doubt the blind men who put their faith in Jesus had heard about His mighty works. Their faith had grown through listening to the stories and learning about Jesus at work and they were persistent in their plea to Jesus. Our faith can also grow through listening to and observing Jesus with spiritual eyes and ears as we study the Gospels. Let God give you greater faith if you want to see greater miracles.
"Faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breathe it. So is bread, but you have to eat it. So is water, but you have to drink it. So how do we accept this gift? Not by a feeling, for 'faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Romans 10:17). It is not for me to sit down and wait for faith to come upon me with a strong feeling of some kind. Rather, faith comes when we take God at His word." --Illustrations For Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P.Green.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Bible and Jesus

Chuckle: "Ever wonder why the IRS calls it Form 1040?" asks Jay Leno. "For every $50 you earn, you get 10 and they get 40."
Quote: "The Bible is so deep that theologians can never touch the bottom, yet so shallow that babes cannot drown." --Unknown source 
Jesus said: "David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit declared: 'The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.' David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son? The crowd listened to him with delight" (Mark 12:36-37 NIV).
What is the Bible to you personally? How important is it to you in making life's decisions? Are you faithful in studying it and meditating upon it? Do you teach it to your children and grandchildren? The Bible is the Word of God through which he reveals Himself to the world. It's all we need to guide our lives and bring us into conformance with God's plan for us. We should never neglect it. As Jesus taught his followers, He often referred to Old Testament Scriptures. In this lesson, let's explore Jesus' view of the Bible.
In the New Testament, Jesus often brings attention to the Old Testament Scriptures. In our text, Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 and says that David wrote those words as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. In essence, He was saying that David was God's human instrument to proclaim a Devine revelation. This concept is expanded in 2 Peter 1:20-21 NIV: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. . . But men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." Not only did God give us His Holy Spirit inspired Word, He also gave us His Holy Spirit to reside within us to help us interpret and understand His Word. The Spirit teaches, guides, convicts, and comforts us as Christians.
The Bible speaks to us with authority. In the days before His crucifixion, Jesus was constantly facing people who were bent on tripping him up. In verse 35 of our text, Jesus said that a descendant of David would be the Christ, but He was also the Son of God. Such a claim sounds ridiculous and foolish unless you believe that "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness . . ." (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). Today, many think there is no such thing as absolute truth. They believe truth is relative to a set of given circumstances. But the Bible says truth is from God and is absolute and unchanging. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32 NIV).
The Bible delights us as God's Word. In verse 37 of our text, we are told that "The crowd listened to Jesus with delight." They responded to the words of Jesus with joy and excitement. Jesus said, "Blessed (happy) are those who hear the Word of God and obey it" (Luke 11:28 NIV). How could we not respond to God's Word with gratitude and happiness? After all, it's God's love letter to you, me, and everyone. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (I John 4:9 NIV). Do you delight in the Holy Scriptures?
Love, Jerry  & Dotse

Friday, August 19, 2016

Soaring Like Eagles

Chuckle: Flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you will think of us."
Quote: "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." --Corrie Ten Boom

"But those who (wait on) hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).
I loved flying from the first time I boarded an airplane, and became a pilot during my military career. As I soared among the clouds I always felt a unique sense of freedom, strength, and peace. I felt free from the restraints of earth and the daily challenges and obstacles of life on the surface. Sometimes I would power back the engine and enjoy the relative quiet as I glided through the air and thought about what it must be like for an eagle to soar quietly, effortlessly, and unrestrained on the rising air currents.
In our passage, God recognizes that we will become tired and frustrated from the demands of life and from pursuing goals that sometimes seem too high to even hope to accomplish. But, His message to us is that we serve a loving and powerful God who is never too tired or busy to listen to us as we turn to Him for help. He stands ready to renew our strength and take away the stresses of life that crush us and make us feel as if we can't go on.
Waiting on the LORD is the eager but patient expectation that God will make good on all the promises in His Word by giving us strength to rise above life's challenges and difficulties. It means complete trust in God in every circumstance. It also means that God does not merely renew our failing strength, but exchanges it for His unfailing strength. Those who trust God discover a new source of power for living. Here are His further promises.
"The LORD . . . does not become tired or need rest. No one can understand how great his wisdom is. He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak" (Isaiah 40:28-29 NCV).
If you feel tired and defeated by life's problems, remember God's promises. He stands ready to lift you up and help you to soar high above the difficulties facing you. He wants to set you free by drawing you closer to Himself. As you "draw near to God, He will draw near to you" (James 4:8) and you will sense the strength and freedom depicted by the soaring eagle. However, God's strength is available to us not only when we feel like soaring or running, but as we faithfully walk (plod) along through life with Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mercy for the Merciful

Chuckle: "If all the people who fall asleep in church were laid end-to-end they'd be much more comfortable."
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).
a politician was very angry after seeing the proofs of his portrait. He stormed back to the photographer with these angry words: "This picture does not do me justice!" The photographer replied, "Sir, with a face like yours, you don't need justice, you need mercy."
In view of our sin and unworthiness, I'm happy that God acts from mercy rather than justice. Aren't you? Today, let's think about two questions: How can I become merciful, and what will be the result in my life?
First: Remember your own need for God's mercy and forgiveness; and we should extend mercy to others. Paul reminds us to watch our own actions when we become aware of another who "is caught in sin" (Galatians 6:1) -- "or you may be tempted." When you find it hard to forgive someone who has wronged you, remember God's forgiveness to you. Then you will realize that what you are struggling to forgive pales in comparison to what God has forgiven.
Second: Get to know the person you are inclined to judge. Chances are you really don't know that person very well. "Prejudice" means "prejudging," or making an estimate of others without knowing the facts. We need to learn backgrounds, problems, and scars that may explain someone's actions. We haven't walked in their shoes.
Third: Allow Christ to show his mercy through you. Each of us must understand that we cannot do what God asks of us with our own strength, but only by the power of Christ's Spirit in us. ". . I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Christ in you is your only hope of becoming a loving and merciful person. This concept takes us back to the promise of Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit: "The world cannot accept Him (Holy Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:17).
What can I expect in return for being merciful? "For they shall be shown mercy" is the promise attached to this beatitude. The mercy that comes to those that show mercy includes:
Peace with yourself.  You are well on your way to a happy life when you allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse you of your unwillingness to forgive.  Mercy from others.  In many ways life is like a mirror.  It reflects what you put into it.  Unkindness usually brings unkindness.  Judgment brings judgment, but love produces love and mercy produces mercy.  Mercy from God.  Jesus said: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive you" (Matthew 6:14-15). Therefore, the "merciful shall be shown mercy."
The world needs to see Christian love, mercy, and grace in action. Why not be merciful and show kindness to someone this week? You will be blessed and happy, and the recipient of your mercy will be happy as well!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nullifying the Word of God

Chuckle: While wandering inside a pet store, I stopped in front of a birdcage to admire a parakeet. We watched each other for a few minutes before it asked, “Can you talk?” –Shirley Brown
 
Quote: “Holy obedience puts to shame all natural and selfish desires. It mortifies our lower nature and makes it obey the Spirit and our fellow men.” –St Francis of Assisi
 
“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8 NIV.Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:13 NIV).
 
To nullify God’s Word is to render or declare it null and void -- to deprive God’s Word of value or effectiveness; to make it futile or of no consequence.
 
I’ve heard it said, “If you don’t want to do something, one excuse for not doing it is as good as another.” How many times have you tried to convince God and your conscience that what you have done is a worthy and acceptable alternative to what you know is the will of God as revealed in His Word? In Mark 7, Jesus was admonishing the Pharisees because they had allowed handed down traditions of men to become more important than obeying the commands of God. Following traditions had become more important than worshiping God by their obedience.
 
It’s interesting that Jesus would use the caring for aging parents to illustrate the need for obeying God’s commands. The Pharisees used giving to God as an excuse to avoid helping their parents. They came to the conclusion that it was more important to give money to the temple treasury than to help their parents, even though God’s law specifically says we are to honor our parents and otherwise care for them. See Exodus 20:12 and Leviticus 25:35-43. No doubt we should faithfully give of our time and money to God. But, on the other hand, we should never use that giving as an excuse for neglecting our responsibility to honor God by helping those in need.
 
As I thought about these words of Jesus, I began to realize that we may be as guilty as the Pharisees Jesus was addressing. For example: We may try to soothe our consciences by writing generous checks to support missions rather than obeying God’s command to actually do missions on a personal face-to-face level. Such giving to missions is a wonderful thing if it is not used to buy ourselves a clear conscience before God for not being obedient by personally participating in reaching people for Christ and ministering to those in need spiritually, physically, or emotionally.
 
