Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Selflessness: An Urgent Need

Note:  I’ll be back with you on Monday, December 5th
Chuckle: Advantage of aging -- "Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either!"
Quote: "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." --Andrew Murray

"Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't (be conceited) think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing" (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).
How would you describe yourself -- selfish or selfless? Here, Paul reminds us that nothing should ever be done or considered out of selfishness or conceit. Selfishness is placing undue emphasis on one's own interest at the expense of others. A selfish person seeks to assert one's own will as opposed to submission to God's will. Selfishness can ruin a church fellowship, but genuine humility and selflessness can build it up. We are to lay aside all selfish motives and treat others with respect and courtesy. Jesus would have us consider others above ourselves.
Conceit is boastful pride. It makes great claims for self and disparages others. It honors oneself by (1) valuing our own opinions rather than truth, (2) advancing our selfish agenda rather than the gospel of Christ, and (3) adding to our own importance rather than to preserving the peace of the church.
The solution to the problem of selfishness and conceit is the practice of genuine "humility." This word denotes a spiritual grace, the opposite of selfishness. It is self-forgetfulness. Humble people know and accept themselves and feel no need for self-aggrandizement. They recognize their own faults and are too busy dealing with those to find fault in others. Jesus said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3 NIV). Jesus is teaching us not to judge our brothers and sisters but recognize our own faults and deal with them first of all. After we ask God to forgive our own faults, we will no longer notice the faults of our brothers and sisters.
The only rivalry which is proper in Christians is that which each seeks to outdo the other in esteeming the other. One is not to be concerned about receiving honors or advantages for himself. He is to be concerned that his brethren be honored and served. --Frank Stagg.
The true Christian spirit is self-renunciation, not self-assertion; it is concern for others, not concern for self and one's rights. Paul's exhortation reiterates Jesus' command: "As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34b). Living in a manner worthy of the gospel means that Christians maintain a healthy respect for, a authentic love for, and genuine interest in, one another.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Believing in Jesus

Chuckle: "If people don't like tailgaters, why do they buy bumper stickers?"
 
Quote: “It becomes a matter of prime importance to answer with clarity the question, What does the Bible mean by having faith and believe.” –Findley Edge
 
“For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 HCSB).
 
Our passage is a quotation from the lips of Jesus Himself during His conversation with Nicodemus. It is perhaps the most beloved passage in the Bible because it lays out the dimensions of God love and His plan of salvation simply and concisely in a single verse. Notice I underlined the words, “believes in Him.” Our lesson today will focus entirely on the meaning of the word, believe. In my library, I have a book written by Dr. Findley Edge entitled, “The Doctrine of the Laity.’' The following is a direct quote from page 33 of his book:
 
    First, we have a linguistic problem; that is, a problem related to the meaning of words. In the New Testament, the Greek word for faith in its noun form is pistis and in its verb form is pisteuo. Both words come from the same root word. Unfortunately, in our English language, we do not have a verb form for the word faith (that is I faith, you faith, he faiths). Therefore, in 1611 when those who translated the King James Version of the Bible came to the verb form of the Greek word for faith, they translated it believe. This would not have created a problem except that in the intervening centuries the word believe has had a rather significant change of meaning. This seemingly simple change in meaning has had, in my judgment, a profound effect on evangelical Christianity since that time and may be one of the major causes for weakness in our approach to evangelism today.
 
    In 1611 to believe meant to hold dear, to give one’s allegiance to, to give oneself to. It was the committing of oneself to another as in a marriage relationship. Today, however, the word believe has come to mean primarily the cognitive acceptance of some proposition. It is true that we talk about being related to God personally and “giving ourselves to God,” but in too many instances the primary meaning of believe is a belief in propositions about God. Belief in God means we believe in His existance. Belief in Jesus as Savior means an intellectual belief that Jesus can and will save us. One of the major weaknesses in our churches today is the tendency to make salvation a cognitive belief in a set of propositions.
 
    This tendency has created a corollary problem for us, namely, the tendency to make salvation primarily a status. These two problems have fed each other. Because we have tended to view salvation as a status rather than a dynamic relationship, we sometimes have been guilty of devising our own plan for salvation. End of quote.
 
