Friday, December 30, 2016

Patience Before the Lord

Chuckle: Jim: "Teacher, would you be mad at somebody for something they didn't do?" Teacher: "No, of course not." Jim: "Good. I didn't do my homework."
Great Quote: "Patience is the signature of the saint, the hallmark of the humble, and the trademark of the teacher." --William Arthur Ward

"Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act" (Psalm 37:7 NLT). "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10 NKJV).
Early in my military career, I had an instructor who said something I have never forgotten. He said, "you are not learning anything while you're talking." I learned about the need to stop talking, be still, and listen to the other person quietly, patiently, and attentively. James instructs us on this subject. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger" (James 1:19 NIV).
Our Psalm passage teaches us to be still before the Lord and patiently wait for Him to act. His action just may be to say something important to us. This instruction goes against the grain for many of us because we live in a generation where instant gratification is demanded. We want everything right now if not sooner. We want God to act right now on our prayer requests. Patience is a difficult concept for many of us even though we know it is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:22).
We must recognize that God does not operate according to our time-table, and that He wants to teach us to seek tranquility in His presence. He wants us to be stress free and calm even in the most difficult times because of our relationship and fellowship with Him. There's nothing that can stop Him from doing good things for you -- in His own time. As you silently and quietly trust Him, you are showing your confidence that He will keep all His promises recorded in His Word.
As you quietly wait upon the Lord while spending time in His Word and in prayer, God will teach you the deep truths that will shape your life. If God doesn't answer your prayer as soon as you think He should, or the way you think He should, He may have already answered by saying "no" or "not now." "Don't be impatient for the Lord to act! Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you, giving you the land" (Psalm 37:34 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Chuckle: We have a group of preachers in our town who bowl. They call themselves "Holy Rollers!"
Quote: “If he has faith, the believer cannot be restrained. He betrays himself. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this gospel to people at the risk of life itself.” --Martin Luther

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NIV).
Romans was written to the Christians in Rome by the apostle Paul, an intelligent and articulate man totally committed to his calling from Christ Himself. He presents the case for the gospel message clearly and forthrightly in his letter to all believers in Rome – and to us. Even though the persecution of Christians was commonplace during the time of Paul’s ministry, he never wavered in his zeal and commitment to unashamedly spread the gospel wherever he went.
Around the world today, hostility and violence against Christians is rapidly increasing. They are being slaughtered, imprisoned, flogged, and otherwise persecuted simply for pledging their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Sadly, most free-world governments and Christians seem largely indifferent to what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Although, in this country, we do not face the extreme persecutions described above, there is a growing undercurrent of anti-Christian sentiment steadily being revealed. In light of this and the world situation, what should we do as Christians? What we should not do is to be afraid or ashamed to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are ever tempted to stop proclaiming this gospel when faced with opposition or persecution, please remember what the gospel (Good News) is all about. It is the power of eternal salvation for anyone who believes. It is the most important message Jesus has commanded us to proclaim. What an awesome responsibility our Lord has given us – to make disciples of all people. In sharing the good news, there is no place for timidity or shame in the hearts of believers.
As we faithfully proclaim the gospel message in today’s environment, we must do so with Christ-like love and compassion for all people. The most effective way to demonstrate such love is by our joyful service to others, especially those with extraordinary physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b NIV). Someone has said something like this: “Preach the gospel everywhere you go; and, when necessary, use words.” Our actions often speak louder and more effectively than our words. We can never earn salvation by doing good things; but good deeds of service show that our commitment to God is real and verify our faith in Jesus Christ.
Finally, Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory . . .” (Luke 9:26 NIV). Let’s commit ourselves to being unashamed of the message of Christ and proclaim Him courageously in the power of the Holy Spirit. Also, let’s unite in prayer for persecuted Christians around the world.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yoked with Christ

Chuckle:  A man entered a restaurant in a strange town and was feeling lonely. He told the waiter he would like some meatloaf and a kind word. The waiter returned with the meatloaf and the man asked, "where is the kind word?" The waiter leaned down and whispered, "Don't eat the meatloaf."
Quote: “ No soul can have rest until it finds created things are empty. When the soul gives up all for love, so then it can have Him that is all, then it finds true rest.” –John Keble

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).
When I became old enough to understand, my mother told me about my grandfather who owned a yoke of oxen at the time I was born. The two oxen were named Jim and Jerry. He objected to my mother naming me Jerry because he saw it as an animal’s name. By now, you know who won that argument.
At the time Jesus was here on earth, I’m sure everyone in that agrarian Jewish society was familiar with the term “yoke.” The word described a heavy piece of wood carved to fit across the oxen’s shoulders against which they pushed to move a wagon, plow, or other piece of equipment. It was held in place by a harness. However, in Jesus’ time, the word “yoke” also was understood to refer to the burdensome nature of the Old Testament Law. Here, Jesus invites his followers to come to Him and His teachings instead of bearing the heavy burden of the Law.
We must remember that Jesus’ call to come to Him for rest is not a call to a life of passiveness and idleness, but to a life of restful action. The “rest” which Jesus offers is not an escape from work or other demands of this life. “I will refresh you” is another way of translating Jesus’ promise. Jesus was offering the same rest which He received from His Father that enabled Him to live abundantly, joyfully, and triumphantly. He offers this same rest/refreshment to all those who come to Him. The lightening of our burdens comes from our having Jesus to depend upon as our “yokefellow.” Jesus was introducing His followers to a new way of living in their relationship with Him.
Jesus is offering you and me a yoke as well as rest. He expects us, as Christians, to accept His yoke even with its heavy demand and responsibility. When Jesus says His yoke is easy, He means it is kind and good. It is well-fitted and comfortable. When He says His burden is light, He means His burden, although real, is not burdensome because He is humble and gentle. It should be pointed out that a yoke is made for two; two oxen, or two persons – you and Jesus. Jesus never imposes a yoke upon his followers that He does not also bear.
Right now, God offers you, and every other believer, His promise and assurance that you can experience rest for your soul as you learn from Him and accept His comfortable yoke that is made and fitted especially for you.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What is Your Treasure?

Chuckle: The local bank president was ironing a shirt to wear to work one morning. "I'll bet," he said to his wife, "that I'm the only businessman in this town ironing his own shirt this morning." "You're probably right," she agreed. "That's because you didn't do it last night."
Quote: “Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.” --Anthony J. D'Angelo

"Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be" (Luke 12:34 NLT).
What do you think about, dream about, fret about, and talk about most frequently? The answer to this question will likely identify your most precious treasure in life. We live in perhaps the most materialistic and self-centered world in history. The "me" generation reflects the attitude that the whole world revolves around me and it's what I want that really matters. Our treasures can be laid up on earth or in heaven, and each of us must decide which is the most important in the grand scheme of life. "If you have something you can't live without, you don't own it, it owns you."
If you concentrate on what your money and possessions can do for you, they are your treasure. However, if you concentrate on what your money can do to improve the lives of others, it is not your treasure, but only a tool to be used in ministry. Where do you put your time, money, and energy? How should your attitude toward possession be changed in order to reflect kingdom values rather than earthly values? "Materialism has nothing to do with amount, it has everything to do with attitude."
If you're desire is for Christ to be in control of every aspect of your life, you will discover that concern for his kingdom will become central in your system of values. As your Lord and Creator, he wants to provide what you need as well as guide how you use what he provides. 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).
In summary, if God's love touches your wallet and causes you to generously help others in the name of Jesus, you are storing up lasting treasures in heaven. Jesus said, "This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven have no holes in them. Your treasure will be safe -- no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it" (Luke 12:33b NLT).
An old Jack Benny skit illustrates how money can become more important to us than anything else. Jack was walking along, when suddenly an armed robber approached him and ordered, "Your money or your life!" There was a long pause, and Jack did nothing. The robber impatiently queried, "Well?" Jack replied, "Don't rush me, I'm thinking about it."
Have a great day as you consider what is your treasure!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Birth of Jesus

Good Morning:     I will be back with you on Tuesday, December 27.  Merry Christmas!
Chuckle: An Army recruit was on guard duty at 2 A.M. He did his best, but fell asleep about 4 A.M. He awoke to find the officer of the day standing before him. Remembering the heavy penalty for being asleep on guard duty, this smart young man kept his head bowed for another moment. Then he looked upward and reverently said, "A-a-men!"
Good Quote: “May Jesus. our Savior; who was born on Christmas Day, bless you at this season in a very special way. May the beauty and the promise of that silent, holy night fill your heart with peace and happiness and make your new year bright.”  --Helen Steiner Rice

"And while they were there (in Bethlehem), the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn" (Luke 2:6-7 NLT).
If you were to walk in the front door of our house at Christmas time, the first thing you will see is a beautiful Hummel nativity scene that I purchased 30 years ago while stationed in Germany. It is precious to us not only because of its artistry, but because it visually captures the essence of the Christmas story for us like nothing else. Yes, we do other decorations, but the nativity brings us the most joy.
In our passage, we see a beautifully worded but simple account of the most miraculous and world-changing birth in all of human history. It doesn't matter that I have heard and read this story of the nativity hundreds of times, it never fails to touch my heart in a fresh and unique way. Although our first picture of Jesus is as a baby in a manger (animal feed trough), it should never be our last. The Christ child in a manger is a beautiful and lasting Christmas scene, but we cannot let the picture end there.
This tiny and helpless Jewish baby lived an amazing sinless life, died for your sins and mine, rose again on the third day, ascended to heaven, and will come to earth again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will rule the world and will sit in judgment of all people according to their decisions about him. Please don't let your mental picture of Jesus end with the nativity, but let Him be not only your personal Savior but the Lord of your life.
Notice how Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in strips of cloth (swaddling clothes). This wrapping of newborns was a common practice in Jesus' day and is still practiced in many Mideastern cultures. Obviously, such cloths were for warmth, but they also were used to give the infant a sense of security and safety. The cloths were also thought to protect the infant's internal organs.
Since he was laid in a manger, it's safe to assume Jesus was born in a dark and dirty animal stable -- not the atmosphere the Jews expected as the birthplace of the Messiah King. Stables were often caves with feeding troughs carved into rock walls. In my mind, it is only fitting that Jesus, as an humble servant, would enter this world in the most humble and unexpected way. Later in his life, Jesus said he "came here not to be served, but to serve others, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
A Christmas prayer: "Dear Lord, please restore the joy of Your salvation to us; let us experience the joy of Your presence in a refreshing new way this Christmas!" Amen.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mary's Song of Praise

Chuckle:  City slicker: “I finally went for a ride this morning.” Ranch hand: “Horseback?” City slicker: “Yep, he got back about an hour before I did.”
Quote: "Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable." --Frances Bacon
 
And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name" (Luke 1:46-49 NIV).
During Mary's visit with Elizabeth, Elizabeth said to her: "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said" (vs. 45). Mary's song of praise and wonderment (vv. 46-56) has served as inspiration for many pieces of choral music and hymns. I hope you will read her entire song in which she glorified God because of what he was going to do for the world through her.
Have you ever prayerfully thought about what God wants to do through you? Every believer has been gifted by God for specific ministry. In humility and gratitude, we should use the gift(s) for the good of others and to glorify God. Mary's song pictures God as the champion of the poor, the sick, the oppressed, and the despised. Do you sense God's leadership to be Jesus' co-worker in ministering to the needs of such people in your community?
Do you think Mary was being proud and arrogant when she said, "And now generation after generation will call me blessed?" (vs. 48); or, was she humbly recognizing and accepting the wonderful and supernatural gift God had given her? If Mary had denied the amazing position in which God had placed her, she would, in essence, be throwing God's incredible blessing back at Him with ingratitude. Perhaps you are experiencing a special call of God upon your life. If so, praise him for his unique blessing and serve him faithfully in the power of the Holy Spirit with great humility and thanksgiving.
Mary sang praise to God as her Savior. She fully recognized the redemptive nature of God himself. He not only would send a Savior -- Jesus, who would be born of her through the miracle of virgin birth -- but God himself was Her Savior. She praised God for his faithfulness in his promises (covenants) with Abraham and Israel. Mary spoke prophetically through her song of the blessings under the reign of her Son. The poor will be lifted up, and the hungry will be satisfied with good things. Jesus lived out and modeled this type of ministry.
Like Mary, we have every reason to rejoice this Christmas for the miraculous birth of Jesus who in turn has given us the gift of life without end. Praise!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Birth of John

Chuckle: "I got called back to a church which I didn't expect. I asked one of the deacons why. He said, 'We didn't want no preacher no how and you were the nearest no preacher we could get.' "
Quote: "The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes." --Martin Luther

"Now it was time for Elizabeth's baby to be born, and it was a boy. The word spread quickly to her neighbors and relatives that the Lord had been very kind to her, and everyone rejoiced with her" (Luke 1:57-58 NLT).
John, the Baptist, was to be God's voice to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Elizabeth was well past the child-bearing age, but God, through the angel Gabriel, had promised her and Zechariah a son. And, of course, Mary had been told by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a Son who would save the people from their sins. "When the baby was eight days old, all the relatives and friends came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, 'No! His name is John!' " (vv. 59-60).
At the time of John's and Jesus' birth, the circumcision ceremony was an important event in the life of every Jewish baby boy. During the ceremony, the people rejoiced with friends and family as the baby became part of God's covenant with his people. Passing family names down from one generation to the next was also extremely important in Jewish families. Thus everyone expected his name to be Zechariah, and were surprised by his being named John. But you may recall that the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah that the baby's name would be John (Luke 1:13).
In answer to their prayers, Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah to inform him that he and Elizabeth would have a son, even in their old age. He also told him the son's name would be John. Zechariah was skeptical that such a thing would happen. Because of his unbelief, the angel told him he would be unable to speak until after the baby was born (Luke 1:19-20). After months of silence, Zechariah praised God with his first words once his speech was restored. "So they asked the baby's father (Zechariah), communicating to him by making gestures. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone's surprise he wrote, 'His name is John!' Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God"
(vv. 61-64).
Zechariah understood the mission of his son, John because Gabriel had explained to him that "He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival" (Luke 1:17). What an absolutely amazing sequence of events unfolded as the time approached for the birth of our Lord. One cannot read the story of John's birth, and that of Jesus, without doing as Zechariah did -- praising God from the very core of our being. As we focus on the Christmas story in 2016, rejoicing should be the reaction of all of us whose lives have been transformed by faith in the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" -- the Babe of Bethlehem.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Angel Appears to Joseph

Chuckle: The lesson was on New wine in old Wineskins. The teacher asked -- "Boys, what does that mean?" One little boy replied -- "It means if you put new religion in an old man, it will bust him!"
Good Quote: "The most significant change in a person's life is a change of attitude. Right attitudes produce right actions." --William J. Johnson

Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. "Joseph, son of David," the angel said, "do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18-20 NLT).
It's likely that Joseph felt he had only two options: break his engagement to Mary quietly, or have her stoned according to Jewish law and tradition. But God gave him a third option --marry her. Sometimes we think there are no good options in dealing with situations in our lives, but if we are attentive to God, he will guide us to the option of his choosing which will always be the best option. In Joseph's mind, he would be doing the right thing to call off his marriage to Mary. But God's guidance helped him make the right decision. "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus" (vv.24-25).
Because of the supernatural events that were about to unfold, God sent angels to help certain people understand the true significance of what was about to happen. Throughout Scripture, angels are spoken of as creations of God and are used of God to protect God's people (Daniel 6:22); to offer encouragement in difficult times (Genesis 16:7 and following); give guidance and direction to God's people (Exodus 14:16); carry out God's punishment (2 Samuel 24:16); patrol the earth (Zechariah 1:9-14); and fight the forces of evil (2 Kings 6:16-18). The Bible is clear that there are God's angels and Satan's angels (Revelation 12-7).
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is at the very foundation of our Christian faith. This is because Jesus had to be free from the sinful nature that had been passed to all human beings by Adam. Jesus experienced a human birth, but because of his deity, he was free from the human sin nature. We are told in Hebrews 4:15 that He "has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin."
When the angel told Joseph that Mary's son was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he was declaring that Jesus was both God and man. It is mind-boggling to consider that Almighty God chose to place human limitations upon himself in order to live among human beings and die for the salvation of all who would believe in him.  Praise!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 19, 2016

Justice God's Way

Chuckle: “My cat is smart. He eats cheese, then waits at the mouse hole with baited breath!
Ponder This: "Justice is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.” --Daniel Webster

"But how terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things" (Luke 11:42 NLT).
When you hear the term, "justice," what image crosses your mind? If you are like many of us, you may think of justice as someone getting what he/she has coming -- what is deserved. When we talk about bringing someone to justice, we often mean that if someone is guilty, justice is giving the so-and-so the maximum punishment allowable by law. But justice also means treating people fairly and giving them unbiased consideration and kindness. Justice with love and kindness is the picture of God's justice as he deals with us. The problem Jesus found with the Pharisees was that they were focusing on the outward appearances of being religious but ignoring the inner condition of their hearts which governed their treatment of people. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.
If God treated us with justice only, He would be justified in punishing us forever because of our sins and rebellion against Him. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:23; 6:23 NIV). God's view of justice is different from ours. His is always tempered with love, compassion, mercy, and grace. Instead of dispensing justice based on our sins, and fairly giving us what we deserve, He has provided a way for us to receive the blessed benefits of His mercy and grace. The most obvious demonstration of God's view of justice is the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins and to make us beneficiaries of His love and forgiveness. "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
The story has been told of a man who was caught and taken to court because he had stolen a loaf of bread. When the judge investigated, he found out that the man had no job, and his family was hungry. He had tried unsuccessfully to get work and finally, to feed his family, he had stolen a loaf of bread. Although recognizing the extenuating circumstances, the judge said, "I'm sorry, but the law can make no exceptions. You stole, and therefore I have to punish you. I order you to pay a fine of ten dollars." He then continued, "But I want to pay the fine myself." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a ten-dollar bill, and handed it to the man.
As soon as the man took the money, the judge said, "Now I also want to remit the fine." That is, the man could keep the money. "Furthermore, I am going to instruct the bailiff to pass a hat to everyone in this courtroom, and I am fining everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a city where a man has to steal in order to have bread to eat." The money was collected and given to the defendant.
This is an excellent example of justice being meted out in full and paid in full -- while mercy and grace were also enacted in full measure. –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, December 16, 2016

Life's Two Roads

Chuckle: A child's comment on the Bible: "One of the oppossums was St. Matthew who was also a taximan."
Quote: "There is a time when we must firmly choose the course we will follow, or the relentless drift of events will make the decision." --Herbert V. Prochnow

"Oh, the joys (happiness) of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law (Word). They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail" (Psalm 1:1-3 NLT).
What is the source of your greatest joy? In our passage the writer begins by extolling the joys of obeying God and refusing to listen to those who discredit or ridicule him. He said, "Blessed (happy) is the person who does not conduct his life by the advice of the "wicked" ones of the world." Twice more he stressed the impact of this truth -- the happy person doesn't hang out with unbelievers, and does not identify with those who scoff at God's truths by staying in their company.
We should never underestimate the potential influence of others on our attitudes toward God and godly living. Their influence is profound, but sometimes so subtle that we are unaware that they are influencing the way we think and act. We live in a day when Christianity is being ridiculed and degraded by many who are hostile to the teachings of our Lord. How do you react when someone says something derogatory about God, Jesus, or Christianity? If we insist on close friendships with those who mock what God considers important, we may be drawn into the sin of becoming indifferent toward God and his will. Do the people with whom you associate strengthen your faith, or do they tear it down? True friends should help you draw nearer to God, not hinder you.
Let's be clear on a central truth. Jesus said we are to be in the world but not of the world. This means we do not avoid unbelievers, but rather seek them out, establish relationships with them, and lead them to salvation through faith in Christ. However, we are not to become as they are and we are not to adopt their values and actions as our own. We are to hate sin but love the sinner as Jesus does. We find this admonition and warning in Jude 22 (NLT): "Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins." The psalmist gives us some valuable "do's" and "don'ts" that will bring joy (happiness) to our lives while keeping us pure in God's sight:
1. Listen to God's Word and godly people, not unbelievers; 2. Delight in doing what God wants for your life; 3. Draw your strength from the Living Water (Jesus and his Spirit); 4. Bear much fruit (service to God and others) for his glory; 5. Seek advice (counsel) from Christians rather than unbelievers; 6. Do not regularly associate with unbelievers as close friends; 7. Do not join them in scoffing or discrediting God and his Word;
There are only two roads before us in life: God's road of faith and obedience or the road of rebellion against God. My prayer is that you will always choose God's road, because your choice will determine not only how you will spend eternity but whether or not you find true happiness in this life. For the Christian, the more we delight in trusting and obeying God, the more fruitful we become -- and the more fruitful we become, the happier we'll be.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Repentance and Fruit

Chuckle: A police officer was escorting a prisoner to jail when the officer's hat blew off down the sidewalk. "Would you like me to get it for you?" asked the prisoner. "You must think I'm an idiot!" said the officer. "You just wait here and I'll get it."
Quote: "It can take less than a minute to commit a sin. It takes not as long to obtain God's forgiveness. Penitence and amendment should take a lifetime." --Hubert van Zeller

"Prove by (your fruit) the way you live that you have really (repented) turned from your sins and turned to God. . . But someone is coming soon . . . who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3:8, 11 NLT).
First, we must repent of our sins and ask God's forgiveness when we pray to receive Christ as Savior. But then we need to live in a continuous state of confession and repentance if we are to please God. We can never live close to Him without repentance. We can't continue to have unconfessed sin in our lives and still walk in fellowship with Him.
I think many have a misconception about repentance. It is not just being sorry for our actions, although that is a major component of repentance. But genuine repentance from sin will produce a change in our lives that will result in our producing desirable fruit of righteousness for God's kingdom. It results in a change of heart -- a change in behavior -- change of direction -- a 180 degree turn around in the way we live.
However, we can never achieve the lasting change in our behavior that God requires by our own strength, desire, and diligence. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit whom Christ has given us. John promised that Jesus would (give us) baptize us with the Holy Spirit. This looked ahead to Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Holy Spirit would be sent by Jesus to indwell and empower His followers. Only the Holy Spirit can change us from the inside out. If we truly repent, we will be cooperating with the Spirit to bring about the kind of change God requires of us.
In our passage, John the Baptist was saying to the people that they could prove they had really turned away from sin only by the way they lived. God looks beyond our words and focuses on our actions that accompany them. We prove we have had a change of heart by the way we live.
John baptized people as an outward sign that they had repented and desired to live in a way that would please God. Baptism was an outward sign of commitment; but for that commitment to produce fruit the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit was required. If we know Christ as Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and He stands ready to empower us for righteous living if only we yield our wills to His. If we are living in the Spirit, He will convict us of sin, forgive us, and give us the strength to overcome it.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Stewardship: Mine or God's

Chuckle: A sign at an Electric Company: "We would be delighted if you send in your payment. However, if you don't, you will be."
Quote: “As stewards of God we must be truly appreciative of the things we receive. One has said that, 'Ingratitude is a crime more despicable than revenge which is only returning evil for evil, while ingratitude returns evil for good.'" --Heber Q. Hale

"For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10 NLT).
I remember a time when Dotse and I were driving through the countryside. We talked about the beautiful green pastures and were impressed by one in particular that was filled with sleek black angus cattle grazing contentedly. I would venture to guess that the rancher feels in his heart that all the land and the cattle belong to him. After all, he probably worked hard for all his material things and sees them as his own. As we took in the beautiful pasture scene, our Scripture verse for today came to mind. The psalmist puts every thing in perspective concerning our role as stewards of all that belongs to God who has entrusted it to us.
When God created the heavens and the earth and everything on the earth, He placed all things on the earth (nature) under the stewardship of humankind. If we can grasp the concept that we are only stewards of all that belongs to God, it will totally change our attitude about money and material possessions. As a matter of fact, it will cause us to be even more conscientious about the way we manage all we have been given. We will want to handle what we have in a way that will please the rightful owner and bring honor and glory to Him.
In a parable, Jesus tells of three servants who were given responsibility for money entrusted to them while the Master was away on a trip. When the Master returned, he rewarded two faithful servants and severely chastised one by calling him wicked and lazy. But the faithful stewards/servants heard these words, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things" (Matthew 25:19, 23, 26 NIV). Whether God has entrusted you with much or little, the same faithfulness is expected by our Heavenly Father.
Jesus taught us to be accountable and faithful to God. Life and all its possessions are a trust from God, and He holds us responsible for managing them so that His investment in us will bear the maximum return for His kingdom. However, our stewardship responsibilities go beyond money and worldly possessions. They also include the stewardship of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church belongs to Christ, but as believer, we are charged with sharing the good news and making disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19-20).
As you reflect on what God has given you, including your salvation, I pray that God will give you the will and wisdom to practice good stewardship of all God has entrusted to you. This will increase your happiness while honoring Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Showers of Blessings

If you are searching for Christmas gift ideas, perhaps the following information will help.
A complete set of three daily devotional books (God’s Daily Word) by Jerry Stratton is now available. Book 1 includes January through April; Book 2, May through August; Book 3, September through December.  They can be ordered singly for $14.99 or as a set of 3 for $29.99.  Here is the link where the books can be viewed and ordered: http://www.armoniapublishing.com.  Then click on Books/Devotionals. The books can also be ordered from Amazon.com
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Chuckle: "How do you prepare your chicken," a patron asked. "Nothing special, Sir," replied the waiter. "We just tell them straight out that they're going to die."
Quote For Today: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” --Robert Louis Stevenson

"He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy" (Acts 14:17 ESV).
In my youth, I remember seeing farmers congregate on an old wooden bench in front of a feed store, look up at the sky, and discuss the prospects of rain and the success or failure of their crops. It was serious business because their livelihood was at stake. They were concerned about providing for their families.
If you grew up on a farm, you likely have indelibly imprinted in your mind the dire consequences of inadequate rainfall. You can prepare the fields perfectly and plant the finest seeds, but without adequate moisture nothing can grow or produce a harvest. In Biblical times, the society was mostly agrarian and conversations often centered around feast or famine, depending upon the amount of rainfall received. Historically, Israel's success or failure as a nation was dependent on God's providing the needed precipitation.
To use an analogy, you may be thinking that you are in a drought when it comes to God's showers of blessings. There may be problems in your life that you feel will never end and you feel helpless to do anything about them. You may be wondering why God does not shower more of His blessings on you and make your life better.
It was true with the ancient Israelites and it is true for God's people today; our faith in God to meet our needs is essential for our emotional and physical well-being. Regardless of the hardships in your life, you must remember that God is in control, genuinely cares about you, and will meet your needs regardless of how dismal things may look to you right now. In the same way that God blessed His people with abundant rainfall and fruitful seasons in Biblical times, He wants us to trust Him to shower His blessings on us at the right time to uplift our spirits and give us hope.
The old hymn goes: "There shall be showers of blessings:" This is the promise of love; There shall be seasons refreshing, Sent from the Savior above. Showers of blessing, Showers of blessing we need: Mercy drops round us are falling, But for showers of blessings we plead. As rain showers produces abundant crops in the fields, when God sends His showers of blessings upon us, He expects us to remain in Christ (John 15:5) and produce abundant fruit for His kingdom.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Eternal Shepherd

Chuckle: "Every time I think about exercise, I lie down until the thought goes away!"
Good Quote: “Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity.” --John Milton

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6 NLT).
In the final scene of this beautiful psalm, we see that believers will dwell with God forever. As our perfect Shepherd and Host, God promises to guide and protect us throughout our lives here on earth and to bring us into His house for eternity. Here, the word translated "forever" literally means "length of days," and meant that God would extend the life of the psalmist and make it joyful for the duration of his time on earth. However, David may have also had a vision of life after death in God's presence. In any case, when we hear the word "forever," we are reminded of the words of Jesus concerning eternal life with Him.
"For God so loved the world (you and me) that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NLT). It is impossible for us to fully understand the dimensions of God's unfailing love mentioned in our passage, even though He demonstrated it for all time when Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for our sins. "Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary." The beautiful words of this old hymn say it all.
Speaking of our eternal home, here is what Jesus said as He comforted His disciples the night before He was crucified. "Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you (all believers), so that you will always be with me where I am" (John 14:1-3 NLT).
Did you notice that the house of the Lord, "my Father's house" has a space being prepared for you and me personally? This incredible truth is all made possible because of the indescribable love and amazing grace of God. We should all break out with spontaneous praise and thanksgiving at the very thought!! Some day, Christ will return and escort each of us into our eternal home where we will remain in the presence of God Himself forever. We will "live in the house of the Lord forever." What a day, what a day that will be!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Our Welcoming Shepherd

Note: Computer problems prevented my sending this on Friday, December 9th.
Chuckle: "Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever!"
Good Quote: "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." --C. S. Lewis

"You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings" (Psalm 23:5 NLT).
In the ancient Near Eastern culture, special guests were often honored with a banquet out of respect and courtesy. It was the custom to use a fragrant oil as a lotion applied to the head of the guest. In those days, the host was responsible for keeping his guests safe from all enemies during their stay.
In our passage, we move from the sheep pasture to the royal palace where the image of our Lord changes from the Good Shepherd to the Gracious Host. Dr. Paul Powell, says the image may refer to an ancient Bedouin custom that requires a sheikh to invite any wanderer who passes his tent to be his guest for up to three days. After three days the sheikh travels with the guest to the border of his territory and is no longer responsible for him.
In any case, the psalmist paints a beautiful word picture of God's provision of physical needs and the unfailing protection for those who belong to Him. As an eternal guest of our Lord, we have absolutely nothing to fear from the satanic enemies in this life or the life to come. He offers us supernatural protection and comfort even when enemies surround us.
"The story is told of a believer, Frederick Nolan, who was fleeing from his enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley with no place to hide, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting his enemies to find him soon. Awaiting death, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little spider had woven a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken and undisturbed piece of art, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave with out dismantling the web. And so they went on. Having escaped, Nolan burst out and exclaimed: 'Where God is, a spider's web is like a wall. Where God is not, a wall is like a spider's web.'"
God is the loving Shepherd and caring Host. At the beginning of this psalm, the sheep looked to the Shepherd for leadership, guidance, and protection. In the end they are welcome guests resting securely in the safety of the Lord's sanctuary. They are enjoying the Shepherds eternal protection and provision even in the face of life's dangers and enemies. I pray you are facing life with the same confidence as that expressed in this psalm.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Our Comforting Shepherd

Chuckle: "I hope you didn't take it personally, Reverend, when my husband walked out during your sermon. It's no reflection on you, Sir," insisted the wife. "Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child."
Good Quote: "Your life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it only once." --Lillian Dickson

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, a I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4 (NIV).
Many years back, country music singer, Lynn Anderson, recorded a hit song, "Rose Garden," with lyrics that included this line, "I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden." Certainly we know God has not promised us that life would be a bed of roses or a rose garden. Quite the contrary; even as we follow the Good Shepherd, He promises us that we should expect "dark valleys," trials, and troubles in this life. However, the psalmist affirms God's loving and protective presence even during the most painful events in life.
I suppose one of the reasons death casts such a fearful shadow over us is that in our own strength there is nothing we can do to avoid it. We feel completely helpless in its presence. Unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, we will all experience death. "And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people" (Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT).
Yes, each of us will ultimately face death, but we have the assurance that only our "Good Shepherd" will walk with us through death's dark valley and bring us safely into His presence on the other side. In the uncertainties of life, let's follow our Shepherd whose comfort is not only for the present but for eternity. His protection, symbolized by the Shepherd's club and staff, is all the reassurance we need.
Obviously, there are many dark valleys in life other than facing death. God's people experience all sorts of trials and troubles -- suffering, disappointment, persecution, etc. Listen to the words of Jesus: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). During our most troubling times, God is revealed not as the one who makes all our bad times into good times, but as the one who will never leave us as He sees us through those bad times.
Even though you explain to a child the medical reasons for a shot in the arm, he will still run to his Mommy for comfort when he sees the nurse ready to plunge that needle into his arm. Comfort comes not by knowing the reason why, but by knowing the comforter.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Our Providing Shepherd

Chuckle: "What servant of God was the most flagrant lawbreaker in the Bible? Moses -- he broke all ten commandments at once."
Quote: "God gives us the ingredients for our daily bread, but He expects us to do the baking." --William Ward

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows, he leads me beside peaceful streams, he renews my strength" (Psalm 23:2-3a NLT).
I remember well when Dotse and I were newlyweds. Neither of us had any money to speak of, and our parents weren't able to help us much. As we began our lives together as students in college, we were amazed every day by the way God met all our needs, both physical and spiritual. We're living testimonials of God's love, mercy, goodness, guidance, and provision.
The Bible tells us that God will provide for our needs if we have placed our faith in Him through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Note: Let's not confuse "wants" with "needs." What a comforting thought to realize that you are important to Almighty God, that He cares what happens to you, and that He promises to provide for your needs if you trust Him to do so.
In Matthew 6:31-33 NIV, Jesus said, "So do not worry, saying, 'what shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' . . . But seek first His (God's) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you." Notice that our priorities should be the things of God if He is to provide our needs. Jesus even taught us to pray like this, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).
God delights in supplying what we need each and every day. He gives us what we need to meet the demands of the day and to do His will. We can pray each morning with complete confidence that God will fulfill His promise. This should cause us to live with confidence in a state of dependence on God and to give thanks continuously for His goodness.
our Psalm passage emphasizes both the physical and spiritual provisions that God, the "Good Shepherd," makes for us. Our Shepherd fully understands the "green meadows" and "peaceful streams" that will restore us, give us renewed strength, and give us peace. We will only reach the refreshing and restoring places by following Him obediently. When we rebel against the "Shepherd's" leading, we are really rebelling against our own best interests. This is a good lesson to remember the next time we are tempted to go our own way rather than following our Shepherd.
Love, Jerry & Dotse