What should be our motivation for obeying and honoring God in all we do? David Brainerd once said this to Jonathan Edwards: “I do not go to heaven to be advanced but to give honor to God. It is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high or low seat there, but to live and please and glorify God . . . My heaven is to please God and glorify Him, and to give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory.”  David Brainerd was an American missionary to  Native Americans and had a fruitful ministry among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey in the 1700’s. Jonathan Edwards was a famous Puritan preacher, philosopher, and theologian.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 15, 2016

Knowledge versus Wisdom

Chuckle: Holding a hammer behind her back, a woman spoke to a mirror: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, take all the time you need to phrase your response!"
Quote: "Accumulated knowledge does not make a wise man. Knowledgeable people are found everywhere, but we are cruelly short of wise people." --Michel Quoist
"While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn't really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for" (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3 NLT).
It's easy to take pride in how much we know and develop the attitude that we are somehow superior to others not as knowledgeable. Knowledge can make us look good and feel important, but it can also lead us down a slippery slope toward an arrogant, know-it-all attitude.
Seeing ourselves as knowledgeable can prevent us from seeking true wisdom from God. When we come to recognize that the only wisdom with eternal implications is from God, we have taken the first step toward spiritual discernment and godly wisdom. Knowledge from God leads to understanding and understanding leads to spiritual discernment, and spiritual discernment leads to godly wisdom.
One can be the most knowledgeable person in the world and still lack that illusive quality of spiritual discernment. ". . . no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. . . The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:2b-12, 14 NIV). Notice that the person who does not have the Holy Spirit can never understand God's spiritual truths. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of God, he does not belong to Christ" (Romans 8:9 NIV).
As a child, I remember a saying that goes something like this: "That fellow has a lot of book-learning, but no common sense." Observations like this decry knowledge alone and exalt wisdom, understanding, and common sense. The same can be said about the things of God. We can know everything written in the Bible about God, quote Scripture like no other, even believe that God exists, and still lack the essential ingredient for spiritual wisdom and discernment -- the indwelling Holy Spirit of the living God. "You may believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that -- and shudder" (James 2:19 NIV).
Sadly, many depend upon their superior knowledge and living a good moral life to seal their relationship to God. They fail to realize that a spiritual soul-saving relationship with God only comes through faith the Jesus Christ. The Bible says our salvation is sealed by the Spirit. Once we know Christ as Savior and Lord, we will know His Spirit who Jesus said "lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:17b NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Confidence in Our Lord

There will be no devotional tomorrow, August 12. They will resume on Monday, August 15
Chuckle: When I was little, I often wondered who Richard Stands was. You know: "I pledge allegiance to the flag . . . And to the republic for Richard Stands."
Quote: “Religion is the possibility of the removal of every ground of confidence except confidence in God alone.” --Karl Barth
"Have no fear of sudden disaster or the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared" (Proverbs 3:25-26 NIV). "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him" (Jeremiah 17:7 NIV).
Many images of Jesus are portrayed in Scripture, especially in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. What is your mental image of Jesus? Do you see Him as a mighty King with all authority and power; or do you picture Him as the Good Shepherd gently caring for His sheep? I have seen pictures in churches and homes depicting Him as a gentle shepherd with a lamb in His arms or across His shoulders. However, in ancient times, shepherds were not the gentle type. Their job included fighting off attacks on their sheep from wild animals. They were ready to die to protect their flocks. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is kind and gentle, but also the fierce and mighty warrior who died to win the battle for the eternal souls of people.
If you are a Christian, the battle for your soul has already been won when Jesus died on that cruel cross outside Jerusalem and rose from the dead. But the battle within our hearts is ongoing every day. We must fight against temptation and sin, but it is the Holy Spirit who fights with us every step of the way. Psalm 24:8 asks, "Who is the king of glory?" Then it answers: "The Lord is the King of glory, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." In Revelation He is describe as "sitting on a white battle horse, the One who judges and makes war in righteousness." (Revelation 19:11).
Since Jesus has won the battle for our eternal souls, we must hold on to Him in faith even during the worst of times in our struggle with doubt, fear, and temptation, because He holds onto us and will never let us go. Many times Paul refers to the second coming of Christ with a sense that it could happen any minute. New Testament believers lived with great hope and assurance, and they did so in the midst of extreme persecution and trials. Our hope for the future has been made possible by the past sacrifice on the cross and the present work of the Holy Spirit.
If you are living close to God today, you have every justification for being confident about the future. God promised Israel, "The Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard" (Isaiah 52:12). We, too, can be confident that our God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Our hope makes us patient and confident even in the most difficult of times,and causes us to persevere and be devoted to prayer because we are secure in God's love now and forever. Rest in that deep assurance today!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I Am There Among Them

