Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Integrity on the Job

Chuckle: “Few things are more dangerous to a person’s integrity than having nothing to do and plenty of time to do it.”
Quote: “He who labors as he prays lifts up his heart to God with his hands.” –St Bernard of Clairvaux

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).
In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric hordes to the north. So they built the Great Wall of China. It was too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. Security achieved! The only problem was that during the first hundred years of the wall's existence, China was invaded three times. Was the wall a failure? Not really -- for not once did the barbaric hordes climb over the wall, break it down, or go around it. How then did they get into China? The answer lies in human nature. They simply bribed the gatekeepers and then marched right in through a gate. The fatal flaw in the Chinese defense was placing too much reliance on a wall and not putting enough effort into building character (integrity) into the gatekeepers. –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Perhaps we need to be reminded that it is God’s plan for us to work. In Scripture some words describing God’s work and the work of man are interchangeable, and we know that work is God-ordained. But the entrance of sin into the lives of people changed work from joy to toil. If we view work as toil, it can be difficult, tiring, boring, and worrisome. That would explain why Paul instructs us to work as an act of worship to bring glory to the Lord. If we see work as an act of worship, we will find great joy in our labor.
I’ve heard it said that your ideal is what you wish you were; reputation is what people say you are; character is what you really are. Our character and integrity are tested and revealed regularly in the workplace. Sometimes our work brings anxiety, stress, and frustration, and it’s during these experiences that our integrity and Character are put to the test and our true nature is on display for all to see.
Every Christian should strive to be the best possible employee no matter what work he or she does. If we work as if we are working for the Lord, there will be no room for grumbling, laziness or dishonesty. Our display of integrity on the job is a great witness for our Lord. Co-workers will quickly notice your integrity and become more receptive to hearing from you the good news of Jesus Christ.
“Every child should be taught that useful work is worship and that intelligent labor is the highest form of prayer.” –Robert G. Ingersoll
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 27, 2017

Integrity in Christian Service

Chuckle: In the South, 'y'all' is singular....'all y'all" is plural. . . .!
Quote: "The integrity of men (and women) is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions." --Junius

"Let integrity and uprightness protect me: because my hope is in you" (Psalm 25:21 NIV). "I know my God that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity" (I Chronicles 29:17 NIV).
The commitment of Christians is one of Satan's favorite targets. He doesn't care if we make commitments to God as long as he can keep us from following through on those commitments. If you commit to a leadership position in your church, it is imperative that you fulfill the designated responsibilities of that position. You see, when you agree to take a position of responsibility, you are making that commitment to God as well as to the other believers. Integrity before God will motivate you to give it your all -- for His glory.
If you are a teacher, "In everything set them (learners) an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech. . . ." (Titus 2:7 NIV). Paul urged Titus to be a good example to those around him so that they might see his good character and imitate him. If you desire someone to act a certain way, it's important that you live that way yourself. Honoring God with a life of integrity will encourage your fellow believers and strengthen the Body of Christ, the church.
The effectiveness of our witness is a matter of Christian integrity. How are we viewed within our families? Do we practice integrity which can be learned by our children? Do non-Christians of our communities see us as people of integrity? Does our level of integrity lend credibility to our Christian witness? Knowing that God is pleased with us removes guilt and replaces it with peace and tranquility, and there is no greater joy than knowing our lives are pleasing to our Lord. Jesus has promised us His peace far beyond what the world can provide (John 14:27).
Within a congregation, love and integrity go hand-in-hand. When we genuinely care for each other, we will never do anything to hurt or disappoint one another. But, even more important than our fellowship with one another is our fellowship with the Father. A lack of personal integrity can ruin that fellowship as well. When we violate any part of God's standard for our character, it is sin and will disrupt our fellowship with Him -- until we repent, confess our sins, and are forgiven. Sins of the heart are in plain view to God, not just the outward ones manifested in our speech or actions. "Anyone, then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17 NIV).
It is God's desire that while Christians must be in the world, they must be different from the world. Always being a person of integrity is a lofty goal for each of us, but one God would have us strive to attain, as He gives us strength.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 24, 2017

Integrity and Fellowship

Chuckle: Passenger: “Are you sure this train stops at San Francisco?” Conductor: “If it doesn’t, you will hear an awful splash!”
Quote: “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.” --Thomas J. Peters

"People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow the crooked paths will slip and fall" (Proverbs 10:9 NLT). "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another" (I John 3:11 NIV).
Our fellowship with one another as Christians is based largely on integrity in our relationships. It is based on mutual trust and confidence. It is based on kindness, fairness, understanding, and absolute honesty in all circumstances.
Fellowship is more than enjoying a meal, a cup of coffee, or exchanging pleasantries. It's even more than expressing our love for each other. Fellowship involves genuine concern for each other -- a willingness to bear each others' burdens/problems -- placing the needs of others above your own -- a heart-to-heart connection born out of mutual love and respect.
Our words. Integrity is much more than not telling a lie. Malicious or thoughtless application of truth can be equally devastating to a personal relationship and fellowship. You see, integrity is based on the intent of the heart. We should hurt when others hurt instead of taking some sort of twisted pleasure in revealing the flaws of others, even when they are true. "I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there" (I Chronicles 29:17 NLT).
Our actions. Another compromise of one's integrity, which destroys fellowship, is saying one thing but doing another. Jesus said, "Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes,' and your 'no' be 'no'" (Matthew 5:37 NIV). He is saying, "let your words be trusted." "Don't say one thing and do something else." "When you make a promise, follow through on that promise." For a Christian, a promise should become a sacred obligation.
Our Responsibility: Fellowship is strengthened between those who accept responsibility for their actions, and do not blame others for their shortcomings. Today, we call this "passing the buck." It seems we must find some one or some thing that is responsible for our shortcomings rather than ourselves. Children blame their parents; parents blame school teachers; churches blame their pastors, etc. God holds each of us responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions. Why do we have so much difficulty holding ourselves responsible. . . .?
“Try as hard as you like, but in the end only the language of the heart can ever reach another heart while mere words, as they slip from your tongue, don’t get past your listener’s ear.” –St Frances de Sales 
Have a great day as you practice integrity with fellow believers!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Living With Integrity

Chuckle: "These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after."
Quote: “The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.” --Zig Ziglar

"Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue" (Psalm 120:2 NIV). "If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect (mature) man, able to keep his whole body in check" (James 3:2b NIV). “The integrity of the upright guides them . . .” (Proverbs 11:3 NIV).
A pastor preached a sermon on honesty one Sunday. On Monday morning he took the bus to get to his office. He paid the fare, and the driver gave him back too much change. As he got off the bus he said to the driver, "You have made a mistake. You have given me too much change." And he proceeded to give him back the extra money. The driver smiled and said, "There was no mistake. I was at your church yesterday and heard you preach on honesty, So I decided to put you to a test this morning. –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
A few years ago, President Bush, speaking on Wall Street, took business leaders to the woodshed because of their lack of integrity. In our day, we see many examples of a lack of integrity, often among those in positions of trust. Confidence in the economy is based on trust of business leaders. We have seen in the past what a lack of trust can do to major corporations and the stock market.
A lack of integrity has become a way of life for some in our society, and Christians are not immune to Satan's power in this area. A lack of integrity is like a cancer eating away at the character of a Christian. And it can occur as subtly as a slow-growing cancer in our bodies. We can become oblivious to it as it grows and destroys our fellowship with other believers, our commitment to serving God, and our witness for Christ. It can completely destroy our credibility as Christians.
Webster defines integrity this way: "The quality of being honest and trustworthy; honesty; or uprightness." Words translated "integrity" in the Bible have these meanings: simplicity, sincerity of heart and intentions, truthfulness, uprightness, blameless. Simply put, integrity is more than just telling the truth -- integrity is doing what is right, and doing what you said you would do. Integrity means keeping your promises. It means that your words and your actions are the same.
Let’s remember that integrity is an absolute -- either you are a person of integrity in all things or you are a person without integrity. In this day of "relativism," this truth is alien to many who believe that what is right depends upon the situation at the time. But absolute integrity is at the center of Christian ethics and character.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

God's Way is Always Best

Chuckle: "Parents are people who bear children, bore teenagers, and board newlyweds."
Quote: "I find the doing of the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans." --George MacDonald

"Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we send you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us" (Jeremiah 42:6 NLT).
We would be much better off if only we could always trust God to know what is best for us and obey His commands and instructions. But we often have a hard time with this concept. Somehow, we think we know what is best for us and just can't accept the fact that we really don't. We know, intellectually, that God always has our best interests at heart, but knowing and accepting are two different things. When pride raises its ugly head, self and selfish desires take center stage in our lives.
Jesus set the ultimate example for us when, prior to His crucifixion, He prayed, "Father, . . . not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42 NIV). Although the prospect of death on the cross was horrible, He recognized the need for His Father's wisdom and will to prevail. As the apostle Paul wrote so eloquently, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV). We must be careful not to pray and ask God for His guidance when, in fact, we have no intention of obeying unless His instructions agree with what we have already decided.
We are wise when we recognize that God's way is best even when it doesn't make sense to us. sometimes God's instructions surprise us because they are so different from what we expect. We need to remember God's words when He said, "My thoughts are completely different from yours, . . . And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine" (Isaiah 55:8 NLT). We are foolish and waste our time when we try to shape God's will into our selfish mold. Instead of trying to conform our desires to God. We should shape ourselves to fit His plans for us.
Nate Saint, one of five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians, once said that his life did not change until he came to grips with the idea that "obedience is not a momentary option . . . it is a diecast decision made beforehand."
Many believers can attest to the truth that when we commit ourselves to faithful obedience to God, the outcome is much more satisfying than we could have imagined. Many others can attest to the folly of disobedience -- choosing our way instead of God's way. God knows what is best for us and His Word is a love letter to you and me expressing His desire to always give us what is best. We can be certain that God always has the perfect reason for His commands.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Am Willing

Chuckle:  "If all the people who fall asleep in church were laid end-to-end they'd be much more comfortable."
Quote: "Every act of kindness and compassion done by any man for his fellow Christian is done by Christ working within him." --Julian of Norwich

A man with leprosy came to him (Jesus) and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said." "be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured (Mark 1:40-42 NIV).
A cursory reading of this passage can lead us to make a serious mistake by viewing it as nothing more than one among many of Jesus' miracles of healing. As amazing as the healing of this man is, the symbolism of something much more profound and miraculous becomes clear as we prayerfully consider this exchange between Jesus and the leprous man.
"If you are willing, you can make me clean." In faith, the diseased man who said these words knew Jesus could heal him and make him clean. He saw himself as unclean and helpless to cure himself. In desperation, he approached Jesus with boldness and great faith and begged to be healed. He came to realize that Jesus was his only hope for cleansing and restoration into society that viewed him as an unclean outcast.
In order for us to be healed and cleansed spiritually we must see ourselves as spiritually sick and unable to cure ourselves. Max Lucado says we must see ourselves as "beggars in God's soup kitchen." It is only as we see ourselves in this light that we will humble ourselves before God and beg to have our sins forgiven and receive His eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
"Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man." In the society of Jesus' day, no one would dare to risk being infected with his disease, or being declared ritually unclean, by touching the leprous man. Like the leper, each of us is unclean before God and unacceptable to be in His presence. But Jesus' love and compassion makes Him willing to reach out His hand to the leper and to each of us. That willingness is demonstrated by His atoning sacrifice on the cross to heal us spiritually and cleanse us from sin. In love, He reaches out His healing hand to touch us and make us clean.
"Jesus said, "I am willing. Be clean!" This assertion by Jesus that He was willing and able to cure the man of leprosy reminds me of His unconditional love and compassion for all people as revealed in these words: "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV). By healing the man, physically, Jesus made him clean and acceptable in the eyes of society. By healing us spiritually by His atoning death and resurrection, Jesus makes us clean and acceptable in the eyes of God. Praise!!
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 20, 2017

According to God's Purpose

Chuckle: “A police officer saw a lady driving and knitting at the same time. After driving next to her for a while, he yelled, “Pull over!” “No!” she called back. “It’s a pair of socks!”
Quote: “There are those who suffer greatly, and yet, through the recognition that pain can be a thread in the pattern of God’s weaving, find the way to fundamental joy.” –Unknown Source

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).
In cooperation with Liberty University, Kirk Cameron produced, and starred in, a powerful Bible based movie/visual journal entitled, “Unstoppable.” If you haven’t seen this, I recommend you do so. He seeks to answer the age-old questions, “why does a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?” “Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?” The ultimate thesis of this movie is that God has a purpose in everything that happens, and it is God’s purpose that is unstoppable.
Our text is perhaps the most quoted passage when trying to explain why God allows bad things to happen to us or those we love. These words reveal that God is involved in everything, not just in isolated incidents in our lives. Of course, we err if we interpret this as meaning that everything that happens to us will be good. No, Jesus Himself promised His followers that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Here, Here, Jesus does not promise to eliminate problems and hardships but, rather to be with us to help us deal with them and to convince us that He is in control and has a purpose in everything that happens.
Even in our fallen world that is full of evil, God is able to turn each distressing circumstance into something that will contribute to our long term good. When we come to accept this truth in all circumstances, we will recognize that it is not God’s primary purpose to make us happy but to fulfill His purpose in our lives. He truly becomes our God when we become more interested in His purpose, than our own wellbeing. When we reach this level of discipleship, we will claim God’s promise “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).
Please notice that the promise in our Romans text does not apply to everyone. You and I can claim this promise only if we love God and have been called by Him for His purpose – if we have become convinced by the Holy Spirit to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. A major mark of discipleship is that we trust God in all circumstances to work in all things for our ultimate good. Our faith is strong and never wavers even when enduring pain, heartache, or persecution. We will take comfort from knowing God is with us.
In Summary, our sovereign God can work through all things to bring ultimate good to His people. He does not cause all things to happen, but as a righteous and faithful God, He does allow them to happen. He works through many tragic circumstances to bring blessings to His people. We may experience tragedy and suffering, but we should never lose faith or fall into despair.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pray Like This

Chuckle: You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
"Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the Holy." --Abraham Joshua Heschel

Jesus said, "Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:9-13 NLT).
As Christians, we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and are now children of God -- members of His household (Eph. 2:19 NIV). Our relationship with God allows us to talk with Him as a child talks to his earthly father. It should be a two-way conversation -- we speak to God and God speaks to us. God wants to hear us pray to Him with confidence.
This prayer from the lips of Jesus is often called the Lord's Prayer. But I think it more accurate to call it the Model Prayer. Jesus was not praying to His Father, but providing an example for His followers as a pattern for their prayers. Let's look carefully at the content of this prayer in context and order of importance.
1. Pray to God only -- "Our Father." A good way to evaluate our prayer to see if we are really praying for God's ears is to compare what we say to God in private/secret to what we say when others are listening. In verses 5-6, Jesus says, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on street corners to be seen (heard) of men. . . go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father. . ."
2. Pray boldly in the Name of Jesus. We should first honor God the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, before we address our needs and requests. Since we have access to the Father only through the name of Jesus, it's appropriate that we begin our prayer by acknowledging this truth. Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6b). Many of us close our prayers with "in the name of Jesus." But if we open our prayer in the name of Jesus, I think we will be more likely to honor Him in the remainder of our prayer.
3. Pray for the advancement of God's kingdom work here on earth. The work of the kingdom should be more important to us than our own needs and wants. Our emphasis should be on God's interests ahead of our own.
4. Pray for our daily physical needs. Again, our first priority should be to praise and honor God and to pray for the advancement of His kingdom. As we spend more time praising God, we will spend less time on our more selfish physical needs, and we will be more likely to pray in God's will, not ours.
5. Finally, pray for God to meet our spiritual needs: (1) forgive our sins as we forgive others; (2) strengthen us to resist temptations from Satan, etc.
Summary, In the name of Jesus, we should first praise and honor God, then pray for (1) His kingdom's work in our world; (2) our daily needs; (3) forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others; and (4) help in our daily spiritual struggles. Our intimate conversation with God helps us know Him more fully.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Teaching: A Serious Calling

Chuckle: A teacher was trying to get the students to think. He asked, "If the Pilgrims were alive today, what would they be most famous for?" One student quickly responded, "Their age."
Quote: “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” --Bob Talbert

"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1 NIV).
In the Jewish culture of James' day, teaching was a highly respected and valued profession. It's likely that in their excitement and exuberance, many new Christians aspired to be teachers of their new-found faith. James begins chapter 3 with a warning to them and to those of us who presume to teach others. Our words and example have profound affect on the spiritual lives of those we teach. Therefore, James says to them, and us, that taking on the role of teacher in the church is a serious calling, and those who teach will be held to a higher standard by our Lord.
In reality, every Christian is a teacher, in the strictest sense, because non-believers are constantly forming their opinions of Christians and Christianity, positively or negatively, by the words and conduct of "professed Christians." However, those charged with teaching God's Word are specifically addressed by James. Here are some brief thoughts on teaching for your consideration.
Teachers should be characterized by wisdom. "We proclaim him (Christ), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom . . . ." (Colossians 1:28a NIV).
Teachers should be humble and not argumentative. "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." (James 3:17 NIV).
Teachers must teach in a sound and godly way. "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you -- guard it with the help of the Holy spirit who lives in us" (2 Timothy 1:13 NIV).
Teachers' lives must be consistent with what they profess. "Such teachings (from the evil one) come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2 NIV). "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose . . ." (2 Timothy 3:10 NIV).
These warnings by James should not discourage us from being teachers. On the contrary, if you sense God's call into teaching, you would be wise and obedient if you surrender and commit yourself to that calling. Along with great responsibilities, being a teacher can bring you great joy and fulfillment. But James' warnings should cause us to examine our motives for being teachers, the content of our teaching, and the lives we live while serving as teachers
Love, Jerry & Dotse.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Do Not Swear At All

Chuckle: "Parents bear children, bore teenagers, and board newlyweds!"
Quote: “Oaths are but words, and words but wind.” --Samuel Butler

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: . . . Simply let your 'Yes' be 'yes,' and your 'No' be 'No;' anything beyond this comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV).
The words of Jesus and other Biblical writers make it clear that honesty and integrity should be inherent in every believer. Having said that, we all realize that we live in a day when it is automatically assumed that people will lie unless they are forced to tell the truth under the penalty of law. Witnesses in court are required to swear an oath that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They do this under the threat of being charged with perjury if they are untruthful. This principle is at work in many aspects of our lives.
Gone are the days when business deals were consummated with a handshake and a person's word. Today, we must have witnesses on contracts attesting that our signatures are authentic, that the contract is binding, and that its provisions will be carried out by the signatories. Notary publics attest to the authenticity of signatures on certain documents because of the risk that someone will be fraudulent.
In Biblical times, things were no different. Oaths were taken then as well. But, during his sermon on the mount, Jesus told his followers to be totally honest which makes oaths unnecessary. A Christian's word should be so dependable, that oaths are not only unnecessary but are the result of evil influence. The same is true when making promises to God. Jesus is saying that honesty and integrity should be inherent characteristics of Christians and should never be in question.
Obviously, we as Christians must comply with the requirements of our society and take oaths when legally necessary. This is so because we live in a sinful society that breeds distrust. But in our everyday dealing with fellow Christians and non-Christians alike, our word should be our bond. When we say "yes," I'll do something, we do it. When we say "no," I won't do something, our word is equally dependable. It is even more important that we keep the commitments we make to our Lord. If we are honest all the time, we will not feel pressured to back up our words with oaths.
Our children, grandchildren, and others watch us closely. The way we act and speak will have lasting impact on their lives. Even little "white lies" and half-truths become obvious to them. Do they see us as uncompromisingly honest in every aspect of life? Or, do they hear us scheming as to how we can be "slightly" dishonest in our dealings with others. We must remember that there are absolutes in life according to the Scriptures. And in our society where absolutes are giving way to a wave of relativism, our Lord would have us stand firm in the absolutes of honesty and integrity. Let your "yes" be yes, and your "No" be no.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Be Slow to Speak

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Chuckle: "Blessed are they who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it." --James Russell Lowell
Quote: The ancient philosopher Zeno once said, "We have two ears and one mouth, therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak."

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20 NIV).
When James tells us to be slow to speak, he's not saying we should all adopt that slow Texas Drawl. No, but he is telling us not to speak until we have absorbed and understand all the facts about a person or a subject and have something helpful to say. I think he is also saying that when we talk more than we listen, we send a message to others that we think our ideas are much more relevant and important than theirs. Thus the other person feels put down and unimportant.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and thought, "I wish they would hush so I can talk?" Sometimes we are thinking ahead to what we want to say and are not really listening to the other person. Some won't even let you finish speaking -- they finish your sentences for you. It might be healthy for each of us to evaluate ourselves on how much we talk and how much we listen.
When we are talking rather than listening, we are not learning. Rather, we are only articulating what we think we have already learned. You have probably heard the words, "shut up and listen." These harsh words convey an important truth -- we must stop talking if we are to really listen. And when we listen, it's amazing how our attitudes can change and our understanding can be enhanced. If we are truly interested in hearing points of view other than our own, we will shut up and listen. "He who answers before listening -- that is his folly and his shame" (Proverbs 18:13 NIV).
"Some people are too talkative. They are like the young man who supposedly went to the great Greek philosopher, Socrates, to learn oratory. On being introduced, he talked so incessantly that Socrates asked for double fees. 'Why charge me double?' asked the young fellow. 'Because,' said the orator, 'I must teach you two sciences: the one is how to hold your tongue, and the other is how to speak.'"
"The King is pleased with righteous lips; he loves those who speak honestly. From a wise mind comes wise speech. My child, how will I rejoice if you become wise. Yes, my heart will thrill when you speak what is right and just" (Proverbs 16:13, 23; 23:15-16 NLT)
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 13, 2017

God's Way Out of Temptation

Chuckle: Two men rented a boat and one caught a large fish. “We should mark the spot,” he said. The second man drew an X in the bottom of the boat. “That’s no good,” said the first man. “Next time out, we may not get the same boat.”
Quote: "Blessed is he who has never been tempted for he knows not the frailty of his rectitude (good moral character)." --Christopher Morley

"When you are tempted, he (God) will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it" (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).
We all face various temptations every day of our lives, but temptation does not necessarily result in sin. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness but he never gave in to the temptation -- He never sinned (Hebrews 5:15). An amazing truth is that God has given us His Spirit to provide us the strength to avoid yielding to ever-present temptations. He provides us a way out. The operative question is: will we chose the way out?
Make no mistake, being tempted is a normal part of the Christian life and sin only comes when we do not take God's way out, but give in to the temptation. Do not be surprised when you are tempted and never allow yourself to feel guilty because you have been tempted. Rather, concentrate on your relationship with your Lord. As you grow in your faith and draw closer to Him, it will become easier to resist Satan's temptations. Our goal should be to live in the Spirit to such a degree that temptations become less and less attractive to us as our fellowship with Christ becomes closer.
Our culture is becoming more and more tolerant of ungodly living. Moral depravity and sin-inducing pressures are on display everywhere and are made to seem attractive as normal human behavior. However, each Christian should recognize that God's standards of morality never change. Sin is sin in God's sight regardless of our opinions on the subject. Each time we resist temptation we become stronger as a follower of Christ.
The word Paul uses for "temptation" can also be translated as "testing." We must remember that God does not tempt anyone, but He certainly does allow our faith to be tested from time to time. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone," (James 1:13 NIV). In the King James Version, the Bible says that God tempted Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But, in reality, God tested him to determine the strength of his faith and willingness to obey Him no matter the cost (Genesis 22).
Whether we are tempted to sin or tested to strengthen our faith, God will show us the way out and give us victory in every situation. "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation" (2 Peter 2:9 NASB). Keep your spiritual ears tuned to God's voice and He will show you the way out of every temptation.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 10, 2017

Beware of Temptation

Chuckle: "A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother. "I can't read; I can't write; and they won't let me talk!"
Quote: "Temptation yielded to is lust deified, and is proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before." --Oswald Chambers

"If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it" (I Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT).
Excerpts from an old hymn go like this: "Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin. . . Ask the Savior to help you, Comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through." There you have it, yielding is the problem. Yielding to temptation is devastating to a believer. Temptation overcame Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and they yielded. It can happen to each of us.
How often have you heard the expression, "The Devil made me do it?" This "tongue-in-cheek" excuse reflects an unwillingness to accept responsibility for our actions. It is often used to shift responsibility for our actions to the evil one when, in fact, it was our choice to do wrong. You see, what gets us into trouble is not being tempted, but yielding to that temptation which, in turn, results in sin. Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians in dealing with temptation and gives us several truths about temptation.
1. Temptation comes to everyone, so don't feel singled out as if something unusual is happening to you. The Tempter is no respecter of persons. He is described as a "roaring lion walking about seeking those he can devour" -- get you to yield to temptation (I Peter 5:8). He subtly attacks us where we are the weakest.
2. Others have resisted temptation, and so can you if you live everyday in close fellowship with your Lord and pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you. Here, we have a promise that God will not allow his own to experience temptation so strong they can't stand against it. You cannot resist yielding in your own strength, but must depend upon the Spirit’s supernatural strength.
3. Any temptation can be resisted because God will show you a way out. He will lead you to stay on guard and alert to the wiles of Satan by helping you to stay strong in your faith. There are no moral holidays. There is no freedom from Satan's attack, but there is a power to help you deal with these attacks if you have a genuine desire not to sin.
4. Avoid those people and situations that give you trouble. Run from anything you know is wrong. Choose to do only what is right and pray for God's help. Never say "maybe" to temptation, but a firm "no!" Don't leave the door ajar, but slam it shut. "When you flee temptation, don’t leave a forwarding address!"
5. Recognize that God never tempts us to do wrong. I heard about a man who said to his pastor, "I feel the Lord leading me to divorce my wife and marry another." What's wrong with this picture? Everything! Such a view is totally inconsistent with God's Word and his character.
If you are alive, you are being tempted at this very moment. The devil is after you. Listen to God through his Word and gain victory in his strength.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Victory Requires Discipline

Chuckle: A 6-year-old said his grandmother lives at the airport. "When we want her, we just go get her. Then, when we're done, we take her back to the airport."
Quote: “The rewards for those who persevere far exceed the pain that must precede the victory.” Ted Engstrom

“If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5 NASB).
Some people confuse principles with rules. A principle is a value that comes from deep inside a person. On the other hand, a rule is an external restriction that describes how something is to be done. To obey a principle you have to use your mental and moral values. To obey a rule you have to do what the rule book says.
The apostle Paul often uses the analogy of athletic competition to teach us spiritual lessons. I love sports and admire athletes for setting challenging goals for themselves followed up by the determination and discipline necessary for them to excel in their chosen sport. Their moral principles give them the desire and the will to compete for the prize, and the rules of sport restrict how they compete. “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ is calling us up to heaven” (Philippians 3:14 NLT).
No one gets to be the best at anything without a personal commitment to excellence accompanied by endless perseverance and hard work. This is also true in our spiritual journey. Our desire to run the spiritual race, do our best for our Lord, and win the prize comes from principles He has instilled within us. How we run the race is determined by the instructions/rules in God's Word.
What principles govern you when it comes to setting spiritual goals for your Christian life? Have you thought much about winning the prize God has waiting for those who remain faithful and disciplined in their spiritual quest? The strength of your faith and consistent dedication work together for God to make you into the person He wants you to be. To steal a recruiting phrase from the U. S. Army, have you set a personal goal to "be all you can be" as a fully devoted follower of Christ?
I think many of us have become spiritual "couch potatoes" rather than disciplined and determined followers of Jesus Christ. Without a desire to please God through a vigorous spiritual exercise, our spiritual lives can become atrophied and weak. Spiritual exercise includes praying, studying, serving, sharing, teaching, giving, etc.
If you find yourself apathetic toward your church and the things of God, you may be in need of a new spiritual goal and exercise program. It's never too late to start getting in shape physically or spiritually. Just recommit your life to Christ, spend time in His Word and prayer, and get out there where the action is. Find a ministry that fits your spiritual gifts and get busy at spiritual "body-building." As you get your spiritual exercise, God will open new doors for you and renewed joy will fill your heart.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Pursuit of Peace

Chuckle: "The supermarket bag boy was asked, 'How long have you been working here?' He replied, 'Ever since they threatened to fire me!'"

Quote: “Anyone can love peace, but Jesus didn't say, 'Blessed are the peace-lovers.' He says peacemakers. He is referring to a life vocation, not a hobby on the sidelines of life.” --Jim Wall



"He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it" (1 Peter 3:11 NIV).

Some may view the pursuit of peace as passive in nature; but being peaceful in hopes that it will bring peace to others is not the picture Peter is painting. Like Paul, Peter uses an image of an athlete giving his all in a race as he sprints toward the finish line where peace awaits him. This is the way he describes the pursuit of peace. It requires determination, persistence, and hard work to be a peacemaker. It requires us to be proactive rather than reactive.

Effective peacemakers first must have genuine love for others and be concerned for their welfare. They are committed to peace and pursue it by actively developing healthy relationships, because they know that peace is the bi-product of personal love and commitment to one another. They take responsibility for building peace and look ahead to foresee any relationship problems that could disrupt the fellowship.

As conflicts arise, peacemakers bring the pertinent issues out into the open and deal with them before they grow and become unmanageable. Issues that are not dealt with and allowed to fester can harden hearts to the point that harmony cannot be restored. Someone has said that waging peace can be harder than waging war; but it also can result in a life of happiness for everyone, including the peacemaker.

As a pastor, I can attest to the disruption of peace that unresolved issues can cause within a congregation. Being passive in hopes that festering problems will resolve themselves is wishful thinking. It seldom happens that way. Peacemakers recognize their responsibilities and never shirk from them. As they seek to bring peace, they must work hard not to cause conflicts by their actions, and should never compromise their basic Christian values. Their focus should always be to deal with discord swiftly, constructively, and redemptively.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9 NLT). To be blessed means happiness, but much more. It implies a fortunate or enviable state in God's kingdom. Peacemakers will experience hope and joy which are the ingredients of the deepest form of happiness. "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:18 NIV).
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Father's Will

Chuckle: When you have three boys, it's hard to know whom to blame when something goes wrong in the house. One father explained to a friend how he solved the problem: "I send all three to bed without letting them watch television. In the morning, I go after the one with the black eye!"
Quote: "Our salvation, thank God! depends much more on His love of us than on our love of Him" --Fr Andrew SDC, "Meditations for Every Day"

Jesus said, "For it is my Father's will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life -- that I should raise them at the last day" (John 6:40 NLT).
With an attitude of thanksgiving and amazement, just be still for a moment and let the significance and wonder of Jesus' words in this verse sink deep into your mind and heart. If this truth doesn't stir your heart and cause you to rejoice and praise God nothing will. In the preceding verse, Jesus deals with the eternal security of those who know Christ as Savior. "And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day." This gives us assurance that anyone who sincerely commits his or her life to Jesus Christ as Savior remains secure in God's promise of eternal life.
Not only is it God's will that everyone come to know Christ as Savior, He does everything possible to give us opportunity. "The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). How should we respond to God who has done so much for us? We should all make certain we are ready for Christ's return by entrusting our lives and eternal destiny into His hands. We should be ready for His imminent return but plan our lives of service as if He may not return for a many years.
Why would God do so much to bring us into fellowship with Himself and prepare us to spend eternity in His presence? Answer: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV). There's the answer -- it's God's unfathomable love, amazing grace, and compassionate mercy. How can anyone reject God's free gift of salvation by grace through faith in His Son? Each of us must answer this question for our self. But knowing it is God's will that everyone come to Him, should motivate us to share His love at every opportunity.
"Man needs, above all else, salvation. He needs to turn round and see that God is standing there with a rope ready to throw to him if only he will catch it and attach it to Himself." --Norman Goodacre
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Value of Rest

Chuckle: "Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited -- that is until you try to sit in their pews!"
Quote: “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.” --Sir John Lubbock
Jesus said to his disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet (desolate) place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31 NIV).
Jesus' invitation to his disciples to get some rest can have special meaning for those of us who find ourselves living at a hectic and exhausting pace. We can depend upon our Heavenly Father to always know the desires of our hearts and provide us opportunities for physical, emotional, and spiritual rest.

The Hebrew word, "Selah," is found 71 times in the Psalms. It means to "pause" or "rest" as in a musical score. Picture a choir singing for a while, and then pausing for an instrumental interlude as they rest, catch their breaths, and prepare for the next stanza. Applying this definition to our lives, let's take the time to pause from our fast-paced lives and rest in the Lord's presence.

Jesus led a busy public life, but then He would frequently go away by Himself to be with His Father. He taught His disciples to do the same. He referred to a desolate place. The word translated as "desolate," means that no one else is there, and no one else wants to be there. It is a special place and time for communication between you and God.

Pulling ourselves away from the hectic and complex demands on our lives will give us a fresh perspective and allow us to see the world more clearly as it really is. The only thing that will break its power over us is to detach ourselves from it. However, detachment doesn't mean separation or unconcern.
Jesus says we are to be in the world but not of the world. Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15 NIV). If we don't stand back to gain a wide perspective of what Satan and the world throws at us, we will be overwhelmed. Let God help you make sense of it all by spending time resting in Him. Let him change your life so that being alone with your Father in heaven is central to your spiritual and physical strength and stamina.

Since Jesus found it necessary to pause and rest, there is all the more reason for us to pause at regular points in our lives and contemplate carefully what He has done for us! This will bring a sense of refreshment, well-being, contentment, and fulfillment to our lives! Do whatever you have to do. Then come away to a quiet place and allow God to give you rest, peace, and calmness. Your search for rest and contentment can ultimately lead you to experience the very heart of God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse