Monday, October 31, 2016

God's On Your Side

Chuckle: "Why do surgeons wear masks during an operation? So that if they make a mistake, no one will know who did it."
Quote: "God is sufficiently wise, and good and powerful and merciful to turn even the most, apparently, disastrous events to the advantage and profit of those who humbly adore him and accept his will in all that he permits." --Jean-Pierre de Caussade

"Don't be afraid!" Elisha told him (his servant). "For there are more on our side than on theirs!" (2 Kings 6:16 NLT).
A local television station that Dotse and I often watch has used the slogan "On Your Side" to describe the station's commitment to the welfare of their viewers. I must admit the slogan has a positive effect on my feelings toward the station. We all are comforted by knowing that we are not alone in life and that others have our best interests at heart -- that they are on our side.
Let me briefly set the stage for our Scripture passage. The forces of Israel and those of Aram were in battle against each other. Elisha, a prophet of God, knew the king of Aram's battle plans and passed this information along to the king of Israel. In his anger, the king of Aram tracked Elisha down at Dothan. When Elisha's servant saw the strong Aramean forces, he became terrified. Our passage is Elisha's response to his servant's fear. Then Elisha prayed and the servant's eyes were opened and he was able to see God's heavenly army on their side. The servant's fear was removed.
If we have faith, God will always reveal His powerful resources available to us as His children. When you are overwhelmed by difficulties in life that seem insurmountable, remember that God's spiritual resources are available to you even though you can't see them with your physical eyes. You must look through the eyes of faith to see God's mighty spiritual army coming to your defense.
Our passage reminds us that when God is on your side, it doesn't really matter who or how many are against you. Each of us should pray for God to increase our faith and open our spiritual eyes so that His mighty army becomes visible to us. If you don't see God working in your life, the problem is not a lack of God's power, but rather your lack of faith and spiritual eyesight.
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV). Like Elisha and his servant, with God on your side, you have no reason to be afraid.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 28, 2016

God's Preparations

Chuckle: "I am not satisfied with the evidence against you," said the magistrate to the prisoner on trial, "so I find you not guilty. You are free to go." "Good," said the prisoner. "Does that mean I can keep the money?"
Quote: "Praise is the first step on the stairway of prayer." --William Ward
GOD'S PREPARATIONS FOR YOU
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).
The Bible is replete with God's promises about His preparations for us. When we try to wrap our minds around this subject, we find ourselves struggling to grasp the magnitude of God's love that is revealed in what He has done, is doing, and will do in the future for us.
Once we accept God's love as being real and without limits, even though we can't fully understand it, it becomes much easier to accept as truth the fact that God is preparing an eternal home for you and me that defies our imagination. Jesus said, "I am going there (my Father's house) to prepare a place for you. And I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2-3 NIV). What a glorious promise! We will spend eternity with our Lord in a place the Bible calls heaven.
God prepared His own Son to be our atoning, once and for all, sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. Before the foundation of the world, God's preparations to redeem us had begun. "He (Jesus) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake" (1 Peter 1:20 NIV). Jesus was chosen as a sacrificial lamb without blemish or defect to shed His precious blood for you and me.
God's has always been making preparations for our redemption. "Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT)
God's preparation also included plans to send His Holy Spirit to be with us. ". . . for he (Holy Spirit) lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:17 NIV. His Spirit comes to reside in us to comfort us, teach us, convict us, guide us, and empower us. God wants our lives here on earth to be happy, fulfilling, and rewarding, and has given us His Spirit to make these realities in your life and mine.
Finally, God's preparation for us includes the miraculous provision of prayer, making it possible for us to fellowship/communicate directly with Him in Jesus' name. From the beginning God has been preparing to give us the best possible life both here on earth and in the heavenly world to come.
 Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 27, 2016

God's Requirement

Chuckle: "Just think how much deeper the ocean would be if sponges didn't live there."
Quote: "I love to be in the company of people who are willing to make a sacrifice to hear the word of the Lord." --Elizabeth Gunn Witkowski
WHAT GOD REQUIRES OF YOU
"What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8 NIV).
No doubt you have often thought about what God expects from you, and realized that you can't earn God's love and acceptance no matter how hard you try. No, God loves you unconditionally and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more and nothing you can do to make Him love you less. However, we do know we can live in a manner that honors Him, pleases Him, and shows our love for Him. The prophet, Micah, penned some important guidance and instruction for God's people on this subject.
People have tried everything they can think of to please God. "What can we bring to the Lord to make up for what we've done? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and tens of thousands of rivers of olive oil? Would that please the Lord? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for the sins of our souls? Would that make him glad? (vv. 6-7 NLT). No, but our text tells us what God requires of us as His children.
First, we are to act justly. This means to do what we know is right. God wants us to be people of integrity -- showing honesty in all our dealings -- and showing love and compassion for others without partiality. Pleasing God requires each of us to be rightly related to others. Our actions must reflect kindness and fairness toward all people, not just a privileged few.
Second, we are to love mercy. The word "mercy" means to show grace, love, and compassion even when it is not deserved or expected. It means giving others what they do not deserve, even if they have wronged us, in the same way that God has shown mercy to us. Our hearts must love mercy rather than demanding justice for ourselves. Jesus said, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Matthew 12:7 NIV).
Third, we are to walk humbly with God. To humble ourselves before God means to see ourselves as God sees us. We will recognize our total dependence upon Him for our salvation, our strength, and our peace of mind. Every action we take must come from our relationship to God, making Him Lord as we humbly serve Himq. We humbly serve God by being servants to others. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10 NIV).
In our efforts to please God, and show our love for Him, we would do well to examine ourselves in these three areas on a regular basis. Do you treat others fairly? Do you show mercy even to those who wrong you? Are you constantly learning humility? If you answered, "yes" to these questions, you are showing your love for God as you honor and please Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

God's Provision

Chuckle: "Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf." --Will Rogers
Quote: "Let us make God the beginning and end of our love, for he is the fountain from which all good things flow and into him alone they flow back. Let him therefore be the beginning of our love." --Richard Rolle

And God said, "Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given all the grasses and other green plants to the animals and birds for their food" (Genesis 1:29-30 NLT).
I think it wise to revisit the creation Scriptures, from time to time, and contemplate God's power, love, and grace. When thinking about God's provision for us, I'm reminded that a newborn baby is totally dependent upon parents for all the necessities for survival, growth, and development. The baby must receive both physical and emotional nourishment along with warmth and shelter to mature normally and live a healthy and happy life.
As a baby is dependent upon his parents, God created us to be dependent upon Him for our needs. All of creation was designed around mankind and God gave us everything we would need. Not only has God provided for our needs, but He has given us the responsibility to manage, protect, preserve and generally care for what He has provided.
The problem with some of us is that we have had so much for so long that we no longer are concerned about our needs, but focus on our selfish wants and desires -- the luxuries of life. Notice in our passage how God provided for the food needs for humans and the animals. We often view our wants as needs and wonder why God doesn't keep His promise to provide all our needs. Where God's provision does go far beyond our physical necessities is when He lavishes on us His love, grace, and forgiveness.
One name for God is Jehovah-Jireh, which mean the Lord who provides. God provides based upon our dependence upon Him. Anything God gives us above and beyond our basic needs is evidence of God's grace and desire that we be happy as we love and serve Him. Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern" (Matthew 6:32b-33 NLT).
To make God's kingdom first in your life means that you put God first in every aspect of your life, to make His thoughts your thoughts, His desires your desires, your character like His, and to serve Him in everything we do. As we focus on God and His kingdom, we avoid letting our concern for "other" things bump God out of first place, and we no longer worry about, or take for granted, God's provision.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

God's Way or Man's Way

Chuckle: A man to the meteorologist: "I thought you might like to know that I shoveled eighteen inches of partly cloudy from my sidewalk this morning."
Quote: "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." --Mark Twain

Jesus turned to Peter and said, . . . "You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God's" (Matthew 16:23 NLT)
I remember talking with a precious grandmother who was heartbroken and worried because her grandson was making the wrong choices in life and was living by the ways of the world rather than God's ways. She could not understand why he had rejected her teachings and counsel on Biblical standards of behavior. To see the people you love ignore God's instructions and make dangerous and ungodly choices, can bring much anxiety and heartache. This is especially true when you know they are headed for major disappointments as the result of their bad choices.
Jesus had just shared with His disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and would be raised on the third day. It must have concerned Jesus when even Simon Peter, one of Jesus' closest followers, began to evaluate what Jesus had said from a human point of view. Peter could not grasp the Godly significance of what Jesus was saying and made the very human choice to correct Jesus by saying, "Heaven forbid, Lord," This will never happen to you!" (vs. 22).
Peter's words reflected a lack of understanding about the Father's plan for Jesus and for himself. It must have broken the heart of Jesus to find it necessary to rebuke Peter because of his inability to see things God's way. Jesus even addressed Peter as Satan, not because Peter was actually Satan, but because He knew the Evil One was influencing Peter's thinking and understanding. Peter "did not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (NIV). God said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8 NIV).
As parents, grandparents, or friends, we do not have the power to make choices for those we love. But we do have the responsibility to love them, lead them to Christ, teach them the things of God, pray for them, and help them understand God's ways and will as they make life's choices. Each day we are wise if we evaluate ourselves to see if Godly wisdom is being applied in our own decision-making process. Are our decisions being made God's way or our way? Beware that Satan is always trying to get us to leave God out of the picture. Jesus rebuked Peter for this attitude.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, October 23, 2016

God's Treasured Possession

Chuckle: An IRS agent asked a farmer, "How much would you say your prize bull is worth?" The farmer thought a moment and answered, "Well, that depends -- for tax purposes or has he been hit by a train?"
Quote: "We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts." --A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
GOD'S TREASURED POSSESSION
"Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep which was lost" (Luke 15:6 NLT).
During my childhood and teenage years, I remember well the churches where my father served as pastor. In some of those mainly rural churches, I remember seeing pictures of Jesus lovingly carrying a small lamb in His arms or across His shoulders. The pictures symbolized His love and protection for His sheep. The term "sheep" is used frequently in Scripture to describe those who belong to the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Our passage is taken from a parable Jesus told His followers to emphasize the value of each of us to Him as our Shepherd. In the parable, the shepherd had lost one of his sheep and that sheep was so precious to the Shepherd that he searched diligently until the wayward sheep was found and brought back into the fold. God's love for each individual is so great that He continues to search for each one and rejoices when he or she is found
In the same way a shepherd loves and cares for his sheep, God loves you and me and wants us to be in the safety of His fold with all the other "sheep" whom He loves. Because we are His treasured possession, He first seeks us out to provide us a way of salvation through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Then, once we belong to Him, He wants to care for us and nurture us each day as we grow into mature members of His "flock." He wants His sheep to have the best possible life each and every day.
I pray you are a member of the Good Shepherd's "flock" because you have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). If so, God's Holy Spirit continually searches the areas of your heart and life where you have become distant from Him. He desires to bring you back into a close and loving relationship with Him, to heal your spiritual wounds, to restore your joy and peace that only He can give, and to protect you from the dangers of this world.
You may be going through some difficult times and you may feel afraid, lost, and all alone. You may feel that no one cares for you. Don't forget that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is with you and is there for you. He will rejoice when you return to Him and experience anew the safety and security of His loving arms. As His treasured possession, you are deeply loved and have great value. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:11,14-15 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 21, 2016

Freedom Versus Responsibility

Chuckle: "Mom," yelled Johnnie from the kitchen, "you know that dish you were always worried that I would break?" "Yes, dear, what about it?" "Well, your worries are over."
Quote: "There is no question facing contemporary man which is more relevant and more clamant than this: how are we to use our freedom?" --Michael Green, "Jesus Spells Freedom"

"All things are lawful (permissible) for me, but all things are not helpful (beneficial" (1 Corinthians 6:12 NKJV).
As a boy, my father taught me a valuable lesson. One Saturday afternoon, I asked my pastor father to go with me to see a movie. As I recall, "Black Beauty" was playing. Dad said to me, "son, I would love to go with you but I cannot." You see, in those days some people believed the local movie theater was a "den of iniquity." Even though my dad, as a pastor, saw nothing wrong with his going to see the movie, he knew that his going would offend some people and damage his credibility in their eyes and hinder his ministry to them. Exercising His freedom wasn't worth the price.
Balancing the freedom Christians have in Christ with conduct that does not do spiritual harm to others is a life-long struggle. God would have each of us be responsible stewards of the freedoms given us through our faith in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us that we are free from sin and guilt, and also free to enjoy and use everything that comes from God. But our conduct should always be such that others are attracted to Christ, even if it means denying ourselves certain freedoms that would otherwise be lawful and appropriate before God.
The apostle Paul said by his actions that "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22b NIV). Paul was willing to give up some of the freedoms he had in Christ in order to better relate to those still holding to the strict requirements of God's Old Testament Law. His ultimate goal was to make the gospel of Jesus Christ understandable and acceptable to all people.
If we are truly focused on leading people to Christ, our freedoms will become secondary to our primary goal of spreading the gospel. Paul said, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible" (1 Cor. 9:19 NIV).
Though your actions may be consistent with your freedom from sin in Christ, you should avoid actions that could hinder your growing relationship with God and impede others from seeking to know Christ. Perhaps the words of James are appropriate here. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17 NIV). True freedom is not doing what we want, but the ability to do what is right. As Christians, our responsibilities should take precedence over our freedoms.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Faith: Believing God

Chuckle: A preacher asked for a discount at a store saying, "You know I'm a poor preacher." "I know," said the storekeeper. "I heard you last night!"
Good Quote: "The thing you really believe in always happens ... and the belief in a thing makes it happen." --Frank Lloyd Wright
FAITH: BELIEVING GOD
"When you ask, you must believe (have faith) and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV). Jesus said, ". . . whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (have faith) that you have received it and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24 NIV).
Think with me back to yesterday. From the time you awoke until you went to bed last night, how many times did you face issues in your life, when you felt totally inadequate and lacking in wisdom sufficient to deal with a situation you were facing? If, after reflecting on this question, you answer, none, then you probably went through the day depending entirely upon your own strength and wisdom. You see, even if we think we know the best answer to a problem, or the best way to handle a situation, we may be settling for second best wisdom -- our own.
From our passages above, we see that believing (having faith) is essential for God to answer our prayers and grant our requests. Faith is believing God and acting on that belief. "If God says it, I believe it, and I will ask him about it!" When you pray, do you do so with expectation and confidence that God will answer, or is prayer just one more possibility among other things you depend upon for wisdom and strength in your daily life? Maybe you pray something like this: "OK, Lord, I'm asking, but deep down I don't really believe you will answer my prayer." What kind of faith is that??
A doubting Christian is one who says, he trusts God, but really doesn't. He says he has faith but he really doesn't. He is divided inside. God's Word says he or she is "double-minded." "That person (without faith) should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded person, unstable in all he does" (James 1:7-8 NIV).
A double-minded Christian is one who knows Christ as Savior and is going to heaven, but on a daily basis does not have the faith to trust God to grant his or her request for wisdom to guide his or her life. We can pray all night to no avail unless we believe and have faith. As we mature in our Christian life, our faith should grow as well. What is it in your life that holds you back from believing God and exercising your faith in Him?
"At a circus a huge elephant was tied to an eighteen-inch stake. Could he not easily have pulled it out of the ground and been free? Sure! But he had tried it when he was a baby and was unsuccessful. The elephant had concluded that he could never pull it out of the ground. So there he stood, a massive creature capable of lifting whole trees, yet held captive by a puny stake. What small stake could faith release you from?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Christians Grow Spiritually, Part 3

Chuckle: "A man will laugh at a woman putting on makeup, and then take ten minutes trying to make three hairs on top of his head look like six."
Quote: “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.--Karen Kaiser Clark
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS GROW?
"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (I Peter 2:2 NIV). "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18 NIV). How should Christians grow spiritually?
First, we should Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This refers to experiential knowledge, not just knowing facts. It's not knowing about Him, but knowing Him through a personal relationship. To know Christ and grow in Him, we must spend time with Him. ". . I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ my Lord . . " (Philippians 3:8 NIV). Growing in knowledge of Christ means three things:
1. Knowing Him as Savior and Lord. He came into our lives - He saved us - He moved us from death unto life. He calls us sons or daughters. Being saved starts a process of becoming - a growth process. Do you know Him more intimately today than when you trusted Him as Savior? Are your thoughts and actions more like His than they once were?
2. Know Him through His Word and Prayer. . . ." We can say we believe the Bible to be God's Word for us. But, if we don't study it, we're saying we don't believe it; or, at the very least, we're saying it's not important. If we don't see it as essential to our growth and to our witness, we are not growing Christians, plain and simple. You may say, "I'm just too busy to spend more time with God." Martin Luther said, "I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours of each day in prayer." Spending time with God will help you grow and make better use of the time He gives you.
3. Know Him through obedience. As we learn to obey Christ, our lives will begin to count for Him. Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer just registers the temperature around it - a thermostat regulates and sets it. A thermostat makes a difference - it changes things.
Second, we should Grow in the Grace of Christ. Grace is God giving things to people who don't deserve them. This grace can never be earned nor bought. Grace is God's unmerited favor to us, and it should not be confused with mercy or justice. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. Justice is receiving what we do deserve.
Have you received God's forgiveness? Are you growing in the grace of His forgiveness? When He saved you, God forgave you; yet, many still feel unforgiven. We need to accept as fact our forgiveness by taking God at His word. God's accepts us is by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As a child craves nourishment and exercise for physical growth, do you desire spiritual food and spiritual exercise necessary for spiritual growth?
Do you desire to be seen as mature, real, and effective? Or are you more like the Christians addressed in this passage? ". . . by this time you ought to be teachers, but you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! . . . solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:11-14 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Christians Grow Spiritually, Part 2

Note: I’m taking a break for a few days. I’ll be back with you on Wednesday, October 19th. In the meantime, please visit my blog where many devotionals are archived.
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Chuckle: One woman said to another: "My husband is absolutely no good at fixing anything, so everything in our house works."
Good Quote: “The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.” --George Eliot
WHY GROW SPIRITUALLY?
". . . until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13 NIV).
Without growth we will not appear as authentic Christians. We will have nothing meaningful to say to others, either in words or deeds. Without growth, I become stagnant - I have no excitement - no joy - no out-flowing - nothing that reflects a relationship with Jesus Christ. A real deal Christian is a growing Christian. Here, Paul addresses lack of growth in Corinthian Christians.
"Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly -- mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid (spiritual) food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready. You are still worldly" (1 Corinthians 3:1 NIV).
No one listens to the advice or wisdom of babies - but only the mature - those who are growing - those who have something to offer. Our lives reflect the evidence of spiritual growth. It's true that only 10% of an iceberg is visible above the water and 90 percent is beneath the water. Growing Christians are like this. What you see is the result of depth in Christ. Many are all surface, with no underlying growth, maturity, and stability. The secret (90%) of a Christian life is spent with God - time in His Word - time in prayer. This is where spiritual growth occurs. As we grow:
"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching . . . Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head (of the church), that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV).
With many claiming to be born again Christians, why don't we impact our communities more? Why doesn't our presence become salt and light as Jesus admonished us to be? Perhaps it's because too many of us are light-weights - we're not growing - we're not concentrating on the spiritual nourishment and exercise necessary for growth. People who make a difference put down roots deep into the soil of God's Word. The resulting growth makes them effective as tools of the Holy Spirit.
A tree with shallow roots cannot take the strong wind. For quality growth, it's roots must reach deep into the soil which gives it life and strength. If we have no growth, we are not effective for Christ. Christians who are growing are working, ministering, moving, doing, praying, etc. When we are growing in Christ, we will experience the full joy of our relationship with Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Christians Grow Spiritually, Part 1

Chuckle: While helping his wife wash the dishes, the husband protested, "This isn't a man's job!" "Oh yes it is," his wife retorted, quoting 2 Kings 21:13 (KJV), "I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down."
Quote: “The most powerful agent of growth and transformation is something much more basic than any technique: a change of heart.” --John Welwood

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18 NIV).
Following a physical birth, the parents carefully watch their new baby to be certain he/she is growing and developing normally. At the first indication that normal growth development are not occurring, parents will do anything within their power to help the child regain a pattern of healthy growth. They will consult the best doctors and nutritionists they can find to help their child. We should have the same attitude toward spiritual growth.
In life, growth is evidence of health. When a child is born physically, growth is normal if that child receives proper stimulation, nourishment, and exercise. Growth just happens as a by-product of health. The Bible refers to a new Christian as spiritual newborn -- a "babe in Christ." It is God's plan for each Christian to grow spiritually. It should be normal for every healthy Christian to grow.
It is important to note that spiritual maturity is not necessarily a function of chronological age. I have known elderly Christians who were still "babies' spiritually. Likewise, I have known relatively young Christians who were very spiritually mature. It depends upon the importance we place on becoming a mature Christian and letting God give the growth.
Being immature is normal for new Christians; however, being immature, and choosing to stay that way, goes against God's will for you life. Are you growing in spiritual understanding, discernment, wisdom, faith, and strength? Is it evident to those around you that God is working in your life and you are growing and becoming more and more like Jesus?
The Bible says God wants each of His children to grow in faith and spiritual understanding. Like physical parents, it is the responsibility of the church, and the more mature individual Christians, to help new Christians grow. At the same time, as we mature, each of us must take greater personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth. As we study God’s Word, spend time in prayer, and participate in ministry to others, God will bring spiritual growth.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 10, 2016

Christians Love One Another, Part 4

Chuckle: "I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.."
Quote: “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” --Mother Teresa
LOVE COMMUNICATES
"A new command I give you: Love one another. 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).
In parts I through 3, we saw that this "new command" from our Lord is easy to understand, but impossible to obey in our own strength, and today we see that loving the way Jesus loved is a most effective way to reach people for Christ and to enrich the lives of fellow believers. "By this all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another." Loving one another is the distinguishing mark of all genuine Christians and it communicates to the world who we are.
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (I John 3:16-18 NIV).
A little church in Cincinnati, with limited resources, prayed for guidance on how to reach people for Christ. They decided just to love the people around them. They went about asking questions like, "May we mow your yard today?" "May we rake your leaves?" "May we wash your car?" They distributed cold drinks on street corners. There was no publicity about what they were doing. People began to ask them who they were and why they were being so kind. People responded to their acts of love and kindness.
There is a song The Gather's sing, "I am loved, you are loved. I can risk loving you, because the one who knows me best, loves me most." Do you have any idea how much Jesus loves and cares for you? Do you have any idea how much He wants to love your community through you? Do you realize how powerful your unconditional love can be?
"A man was known to carry a little can of oil wherever he went. If he passed through a door that squeaked, he put a drop of oil on the hinges, and if a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. So he passed through life lubricating all the creaking places, and making it a little more pleasant for those who followed after him. There is no telling how many lives we could keep from "rusting and squeaking" and how many gates we could open to happiness, if only we would carry a little oil of brotherly love and human kindness in an effort to prevent lives of fellow Christians from rusting away in sin" (See I Thessalonians 4:9).
Please remember the greatest act of love ever witnessed, and let me challenge each of us to think of at least three acts of love and kindness we can do this next week to let the love of Jesus show through us and make the life of someone else a little brighter.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 7, 2016

Christians Love One Another, Part 3

Chuckle: (Church bulletin blooper) "Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow."
Quote: “Christ-like love is a gift of the Spirit.” --Robert J. Whetten
CHRIST-LIKE LOVE: A DIFFICULT COMMAND:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. 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).
This "New Command," from Jesus, is easy to understand but, from our human perspective, difficult to live out. Jesus says we are to follow His example in loving one another. Here's another example from God's Word on how we should love one another. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).
These commands call for hands-on love. When we see people's needs, we should do something about them -- get our hands dirty -- not send someone else, but meet them ourselves because we love each person as Jesus loves you and me -- unconditionally. Those with the greatest needs wanted to be around Jesus because they knew He loved them. He showed a different kind of love. He loved them as they were. Every Christian needs to love like this through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our world's greatest need is for people to love one another unconditionally. It is a power that can change a life, a family, a church, a community, a county, a state, a nation, and a world. We are even to love those who don't deserve love. Jesus said, "If you love those that love you, what reward will you get. Even sinners love those that love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that" (Luke 6:32-33 NIV). God reached down through Jesus Christ and forgave, cleansed, and saved an undeserving me! You see, we are to be different and love the undeserving.
If our love is to be like Jesus' love, it is unending and constant -- not loving today and but not loving tomorrow. "Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV).
"Stephen Olford was a young boy in Africa with his missionary parents. His father died there. They were on a long and arduous voyage home to England. One of the sailors had a wound which became terrible infected and gave off an offensive order. The other sailors threw him out of their quarters. He had to stay up on deck far from any other sailors. Stephen's Mom began to go to him to give him food and clean his wound. At first, he cursed her, but when they got to shore, he hobbled off the boat on his own. God changed his life because a Godly woman loved him as Jesus loves."
Only Christ can empower us to love like that. The Bible says a fruit of the Holy Spirit's presence and filling in our lives is love. Galatians 5:22 NIV, "The fruit of the Spirit is love." We can never love like Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit who lives in us and gives us strength.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Christians Love One Another, Part 2

Chuckle: "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit... Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
Quote: “If you would be loved, love and be lovable.” --Benjamin Franklin
CHRISTIANS LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY
"A new command I give you: Love one another. 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). Let's take a fresh look at this new command given by Jesus.
First: The Command is easily understood. We are to love fellow believers. "This is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (I John 3:11 NIV). A born again person should love other believers. "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love our brothers" (I John 3:14 NIV).
The early Christians held love-feasts. They ate together, prayed together, shared with each other, and showed a deep love for each other. They even sold possessions to help other believers in need. They enjoyed a fellowship unlike any other. A loving fellowship is more than a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Real Biblical fellowship is a deep caring/sharing relationship with one another. It's a oneness -- coming together with a common purpose. Pagan history says "Behold how the Christians love one another." A church, a fellowship of believers, ought to be a refuge where every person is unconditionally loved and accepted -- with no exceptions.
This was the reaction of the unbelieving Greek writer, Lucian (A.D. 120-200) upon observing the warm fellowship of Christians: "It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first legislator (Jesus) has put it into their heads that they are brethren."
Second, We are to love even our enemies: Jesus said, " If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you: Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that" (Luke 6:32-33 NIV). "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV).
By faith in Christ, you are a child of God. If you have Christ, show that relationship by loving as Jesus loved -- your brothers and sisters and even your enemies. Even as He suffered on the cross, Jesus' love for his enemies came through as he said, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV).
What is your reaction when someone hurts you, criticizes you, or is out to get you? Do you try to get them back? Do you seek revenge? Do you try to get even? We are to love and pray for those who mistreat us. Wow! What a challenge from our human perspective. This is only possible with the Spirit of Christ living in you and giving you strength. We should pray for them and ask God for the strength to love and forgive them.
 Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Christians Love One Another, Part 1

Chuckle: (Church Bulletin Blooper) "This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn sing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin."
Quote: “Love is the beauty of the soul.” --Saint Augustine of Hippo

Jesus said to His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. 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).
A genuine Christian is: (1) One in whom the Spirit of Jesus Christ dwells; (2) One whose life the Holy Spirit controls; and (3) One through whom Christ is revealed to others. In the next few lessons, we will consider loving one another as a unmistakable mark of Christians -- the "Love Mark." In John 13:33, Jesus was saying, "I'm not going to be with you very long, so I want to tell you something very important." Then he gave this new command about loving one another.
Throughout history, Christians have used symbols, or marks, to describe their faith. One of the oldest symbols is the "fish," which refers to Jesus Christ. This symbol is prevalent today. Many have it on their cars to identify themselves as Christians. However, the best known symbol is the empty cross -- it's everywhere. But Jesus gave us one symbol that every Christian ought to wear and that every unbeliever should see us wearing -- the "Love Mark" should characterize every believer. The way we love one another identifies us as Christians. "Love comes from God and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God" (I John 4:7 NIV). The evidence that our faith is genuine is our love for each other.
Loving one another was not a new commandment; but loving one another as Jesus loves us was new and revolutionary. It's the kind of love Jesus modeled when He gave Himself for us. Now we are to love others based on Jesus sacrificial love for us. Such love will not only draw unbelievers to Christ, but it will also keep believers strong and united in a world hostile to God. Jesus was a living and breathing example of God's love. Now we are to be living examples of His love.
Jesus made a bold statement -- that our Christ-like love for others will prove that we belong to Him and are his disciples. Do the people around you see such love in your life? Loving like Jesus is much more than simply warm and fuzzy feelings toward someone -- it is an attitude that is revealed by our actions. It is not expressed solely in words, but by what we do that benefits others.
 Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Discovering God's Will

Chuckle: "Consciousness: That annoying time between naps!" 
Quote: When David Livingston was asked if he didn't fear that going to Africa (as a missionary) was too difficult and too dangerous, he answered, "I am immortal until the will of God for me is accomplished."

“Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7 NKJ). "Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is" (Ephesians 5:17 NIV).
Over my years of ministry, I have had endless questions about how to discover God's will for one's life. Let me begin with a simple statement: God is much more willing to communicate to us His will for our lives than we are to hear it, accept it, and act upon it. God often speaks but we aren't in the mood to hear (receive) or heed (obey). If you are a listening Christian, God speaks to you in several ways to reveal His will for your life:
Through His Word. The Bible, communicates the heart, mind, and will of God to us. We never have to question what God's will is if it is clearly communicated in His Word. "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105 NIV).
Through prayer. Prayer should include both our talking to God and listening as God speaks to us. We should express our desires to God, but also listen for God to express His will to us. We should always pray for clarity concerning God's will in each and every situation. "I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is written on my heart" (Psalm 40:8 NIV).
Through the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, you enjoy the miracle of the Holy Spirit living within you. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God" (I Cor. 6:19 NIV). This presence is that still small voice that guides your conscience to know right from wrong; gives you direction; comforts you in times of crises; and helps you interpret and understand God's Word.
Through people. Many times, in my life, a wise and respected Christian has spoken the words I most needed to hear to help me understand what God wanted me to do. That Sunday School teacher that influenced your life in so many ways is an example. God uses people for his purposes which include helping other believers grow and mature in their faith. "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed" (Prov.15:22 NIV).
Through life's circumstances. Nothing happens to a Christian that is not according to God's perfect will or permissive will. God either causes it to happen or allows it to happen for a purpose. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28 NIV). We may have difficulty understanding how God can use even the worst of circumstances for our ultimate good, but God's Word says it's true. When difficult times come, ask: "God, what do you want to teach me through this experience?"
A funny, but revealing, story: "Flood waters forced a man onto the roof of his house. A rescue crew came by in a boat and offered to take him to safety, but he refused, saying: 'I'll be OK. I trust God to save me.' As the water continued to rise a helicopter crew offered to lift him to safety. Again, he said: 'No, thank you. God will save me.' The water continued to rise and the man drowned. In heaven, he asked God why he hadn't saved him. God replied: 'Who do you think sent the boat and the helicopter?'"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 3, 2016

When Christ Returns

Chuckle: A police officer saw a lady driving and knitting at the same time, so after driving next to her for a while, he yelled, "Pull over!" "No!" she called back. "It's a pair of socks!"
Quote: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” --Psalm 27:1 NIV

"And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28 NIV).
As you drive on the highways of America, you often see large signs that read: "Jesus is coming soon," or, "Prepare to Meet God," or similar messages. One country pastor painted these words on his barn: "Prepare to Meet Thy Maker." All who passed by were confronted with a reminder that being prepared to meet God is the most critical aspect of life here on earth. How about you? If Christ were to return today, would you be caught off guard or would you be ready? If you live expecting His return at any moment, you will always be prepared to meet Him.
The certainty of Christ’s return is a major tenant of our Christian faith. However, no one can predict with accuracy the precise time of His return. Each of us should want to do everything we can to help others enjoy that blessed assurance that He will return. Being ready to meet the Lord when He comes is a major theme of the New Testament. It is my deepest desire and prayer that every reader of my daily devotionals can say with certainty that they have trusted Christ as their personal Savior and can look forward to His return with joy and anticipation -- even if He should come today.
Jesus said this concerning His coming: "And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven" (Matthew 24:30-31 NLT).
People of all nations on earth will mourn because those who have rejected Christ will suddenly realize the eternal consequences of their decisions. Everything they have ignored and scoffed will be revealed as true and they will have missed eternal life in God's presence in a place the Bible calls heaven. If it should be today, are you ready for the glorious moment of Christ's return?
Love, Jerry & Dotse