Chuckle: “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels grateful and has no one to thank.” -- Wendy Ward
Quote: "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." --Corrie Ten Boom
"For where two or three gather together (in my name) because they are mine, I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20 NLT).
Here, Jesus looks forward to a time when He would no longer be with His disciples in a physical body, but would be with them in the person of His Holy Spirit in His spiritual body, His church. Jesus' words assure us of His Spiritual presence when we assemble for worship, and they give us all the motivation we should need to come together for united prayer and worship. But Jesus' words also open the door for some serious questions about the nature of God's presence.
Jesus promised to be with us when we gather "in His name" (NIV). But what does "in His name" really mean? What are the conditions that assure God's presence with us when we assemble? Is it possible to come together and participate in "worship" activities without God's presence? Is there a difference in God's omnipresence (being everywhere at once) and His promised presence when His people gather in Jesus' name?"
I have an interesting and insightful book entitled, "Doing Church Without God." The author, Larry R. Sinclair, makes the disturbing assertion that "we are organizing and programming the Holy Spirit (God's presence) right out of many churches." He draws the distinction between God's omnipresence and His "manifest presence." Paul E.Billheimer puts the distinction this way, "Although God is omnipresent, He is not everywhere in benign influence."
Mr. Sinclair describes God's manifest presence as the unhindered activity of the Spirit of God, as He reveals Himself and convicts people of sin and refines, purifies, and renews His people. When God works visibly in these ways among His assembled people, everyone will have no doubt that it is God's manifest presence accomplishing His purposes for His people.
It's easy to slip into the mindset that worship consists of an hour of scripted and choreographed activities designed to make us feel good about having been there. We can become calloused and view worship services primarily as social events where we get to fellowship with our friends, hear good music, and enjoy a great sermon. These are important components of worship services, but we should assemble anticipating a personal, life-changing encounter with God. Our desire should be to have our lives transformed by God's Spirit because we have been in His presence.
Whether we are among the two or three or a large congregation, let's examine our hearts and pray that God will find us worthy of His presence. Let's not become like Sampson, who "awoke from his sleep and thought, 'I'll go out as before and shake myself free.' But he did not know that the Lord had left him'" (Judges 16:20 NIV). It seems God's manifest presence had departed the church at Sardis. Jesus said, "I know your deeds; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are (spiritually) dead" (Rev. 3:1 NIV). Evidently, their reputation for being alive came from activities rather than God's manifest presence.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Holy Spirit and Bold Witnessing

Chuckle: "There are two ways to reach the top of an oak tree -- you can climb it, or you can sit on an acorn and wait."
Good Quote: "You will be my witnesses" -- that means a life of unsullied, uncompromising and unbribed devotion to the Lord Jesus, a satisfaction to Him wherever He places us. --Oswald Chambers
"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold" (2 Corinthians 3:12 NIV). "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" (Acts 4:29 NIV).
Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said to His disciples: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV). Here Jesus says the power of His Holy Spirit will enable His followers to tell people everywhere about Him. He said they would receive the Holy Spirit, He would give them power, and they would witness with amazing results.
There is no doubt that our Lord desires that we be courageous and bold in proclaiming the gospel message. He wants us to press on even when we are fearful because we know what we are doing is carrying out God's plan for reaching the world for Christ. I suspect that each of us, as believers, has the desire to be bold for Christ; however, it is here that many of us get weak of knee, spine, and tongue.
If you have the desire to be more bold for your Lord, how can you see this desire become reality? You can get some help by observing the disciples of Jesus in the early church. They prayed earnestly together for courage. To gain boldness, you can (1) pray for the Holy Spirit's power to give you courage and boldness; (2) be alert for opportunities in your family and neighborhood to talk about Christ; (3) realize that rejection, social discomfort, and embarrassment are not necessarily persecution; and (4) start where you are by being bolder in small ways.
Even when threatened with bodily harm, the New Testament Christians spoke with boldness about their faith in Jesus Christ. I believe they recognized, as we must, that the courage to witness with boldness cannot come from our own strength, but the power of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus sent out the twelve to be witnesses, He said to them: "But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say. For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19-20 NIV). When we come to realize that the Spirit empowers us for Christian service, we have taken the first step toward being bold and faithful witnesses.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 8, 2016

Grieving the Holy Spirit

Chuckle: "I read somewhere that it is against the Law in Pennsylvania for a man to put an ice-cream cone in his hip pocket!!"
Quote: "Thank God it is gloriously and majestically true that the Holy Spirit can work in us the very nature of Jesus if we will obey Him." --Oswald Chambers
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30 NIV). "Yet they rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit" (Isaiah 63:10 NIV).
Before we think about bringing grief to the Holy Spirit, let's review something basic and wonderful, God's love. "God is love (1 John 4:16), God is Spirit (John 4:24), For God so loved the world (John 3:16), This is how God showed his love (1 John 4:9), How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (1 John 3:1), But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
This brief review of a few Scriptures affirming God's love for us should fill our hearts with gratitude and love for Him in return. They remind me that, in life, we can be a source of grief to those who love us. Think for a moment about the time your child caused you grief by his/her rebellious and sinful actions; or the time when a wayward spouse broke your heart or the heart of someone you know. Now think what grief we can bring to our loving Lord by our actions.
The Bible portrays the Spirit as a "Person" who is sensitive and is hurt by the immoral behavior of those in whose hearts He lives. Christians should always avoid actions which will bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit. When we sin, our personal rebellious response to the love of God brings Him grief. Paul addresses some actions that grieve the Spirit when he writes, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV).
Another way we grieve the Holy Spirit is by resisting Him as He seeks to work in our lives to mold us into mature Christians. Rebellious Christians need only to look at the cross to be reminded of God's great love and sacrifice. Then the Holy Spirit we have been resisting should find our hearts filled with love and renewed commitment. Such commitment will please our Lord and bring us peace and contentment.
Living holy lives is the way to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit. This means lives of purity and integrity before God. Listen to C.S. Lewis on the subject of holiness and its impact on the world while pleasing the Spirit. "How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, . . . it is irresistible. If even 10% of the worlds population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before year's end?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 5, 2016

Filled with the Holy Spirit

Chuckle: They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a type-O.
Quote: "The voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zepher, so gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you will never hear it." --Oswald Chambers
"Don't get drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you" (Ephesians 5:18 NLT).
Each of us has something in our lives that exercises control over us. We are either controlled by the Holy Spirit or we are controlled by the various attractions of the world and our sinful nature. We have all witnessed how alcohol or drugs control the lives of those addicted. Every thought and action is influenced by their addictions. Satisfying their addictions becomes the number one desire of their lives. Never can they find relief from the power of that controlling force unless something else becomes more important to them than their addictions. Only then can their lives take a new direction and be transformed. The want to must precede the how to.
To be filled with the Spirit literally means to be controlled by the Spirit. God recognizes our weaknesses and makes provision for us to overcome them not by our own strength but by the strength of His Spirit. As a Christian, you may find some temporary satisfaction from giving in to the control of some worldly attraction, but when the regret, guilt, and shame set in, your life becomes miserable. On the other hand, allowing God's Spirit to fill us and control us will result in lasting joy and peace. Such joy can cure our depression, monotony, stress, and anxieties. For you to experience this kind of peace and joy, you must become concerned not about how much of the Spirit you have, but how much of you the Spirit has.
Before you can understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit, you must understand that, as a believer, the Holy Spirit is resident within you. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" (1 Cor. 6:19). How can you know the Holy Spirit is living within you?
"I know in the same way that I know there is music on a CD, even though I can't see the music. I can know in either of two ways. I can believe the label that says there is music on the CD, or I can play the CD and hear it. We can know the Holy Spirit indwells us by believing God, who tells us so in His Word, or by seeing His results in our lives when we are obedient to Him." --Illustrations For Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael Green
If your life is controlled by something that is making you miserable, won't you please listen to the convicting voice of the Spirit and surrender your life and will to the One who loves you and wants the best for you? Allow the Spirit of God to restore you and heal you and experience what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse