Friday, September 30, 2016

Faith is More Than Emotion

Chuckle: TEACHER: Why are you late, Frank? FRANK: Because of the sign.. TEACHER: What sign? FRANK: The one that says, "School Ahead, Go Slow."
Great Quote: "Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back again tomorrow." -- Martin Luther

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that -- and shudder" (James 2:19 NIV).
The dictionary defines "emotion" as "a strong feeling . . . any particular feeling, such as love, hate, joy, or fear." Sorrow is also an emotion that comes to mind. But genuine faith is much more than an emotion. The demons believe and shudder -- they are filled with awe and terror at the same time. Even the demons respond emotionally to Jesus Christ. They may be touched and moved - but never to the point of trusting, following, or obeying Him.
When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, an emotional response of sorrow often besets us and may cause us to shed tears of remorse. However, it's one thing to cry and another to be born again. The shedding of tears alone won't do it. It's one thing to be moved, and another to be radically changed -- one thing to get all worked up emotionally, and another to get your eternal destiny all worked out. Emotions are definitely involved but are not enough. Our emotions are moved when called by the Holy Spirit, but many never lead to surrender.
Criminals who are caught, convicted, and incarcerated, often show remorse and apologize to the courts and to their victims for their conduct. But after they are released, many of these same criminals go right back to their old life of sin because their remorse never resulted in a change in their basic values. Similarly, it's one thing to be sorry for our sins, but such emotion is only valuable if it leads us to repentance and a life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ.
For us who profess to be Christians, the demonstration of our faith must go beyond the feeling sorry for someone and the emotional expression of love and compassion. Actions should follow as a result of those feelings. We may say to someone in need, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but do nothing about it (to meet the need), what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:16-17 NIV). Our faith should cause us to be moved emotionally, but the emotion should be followed by actions.
Finally, faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) and we get it not by a strong feeling (emotion) of some kind, but “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). We should never trust our feelings, but, instead, we should trust God and take Him at His word in all circumstances.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Faith is More Than Intellectual Belief

Chuckle: A mother sat with her young son, gazing at a beautiful sunset. Just imagine, she said, God created all this beauty. The son replied, yea, and with just one hand. The mother asked why he said that. Well, they told us in Sunday School that His Son was sitting on his right hand.
Today's Quote: Care not for the reward of your speaking but simply and with undivided mind for the truth of your speaking. -- Thomas Carlyle

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that -- and shudder" (James 2:19 NIV).
It is possible to believe the facts about who Jesus Christ is without accepting Him by faith -- no personal relationship with him. Learning the facts about Jesus is only a starting point. In Matthew 8:29, the demons said to Jesus, "What do you want with us, Son of God?" On another occasion, as he was healing: "When the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out: You are the Son of God." Here we see confirmation that Satan and his spirits of evil have a knowledge of Jesus on the intellectual level, but not on the faith level.
The word translated "believe" in verse 19 means to profess a truth without a change in heart. And to most people today, the word "believe" means to accept some fact or proposition to be true. For example, "I believe the earth is round." However, the Greek word (Pisteuo - to believe) translated "believe" in John 3:16, and other places, means much more. It means to have faith in, to trust in, to commit yourself to, to rely upon.
So when we share Christ with someone, we must be certain they understand what the words, "believe in Jesus Christ" really mean. Otherwise, they may think that all they have to do to be saved is to believe the facts about who Jesus is and never reach the level of believing in Jesus. You may quote scripture, tell when you were baptized, reveal when you signed the card of church membership, but have you really committed your life to him in faith and given the totality of your will over to him? If you have, you are a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. You are a child of the King and heaven awaits you. . . .!!
James says that when our faith in Christ is real, it will show. Faith is like calories - you can't see them but you can see their consequences. The consequences of faith include living a life of holiness and service to others --"good deeds." If you picked up a live downed electrical wire in your yard, you would know it and you would show it! If the Almighty God has come to live within you, you will know it and you will show it. It makes no sense not to show it by bearing fruit for His glory.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Faith is More Than Words

Chuckle: Teacher: Maria, go to the map and find North America. Maria: Here it is. Teacher: Correct. Now class, who discovered America? Class: Maria!
Good Quote: Faith is not a leap in the dark; it is a leap out of darkness into the light. -- David Reed

"Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? . . . Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so faith is dead without good deeds" (James 2:14,26 NLT).
It's relatively easy, and sometimes tempting, to let our words describe us as something we're not. We can easily give lip-service to our faith while our actions show little evidence that our words are true. I don't think Satan cares very much about what we say we are, but he cares a great deal about what we really are. As long as he keeps us from being true to our professed faith, he has won a victory and damaged our Christian testimony.
James has a lot to say about real faith. Today, let's think about faith being more than words. "What good is it, my brothers, if a person claims (says he has) to have faith but has no deeds?" (vs.14 NIV). Can a faith that talks but never walks be genuine? The Bible says "No!" Many say they have faith but their lives don't show it. It's our walk, not our talk, that makes the difference. If we were arrested for being Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
James uses a great illustration to make his point. "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (vs.15-17 NIV). When you come to know Christ, His life should be reflected in you by the way you live.
Each of us is faced with many different opportunities to demonstrate our faith through acts of kindness and compassion. Jesus said that even a cup of cold water given in His name will be rewarded (Mark 9:41). Think about your neighbors, your family members, your fellow church members. Think of the needs they have that you could help satisfy. Some may be lonely and just need companionship. Some may need encouragement. Others may need transportation. Some may need help with home repairs or lawn care. Still others may need help with babysitting small children, etc. The list of possibilities for service is endless. But we must get outside ourselves and see these needs and be motivated by our faith and Christian love to help meet those needs.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Cost of Discipleship

Chuckle: A customer said to the salesman, "I want to try on that suit in the window." The salesman replied, "Oh, Sir, we couldn't allow that. You have to use the dressing room like everyone else."
Good Quote: "God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do." --Regina Brett

Another of his disciples said, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me now! Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead" (Matthew 8:21-22 NLT).
The central truth of this passage is that following Jesus will cost you something. If you profess to be a Christian and a follower of Christ, but you sacrifice nothing for the relationship with him, a heart examination is likely long over due. In our passage, it is possible that the disciple was not asking for Jesus' permission to go to his father's funeral, but rather he wanted to put off following Jesus until a more convenient time -- in this case, until his elderly father had died.
Jesus never minced words and was always direct with those who expressed a desire to follow him. He always made certain they weighed the cost of discipleship and their willingness to set aside any personal reservations or conditions which might prevent them from following him wholeheartedly. Jesus said, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38 NIV).
As God's one and only Son, Jesus did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty and devotion. This means that nothing can be more important to us than our relationship with him. The decision to follow Jesus should never be put off until a more convenient time. Even when other loyalties and desires compete for our attention, they should never be allowed to become more important than our Lord. If Jesus is your Savior, he also wants to be Lord and Master of your life.
As a pastor, I'm amazed at how many "Christians" claim the lordship of Christ in their lives, but, at the same time, sin against him by disobedience and letting sinful lifestyles prevent them from being fully devoted followers of Christ. When we intentionally disobey God's Word, refuse to give up sinful practices, or let other priorities in life take precedence over our relationship with him, it calls into question our very salvation experience. For a Christian, it is not enough to talk the talk, but we must walk the walk. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
At the beginning, I said following Jesus will cost you something. But let me add, it will not cost you anything worthwhile when compared to the rewards of joy, peace, and contentment that comes to fully devoted followers of Christ. Once we surrender completely to him, everything that was once so important becomes abhorrent to us. The apostle Paul writes, "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared to the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him . . ." (Philippians 3:8 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 23, 2016

Jesus Is Always With Us

Chuckle: My wife said, "Whatcha doin today?" I said, "nothin." She said, "You did that yesterday." I said, "I know, but I wasn't finished!"
Quote: "The phrase, 'in Christ,' is a statement that describes our union with Christ. Perhaps this relationship can be illustrated by the air that is in us, and yet we are also in the air. So, too, is Christ in us and we in Him." --Unknown source

"I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 MSG).
These comforting words from the lips of Jesus Himself have resounded in the ears and hearts of believers for almost 2000 years and provide the encouragement and strength we need to continue doing the Lord's work. The words are a part of Jesus' Great Commission to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19 NIV).
Since Jesus is no longer alive here on earth, how could He make such a statement of His never ending presence with us? To understand, we must go back to who God is. In Scripture, God describes Himself as one God who has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
While Jesus was here on earth, He revealed His identity and His relationship with His Father. He performed many miraculous signs as evidence of His divine power and taught His followers about the Kingdom of God. As He was preparing to be crucified, He patiently revealed the answer to our question, "how can He remain with us after He left earth and returned to the Father?"
Jesus said, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7 NIV). As God the Son, Jesus promised to send Himself in the form of His Holy Spirit who will "live with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:17-18 NIV). Jesus promised that His Spirit lives within us as believers, and His presence will never leave us.
God knows that you can become lonely and discouraged and sometimes feel as if no one cares. Even during the most stressful and difficult of times, you can claim this promise from the One in whose hands you have trusted your eternal soul. Remember, you are never alone. God is always there for you, and His Holy Spirit wants to give you joy, peace, comfort, and strength as you continue to serve Him. He loves you and will always be with you. . . ."God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).
“I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the colour and fragrance of a flower – the light in my darkness, the voice in my silence.”  --Helen Keller
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why Do We Slander One Another?

Chuckle: "Why did your mom marry your dad?" An elementary school child replied, "My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on."
Quote: “No soul of high estate can take pleasure in slander. It betrays a weakness.” --Blaise Pascal

"Brothers, do not slander (defame, speak evil against) one another" (James 4:11a NIV ).
Here, James strongly condemns destructive speech -- words used to spread hostility and erode the prestige or character of another person. To slander is to say something about a person, in his absence, in a malicious way in order to influence the opinion of others against him. Why would one Christian say something slanderous or defaming about another? The Bible says there are several possible reasons:
To conceal our own sins: Romans 2:3, "So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on others and you do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?" He was saying, "you Jews are judging Gentiles but you are doing the same things." Isn't it strange that we are so blind to our own faults and so keenly aware of the faults of others? We should ask God help us to see our own sins. Jesus asked this question in Matthew 7:3: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank (beam) in your own eye?"
For revenge - to get even: This means to exact a reprisal on someone who has hurt us in some way. We want to hurt them in return. We want everyone to know the real truth about how badly they hurt us. But we should remember that only God can set the record straight. We all have had things said about us that were not true -- or half-truths. But the way we react to such abuses is an indication of whether or not we have matured spiritually. God can take care of that person. Let's leave it to Him. "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
Because of pride: Does it make you feel good and powerful to know something about someone that no one else knows? Does it give you a feeling of power, pride, and superiority to say: "I know this or that about someone?" "The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts" (Proverbs 18:8). God, through James, says I have a command for you: "Do not slander one another."
"A story was told about a young man, during the Middle Ages, who said to a monk, 'I've sinned by telling slanderous statements about someone. What should I do now?' The monk replied, 'Put a feather on every doorstep in town.' The young man did it. He then returned to the monk, wondering if there was anything else that he should do. The monk said, 'Go back and pick up all the feathers.' The young man replied, 'That's impossible! By now the wind will have blown them all over town!' Said the monk, 'So have your slanderous words become impossible to retrieve." --Uncertain Source
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Give God Credit for Your Joy

Chuckle: "Hmmm.... I'm not sure if I actually have some free time on my hands or if I'm just forgetting to do something."
Quote: "Let us work as if success depends on ourselves alone, but with the heartfelt conviction that we are doing nothing and God everything." --St Ignatius Loyola

"On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy" (Nehemiah 12:43 HCSB).
Our passage is from a great and inspiring story of God's faithfulness and recognition by His people that He had made their accomplishments possible, resulting in their joy. The Israelites had completed the wall around Jerusalem to fortify and protect their city. It was an occasion for great joy because a daunting task had been completed.
It would have been easy for the people to pat themselves on the back and bask in the limelight for what they had accomplished. But, even though they had exerted great effort and made significant sacrifice to complete the task, they recognized that they played only a small part in what God had accomplished. They gave God the credit for their accomplishments and new-found joy.
This story can serve to remind us of God's role in everything we do. Perhaps you have received a promotion or otherwise been recognized for a major contribution to a great success. The natural thing to do is to think, "look what I have done. I deserve the credit." There is nothing wrong with taking pride in our accomplishments, but for Christians, we should always give God the credit for our successes and resulting joy. After all, He gives us the abilities and resources that make our achievements possible. God empowers us and paves the way for our successes.
"Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24 NLT).
Since the creation, God has given us work to do. When we come to the point of seeing our work as an act of worship, it becomes easy to give God the credit for any feelings of pride and joy that may come from our labor. Not only does this attitude remove some of the drudgery and boredom from our work, but it gives us the joy of knowing we are pleasing our Lord.
"The joy which a man finds in his work and which transforms the tears and sweat of it into happiness and delight -- that joy is God." --H. A. Williams
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Vision From God

Chuckle: A cop to a speeder: "Yeah, we have a quota... Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven!"
Quote: "Where there is no vision (revelation from God), the people perish (cast off restraint)" (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).

"My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings....Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:10, 12).
A vision from God includes a special awareness of God, His plan for one’s life and His readiness to reveal that plan. For any Christian or church to be effective for our Lord, it must begin with a vision from God. Such a vision will motivate you and determine how you live your life. Vision will effect everything you do. The apostle Paul's vision was to become like Christ. He wanted to know Christ intimately and completely and make it possible for others to know Him as well. Do you have a vision from God? If so, how will that vision affect what you do for your Lord today and the days to come?
Paul's vision from God for his life was so clear and powerful that he gave up everything -- family, friends, and even his own freedom in order to know Christ and His resurrection power. Paul understood he had no power of his own sufficient to accomplish God's mission for him, a mission which had come from his vision from God. He knew that God's power that raised Jesus from the dead was available to him -- the strength to carry out his assignment from Jesus to preach the Good News to the gentiles of the world.
As we become one with Christ by trusting in Him, the power that Paul is talking about immediately becomes available to every Christian with a vision from God. This power is resident within you in the form of the Holy Spirit who will help you to live a morally upright life because you have been regenerated by His power. But, before we can walk with our Lord, we must die to sin.
Since Christ's resurrection gives us His power to live for him, but we never will experience the fullness of that power until we personally apply the crucifixion to our Lives. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20 NIV). We must die to self and let the Holy Spirit's resurrection power strengthen and guide us toward the fulfillment of the vision for our lives that God has given us.
Please pray that you will be able to understand and take hold of God's vision and purpose for your life and that He will give you the strength to pursue them faithfully and consistently each day.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 19, 2016

Who Are You?

Chuckle: A woman came home, screeched her car into the driveway, ran into the house and shouted at the top of her lungs: "Fred, pack your bags, I won the lottery!" Fred said, "That's great. What should I pack -- beach stuff or mountain stuff? The wife yelled back, "It doesn't matter . . . just get out!"
Today's Quote: "Faith helps us to walk fearlessly, to run confidently, and to live victoriously." --William Arthur Ward

"As you come to him, the living also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ . . . You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9 NIV).
I think we sometimes forget the relationship we have with God through Christ and the fact that our very identity is derived from this relationship. In our passage, we see that we are related to Christ in the same way building stones are related to one another in a completed house. The only difference is that our relationship with the living stone is a spiritual one in Christ's spiritual house.
“you are fellow citizens with with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20 NIV). As members of this spiritual house, we are also the priests who serve God as a part of His household. When we think of priests, we often attach some special qualifications and responsibilities only given to a special few who are uniquely called by God. No doubt God places His hand on certain individuals for unique positions of responsibility like pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. But every Christian is a priest as defined here -- a member of God's holy priesthood.
In this relationship, each of us may freely approach God on behalf of others and is called to serve God. Because God has called us out of spiritual darkness and into His wonderful light, we are identified with Him and given the responsibility of praising Him for His love, mercy, and grace so that others will experience His love.
When the final second had ticked away, and the thrilling football game had ended, an exhausted fan in the bleachers turned to his friend and exclaimed, "Boy, we really played well today!" The fact was that he hadn't played well at all. He wasn't wearing the pads. He wasn't on the field. Yet he identified himself with the eleven men on the team. So should it be for believers. Christ was the One who died on the cross, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again. Yet we are identified with Him in His victory over sin and death.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 16, 2016

Resentment Ruins Lives

Chuckle: A man went to the airline counter. The ticket agent asked, "Sir, do you have reservations?" He replied, "Reservations? Of course I have reservations, but I'm flying anyway."
Quote: “If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you.” --Peter Marshall
"All of you should be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble. Do not do wrong to repay a wrong and do not insult to repay insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing" (1 Peter 3:8-9 NCV).
These beautiful words by the apostle Peter tell us how we should relate to one another as followers of Christ. I see no room for resentment if we pattern our relationships accordingly. The Dictionary defines resentment like this: "A feeling of bitter hurt and anger at being insulted, slighted, or being left out." Max Lucado says, "Resentment is the cocaine of the emotions. . . it demands increasingly large and more frequent dosages." No doubt resentment can have a debilitating effect on our relationships with others. It can skew our view of others and leave us angry, bitter, and vengeful.
Resentment can grow out of jealousy over money, power, influence, abilities, or even personal looks, etc. We can come to resent someone because we can't be like they are -- because they have what we cannot have, etc. When we are resentful, we become blinded and cannot see the positive qualities of the one whom we resent. Like a cocaine addict, our resentment demands increasingly large and more frequent doses of anger, bitterness, and revenge.
I venture to say we have all harbored resentment toward someone at some time in our lives. If you have, you know that resentment turns to anger in short order, and out of control anger goes beyond just and emotion and becomes the focus of your attention and the dominate force in your life. When you reach this stage of bitterness and anger, you can become bent on revenge -- getting even. Then it becomes harder and harder to forgive even if the person you resent comes to you with an apology. You are no longer interested in reconciliation, peace, and tranquility because you are too full of rage. You become driven by anger and bitterness.
I know God stands ready to remove your bitterness and misery if you will only ask forgiveness for your attitude and let him cleanse you and restore your joy and peace. If you are resentful and angry toward someone, I encourage you rise above getting back at those who hurt you. Instead of reacting angrily to those who have offended you, try praying for them.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God (Jesus) is Patient

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

God Really Cares About You

Chuckle: "Can you just imagine Lazarus trying to explain his resurrection to his life insurance agent?"
Quote: "The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved -- loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." --Victor Hugo

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you" (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).
Have you ever felt like nobody cares about you or what happens in your life? Have you felt all alone with no one to whom you could turn for help and encouragement? At times, we can feel that neither God nor the people around us really care. If the sense that nobody cares creeps into your psyche, it can make you lonely, sad, and miserable. God made us to love and to be loved, and when we don't feel loved, it's devastating. God knows this and He helps us understand His character by expressing His amazing, unconditional, and never-ending love for us throughout His beautiful love letter -- The Bible.
If you are living with fears, anxieties, and doubts, it's important to remember that God loves you and wants to relieve you of these debilitating feelings permanently. For this to happen, you must intentionally cast all your cares upon our loving and merciful God. The magnitude of His love is beyond our ability to fully understand as He stands ready to carry your burdens in a much better way than you can ever do for yourself.
It doesn't matter who you are: rich, poor, young, old, healthy, or sick -- God loves everyone of us exactly the same. None of us has a monopoly on God's love. "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" (1 John 4:9 NIV).
I'm reminded of the story about Jesus traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem when He encountered a blind beggar named Bartimeus. Jesus heard his cry for help, had mercy on him, and stopped. He forgave Bartimeus of his sins, healed his eyes, and he followed Jesus rejoicing. If Jesus cared about blind Bartimeus, he also cares about you and me. You matter to our Lord no matter the severity of your sins or circumstances.
Not only does God always care about you, He is always with you. He says: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5b NIV). Draw near to God and He will draw near to you -- and He will take away those feelings that no one cares about you. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT). God knows what is best for you and you are wise to trust him completely for guidance in every choice you make.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rest for the Soul

Chuckle: Did you hear about the elderly woman who talked herself out of a speeding ticket by telling the young officer that she had to get there before she forgot where she was going?
Quote: "Every house where love abides And friendship is a guest, Is surely home, and home, sweet home For there the heart can rest." --Henry van Dyke

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).
When I read these words from the lips of our Lord Himself, a deep sense of peace, rest, relaxation, and refreshment comes over me. In Jesus' words, one can sense His love, compassion, concern, and desire to give each of us an abundant life of contentment and satisfaction in Him. Jesus knows about every one of your cares, burdens, anxieties, and hurts, and He gently and lovingly asks you to come to Him and have those burdens lifted and the cares of this life made much easier to bear.
A yoke is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of an ox or oxen. It is attached to a piece of equipment (plow, cart, wagon, etc.) the oxen are to pull. Using this metaphor, Jesus describes the heavy burdens that may be weighing you down and making your life difficult to endure. You may be carrying burdens of sin, excessive demands on your life, unfair treatment, or weariness in your search for rest in God. Jesus can and will free you from all these burdens.
The tiredness and weariness that comes from hard physical labor can usually be remedied with some sleep and rest. But there is another kind of weariness that is not so easily overcome; that is the emotional exhaustion resulting from prolonged bearing of burdens and successive crises in our lives. You may be caring for an aging parent, ailing spouse, or a sick child. You may feel as if the burdens are just too much to bear. You need rest for both your body and your soul, and the latter can only be found in Jesus Christ. Only He can provide the kind of rest you need.
The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor. A close relationship and fellowship with our Lord changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose. He will rest and refresh you continually as you serve Him. I am reminded of the passage in Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT: "He (God) gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Abundant Life

Chuckle: Sign in the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully. We'll wait."
Quote: “Identify God’s emissaries By the light in their eyes, By the lilt in their song, By the glow of their skin And the joy within.” --Elias Penn-Smith

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (fully)" (John 10:10 KJV).
Is your life all that God would have it to be? The messages being sent to us by the world's media (television, billboards, tabloids, etc.), try to convince you and me that we can find fulfillment and happiness if only we adopt the world's standard of morality for our marriages, our career advancement, raising our children, or pursuing personal pleasure.
If you or I believe this, we will never experience life's fullness and blessings that our Lord intends for us. It's sad and tragic to heed the messages of the world instead of the One who created life and wants us to experience life to its fullest.
That's what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan convinced them that by disobeying God they would find the good life. But, instead, for the rest of their lives they experienced only a fraction of the blessings and fulfillment God had intended for them.
Our Lord desires that you live with a feeling of absolute security and safety, with the assurance that you're a beloved child of God. It is also his desire that you experience love, joy, and peace. If you are not experiencing such a life, you have settled for much less than God planned for you.
In our passage, Jesus is contrasting his giving of life with the thief who takes and destroys life. The life he gives right now is abundantly rich and full. It is life that will last for eternity, but begins the moment you trust Christ as Savior and Lord. Life in Christ is lived on a higher plane because of his overflowing forgiveness, love, and guidance through his Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Let's join together and stop making excuses for not experiencing the abundant life. Let's decide today to settle for nothing less than God's very best for our lives. Let's stop living by the world's standards and methods for finding inner peace and satisfaction. Instead, let's keep our spiritual ears tuned to the voice of our Savior and we will find fulfillment. Someone has aptly said, "Living without God's plan for your life is like sewing with a needle without thread, or writing one's biography with a pen empty of ink."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Value of a True Friend

Chuckle: "Who was that on the phone, Fred?" "No one important, just some man who said it was long distance from Chicago. I told him I knew that already and hung up."
Great quote: "Be slow to fall into friendships, but when thou art in, continue firm and constant." --Socrates
"To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, . . I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers" (Philemon 1b, 4 NIV).
It seems to me that real and lasting friendships are becoming a rarity in our society. With our hustle and bustle lives, we tend to deal with people more on an acquaintance basis rather than true friendship. Stop and think for a moment about that one special friend in your life for whom you never fail to thank God. The Apostle Paul recognized the value of such a true friend as Philemon and expressed thanksgiving for him in his prayers. He was grateful for such a special friend. Here are some traits of a true friend:
A true friend is trustworthy in all situations, and brings you great comfort. "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24 NIV). Do you have someone with whom you feel safe to share even your most secret and personal thoughts without fear of having your confidence betrayed?
A true friend always speaks the truth even if it hurts deeply and wounds your prideful spirit. "Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6 NLT). A friend who has your best interests at heart may at times have to give you unpleasant advice. A friend who cares enough to tell you when you're wrong, or making a bad decision, should be appreciated and treasured.
A true friend is there for you even during the worst of times. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17 NIV). What kind of friend are you? There is a huge difference in just knowing someone and being a true friend. A true friend is steady and loyal during times of extreme adversity as well as during the good times.
A true friend will willingly lay down his life for a friend he loves. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13 NIV). If we love as Jesus loves us, we may not have to die for a friend physically, but there are many other ways to practice sacrificial love -- listening, helping, encouraging, giving. A true friend will always come to your defense, work for your betterment, and be faithful to pray for you.
Take a moment to voice a prayer of thanksgiving for those true friends God has placed in your life. Finally, are you the kind of friend that can be trusted in all situations and cause others to thank God for you?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Marks of the Faithful

Chuckle: "Two things you should never enter into prematurely: marriage and embalming!!"
Quote: "Our prayer will be most like the prayer of Christ if we do not ask God to show us what is going to be, or to make any particular thing happen, but only pray that we may be faithful in whatever happens." --Fr Andrew
"And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done" (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT).
"J. B. Gambrell was a great Texas hero in pioneer days. He once referred to a dog's territory, which was limited to the area around his master's wagon. Since the wagons rode high off the ground, the dog could run along underneath the wagon as it traveled. Gambrell said, 'I would never have a dog that ran under someone else's wagon.' That was his rather homey way of saying that faithfulness is a necessity."
We can all understand Gambrell's point. When we list the desirable characteristics of a person, faithfulness will likely be high on the list. In our larger lesson (Col. 2:1-7), Paul admonished the Colossian Christians to show several characteristics, or marks, of their faithfulness to their Lord.
1. Helping others grow in their faith. In Col. 2:2, Paul expressed his desire that their hearts might be encouraged and comforted. All Churches should be encouraging, comforting, and unified communities, committed to carrying out Christ's mandate. Our faithfulness will encourage others as they see Christ in us. A mark of faithfulness is strengthening one another so that the church is filled with courage to deal effectively with any situation.
2. Loving others. Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians would be knitted together in love. "Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. Anyone who hates (does not love) a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by darkness" (I John 2:10-11 NLT). Love for other Christians is a distinguishing mark of followers of Christ.
3. A disciplined life. Faithfulness to Christ and his Church will be demonstrated by our disciplined and purposeful lives. We will not serve the Lord and others only when it is convenient, but we will sacrifice our own desires for the good of other believers. We will be steadfast and firm in our convictions and in our service to our Lord.
4. Growing up in our faith. Receiving Christ as Savior is only the beginning of life with Christ. He desires that you continue to follow His leadership and grow by being rooted in Him, built-up, and strengthened in the faith. "Elton Trueblood spoke of a 'cut flower civilization in which we are like cut flowers in a vase. They are beautiful and brilliant, but they never grow and prosper because they have no roots." You can live and grow in Christ by, (1) Submitting your life and will to Him; (2) seeking to learn from Him, His life, and His teachings; and (3) recognizing the Holy Spirit's power in you. Then faithfulness to Christ and to others will result.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Partnership in Christ

Chuckle: "I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous -- everyone hasn't met me yet." -- Rodney Dangerfield
Good Quote: "The world knows our accomplishments; we know our ambitions; God knows our motives." --William Arthur Ward

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel . . . (Philippians 1:3-5 NIV).
In his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul's salutation is followed by a great outburst of joy and love - a beautiful combination of thanksgiving and prayer. He expressed joy over their big-heartedness. He gave thanks for their generosity and faithfulness to the gospel from the time he first preached to them. They were never absent from his heart and prayers. He prayed that their spiritual life would increase until they were fully developed in love, knowledge, and spiritual sensitivity.
Remembering in Gratitude: Think with me about all the godly people who have influenced your life. I'm certain you have memories of such people -- without whom your life would be far less fulfilled. Wouldn't it be a beautiful gesture if each of us took the time to express our gratitude and love to them as Paul did to the Philippian Christians. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you." Paul cared for the Philippians with sincere, self-sacrificing love. He worked for them while he could and, in prison, he never forgot them.
Prompted in Prayer: In verse 4, Paul said he never prayed for them without thanksgiving and joy. The word for prayer in verse 4 implies an expression of need. In the New Testament, this kind of prayer is always addressed to God but is not intercession. It is entreating God for a special blessing. Joy is one of the key dominant notes in the letter. The word for joy occurs in Philippians sixteen times. Paul was a happy prisoner in Rome as he had been in Philippi. Inner Joy and peace are characteristics of the devoted Christian regardless of external circumstances.
Sharing in the Gospel: In verse 5, Paul expressed to his Philippian friends the immediate reason for his thanksgiving and joy. It was their partnership with him in the sharing of the gospel. They had shown themselves true missionaries. Interestingly, the Greek word for partnership is koinonia. To find an exact equivalent in English for this Greek word is difficult. It is translated as partnership, fellowship, communion, fellow-working, and sharing together. It means sharing or participating with someone in a common experience. As believers, we are partners in Christ as we share the good news (gospel) message of Jesus Christ. Think for a moment about this truth. A genuine partner carries his/her part of the load -- is always faithful -- and recognizes the value of those with whom he/she is partnered.
Their partnership included (1) their acceptance of the gospel by faith, (2) their making the aims of the gospel their own, (3) their active witness in Philippi; (4) their cooperation in the teaching and preaching of the gospel, (5) their participation in suffering, (6) their expressions of sympathy for Paul in his work, and (7) their sharing in meeting other Christian needs. What an example and challenge Paul lays out for us. My prayer is that we all would be so faithful.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 5, 2016

Using Money Wisely

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Chuckle: A player was explaining to his coach why he appeared nervous at practice: "My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt."
Quote: "Theirs is an endless road, a hopeless maze, who seek goods before they seek God." -- Bernard of Clairvaux
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you" (James 5:1 NIV).
Three questions emerge from our James passage: (1) How should we get our money? (2) How should we protect our money? and (3) How should we use our money? The last three devotionals have dealt with these important questions. Hopefully, each of us has learned more about how to handle money wisely in a Godly way.
How did you react to today’s verse. When you first read it? "Now listen, you rich people." Did you say to yourself: "whew -- thank goodness he's not talking about me!" When we think of the rich, our minds turn to the Donald Trumps and Bill Gates of the world. How could this passage possibly be about me? What is rich anyway? Simply stated, I think It's when you have more than enough. Most Americans are rich in the eyes of many people in the world because we have so much more than they. Being rich is a relative term.
The issue is not how much money we have, but how much does our money have us? Many of Jesus' sermons and parables dealt with the subject of money and possessions. Jesus said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). Jesus knew that if we could get our attitude right toward money and material things, every other aspect of our lives would likely fall into place. The Bible never condemns a person for being wealthy, but it does condemn those who are caught up in their riches and are using them only for selfish purposes rather than the good of others.
James tells us that the rich face ruin. Why? Because wealth is a sin? No! It's because some allow wealth to become their god, the expected source of security for eternity. Sadly, commitment to amassing wealth often breeds uncaring treatment of the poor for whom God has special concern. To place priority on wealth is sin. To gain wealth at the expense of other people is sin. To trust in wealth instead of God is sin.
James makes the point about the worthlessness of riches, not the rich. Abraham was rich; Job was rich; David was rich; and they all were great men of faith. It's what we do with our worldly possessions that's important. The Bible doesn't say money is the root of all evil but rather it's the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10). There's nothing inherently wrong with money -- money is neutral. It's how we get it, relate to it, and depend on it that makes the difference.
An old Jack Benny skit illustrates how money can become more important to us than anything else. Jack was walking along, when suddenly an armed robber approached him and ordered, "Your money or you life!" There was a long pause, and Jack did nothing. The robber impatiently queried, "Well?" Jack replied, "Don't rush me -- I'm thinking about it."
Love, Jerry & Dotse