    It is imperative that when leading someone to Christ we define the word believe to mean having faith in Jesus, placing our trust in Him, committing our lives to Him as personal Lord and Savior. Understanding this definition of believe is essential for our sins to be forgiven and for us to inherit eternal (everlasting) life. I close with this illustration: I can believe intellectually that an airplane can deliver me safely to my destination. However, when I board the plane, settle into my seat, and the plane lifts off the runway, now I have believed. I have entrusted my very life into the hands of the pilot and the structural integrity of the airplane. Have you believed in Jesus Christ by entrusting your life and eternal soul into His hands and committing to serve Him?.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse        

Monday, November 28, 2016

Jesus: Source of Complete Joy

Chuckle: "A preacher visited a young couple he had married. He found the young wife crying. He asked her why she was crying. She replied, 'My husband's gone to shoot craps and I don't know how to cook 'em.'"
Quote: "Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with." --Mark Twain

"We are telling you about what we have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our Joy will be complete" (I John 1:3-4 NLT).
What, or who, is it that brings you the greatest and most complete joy? In this materialistic age, it may be a new car, a new boat, a new house, or other material things. Maybe your greatest joy comes from your loving family relationships: spouse, children, grandchildren, etc. There are many things and relationships that bring joy to our lives. However, my question was "What is it that brings you the greatest and most complete joy?" In my own experience as a Christian, there is no joy that can compare to the joy that comes from sharing God's plan of salvation with someone and seeing that person pray to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and then enjoy fellowship with God himself and with other believers.
John writes about having fellowship with other believers and with the Father and Jesus. He points out three principles necessary for true Christian fellowship: First, our fellowship is grounded in the testimony of God's Word. Without this underlying strength, fellowship is impossible. Second, fellowship is mutual, and dependent on the unity of all believers. Third, it is renewed daily through the Holy Spirit. True fellowship combines social and spiritual interaction, and is possible only through a relationship with Christ.
John's main purpose in this writing was to bear testimony about what he had seen and heard while in the presence of Jesus, so that others would accept Him and experience the same fellowship with Him that John enjoyed. He was sharing the love of Christ with his readers so that his joy would be made complete by their becoming believers.
Jesus desired that all His followers have joyful hearts. The Bible never suggests that Christians should be depressed or pessimistic. One of the goals Jesus had in mind as he taught his disciples was for them to experience His joy. "I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy" (John 15:11 NLT).
What was the joy that filled Jesus' soul? It was the completion of our salvation. ". . . He (Jesus) was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward" (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). Likewise, our joy is based on the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our salvation and our joy are inseparable. This contagious and unspeakable joy becomes complete when we share our faith with others.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reasons to be Thankful, Part 3

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I’ll be back with you on Monday, November 28th.
Chuckle: "Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but he or she can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake!"
Quote: "But the thing that awakens the deepest well of gratitude in a human being is that God has forgiven sin. . . When you realize all that it cost God to forgive you, you will be held as in a vice, constrained by the love of God." --Oswald Chambers
MORE REASONS TO BE THANKFUL
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord" (Psalm 90:2).
We should be thankful for the kindnesses shown us -- as we show kindness to others. Please reflect on all the kindnesses that others have shown you. Few people go through life without major setbacks: divorce; a rebellious child; abusive spouse; untimely death; or career failure, etc. When we go through such difficult times, we should be thankful for those who are there for us with kindness and understanding. Likewise, we should always throw ropes of kindness, not rocks of criticism, to those around us who are experiencing hard times. Jeff Ray, a long-time seminary professor was heard to say, "Young men, be kind to everyone, because everyone is having a hard time." Prayer of young girl: "God, please make all the bad people good, and all the good people kind."
Finally, and most important, we should be thankful for our salvation. God has provided what we need most in life -- a Savior. "If our greatest need had been information . . God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology . . . God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money . . . God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure . . . God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness . . . So God sent us a Savior."
When we think of what Christ did for us, we should fall on our knees in gratitude. All He has done was by His love and grace, not by our merit. Our righteousness is as filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6) -- like those worn by the lepers. But God claimed us, cleansed us, and clothed us in his righteousness.
Is Jesus perplexed by our lack of gratitude -- like He was with the nine lepers? We must never be so enamored with the gift that we forget the giver. As Israel approached the Promised Land, Moses warned, "When you have eaten and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (Deuteronomy 6:12 NIV).
This Thanksgiving, "Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song" (Psalm 95:2 NIV). Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reasons to be Thankful, Part 2

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Chuckle: A woman wrote on an accident report: "I had to back out of the driveway and by the time I had backed out far enough to see if anything was coming, it already had."
Quote: "Do not take God's gifts for granted. When you receive an unexpected blessing, thank God for his continuing love and be alert to recognize the next time his blessing overtakes you!" --Henry Blackaby
MORE REASONS TO BE THANKFUL
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
Give thanks for all those who help you. Just pause for a moment and think of the people in your life who are always there when you need them. They lovingly place your welfare above their own. We should thank God for them and pray every day for them: wife, husband, mother, father, friend, neighbor, brothers and sisters in Christ, etc. They all help us every day in thousands of ways -- through prayers, encouragement, gifts, kind words, calls, e-mails, etc.
The Christians in Corinth helped Paul by their prayers. ". . . as you help us by your prayers" (2 Corinthians 1:11). The kindnesses and prayers of our Christian friends and family help us in more ways than we can enumerate. The Lord has convicted me that I don't say "thank you" nearly enough to all those who help make my life more enjoyable.
Be thankful for adversity. It has been said: "Travel broadens you and trouble deepens you." As unpleasant as it seems, adversity is good for us. As we saw in previous lessons, God often uses adversity to test, strengthen, and mature us in our faith. J. C. Penny once was asked about the greatest motivators in his life. He said, "I can tell you in four words, Jesus Christ and adversity." Adversity taught him never to give up.
Adversity is to our lives what temper (heat) is to metal -- it makes us stronger and more resilient. Even our Lord had to suffer many adversities during his life here on earth. Like Job, we don't understand all the Lord's ways, but we should always trust him to see us through difficult times. There is no way around adversity and no way over it -- the only way is through it. By God's grace, it builds Christian character.
Be thankful for the time you have. We should relish the moment and never live our lives anchored in the past or in apprehension about the future -- be thankful and enjoy the here and now. Life is precious and extremely brief. "Your life is a mist (vapor) that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14b NIV). We have no guarantee of tomorrow, next week, or next year, and should be thankful for the time God has given us -- time to prepare to meet him when this life is ended. And we should be thankful for the time he has given us to serve him, to show kindnesses, to love, to worship, and to serve others.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, November 21, 2016

Reasons to be Thankful, Part 1

Chuckle: A friend relayed to me something his boss told him prior to his getting married. He said, "look for a girl with biscuit dough on her axe handle!"
Quote: "Thankfulness is a conscious response that comes from looking beyond our blessings to their source." --Henry Blackaby

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever" (Psalm 136:1 NIV).
Our passage begins a beautiful expression of praise and thanksgiving to God as the Creator and as Deliverer. God's everlasting love is the basis for everything for which we should give thanks. In the next three lessons, we will be reminded of several reasons we should be thankful this Thanksgiving season and all year long. As simple as this exercise will be, I think it important to consider what God has done, and continues to do, for us.
Give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy. Today, I am reminded that Christians are being persecuted all around the world. They are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Their Bibles and other Christian literature are being confiscated. They gather for worship under the constant threat of being rounded up as criminals.
We live in a wonderful country, even with all its flaws. God continues to bless us with freedoms that many never experience. Please take the time to thank God for his blessing of freedom. Also, remember that freedom isn't free. Many have sacrificed their lives to protect these freedoms we enjoy. Please pray for those who put their lives on the line every day to guard our freedoms.
Give thanks for material blessings. God does not choose to bless all of us with the same abundance of material things. You may have little or much of this world's goods, but God wants all of us to be equally thankful for what we have. I'm reminded of the words of an astronaut years ago when he described the planet earth, as seen from space, as "an oasis in space." If the earth is an oasis in space, the USA must be a paradise in a barren wasteland compared with much of the world. In this country, our dogs and cats eat better than most people of the world. Our garbage cans tell the tale. I've read that we throw away 10 times our body weight per year. In many countries, people throw away nothing.
John Steinbeck once wrote these words to Adlai Stephenson, "If I wanted to destroy a nation I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy, and sick." Do you think America may have reached this point?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, November 18, 2016

Commissioning by God

Chuckle: One day I was walking down the beach with some friends when one of them shouted, "Look at that dead bird!" Someone looked up at the sky and said, "Where?"
Ponder This: "Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back again tomorrow." -- Martin Luther 

"He (God) said, 'Go and tell this people" (Isaiah 6:9 NIV).
After God had forgiven Isaiah's sins, cleansed and purified him, and called him to a mission, Isaiah responded with, "Here am I. Send me!" Now he was mentally and spiritually prepared to hear what God would commission him to do. This picture reminds me of the way Jesus led and taught his disciples, preparing them for the time when he too would commission them to the greatest task ever assigned to anyone -- "Go and make disciples of all nations . . . ."  (Matthew 28:19).
God commissioned Isaiah to prophesy to a people whose hearts had become hardened beyond their ability to repent. This seems strange on the surface unless we come to understand that God had long range plans for his people and looked forward to the day when they would repent and return to him. Jesus' was confronted with the same hardness of hearts when he preached here on earth. Not only did many not believe, but some were outright hostile toward him. When God sends us into His fields of service, He knows the difficulties we will face. Nevertheless, He requires our faithfulness and has promised to be with us in every circumstance. Christians can never let opposition to the message of God's love or hardened unbelief become a justification for failing to share the message of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, many Christians go through life never accepting God's commission and never sharing Christ with anyone. Many experience guilt and shame for this, but seem powerless to change the situation. Maybe you are one of those who just doesn't have the courage to share with others the message of salvation through faith in Christ. Be assured that Satan will try to convince you that you just aren't up to the task. Here are some excuses I have heard and experienced: "I just don't know enough Scripture; I am afraid I will be rejected; I don't express myself very well; I'm afraid of making a mistake, etc." If you consider these excuses carefully, every one of them emphasizes the personal pronoun "I." In other words, they show we are dependent upon our own strength and abilities to witness for Christ. We will always fail when we depend upon ourselves rather than God for courage, strength, and wisdom. Now let's turn these excuses into positives: "God will help me share his Word; He will help me overcome the fear of rejection; He will give me the courage I need; He will give me the right words to say; He will take away my fear of making a mistake." "At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19b-20 NIV).
Oh, what a difference an attitude of dependence on God makes in the way we reflect Christ to those around us. When we depend upon our Lord, we are accepting His promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 NIV). One of the most effective ways to share the love of Christ is through your own personal testimony about what Christ has done in your life. The simple story about how your personal faith in Christ has changed your life can be used by the Holy Spirit to draw others to himself. Just relax and let our Lord guide you in your encounters with those who need Christ. Above all, let others see Jesus in you by the way you live. Our Lord will never leave you nor fail you!  
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Give Up Your Grudges

ChuckleA friend was in a hospital elevator with an orderly who was wheeling an elaborate machine with several pipes, dials and gauges. "Man, I'd hate to be connected to that machine," said the friend. "So would I," agreed the orderly. "It's a carpet shampooer!" --Charles Barron
Good Quote: "He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass." --George Herbert

“Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV).  
In these words, God is challenging you to give up your personal grudges. A grudge is a deep ongoing resentment that you cultivate in your heart against someone - unforgiving attitudes and actions. Harboring a grudge is nursing a destructive dislike for someone. Grudges destroy marriages, break up families, ruin friendships, and split churches.
I want to remind you that grudges are not just destructive, they are also self-destructive. Harboring grudges will eventually destroy you -- if not physically, certainly emotionally and spiritually. Job 21 describes people who “Have no happiness at all, they live and die with bitter hearts.”
"It is said that a rattlesnake, if cornered, will sometimes become so upset that it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is -- a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these grudges and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves."
Jesus' told a parable about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by the king and then refused to forgive someone else a tiny amount. Jesus said his unforgiving spirit landed him in prison. Max Lucado says, “Unforgiving servants always end up in prison. Prisons of anger guilt and depression." God says “don’t sentence yourself to prison.” Set yourself free. Give up your grudges and “forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another,” even though you were wronged.
You may need to give up a grudge and forgive your parents, children, spouse, workmate, a neighbor, or someone in your church congregation. Please don’t tell God, or yourself, that you can’t forgive -- what you really mean is that you won’t forgive. If Christ can forgive your sin, despite it involving the pain of the cross, then surely you can forgive and give up your grievance against another person whatever the cost.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Journey of Life

Chuckle: (church bulletin blooper): "For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs."
Quote: "If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and eluding the implacable grandeur of this life." --Albert Camus
ENJOY THE JOURNEY                                       
"I have come that they (you) may have life, and (that you may) have it to the full (more abundantly)" (John 10:10 NIV/KJV).
I'll never forget a very special week-long trip that Dotse and I enjoyed sometime back. We had a wonderful time visiting numerous family members. My brother and I spent one day revisiting the old home-sites where our grandparents and other relatives lived when we were children. We just wallowed around in the wonderful memories these old home places hold for us. My emotions ran the gamut from sadness that those times are gone forever and extreme joy brought by all the precious memories.
As Dotse and I were traveling, I began to compare our trip to the journey through life that each of us experience. I suppose most of us like to take trips to see relatives and to enjoy visiting amazing displays of God's wonderful creation. But I wonder how many of us are so preoccupied with the final destination that we fail to enjoy the journey. We both were excited that we would see loved ones, some of whom we hadn't seen in many years. We couldn't wait to get to our destination. But as we drove, the beauty of the mountains and countryside and the people we met along the way made the journey most enjoyable and fulfilling.
In our hustle and bustle world, we are prone to do everything as quickly as we can. We hurriedly drive, or fly, to our destination without giving much thought to the journey itself. In fact, we often dread the journey. But the journey can be a most wonderful experience if we will just slow down, relax, and soak up the wonderful blessings and experiences God has for us along the way.
When we begin our spiritual journey as a child of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can know for certain what our final destination will be at life's end. It's wonderful to contemplate what heaven will be like and to search the Scriptures for word pictures of our eternal dwelling place. But when Jesus gives us the abundant life, he intends for that abundance to be enjoyed here on earth during our pilgrimage toward spiritual maturity and our final destination. He wants our journey to be filled with his blessings, his peace, and his joy. He wants us to experience him to the fullest every day we live.
How about you? Are you living the joyful and exciting life that God intends as you journey through this earthly life? Or are you so focused on your final destination that you don't see what God has prepared for you every day that you live? Please take the time to consider that Jesus gives you abundant and full life and he gives it right now. It is eternal, yes, but it begins immediately. Life in Christ is to be lived on a higher plane because of his love and forgiveness. We should all enjoy our journey of life with God's Word as our guide and with the Spirit of the Living God himself by our side.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Presence (4), God's Reassuring

Chuckle: Another newspaper headline: "Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says." Really? Ya think?
Quote: “With God's help, good cheer permits us to rise above the depressing present or difficult circumstances. It is a process of positive reassurance and reinforcement. It is sunshine when clouds block the light.” --Marvin J. Ashton
GOD'S REASSURING PRESENCE
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:11-12 NIV).
The last three lessons have dealt with God's Universal Presence, Guiding Presence, and Strengthening Presence from Psalm 139. Today's verses refer back to the psalmist's inability to find a place on earth where he would be hidden from God's presence. But they go far beyond that -- they also provide him the reassurance that God is with him to provide strength, encouragement, and comfort no matter where the psalmist might go or the circumstances he might experience. Hebrews 13:5 quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 where God says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." The writer goes on: "So we can say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (vs. 6).
"Assurance" is a term with an exceptionally rich spiritual meaning. It signifies the joyous, unwavering confidence of an intelligent faith; the security and comfort coming from a complete and fearless trust in God. The words of Scripture teach that we have assurance that we have experienced complete freedom from the power of evil and from consequent judgment for our sins. This is made possible through God's grace and the atoning blood sacrifice of Jesus.
No matter how crazy the world may become around you. No matter how helpless you may feel to do anything about it, as a child of the King you can be assured of God's presence and power in every situation. You should take great comfort from this truth. You can experience the fullness of Christ daily -- a sense of security, freedom and eternal life regardless of circumstances in your life.
God wants you to know that He will never leave you and will never forsake you! Let's rejoice in these reassuring promises.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, November 14, 2016

Presence (3), God's Strengthening

Chuckle: "On his first safari, an American smugly said to the guide, "I know that carrying a torch will keep the lions away." "That's true," the guide replied. "But it depends on how fast you carry the torch."
Good Quote: “God does not take away trials or carry us over them, but strengthens us through them.” --Edward Bouverie Pusey
GOD'S STRENGTHENING PRESENCE
". . . your strength will support me" (Psalm 139:10b NLT). "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand" (Isaiah 41:10 NLT).
In the past two lessons, we have dealt with God's universal presence and His guiding presence. I cannot begin this lesson about God's strengthening presence without quoting the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Here, Paul is saying he can do everything God asks him to do because God gives him the needed strength.
Without God's strength being released in our lives, when in conflict with sin, we are like an infantry foot-soldier facing a tank. We are not equipped to win the battle. But when we trust in the power of the living God at work in us, we can say and do anything God asks of us and do so with confidence and authority. It's like equipping that infantry solder with a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile. We can turn and begin to live as God intended us to live -- with complete dependence on His strength.
Just listen to some additional Scripture verses that speak of God's strengthening presence. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being" (Ephesians 3:16 NIV). "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God the Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV). "My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word" (Psalm 119:28 NIV).
Our lives are often cluttered with rule books, but we seldom get instructions on how to follow the rules. But God is different. He not only gives us His rules and guidelines, but remains with us each day and gives us understanding and strength to help us live according to those rules. All we must do is listen to God's instructions and rely on His strength to help us follow them.
Soldiers of Christ, arise.
And put your armour on.
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Of his eternal son.
                                                                           Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Presence (2), God's Guidance

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Chuckle: I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, government, healthcare, real estate prices, the stock market, the federal deficit, Iraq, Afghanistan, global warming, my savings, Social Security, credit card debt, I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call center in Pakistan... told them I was suicidal. They got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck. . . .!!
Great Quote: "I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours of each day in prayer." --Martin Luther
GOD'S GUIDING PRESENCE
"If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me" (Psalm 139:9-10 NLT).
In our last lesson, we considered God's omnipresence -- universal presence. God's Spirit is everywhere in His creation all the time. Once we accept this amazing attribute of Almighty God, it stands to reason that His ever-present Spirit is capable of guiding us and showing us His way through the troubles and difficulties of our daily lives.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend upon your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. Don't be impressed with your own wisdom" (Proverbs 3:5-7 NLT).
Many of us Christians try to work through the challenges that beset us by relying upon our own strength and reasoning. Then when we fail miserably in solving the problem or in making the right decision, in desperation, we turn to God for His instruction and guidance. I must admit to having this problem from time to time. The first question many of us ask when facing difficult decisions is, "how am "I" going to get out of this mess?" But the first question we ask should be directed to God: "Lord, I don't know how to handle this; will you please give me your wisdom and guidance to help me deal with this situation?"
Jesus said, "But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13 NIV). Here, Jesus is saying the Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth about Himself. However, the Spirit also helps us to discern right from wrong -- if we practice patient persistence in seeking His guidance. To reap the benefits of God's guiding presence, we must seek God's will in everything we do.
An aircraft pilot was following a major highway and observing the traffic below. He saw one driver attempting to pass a large truck, but because of oncoming traffic, over and over again, he was forced to retreat. The pilot, being able to see several miles down the highway, thought to himself, "If I could only talk to the driver, I could tell him when and where to pass."
God, of course, is the ultimate Pilot and his perfect knowledge is exactly what we need to guide our lives. Prayer is how we talk to God, and when we learn to listen to his responses, we will find the guidance we seek. --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Presence (1), God's Universal

Chuckle: His wife's graveside service was just finished when there was a tremendous bolt of lightning followed by loud clap of thunder. The old man calmly said to the pastor, "Well, she has arrived!"
Quote: “Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.” --David Oman McKay
GOD IS EVERYWHERE
I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! (Psalm 139:7 NLT).
As a child, I remember being quite pleased with my ability to hide from my parents, especially when I didn't want to be caught doing something wrong. I knew that if they couldn't see me or hear me, I could pretty much do what I wanted without fear of being held accountable. Of course, I was quite often amazed at how adept my parents were at seeing through my angelic veneer and knowing by looking at me that I had been up to no good. Perhaps it was that pesky guilty look which I couldn't control.
If we have difficulty hiding from our parents or others, how much more futile it is to think we can hide from God. The universal presence of God is wonderful news for those who know Him and love Him, and we take comfort in knowing He is always with us to help us deal with life's difficulties. But for those who live in a state of disobedience to God, His presence can be seen as a threat to their independence and freedom to do anything their unregenerate minds might conceive. Whether we like it or not, God's Word is replete with references to the omnipresence of God in the person of His Holy Spirit. When you think about it, a god that is not omnipresent isn't God at all.
The Holy Spirit of God may be found everywhere. However, it's one thing to say God is everywhere at one time; and another all together to say God is everywhere all the time. His Spirit brings God's presence to every part of creation all the time. We should remember that the Spirit is not a creation of God, but rather His divine presence within which human beings always exist. The Spirit is God's presence in His world and He is aware of everything that happens in the world.
The Bible tells us that not only does the Holy Spirit exist everywhere, and He even resides within us if we belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are also told that He will convict us of our sin, woo us to Himself by His love, and remind us of all the teachings of Jesus. "When he (the Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness" (John 16:8 NIV). "the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26 NIV). I pray that you take comfort from knowing that God's presence is always with you no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Spiritual Discernment

Chuckle: What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? The saurus.
Good Quote: "The fruit of wisdom is Christlikeness, peace, humility, and love; and the root of it is faith in Christ as the manifested wisdom of God." --J. I. Packer
DISCERNING GOOD AND EVIL
"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NIV).
In this passage, Paul makes one thing abundantly clear -- the person who has the Holy Spirit resident within him can understand the world from God's perspective -- that is if he relies upon the Spirit in making his discernments. As Christians, we have access to the very mind of Christ through His indwelling Spirit and God's written Word. So, the question is not whether God has given us the ability to discern right from wrong or good from evil; but rather it is whether or not we listen to the Spirit in our discernments.
In Psalm 15, the psalmist asks the question: "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?" To state the question another way; "Who will you welcome into your presence to worship you?" In the Psalm, several characteristics are listed for the person God welcomes into His presence. Verse five says, "he who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord." This requirement is one of perspective. This person must first be able to discern what is to be despised and what is to be honored -- what is good and holy in God's sight and what is vile in His sight. Such a man has a clear vision of what is good and what is evil, because he sees the world as God sees it.
As Christians, our spiritual discernment senses can become dulled so that we no longer are offended by ungodly conduct. We can find ourselves compromising our convictions and adopting some of the same moral values that God detests. I venture to say that many of us are not offended by some television programs that would have caused us to turn the TV off in disgust twenty years ago. Not only are we not offended by them, but we may have come to enjoy them. Our moral senses are no longer as keen and discerning as God wants them to be in recognizing right and wrong.
God only invites holy people into his presence for worship that pleases Him. Perhaps each of us should reevaluate our tolerance of evil, ask God's forgiveness if we have compromised our spiritual integrity, and commit ourselves anew to holy living. Then God will invite us into His holy presence for worship. As we seek to live holy lives, God will continue to sharpen our spiritual sensitivity with new abilities to discern between that of the Spirit and that of the world.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Spiritual Obesity

Chuckle: "As we grow older, our actions creak louder than words!"
Quote: "To our friends we owe our loyalty; to our enemies, our prayers; to our families, our love; to our Master, ourselves." --William Arthur Ward

"Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next" (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT). "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations . . .(Matthew 28:19 NLT).
Physical health requires both proper nourishment and physical exercise. Physical obesity in America has become an epidemic. Even young children's health is being threatened by their unhealthy diets and lack of exercise. The "couch potato" mentality is taking its toll and television and video games have replaced physical activity for many. It has been shown that obesity makes a person more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, joint and foot problems, and many other physical ailments. Even when armed with the knowledge about the dangers of obesity, many people continue unabated in their unhealthy lifestyles.
Likewise, for our spiritual health, we require a balance of spiritual food and spiritual exercise. But many Christians have become concerned only about the nourishment and neglect the exercise. As a pastor, I have had many opportunities to observe this truth up close. I know people who attend worship services and Bible study classes regularly. They are continually being fed, spiritually, but many of these same people neglect their spiritual exercise by refusing to (1) use their spiritual gifts, (2) tell others about Jesus; (3) take a leadership position in the church, (4) minister to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others, and (5) help others to grow in their faith. We should not neglect putting what we have learned into practice.
The spiritually obese know the Bible and understands God's commands that we witness and minister. They have consumed and gorged themselves on spiritual food for so long that they have come to think that's all a Christian needs to do. By having the pastor "step on their toes," they feel they have paid their penitence to God. They continue to grow more spiritually unhealthy. We must get out of our comfortable chairs in worship services, Bible classes, and at home and get moving in service to our Lord by serving others. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22 NLT).
Our passage says spiritual exercise is even more important than physical exercise in God's grand scheme of things and brings us rewards both in this life and the life to come. As you exercise your faith, you will be amazed at the spiritual energy God will give you and how you will grow in your faith. You will find joy by serving others. Are you developing your spiritual muscles and becoming spiritually fit by exercising your faith?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why Jesus Died 3

Chuckle: "Being a husband is like any other job -- it helps if you like the boss!!!"
Quote: "When Christ commanded us to be lights of the world, He had in mind brilliant beacons, not spiritual lightning bugs." --William Arthur Ward
JESUS DIED TO BRING YOU TO GOD
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).
Picture with me a giant chasm with you on one side and God on the other. The chasm is too wide and deep for you to jump across or build a bridge of your own making. From a human standpoint, there is no way for you to reach God. This giant chasm represents your sin that separates you from God, and there is no way for you to get to God on your own. But then the miracle of miracles happened -- God sent His one and only Son to bridge that chasm and allow you and me into God's presence forever.
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 NIV ). Jesus Christ is the bridge from sinful mankind to a holy and righteous God. There is no other way. Jesus said He is "the way," not one among many ways of coming to the Father. He is "the truth" that affirms the reality of all God's promises.
As "the life," Jesus joins His divine life to ours and only through Him can we receive eternal life as a child of God. When we are saved by God's grace through faith in Christ, we not only come to God but we become related to Him as His child. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12 NIV).
So, we see in our passage that Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins and to clothe you in His righteousness, but He also died to bring you to God and into loving relationship with God Himself. Not only does God want you to become His child, He also wants an intimate daily fellowship with you. He wants you to love Him and relate to Him in every aspect of your life.
God wants to be your heavenly Father with whom you walk closely every day. He desires for you to relate to Him in prayer, Bible study, and worship (adoration and service). When we Christians reflect on the truth that Christ died to span the chasm of our sin and bring us to God, it doesn't make much sense for us to keep God at a distance in our daily lives. We should want to get up close and personal with Him. It's this intimate personal loving relationship with your Lord that brings unspeakable joy into your life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, November 4, 2016

Why Jesus Died (2)

Chuckle: "Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else." --Ogden Nash
Good Quote: “Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness.” --Bruce R. McConkie
JESUS DIED TO MAKE YOU RIGHTEOUS
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).
This passage reminds us that we have no righteousness in and of ourselves. "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10 NIV). When Paul penned these words, his meaning was that "no one is innocent" -- no one is without sin. The term, "righteousness," simply means "rightness" before God. As proclaimed by Jesus, it is a gift to those who are granted the kingdom of God. By faith in Jesus Christ and his work of atonement a person receives God's righteousness. This truth should take away any thoughts we might have that we can somehow be good enough to become acceptable to God without divine assistance.
Some other truths are: God created us in his image, we are valuable to Him, and He loves us as only He can love. Sadly, even though we are of extreme value to God, we all have fallen into sin. But glory be to God, He will forgive us if we turn to Him. By His grace He has redeemed us through the atoning sacrifice of His Son. According to God's Word, we cannot deny our sinful condition and our desperate need of a Savior. When we come to this realization, it should motivate us to turn toward Christ.
Perhaps this passage will sharpen our understanding that it is only through Christ that we can have the "rightness" before God necessary for our eternal salvation. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). When we become Christians, the righteousness of Christ becomes our righteousness. Then when God looks at us, He does not see our sin, but sees the righteousness of Christ with which we have been clothed. We have become righteous in His sight.
The following reminds us that when we become clothed in righteousness we can resist the temptations of the world. ". . . clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Romans 13:13-14 NIV). As Christians, we can do this in the power of God's Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse