Friday, March 24, 2017

Better than Sacrifice

Chuckle: "If you laugh a lot, when you get older, your wrinkles will be in the right places!"
Quote: "Christianity is both about justice and about Christ changing people from the inside out." --David Sheppard

"The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices" (Proverbs 21:3 NLT).
It seems to me that we are experiencing a generation of "Christians" that believe if we do the right religious things outwardly, we will somehow please God and find His favor. But, make no mistake, it is the condition of our hearts that is most important to God, not the "religious" things we do, no matter how sacrificial we may think our "offerings" to be.
In the Old Testament, the offering of sacrifices was necessary to cover the sins of the people and perpetuate a right relationship with God. Yet, many went through the motions and took part in the sacrificial rituals but did not worship from their hearts and were disobedient to God when it came to treating others with love, mercy, kindness, and compassion.
Many find it more acceptable to give generously to missions than to be missionaries. Giving is a good thing and should be an important part of our worship. However, God has commanded us all to go and make disciples, minister to the needs of the less fortunate, and do so with genuine love and compassion. We can do all the right and good things while having hearts that are no different from those who are flagrantly disobedient toward God.
We cannot use sacrifices as bribes to make God turn a blind eye to all our character blemishes and faults. We cannot purchase our way into God's favor. If our personal and business dealings are not governed by righteous character, including justice and fairness, no amount of sacrificial deposits in the offering plate will be acceptable and pleasing to God.
You can attend church regularly, give of your money, and even serve in a leadership position with a heart that is not totally committed to God. God is more interested in your relationship with Him than what you do for Him. God said, "I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices, I want you to know God; that's more important than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6 NLT). Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6 NIV).
God does not want you to go through the motions of religious worship, but He wants you to know Him and increase your love for Him each day. If this love relationship is established, everything you do will emanate from that relationship. A sincere change of heart pleases God because it will include sacrificing yourself. Here's a prayer of application from Romans 12:1 -- "Right now and right here I offer and present to you, O Lord, myself, my soul and body, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to you."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 23, 2017

When Words Fail Us

Chuckle: Test question to a child: "What does the word 'benign' mean?" Answer: "It is what you will be after you be eight."
Good Quote: "In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart." --John Bunyan

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words" (Romans 8:26 NLT).
Have you found yourself trying to express your feelings to someone but no matter how hard you tried you just couldn't find the right words to fully express how you felt? I think we all have had such experiences. Let's face it, words can only take us so far in expressing our deepest feelings to others. The same is true when it comes to prayer -- communicating with God.
It's a wonderful spiritual truth that we are not left with only our own resources to cope with situations that arise or feelings we experience. We all experience sorrows, frustrations, hopes and dreams that are so poignant they fill us with emotions so deep that mere words fall woefully short as a means to convey the extent of our feelings. But never doubt that God wants to hear what's in your heart and mind.
To make this possible, He sent His Spirit to search out your innermost thoughts and feelings -- even in your subconscious. And because He is God, the Spirit has no problem at all in conveying your prayers to the Father that you and I find so difficult to express.
If you accept this truth, you and I should never be hesitant or afraid to come before God and ask His help in expressing the content of our hearts to Him. Just ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for you as you pray "in harmony with God's own will." Then you can trust Him to always do what is best for you -- even though you may not always understand it. The next time you are at a loss for words when praying, just remember this promise: "The Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning's that cannot be expressed in words."
I read about two men who were visiting Niagara Falls. One who had been there previously, said, "Come and I'll show you the greatest unused power in the world." Taking him to the foot of the Falls, he said, "There is the greatest unused power in the world." "Ah, no, my friend, not so!" was the reply of the other. "The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Save Your Life by Losing It

Chuckle: "Isn't Disney World a people-trap operated by a mouse?"
Quote: "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." -- William James

Then he (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35 NIV).
We all want to be winners at life. However, Even though we may be successful in our vocation, we may fail in living a life of meaning and purpose. Our Lord wants us to have victory in life, but he tells us a strange way to do it. To win at life, we must come to understand a concept that is alien to our natural way of thinking. The world says you become a winner by winning - Jesus says you become a winner by losing. Our passage is so important it is recorded in each of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). To save your life, you must lose it.
Jesus said, if you want to save yourself, then lose yourself in me. What did he mean? You save your life by losing yourself to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We must give up the right to run our lives. Please listen very carefully to Jesus: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." There are no exceptions or exemptions -- everyone must do this to be a follower of Christ. This truth contradicts the world's idea of life. Instead of self-assertion, Jesus teaches self-denial. You can't be the captain of the ship of life. You must submit this right to Him, and lose your life in absolute surrender.
A.W. Toser said: "In every person's heart there is a cross and a throne. You are on the throne until you put yourself on the cross. If you refuse the cross, you remain on the throne. We all want to be saved, but we want Jesus Christ to do all the dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of our soul, wearing a tinseled crown of pride and we doom ourselves."
It's only when we come to Jesus and say, "I want to die to myself and put you on the throne of my life" that we find the secret of winning at life. Coming to know Christ is not just signing a card, walking down an aisle, or saying a prayer. It's when you say, "I give up -- I'm letting you take control of my life."
Here's what Jesus said in John 12:24, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." A seed on a shelf produces nothing, but as the seed dies in the ground there comes resurrection of new life. When we die to self, there's a resurrection -- His life becomes evident in us.
Dietrich Bonhoffer, who died in a Nazi prison camp said this. "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." You save your life by losing it in Christ. Paul discovered this truth when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is Satan Real?

Chuckle: "A woman was cured of her nervousness in one treatment: Her doctor told her it was a sign of old age."
Quote: "It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up belief in the devil (Satan) when he is the only explanation of it." --Ronald Knox

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil (Satan) prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).
To begin, here is a rather lengthy quotation from Billy Graham's book, "Storm Warning."
"The world is on a deceitful ride, and those following the lead horse are looking over their shoulders wondering who to blame. I have actually heard people blame God for our state of affairs. Political parties blame each other. No one, of course, blames the deceiver (Satan) himself. Why? Because he cleverly performs his devious acts through mankind. . . . He is the great schemer. He is the illusive manipulator. He prances and dances and drinks in the adulation of his worshippers as he glimmers and shimmers, displaying all that glitters and that attracts the shallowness of man. Then suddenly the stinging whip wraps them around the waist; they fall on the ground as the stampede executes the deceived followers. The deceiver reins victorious -- for the moment -- as other followers, aghast and bewildered, blame God for their plight."
This word picture of Satan reveals how he operates every day, tempting and deceiving people into believing that evil isn't real and that Satan is only a figment of our imagination. Granted, it's difficult to identify Satan, personally, because he’s the master of disguise. He makes himself attractive to us.
However, if you believe the words of Jesus, you must believe that Satan is real and at work all around us every day. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, Satan tried to bribe Jesus into worshiping him: "All this (kingdoms of the world) I will give you," he said, "If you will bow down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9 NIV). But Jesus ended the conversation by saying, "Away from me, Satan! for it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only" (Matthew 4:10 NIV).
Yes, Satan is not only real but alive and well in our world. He is the master of disguise, deceit, and temptation. He knows our weaknesses and attacks those weaknesses, like a lion attacking a weakened gazelle separated from the herd. By walking with your Lord each day in the company of loving, caring and supportive brothers and sisters in Christ, you can avoid becoming a victim of Satan's wiles.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sins of Omission

Chuckle: A man asked the barber, “How much for a haircut?”  “Eight dollars,” said the barber. “And how much for a shave?” “Six dollars.” “Okay, then, shave my head.”
Quote: “A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission” –Marcus Aurelius
“Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17 NLT).
Let’s look at another kind of sin and the temptations that lead us to neglect doing what we know God would have us do. When boiled down to its basic definition, such sin is the result of self-centeredness – doing what I want instead of doing what God would have me do. We fail to act right because we think it is not in our best interests. But remember, refraining from doing what we know is right is a sin just as doing what we know is wrong. 
I’m certain the master tempter, Satan, wrings his hands with glee when he convinces a Christian that sins of omission (failing to do what we know we should do) are not really sins at all or are of minor importance when compared to sins of commission (doing what we know we should not do). After all, you haven’t really done anything wrong. So, how can doing nothing be a sin? Answer; when doing nothing is disobeying God and is contrary to His will. When God has convicted you that you should do something and you don’t do it, you have sinned. It is sinful to do wrong and equally sinful not to do right. Let’s look at some specific Biblical examples where sins of omission are clearly evident:
 Paul juxtaposes the two concepts of sin in Romans 7:14-20. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing” (Romans 7:18-19 NIV). Paul laments his tendency toward both types of sins, commission and omission. He does what he knows is wrong and he doesn’t do what he knows he should do. Here is a picture of the new nature in conflict with the fleshly sinful nature in which it dwells.
The classic example given by Jesus is the account of the Good Samaritan. A man was beaten and robbed and left beside the road in desperate need of help. The first two men, a priest and a Levite, passed him by without offering help. The third man, a Samaritan, stopped and showed compassion to the man in need (Luke10:3o-37). Jesus clearly communicated that it is sinful to avoid doing good, just as it is sinful to pursue what is evil.
Here’s a practical example of a sin of omission. After prayerful consideration, your pastor or other church leader asks you to teach a Bible Study class. You know in your heart you are qualified and capable, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you sense God is calling you to accept this responsibility. But self-centeredness raises its ugly head and you just can’t bring yourself to commit that much time and effort, so you refuse the invitation. By doing so, you sentence yourself to a time of self-imposed guilt like that which Paul lamented.
Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Responsible for the Straying

Chuckle: Two kids went into their parents’ bathroom and noticed the scale in the corner. “Whatever you do,” said one youngster, “don’t step on it!” “Why not?’ asked the sibling. “Because every time Mom does, she lets out a loud scream!”
Quote: “It is the part of a Christian to take care of his own body for the purpose that by its soundness and well-being, he may be enabled to labor. . . thus the stronger member may serve the weaker member, and we may be children of God, and busy for one another, bearing one another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ." --Martin Luther

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20 NIV).
Here, James is pointing out our responsibility for those brothers and sisters around us. In fact in Galatians 6:1-2 we read: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ." It's much easier to judge others and gossip about someone's failures than to reach out to them in love, gentleness, and kindness to help restore them to the fellowship. Notice these results from seeking to turn a wayward Christian back to the Lord:
1. We turn a sinner (straying Christian) from the error of his ways. when we see a fellow believer straying away from God, we are to take that person by the hand and lead him/her to see the need to for repentance and turning back to God.
2. We save him from death. This sounds ominous and mysterious. When a Christian is out of fellowship with God, and we help restore him, James says we've saved him from death? It seems appropriate to take James as meaning death in the sense of what sin does to human life rather than to relate death to ultimate destruction or lostness. This part of the verse could then be stated this way: "He shall deliver such a wayward Christian from the deadly result of his sins." I believe James is saying that the destructive power of sin will be thwarted because the wayward Christian will turn away from the error of his ways.
Perhaps James is talking about premature physical death for a Christian who continues to walk away from God and dishonor Him for an extended period. Carrying this possibility even further, the Bible says there is a sin unto death. I John 5:16 says, "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. . . . There is a sin that leads to death." Ananias and Saphirra committed a sin unto death (Acts 5:1-11). As part of the early Jerusalem church and they lied to God and the people and God struck them dead. By this God was saying he didn't want his people doing like the world does -- persisting in sin.
3. We help him cover a multitude of sins. Our sins are covered only by the blood of Christ shed on the cross. When a wayward Christian confesses and repents of sin, those sins are forgiven, the life is cleansed, and the fellowship with God is restored.
What then can we do? We can (1) unconditionally love those who stray; (2) pray for them persistently; (3) lovingly confront them with a broken heart and express our concern. Do this as God provides opportunity and according to His timing. Do you have a friend needing help in coming back to the fellowship of Christ? Please allow God to use you in bringing that person back to a faithful walk with our Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Restoring the Straying

Chuckle: On my first call, as a part-time opinion poll sampler, I said, "Hello, this is a telephone poll." And the man replied, "Yeeeah, and this is a street lamp."
Good Quote: "The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others" --Albert Schweitzer

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20 NIV).
God specializes in doing what no one else can do. He makes new creations of us through our faith in Jesus. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). And even when we stray away from Him, He makes provisions for bringing us back -- restoring us to Himself. James appeals to us as believers to be God's instruments for the restoration of fellow Christians -- those not living and serving as they should.
The New Testament emphasizes that we can have an impact on the lives of others by loving, nurturing, ministering, and encouraging one another. We all can stray, and most Christians have experienced times of drifting away. Sometimes, this is called "backsliding." This begs the question: How far can you backslide? If you have been genuinely saved, you can never backslide far enough to lose your salvation, but you can certainly lose the fellowship with your Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, and the joy of your salvation.
It is clear from our passage that James is referring to a person who has wandered from the truth and fellowship with his/her Lord -- a believer who has fallen into sin. Notice that James refers to his readers as "brothers," and says that "If one of you (brothers/sisters) should wander from the truth." This is a believer who no longer lives a life consistent with his/her professed faith and beliefs. James urges all Christians to be active in helping backsliders return to God.
In I Corinthians 10:12, Paul warns all of us: "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!" The Christian who can fall/drift away the easiest is the one who never thinks he/she is susceptible. People say, "I would never do that" while criticizing someone else. Sometimes we fall into the same sins for which we condemn others. Maybe we become too proud of our lives. We must be careful to keep our focus on our Lord, and allow Him to live through us.
By taking the initiative, we can pray for the straying person, and acting in love, we can meet the person where he/she is and help bring him/her back to God and His forgiveness. Of course, for us to have this attitude of responsibility, we must love our brothers and sisters as Jesus loves us. Jesus said to his disciples and to us, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, If you love one another" (John 13:34-35 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Life at its Fullest

Chuckle: A child's statement about the Bible: "Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah's wife was Joan of Ark. Noah built and Ark and the animals came on in pears."
Good Quote: Thou shalt ever (have) joy at eventide if you spend the day fruitfully." --Thomas a Kempis; "The Imitation of Christ."

Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it (abundantly) to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).
We live in a society obsessed with achieving success, but not necessarily with God's definition of success. I think many people are not winners but losers at the most basic art of all, the art of living. They may succeed in other things but not in living. They don't know how to have life in all its fullness. We need to learn how to live life as God would have us live it. God teaches us to live from the inside out. The condition of the heart determines the way one lives.
Today, some are just surviving -- existing -- making it -- one day to the next -- with no long-term purpose for life. They may be young or old, working or retired, but have no purpose/goals that will make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. The only thing some of us really throw ourselves into is our beds at night -- exhausted, but without having done anything that really matters to God.
Alice, in "Alice in Wonderland," said to Chesser Cat, "can you tell me which way I ought to go from here?" The cat said, "that depends on where you want to get to." Alice said, "I just don't much care." The cat said, "then it doesn't matter which way you go." If you don't have a purpose, you're just surviving.
Still others do a little better than survive by achieving what they call "success," but without real satisfaction and fulfillment. You may have possessions, power, prestige, and in the eyes of the world you may have "made it." You can be called "successful" by the standards of our society. However, for many, the American dream has become the American nightmare filled with unhappiness and emptiness. They don't feel their lives are really counting -- something's missing for real fulfillment and happiness.
Someone said that seeking success by the world's standards is like chasing the wind. You never can catch it. But, if we Christians aren't careful, we find ourselves measuring our success in life by worldly standards rather than the standards God has set for us. When we became Christians, we became God's new creation in Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
Also, we see a definite plan for what we should do, and this plan was formed in the mind of God even before we became Christians. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" ("Ephesians 2:10 NIV). Life at the highest level (fullest) comes from living according to God's plan for our lives, not ours.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Experiencing Joy While in Pain

Chuckle: Walking by, a lady noticed a little boy trying to reach the door bell of a house. She walked over and rang it for him and asked, "OK, what now?" "Run like crazy," he answered. "That's what I'm gonna do."
Quote: "Joy untouched by thankfulness is always suspect." --Theodor Haecker

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it (my physical ailment) away. Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9a NLT).
We all know health problems can occur at any age, but increase as we grow older. I'm aware that some of my senior adult readers suffer from various physical ailments and limitations. Growing old can be a real challenge and if we aren't careful we can lose the joy God wants for us regardless of our age or physical condition.
In our passage, the apostle Paul tells us about a physical ailment he suffered and calls it a "thorn in the flesh." He prayed that God would heal him, but God chose not to do so. Instead He told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you." In other words, God may allow you to suffer physically, but, if so, His grace is all you need to endure. Even with his physical limitation and imprisonment, Paul constantly talked about his joy and rejoiced because of his relationship with his Lord (Romans 5:11).
If you are suffering from health problems, especially those associated with aging, you may feel discouraged and depressed, and generally see life as painful and difficult. If so, I have some suggestions for your consideration.
1. Ask God to renew the joy you felt when you first gave your heart to Christ. "Rejoice; I say again, rejoice" because of your relationship with our living Lord.
2. Continue to grow spiritually by spending time studying God's Word and other wholesome materials. Never stop learning from God and from other people.
3. Strengthen your prayer life, and focus your prayers on others, not yourself. Prayer is a powerful ministry you can do even with aching joints or a bad back.
4. Reach out and touch someone who may be worse off than you. It's amazing how much better you will feel when you think of others instead of yourself. Also, you won't have as much time to dwell on your own problems.
5. Stay active as long as you can -- even when it hurts. An active body and mind, as long as physically possible, will bring fulfillment and happiness.
6. Find ways to minister to others even if you have physical limitations. Be an encourager by phone, e-mail, or cards to those who need a kind word and will be happy to know someone cares. (Philippians 2:3)
As a pastor, I've been amazed at the upbeat and optimistic attitude of many senior Christians. They know the supernatural joy God's Holy Spirit placed in their hearts is not dependent upon their physical condition. Even when facing imminent death, many have smiles on their faces and are joyful to the very end.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Joy of Serving Others

Chuckle: Fun with the English language: "Several oarsmen seated in a row were having a row about how to row."
Quote: "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." --Rabindranath Tagore

"Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (Colossians 3:12 NLT).
As Christians, God's holy people, we should show the characteristics listed in our passage. If we possess these spiritual traits, we will be involved in acts of service to others. Jesus is quoted as having said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35 NIV).
When we genuinely love others as Jesus loves us, our greatest joy will come from meeting the needs of those around us through tangible acts of humble service. Whether it is giving of our means or giving of our time to help someone who is suffering physically, emotionally, or spiritually, the result is a feeling of joy. Those who take the role of a servant are blessed not only by seeing the reaction of those we serve but from knowing we are being obedient to our Lord.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people are more interested in serving themselves than serving others. They view the world through the mind-set of "what's in it for me?" So many of us don't realize that real joy comes not from what we receive but what we give. Our Lord Jesus modeled for us what it means to be a servant to others. Hear His words: ". . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV).
The night before He was crucified, Jesus "poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him" (John 13:5 NIV). Here Jesus assumed the duties of the lowliest of servants to teach his disciples and us what it means to serve others in love and humility. It may not mean washing their feet, but I suspect someone comes to your mind who would be blessed by an act of love and kindness from you.
We need to get up, get out, and get moving, as we are physically able, and serve others with great joy. Even if you are disabled physically, your telephone or e-mail can be a great source of joy to someone who needs a kind and encouraging word. I call your attention to the "quote" at the top of this page. The writer had learned a valuable lesson and concluded that "service is joy."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 10, 2017

Seasoning Our Speech

Chuckle: "Why do people keep running over a thread a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?"
Good Quote: "The things I say today in memory's book I'll keep, And when I'm old and read them, will I laugh or weep." --Unknown source

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6 NIV).
The Bible has a lot to say about speech. Here, seasoning our conversation with salt, may sound a little strange at first brush. However, when you stop to think about the various uses of salt, the reason Paul uses the metaphor becomes clear. Salt adds flavor, preserves, and purifies. Paul is saying our speech should be pleasant to hear (flavorful), be of lasting value (preserving), and truthful without exaggerations or distortions (pure) so that it will be readily received.
Seasoned language is mature, thoughtful, and helpful to the ones to whom we are speaking. Our words should give hearers something of lasting value that will be of benefit to them now and in the future. Wholesome words will come from a wholesome mind and heart. Words chosen carefully, and full of grace and concern for others, will always build people up and never tear them down.
As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to help us choose and season our words by not only guiding us in what to say but how to say it. This truth is born out by Jesus Himself as he taught His disciples how to respond to critics of their message. "The right words will be there. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes" (Luke 12:12 MSG). If we have faith and trust the Holy Spirit, He will give us the right words that will enrich the lives of those to whom we speak.
This lesson should remind each of us to choose our words with care and depend upon our Lord for wisdom in understanding the lasting impact of our words. Paul is telling us to always take the high road when we are speaking, with the goal of edifying others. Our speech is a great indicator of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Gracious speech shows that we are more concerned for others than for ourselves.
"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not control his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Telling the Good News

Chuckle: Lawyer to defendant: “Do you wish to challenge any of the jury members?” Defendant: “Well, I think I could take that guy on the end.”
Good Quote: “Evangelism is not an activity at all. It is rather an attitude of mind behind all Christian activity. --Bryan S. W. Green

"Through Christ, all the kindness of God has been poured out upon us . . . and now he is sending us out around the world to tell all people everywhere the great things God has done . . . so they, too, will believe and obey him" (Romans 1:5 TLB). "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 NIV).
God wants each Christian to be His witnesses to those around us. But many of us find it difficult, scary, and unnerving to share our faith with others. We conjure up all sorts of excuses to justify our shortcomings in this area. Here are some common expressions:
"I'm afraid -- I won't know what to say." We make it much more difficult than Jesus intended it to be. As you know, a witness is someone who has seen or heard something and tells it to another -- gives testimony. "We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son" (I John 1:3 MSG).
The most powerful witness is your own personal testimony. If you know Jesus, you know enough to tell others about Him. You don't need to have memorized a lot of Scriptures. Just tell what Christ has done and continues to do in your life. As time goes on, you can learn to augment your testimony with specific Scriptures you have learned. 
"I'm afraid -- I just don't have the courage." Jesus said in Acts 1:8, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." You see, if we lack courage, we are depending on our own strength. God has promised us His power will give us strength. The same power that created you; the same power that performs miracles; the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us through the Holy Spirit. His power is more than adequate for our fears. Just trust His power to give you courage. Even when they were commanded to stop speaking and teaching about Jesus, with threats of prison and beatings, Peter and John said to the Jewish Sanhedrin (religious rulers): "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (experienced)"  (Acts 4:19-20 NIV).
"I don't really know any unsaved people." As we attend church and associate with other Christians socially, we become further and further removed from people who need to hear about Jesus. Jesus set the example for us when he purposely made his way into the company of "sinners." Remember, there are lost people everywhere, beginning in your own family and community. We must get to know them, make friends with them, and reveal Jesus to them by the way we live and with our own testimony/words.
May I suggest you make a list of people that you're not sure know Jesus. Then begin to pray for them. Ask God for opportunities to share Jesus with them. God will answer your prayers and give you those opportunities. Then trust him to give you strength and courage to share your faith with them. There is no greater joy than to have someone come to Christ in response to your personal witness!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Repentant Heart

Chuckle: "I miss being the age I was when I thought I would have my life together by the time I was the age I am now!"
Good Quote: “To do so no more is the truest repentance.” --Martin Luther

"The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17 NLT).
Here the psalmist makes a contrast between giving sacrificial offerings and the condition of the giver's heart. In the previous verse, he says, "You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it." In the Old Testament, giving a burnt offering as a sacrifice to God was seen as a good and righteous thing. But, from God's perspective, the condition of the heart was much more important than any offering one could make. What was being done was useless unless it was from a broken and repentant heart.
In our human way of thinking, it makes perfect sense that God would be most impressed and pleased by our good deeds -- by our monetary offerings and helping others in a kind and compassionate ways. Many think the way to please God, and garner His favor, is by being a good person and doing good things. We can impress those around us, but God is not impressed unless we first sacrifice ourselves to Him with a broken and repentant heart, show genuine sorrow for our sinful condition, and give Him complete control of our lives. In other words, our hearts must be right before our actions mean anything to God.
The apostle Paul expresses this truth this way: "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?" (Romans 12:1 NLT). Even in the Old Testament, where the sacrifice of animals was commonplace, God makes it clear that the condition of the heart was much more important. Remember, people look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart. God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.
In closing, a brief word about repentance. Isn't it difficult to admit you are wrong and to say "I'm sorry" either to another person or to God? Being genuinely sorry for our sins is only the beginning of brokenness and repentance. As God's Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, we must come to the point that we're willing to do something about it. Genuine repentance includes: (1) being sorry for our sins, (2) confessing our sins to God, (3) asking God to forgive and cleanse us, (4) making a commitment to change the way we live, and (5) asking God to use us for His glory. When we get to the point that everything we do is for God's glory, what we do will be seen as acts of worship and will be acceptable to God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Temptation and Sinful Thoughts

Chuckle:  A little girl asked her mother for fifty cents to give to an old lady in the park. Touched by her kindness, the mother gave the girl the money. “There you are,” said the mother. “But isn’t the lady able to work?’ “Oh yes,” came the reply. “She sells candy.”
Quote: There is but one thing more dangerous than sin – the murder of a man’s sense of sin” –Pope John Paul II
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you that  anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”  (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV). “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him in whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13 NIV).
I suspect many of us live with the invalid assumption that sin does not occur unless we do something forbidden by God’s Word – unless we act out our illicit thoughts in response to a temptation. We tend to measure sin by our actions rather than our thoughts. But as we mature in Christ, God will reveal to us through His Word, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that sins of the heart and mind are just as serious and dangerous as sinful actions. Jesus plainly revealed this truth in our Matthew passage above in reference to adultery.
in the Ten Commandments, we are taught that it is wrong for a person to indulge in sexual activity with anyone other than that person’s wife or husband (Exodus 20:14). Jesus expands this teaching by telling us it is equally wrong to have the desire for sex with someone other than your marriage partner; thus it is sinful. If the physical act of adultery is wrong, so is mental adultery. To be faithful to your spouse with your body but not your mind is to break the sacred trust so vital for a strong godly marriage. If left unchecked, sinful desires often culminate in sinful actions.
Of course, besides sexual desires, there are other areas where we can be tempted to entertain sinful thoughts. Jealousy, anger, Hatred, Greed, covetousness, hunger for power, and selfishness are other areas where we can be tempted to entertain sinful thoughts. As I thought about this subject, I was convicted that we sin if we have thoughts of disobeying God’s Word. “One of the hardest things for the Christian of our day is to recognize the presence of sin in his own life and all around him. In fact, we often try to minimize the presence of sin and to make light of its effect on us.” –Unknown source
From yesterday’s devotional, I think we will all agree that the content of our hearts and minds determines who we are and what we do. It is through the Holy Spirit’s entry into our minds that our lives are transformed into the persons God wants us to be -- into the likeness of Jesus Christ. If we allow the Holy Spirit to control our minds, We can control our behavior. Remember, “The Lord knows the thoughts of Man” (Psalm 94:11 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Renewed Mind

Chuckle: A young son came through the door with filthy hands and his mother asked, “My goodness, what would you say if I came in the house like that?” The boy answered, “I think I would be too polite to mention it.”
Quote: "Success is living in such a way that you are using what God has given you - your intellect, abilities, and energy - to reach the purpose that He intends for your life." -- Kathi Hudson

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (renewing of your mind NIV). Then you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is" (Romans 12:2 NLT).
I think we will all agree that whatever is in our minds determines who we are and what we do. It is through God's entry into our minds that our lives are transformed into the persons He wants us to be -- into the likeness of Jesus Christ. If God can control our minds, He can control our behavior. Whether or not we allow God to transform us depends upon what we allow into our minds.
The truths of God's Word are in direct conflict with the socially acceptable modes of thought and worldly values that govern most aspects of our society, which are usually selfish and corrupt. It is God's desire that Christians grow into transformed human beings with minds filled with God's eternal truths. When we allow God unconditional access to the innermost recesses of our minds, He will change us, transform us, and do His work through us. We must let God transform us by changing the way we think. Then the focus of our lives will be on honoring and obeying Him.
If you are not feeding regularly on God's Word and allowing God to change the way you think, perhaps you should look at verse 1. "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?"  When we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we will lay aside our selfish desires and concentrate our minds and energies on following our Lord. We will allow His Spirit complete access into our hearts out of extreme gratitude for what He has done for us.
It is only when we allow the Holy Spirit complete access into our hearts and minds that He can re-educate, redirect and renew our whole thinking process. As He does this, the process of transforming our lives is underway -- a process that will continue until we die or Jesus returns. As Paul says in Philippians 3:12 NLT, "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep on working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sacrifice that Pleases God

Chuckle: "Every building in the town was suddenly infested with squirrels. Only the church found a solution. They made them members and then only saw them at Christmas and Easter."
Quote: "As the nightingale instinctively flees from the sound of the hawk, so does the beauty of humility vanish in the presence of pride." --William Arthur Ward

"The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17 NLT).
Many people think the way to please God is to give Him something (offering) or do something for Him (good deeds). In other words we try to please God by what we do -- by being a good person. From a human perspective this makes perfect sense. We are so used to earning our way in this world by pleasing the boss that we think we should use the same approach with God. We try to be good enough to please God by sacrificing our money, our time, and our abilities, etc.
In verse 16, the psalmist puts doing things for God in perspective. "You (God) would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought a burnt offering, you would not accept it." King David knew that giving things to God or doing things for Him are not what pleases God. If our heart is not right, nothing we can do will be received favorably by our Lord. But, if we come to Him with a sincere repentant attitude and a broken spirit asking forgiveness of our sins, we will please God. Then our offerings and good works will be acceptable.
What does it mean to come to God with a broken spirit and a broken and repentant heart? To have this attitude, we must see ourselves as God sees us. If we have never prayed to receive Christ as Savior and Lord, we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior and forgiveness. If we know Christ as Savior, we are sinners saved by God's grace through faith, but still in need of God's forgiveness and cleansing each time we sin. We know we are helpless to make ourselves righteous before God, and we realize we must allow Him to transform our hearts and minds and make us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).
If we allow it, pride will keep us from humbling ourselves before God in repentance. We will have a hard time thinking of ourselves as being sinful enough to come to God with such remorse that our hearts are crushed and broken. But that's precisely the attitude that pleases God. Once our hearts are right, then our sacrifices of offerings and actions will also be pleasing to God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Light for Your Life

Chuckle: "Voting is like choosing your favorite mosquito out of a swarm!"
Quote: "Eyes that will not see are far more blind than eyes that cannot see." --William Arthur Ward

“In him was life; and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. . . The true light, that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9 KJV) . "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path . . I will not forget your law . . Your statutes . . the joy of my heart" (Psalm 119:105,109,111 NIV).
Have you ever experienced darkness so intense that you could not see where to plant your foot for the next step much less far enough ahead to know which path to take? Light is a wonderful thing. Since God said, "Let there be light," it has dispelled darkness and reveals the world that could not be seen and understood without it. Life can be filled with darkness and leave a person uncertain how to navigate through it. However, believers have the benefit of God's Word as a guiding light. We know where we are going in life and we know how to get there. We have God's Spirit to help us and the Bible to show us the way. The Bible is a Christian's greatest treasure. The psalmist uses two different words to describe the illumination given us by God's Word.
"Lamp" to my feet. In my mind's eye, I see a person walking along a path carrying a lamp with its light directed to the ground at his feet. As a lamp, the Bible gives specific illumination to help us with each step we take and each decision we make in life. He that uses that lamp faithfully learns where to set his foot as he walks along the treacherous paths of this life. It gives us guidance for every situation we will ever face if we will only trust it.
"Light" for my path. This light illuminates our path, gives us direction, and shows us God and His relationship to the world as the Creator. It shows us what is amiss in our lives, and what will be dangerous to us. It reveals the darkness of evil in this world and God's plan for dispelling that darkness by defeating the forces of evil and keeps us on the right path.
In the gospel of John, Jesus, the Living Word, calls himself the Light of the World who gives light and hope to a lost mankind. The Word reveals the difference in good and evil and lights the path to eternal life through faith in Christ. God's Word tells us that without Christ, we are lost. If you don't know where you are going, you are lost.  The Bible does not use the word "unsaved" to describe the condition of those without Christ; it uses the word "lost."
Proverbs 6:23 KJV: "For the (each) commandment is a lamp; and the law (Word) is the light." The Bible is the light and each command or teaching within it directs our steps. So we can say God's Word is a light to guide us in selecting our path through life in general, and a lamp to guide each of our steps along that path. We become sensitive to God's goodness in giving us such a lamp and light when we make His Word our manual for living -- our light for life. How do you feel about God's Word, the Bible? Is it collecting dust on a shelf or is it well worn from regular use as the Light and lamp which guides your life?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Let God Increase Your Abilities

Chuckle: "A Texan caught an 8-pound bass. He told his Tennessee guide that 'in Texas we use that size for bait.' The guide nodded and threw it back."
Quote: "Time is opportunity disguised, and to kill time is to murder opportunity." --William Arthur Ward

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your Master's happiness" (Matthew 25:21 NIV).
I have observed that when a person discovers he or she has a special skill (ability) or talent and begins to develop that skill, self-confidence builds and pleasure comes from applying that skill while striving to be the best. People receive satisfaction from knowing they are really good at something. As they develop and apply their skills, they begin to discover other things they are also good at. In other words, as we exercise our abilities, we discover other abilities we didn't know we had. Have you noticed that some people seem to do well everything they attempt.
On the flip side of this observation are those who have abilities, but because of a lack of self-confidence, motivation, or initiative do not develop and apply those skills in daily life. The ability is wasted, feelings of self-worth diminish, and they go through life feeling useless and ineffective. They conclude they are of no value to themselves or anyone else -- a self-fulfilling conclusion. What a tragedy.
When it comes to spiritual gifts and abilities, God's Word teaches us to be faithful in the using the gifts He has given us. The more you faithfully use the gifts and abilities God has given you, the sooner He will give you additional abilities and greater responsibilities in His kingdom's work. God rewards the faithful as He expands your abilities and gives you more opportunities for service.
It's sad when a Christian feels inadequate and doesn't realize he or she has been gifted by God for His service. To think we have no spiritual gifts/abilities is to deny the promises in God's Word. "Now about spiritual gifts, . . . There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-5 NIV). "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us" (Romans 12:6 NIV). No Christian is without a spiritual gift -- a special ability given by our Lord Himself to be developed and used for His glory in service to others.
I have heard it said that God is more interested in your availability than your ability. He doesn't call the gifted, but gives gifts to the called. God looks for faithfulness in using the gifts/abilities He has given us. We are responsible for developing and using those gifts, in the power of the Spirit, to accomplish God's purposes. God always rewards the faithful and gives us great joy, peace, and contentment as we serve Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse