Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Growing Through Troubles

Chuckle: "We may be lost," the husband said to his wife, "but at least we're making good time."
Quote: "God does not call those who are equipped; he equips those whom he has called." --Sam Wigglesworth

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us -- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation" (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).
The Scripture is plain: God wants us to learn and grow from the troubles and trials we experience in life. The more you experience the power of God helping you work through your problems, the more you learn about his faithfulness, his love, and his character; and the more you learn about what God does, the more you will want to learn about who he is.
"Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord" (Psalm 107:43 NLT).
The more we endure troubles, the stronger our character becomes; the more we recognize what's important in life, and the more we look upon God as the source of our strength. Once we truly come to grips with the notion that we learn and profit from our troubles and trials, we will begin to pray: "Lord what are you wanting to teach me by this experience?" Sometimes the things we pray for God to remove from our lives are the very things he wants to use to shape us into the people he wants us to be.
"Some flowers, such as the rose, must be crushed if their full fragrance is to be released. Some fruits must be bruised if they are to attain ripeness and sweetness. Some metals, such as gold, must be heated in the furnace if they are to become pure. The attaining of godliness -- the process of becoming a mature Christian -- requires similar special handling. It is often through pain, suffering, trouble, adversity, trials, and even temptation that we develop spiritual discipline and become refined and enriched."Unknown source
The apostle Paul exhibits an attitude toward suffering that should help us realize that experiencing trials and troubles only brings us into closer fellowship with our Lord. "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, . . ." (Pilippians 3:10 NIV). Paul welcomed suffering as Jesus suffered if it would result in his knowing Jesus more intimately. He realized that suffering through troubles would teach him to endure and become more mature in his faith and more like Jesus.
Love, Jerry  & Dotse

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Coping with Troubles

Chuckle: "We always admire the intelligence of those who ask us for advice."
Quote: "Adversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself." --Samuel Johnson

"But when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. O God, I praise your word. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4 NLT).
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).
Learning to cope with the troubles of life is one of the great secrets for happiness and contentment. If we don't learn God's way for coping, we are assured great stress, anxiety, and misery. Many problems we face are just too big for us to handle alone. Therefore, a wise Christian makes God the primary point of counsel, confidence, and courage when problems arise.
When we are facing problems created by others, we can say with the psalmist, David: "What can mere mortals do to me?" How much harm can other people do to us? They can inflict pain, suffering, and death. But no person can rob us of our souls or our future beyond this life, and no person can rob us of the joy that comes from our relationship and fellowship with our Lord.
When we face problems created by our own doing, the only answer is to seek God's forgiveness, cleansing, and the wise counsel of his Word. "Your decrees please me; they give me wise advice" (Psalm 119:24 NLT). God does not create immunity from troubles for his followers; however he does say he will be with us in our troubles.
"In time of trouble, say, 'First, he brought me here. It is by his will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.' Next, 'He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child.' Then say, 'He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow.' And last, say, 'In his good time he can bring me out again. How and when, he knows.' Therefore, say, 'I am here (1) by God's appointment, (2) in his keeping, (3) under his training, (4) for his time.'" --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Going to God and trusting him for solutions to your problems will result in greater faith, more praise, and increased joy. . . .!! "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 29, 2017

Freedom Isn't Free

    memorial day clip art memorial day clip art memorial day   
Quote: "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others." --Winston Churchill

The observance of Memorial day originated in 1868 to honor both Confederate and Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to remember those who have died in service to our country in all wars. This Memorial Day, It's important that we remember, and teach our children that the freedoms we enjoy come at a terrible price.
We tend to forget. This day is set aside because we tend to be forgetful. We too often take our freedoms for granted and forget those who serve, and have served, our country unto death defending our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Would you pray these words with me? "Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen." We should also be especially thankful on Memorial Day for our freedom to worship and express our faith openly and without fear.
A Memorial to Our Lord. The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (I Corinthians 11:23b-25 NIV).
In Scripture, God often pleads for us to remember Him. He commanded that memorials, such as the stones from the Jordan riverbed, be set up as "a memorial to the people of Israel forever so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God" (Joshua 4:7,24). We should regularly remember with gratitude what Christ has done for us. Jesus knew of our tendency to forget, and he established the Lord's Supper (communion) as a regular memorial to Him and his sacrifice. He bore our sin in our place so that we could receive a right relationship with God through faith in Him. Jesus said, "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19 NIV). "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteous of God" (I Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
The bread reminds us of Jesus' body given as a substitute for our own bodies on the cross. He bore our sin so that we could receive eternal salvation through faith in Him. ". . . . while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
The cup reminds us of His blood poured out to make forgiveness of our sins possible. "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. . .But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:22, 27 NIV). "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath" (Romans 5:9 NIV).
Also, through faith in our crucified and risen Lord, we are free from the power, the penalty, and eventually, the presence of sin because of his sacrifice. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1 NIV).
Memorial day should remind us of those men and women who have died in defense of our freedoms. But it should also remind us that our ultimate gratitude belongs to our Lord for laying down his life on the cross to give us freedom from sin and a reason to worship Him and serve him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 26, 2017

Preparing for Troubles

Chuckle: “My neighbors were screaming and yelling at three o’clock this morning!” “Did they wake you,” a friend asked. “Nah, I was already up playing my bagpipes.”
Quote: "No pharmacist ever weighed out medicine with half as much care and exactness as God weights out every trial he dispenses. Not one gram too much does he ever permit to be put on us." –Unknown source

"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy" (James 1:2 NLT).
This passage says "when" troubles come, not "if" they will come. When it comes to troubles, there are two kinds of people: those who have had them and those who will. We must realize that troubles are inevitable; they will come. So the question is not, "will they come?" but "how will I react to them when they come?" James tells us to turn our hardships into times of learning and joy. Tough times can teach us valuable lessons including perseverance, patience, and steadfastness.
We can prepare ourselves to deal with life's troubles. If we live a life of faith, love, obedience, and prayer we will be prepared for the inevitable problems along the way. We are encouraged to be strong in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we approach life's battlefields already equipped with God's spiritual armor, we can more quickly and easily come through difficult times. Then we will be even stronger Christians as a result of the experience.
"Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:11-12 NLT).
"A man was shopping in a grocery store. His young son followed closely behind, carrying a large basket. The father loaded the basket with one thing after another until another customer began to feel sorry for the boy. She said. 'That's a pretty heavy load for a young fellow like you isn't it?' The boy turned to the woman and said, 'Oh don't worry. My dad knows how much I can carry.'" --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green.
In the same way, God knows our limitations and gives to us no burden beyond that which we can carry with His help. When I think of life’s troubles becoming burdensome, I'm reminded of the line in an old hymn: "Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there. . ."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 25, 2017

God Cares About Your Troubles

Chuckle: "As the X-ray tech walked down the aisle to say the marriage vows with her former patient, a coworker nurse whispered to a doctor seated next to her, "Wonder what she saw in him?"
Quote: "Troubles are tools by which God fashions us for better things." --Henry Ward Beecher

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares what happens to you" (I Peter 5:7 NLT).
All around us we see people experiencing all sorts of troubles and problems. Christians and unbelievers alike are struggling with physical illness, financial instability, broken family relationships, etc. As believers, we are not immune to troubles and adversities. Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV). The operative question for Christians is: Does God care about me and my troubles? According to his Word, he not only cares but wants to walk with you and help you deal with troubles.
Before going further, I think we must answer this question: "When I have problems and troubles, whom do I trust and to whom do I turn to for help? Many of us have a difficult time transferring what we know intellectually about God's grace and power into a trusting attitude of the heart. God wants us to trust and lean on him first in every situation, especially during times of trouble. But if we Christians do not walk daily with our Lord, we begin to think and act more and more like people who do not know Christ. As we think like the world, we will turn to people of the world for solutions to our problems rather then to God.
God is not only aware of your troubles, he wants to help you deal with them and overcome them. Choosing to carry your worries, stresses, and daily struggles by yourself shows you have not trusted God fully with your life. It takes humility, however, to recognize and accept that God cares about you and every aspect of your life. Sometimes we think that struggles caused by our own sin and irresponsibility are not God's concern. But when we turn to God, in repentance, he will bear the weight of even those struggles and problems. Turning your anxieties over to God calls for specific actions, not passivity. Rather than submitting to your circumstances, submit to the Lord who controls all your circumstances.
Finally, God may have planned ahead of time to use your problems to prepare you for unique and unexpected assignments. This was true of Christians who were forced to leave Jerusalem in the first century because of severe persecution. "But the believers who fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the good news about Jesus" (Acts 8:4 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stubborness: A Virtue

Chuckle: The kindergarten class had settled down to its coloring books. Jonathon raised his hand and said, “Miss Franklin, I ain’t got no crayons.” “Jonathon,” Miss Franklin said, “you mean, ‘I don’t have any crayons. You don’t have any crayons. We don’t have any crayons. They don’t have any crayons.’” “Well,” said Jonathon, What happened to all the crayons?”
Quote: “You are stubborn and I am going to spank you, but don’t take the spanking too seriously; stubborness may be one of man’s most valuable assets.” –Charles Naret-Nathan

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV).
I’ll never forget the reaction of Dotse’s Father when I asked his permission to marry his daughter. After I stumbled and mumbled through the question, he looked steadily at me, for what seemed like eternity, then all he said was, “she sure is stubborn!” His answer carried an unmistakable message for me, “I really don’t want you to take away my daughter whom I love with all my heart.” He was a man of few words, but finally, and reluctantly he gave his permission. We grew to enjoy a great relationship and I loved him deeply.
Stubborness may sound like an odd subject for a devotional. When I began thinking about it, I went to the dictionary for a definition of stubborn. It means to be; inflexible in opinion or intention; set on having one’s way; and not willing to give in. But it is also characterized by perseverance, persistence; tenacity and unyieldingness.
You may see it as a stretch to call stubborness a virtue. However, if we Christians stubbornly, tenaciously, unyieldingly, and uncompromisingly stand firm in our faithfulness and service to our Lord, I definitely see it as a virtue. “There is a difference between a fleshly stubbornness and a godly perseverance. The former insists on getting one's will done in heaven, and the latter determines to get God's will done on earth.” --William Thrasher
Being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn is certainly not an attractive trait, especially if it results in selfish pigheadedness. But it becomes precious as a formula for practical living when it is based on a genuine relationship with our Lord and a firm commitment to sharing the gospel and ministering to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people in the name of Jesus. If we stubbornly stand firm and let nothing detract us or move us off course, our labor will not be in vain. The world may “spank” you in many ways, but if you stubbornly remain faithful in the power of the Holy Spirit, final victory is assured.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Truth and Good Character

Chuckle: New bride: "I fixed your favorite dessert for you tonight -- coconut pudding. Wait until you see it." New groom: "Wow! That's great! But what's that big lump in the middle?" New bride: "That's the coconut."
Quote: "Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love, and the future to God's providence." --St. Augustine

"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who speaks the truth from his heart and who has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath (word) even when it hurts" (Psalm 15:1-4 NIV).
In other words, God looks favorably upon those of good character. The dictionary defines character this way: "The total of things that a person does, feels, and thinks by which he is judged as being good or bad, strong or weak, etc." God wants people of good character that He has shaped by His Word, faith in Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. One Greek word for truth means dependability, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and uprightness of character. All these are traits God looks for in a Godly person. Honesty is a special trait indeed.
Dr. Madison Saratt, who taught mathematics at Vanderbilt University for many years, before giving a test would admonish his class something like this: "Today I am giving two examinations; one in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can't pass trig, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the examination of honesty."
Good character is much better than an impressive oath. You can swear by most anything you choose that what you say is true, but without good character, the oath will be meaningless. And with good character, swearing oaths is not only unnecessary, but sinful according to James 5:12 NIV: "Above all, my brothers, do not swear -- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your 'Yes' be yes, and your 'No," no, or you will be condemned." Jesus used similar words in Matthew 5:37: "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'yes,' and your 'No' be 'no'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
Good character includes many positive traits. Perhaps the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 sums up the kind of character God wants us to have: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." In light of God's Word through James, I think we could add truthfulness to this list of fruit of the Spirit. When you say "Yes" to your friend, your co-worker, your classmate, your fellow church members, or to your Lord, does it really mean "Yes." Likewise, when you say "No," are you as good as your word? Are you a truthful person? Are you a person of good character?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 22, 2017

Truth is Commitment

Chuckle: A cop to an offender: "Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new... They'll stretch out after you wear them awhile."
Quote: "Be active, be diligent. Avoid laziness, sloth, indolence. Fly from every degree, every appearance of it; else you will never be more than half a Christian." --John Wesley
"Above all, my brothers, do not swear -- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your 'Yes' be yes, and your 'No," no, or you will be condemned." (James 5:12 NIV). "The righteous hate what is false. . . ." (Proverbs 13:5a NIV). "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:9-10 NIV).
Even more serious than letting our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no" when dealing with other people is when we say "yes" to our Lord but do not follow through. Saying "yes" to your Lord is a commitment and carries with it grave responsibility and joyous privilege to serve Him. When we say: "I will," we will. When we say "we won't," we won't.
Have you ever been guilty of telling someone you would do something and then not doing it? Have you ever said yes to a ministry position in your church (committee member; teacher; etc.), and after accepting the position, you became lazy and did not carry out your responsibilities? When you accept such a responsibility, you are saying "Yes" to your Lord, not only to the nominating committee or someone else. The Bible says the church is the Body of Christ with Jesus as its Head, and when you make a commitment to your church, it is to Christ Himself. Such a commitment should be carried out to the best of your abilities in the power of the Holy Spirit. To do otherwise is to dishonor your Lord and your fellow Christians.
Jesus used a parable to make this point in Matthew 21:28-31. When asked to work in the fields, the first son initially said "no" but later repented and did as his father asked. The other son said to his father, "yes" I will go and work the fields but he did not do what he said he would do. Jesus was much more pleased with the one who said "no" but later repented than the one who said "yes" but did not follow through with his commitment/promise.
How you carry out your commitments to others, to your church, and, most important, to our Lord says a lot about whether or not you are a trustworthy, truthful, committed, and growing Christian. “The commandment of absolute truthfulness is really only another name for the fullness of discipleship.” --Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 19, 2017

Truth is Unchanging

Chuckle: The Judge to a defendant: "I thought I told you I never wanted to see you in here again." "Your Honor," the criminal said, "that's what I tried to tell the police, but they wouldn't listen."
Quote: “For us, with the rule of right and wrong given us by Christ, there is nothing for which we have no standard. And there is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” --"Count Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

"Above all, my brothers, do not swear -- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your 'Yes' be yes, and your 'No," no, or you will be condemned." (James 5:12 NIV). "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men (people) who are truthful" (Proverbs 12:22 NIV).
Today, we live in a society where truth is becoming relative to the circumstances at the time. There is an absence of absolute truth. Truth is subject to individual interpretation. However, according to God's standards, truth is absolute and never changes. As a Christian, Let your character and reputation be such that when you say "yes" or "no" to something there is no doubt what you mean.
To be truthful means we can be trusted to do what we say we will do. You don't even need to say, "I promise." You will be so trusted that complete confidence in you will be based on the one word: "Yes" or "No." Both Jesus and James say our words should be totally truthful and trustworthy. We should never use exaggerations, half-truths, or embellishments. Such twisting of the truth is nothing more than lies. By avoiding any indication of being untruthful, you will become known as a trustworthy person. If you are a trustworthy Christian, people will listen when you share with them the gospel message. Your words will have value and credibility.
A man came to his music teacher and asked "what's the good news today?" In silence the old teacher picked up a hammer and a struck a tuning fork. As the note sounded out through the room, he said, "that is an A. It is A today; it was A five thousand years ago, and it will be an A ten thousand years from now. The soprano upstairs sings off-key, the tenor across the hall flats on his high notes, and the piano downstairs is out of tune." He struck the note again and said, "that is A, my friend, and that's the good news for today." Like the "A," truth never changes. It is lasting and absolute.
Although James is speaking mainly about truthful words, let's expand on truth briefly as it applies to our relationships with God and others. Our problem is not that truth changes, but rather it's our limited ability to understand it -- and our sinful desire to fashion the truth to fit our selfish view of life. That's where God's Word comes in. By focusing on the Scriptures and depending upon the Holy Spirit for illumination, we can know and live by the truth as God reveals it to us. Jesus said, "if you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (from sin)" (John 8:31-32 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Persecution of Christians

Chuckle: What do they call pastors in Germany? German Shepherds.
Quote: “There is no place for fear among men and women who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing.” --Ezra Taft Benson

"If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. . . So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Peter 4:15-16, 19 NIV).
I have been thinking about the current brutal merciless persecution of Christians by Islamic terrorists in Northern Iraq, Syria and other places. My thoughts led me to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, which estimates 100 million Christians currently face persecution of some type worldwide. Thousands will be killed this year because of their faith, and many more will be imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise mistreated. In some countries it is illegal to be a Christian and believers are punished as common criminals for their faith and loyalty to Christ. Such treatment of Christians is not new -- they faced severe persecution in New Testament times. Jesus often spoke of the difficulties that would befall His followers. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:18, 20 NIV).
When we think about persecuted Christians, we envision other countries whose populations are anti-Christian. We have been blessed in this country with relatively little persecution; however, I believe there is ample evidence to suggest that it will become increasingly more prevalent in the years to come. To date, our persecution has been mostly in the form of court decisions and legislation that restrict Christian observances, symbols, monuments, and practices. As our nation becomes less Christian, more secular, and more multicultural, we can expect the anti-Christian sentiment to grow and become more pervasive.
It's interesting that in the New Testament times Christians persevered most faithfully during times of severe suffering and persecution and the church actually grew. In a country where we suffer little for our faith, why is it that we are not more zealous and faithful to the tenets of our Christian faith? Have we had it too easy for too long? Are we taking our freedoms too lightly? What would you do if you were facing physical suffering for being a Christian? How would you react if you faced physical suffering for identifying with Christ and proclaiming the gospel message? Would we, as some are already doing, take the easy way out by denying our faith by our words and actions? Is our love for our Lord so shallow that we will not take personal risks for Him? Have we become lazy, fearful, and useless to our Lord?
In our first passage, we are told that even during suffering, we who are Christians should not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. Think with me about these words of Jesus: "God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT). Let’s pray earnestly for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Maturity and the Tongue

Funny but Sad: On a hill in an English country churchyard stands a drab, gray slate tombstone. The faint etching reads: "Beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who, on the twenty-fourth of may, began to hold her tongue." --William Norris
Quote: “The things I say and do today In memory’s book, I’ll keep, And when I’m old and read them – Will I laugh or will I weep?” --Source Unknown

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
In chapter 3 of James, we are told the tongue is a small piece of flesh that is like: (1) the bit in the horse's mouth - it controls the whole animal, (2) the small rudder - that controls the huge ship, (3) a small spark - that destroys the whole forest, and (4) a small organ - which can corrupt the whole body.
Someone has said, "Gossip is mouth-to-mouth recitation." There are those who seem to get a sort of perverse pleasure when something unfortunate happens to someone, especially someone they don't particularly care for, and they just can't wait to tell someone else about it. Sadly, many of us wouldn't have much to say, if all we could say was positive and helpful. Slander, unjust criticism, gossip, or hateful remarks can do irreparable damage. Once an unkind word has left your lips, it can never be retrieved or undone no matter how repentant you may be. The damage to the other person will have already been done. We need to be careful about what we say and how we say it.
Both Paul and James are wonderful teachers about the practical applications for becoming mature in our faith. It is their contention is that if we have genuine faith, that faith will be reflected in the way we live -- the way we relate to other people. James gives much attention to the harmful effects of an unruly tongue and hurtful speech. He says, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26 NIV). No matter how spiritually mature we may think we are, everyone of us could learn to better control our speech. Our Christianity will be worthless as a witness to others if we are letting our speech discredit the Lord we claim to serve.
If you have trouble controlling your words when you are angry or upset at another person, please remember, as a Christian, you should not fight this battle alone. The Holy Spirit stands ready to help us learn self-control – a gift of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). We are not fighting the battle of the tongue's fire in our own strength. The Holy Spirit will teach us to control what we say. Even when we are offended, He will remind us of God's love, and help us not to react in a hateful way. When we are criticized, the Spirit will heal the hurt and help us not to lash out with angry words. Jesus said: ". . . the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Christian Maturity

Chuckle: A Sunday School teacher said to her class: "Now children, you must never do anything in private you wouldn't do in public." "Hurrah!" shouted one little boy -- "No more baths!"
Quote: "Four stages of growth in Christian maturity: Love of self for self's sake; Love of God for self's sake; Love of God for God's sake; and Love of self for God's sake." --St Bernard of Clairvaux

". . . let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" (Hebrews 6:1 NIV). In 2 Peter 3:18 NIV, we are told to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
We all would like to think we are mature, both in our thoughts and actions. But we must realize that spiritual maturity is a process through which our Lord molds us into Christlike believers. Unfortunately, not every Christian will become a mature one; And the more mature we become, the more we become aware of our immaturity.
The dictionary says maturity is "the condition of being fully grown or developed." I believe the Bible was written that we might know Christ and that we might grow-up spiritually and become mature Christians. The book of James is a Holy Spirit inspired manual on practical Christian living, and it leads us toward becoming mature in Christ.
Many problems in life are caused by our immaturity. How many times have you heard someone say to another: "Grow up!" A lack of maturity can cause major problems in interpersonal relationships. It has been estimated that 90 percent of marital problems can be attributed to immaturity -- making bad decisions on who to marry and not having the maturity to make the relationship work once the marriage has occurred.
It seems logical that the longer you are a Christian, the more mature you will become. But there are problems with such an assumption. How long you have been a Christian, although an important factor, does not determine spiritual maturity. A bumper sticker which reads, "I may be getting older but I refuse to grow up" describes some Christians. Maturity cannot be determined by age, appearance, accomplishments, or by the number of degrees behind our names.
Christian maturity is a supernatural phenomenon which can only come from God through the power of His Holy Spirit. I saw this statement somewhere: "Maturity is an attitude which determines and results in character." D.L. Moody said, "Character is what you are; reputation is what men think you are." God is the only one who can measure our maturity and character. He sees your life from His eternal perspective and, if you are willing, he will grow (mature) your character to match the purpose He has for you in life.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything" (James 1:2-4).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Life of Persistence

Chuckle: Two youngsters went into their parents bathroom and noticed the scale in the corner. “Whatever you do, don’t step on it!,” said one. “Why not,” asked the other. “Because every time Mom does, she lets out an awful scream!”
Quote: "Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel.” --Napoleon Hill

"I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven" (Philippians 3:14 NLT).
"The path of least resistance" is a common phenomenon in nature. Electricity moving through a circuit will always travel where it has the easiest route -- least resistance. A river always travels around a mountain because it’s an easier path than going through one. But there is a difference between ourselves and electricity or a river. They will never have to give an account to God for what they have done. We will. Thus, perhaps we should select the path of greatest persistence rather than least resistance.
The dictionary defines "persistence" this way: "refusing to give up; steady and determined; going on and on." I'm reminded of the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going and going. Living for our Lord does not call for one short burst of speed but rather a steady and persistent pace of spiritual growth over a lifetime. It isn't the "sprinter" Christian that serves Christ the best because he/she may try for instant spiritual maturity. Rather, like marathon runners, it is the one who remains faithful day after day, year after year. Those without persistence will be hot and cold. Their lives are marked with periods of excitement then apathy, faithfulness then unfaithfulness. They are easily discouraged.
The apostle Paul, made it his goal to know and become like Christ no matter how difficult his life became. "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death . . ." (Philippians 3:10 NIV). He wanted to know Christ more intimately every single day. He recognized that he was not there yet and he saw his journey toward spiritual maturity as a race requiring persistent effort and focus as long as he lived. Like an athlete, he was straining every fiber of his being to reach the finish line and win the prize. He would not let anything distract him from attaining his goal -- becoming like Christ.
We can let go of past failures and guilt and look forward to what God will help us become. That's because we serve a God of second chances. We can grow in our knowledge and understanding of God by concentrating on our relationship with Him now and in the future. Realize that your sins have been forgiven and now you are free to move persistently on to a life of faith and obedience. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we should lay aside anything that might distract us from being effective Christians who bring glory to God by the way we live. You will find joy and fulfillment when you become persistent in your pursuit of God's purpose for your life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, May 12, 2017

Remaining Optimistic

Chuckle: “Why do people park in a driveway, but drive on a parkway?”
Quote: “What is impossible to God? Not that which is difficult to His power, but that which is contrary to His nature.” --St Ambrose
“God is able to do superabundantly, for over and above, all that we dare ask or think. Infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams” (Ephesians 3:20 AMP).
A recent lesson dealt with living by fear or by faith. Today, let’s think about six practical ways to live by faith and remain optimistic every day and in all circumstances.
1. Start your day by expressing your faith to God. Do not allow your thoughts to go negative, but rather you might use this prayer: “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice. In the morning I lay my request before you and I wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3 NIV). Start your day in faith and prayer, not the morning news.
2. Look for the good in every situation. “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). God specializes in bringing good out of bad. At age 67, a great fire destroyed Thomas Edison’s laboratory, millions of dollars worth of equipment, and all his records to most of his life’s work. The next morning, he looked at the charred embers and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start over.” He turned a stumbling block into a stepping stone to excellence.
3. Give your problems to God. So, what do I do when the situation looks impossible? “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8b-11 NIV). “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” (old Hymn).
4. Eliminate negative thoughts and words. “Do not let any unwholesome (harmful) talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). You can think and talk yourself into into almost anything negative. We become what we think.
5. Associate with positive people. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV). I think it was Chuck Swindoll who said, “If you want to soar with eagles, you can’t run with turkeys.” The wrong crowd can bring you down. In bad times, attach yourself to VIP’s (very inspiring people), not VDP’s (very draining people).
6. Remember what’s ahead. Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you . . . and I will come back and take you to be with me . . “ (John 14:2-3 NIV). When discouraged, remember, this is not the end – the final chapter of your life has not been written. When you get to heaven, you will likely say, “Why on earth was I discouraged when I knew this was coming? Why didn’t I love more, serve more, pray more, and give more?”
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Moral Life

Chuckle: Phil: “Did you lose your train of thought?” Carl: “No, but I think one of the cars just derailed.”
Quote: “if your morals make you dreary, depend upon it, they are wrong.” --Robert Louis Stevenson

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, what ever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).
For Christians, the adjective, “moral,” pertains to principles of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong. A moral person is capable of conforming to the rules of right conduct as described in God’s Word (as opposed to immoral).
When I first read the above quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, it took some thoughtful and prayerful consideration to understand the message he was attempting to convey. I don’t think he was advocating finding happiness in self-indulgence by abandoning high moral standards. I think he was saying that living a moral life will bring happiness, not dreariness. Our happiness derived from a moral life is a precious gift to those around us. As the Holy Spirit empowers us to live pure and holy lives, with high morals, we will project joy and happiness which is contagious.
We normally think of morality as a code for righteous conduct. However, in His teachings, Jesus was concerned as much about righteous thoughts as righteous actions. When teaching about adultery, Jesus made it clear that morality includes a code for our thinking as well our actions. Merely keeping our actions morally right is not enough. If we have adulterous (sinful) thoughts, we have committed adultery in our hearts. So true moral happiness only comes when both our thoughts and our actions are in line with God’s Word. In our text, Paul emphasized our thinking about his list of moral attributes. “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19 NIV).
Joy and happiness were major topics of Jesus’ teachings. God never intended for us to be dreary moralists, but joyful and happy as we live morally. For a Christian, morality is a code of thinking and conduct derived from the teachings of God’s Word. A morality created by a pagan society or religion is not true morality. As followers of Jesus Christ, our moral conduct should be patterned after Jesus Himself.
“Morality seems concerned with three things. First, with fair play and harmony between individuals (actions). Second, with what might be called tidying up or harmonizing the things inside the individual (thoughts). Third, with the general purpose of human life as a whole; what man was made for, what course the whole fleet ought to be on; what tune the conductor of the band (God) wants it to play.” --C. S. Lewis (Parentheses mine)
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Loyalty: A Broader View

Chuckle: Three friends were walking home from school. “What should we do this afternoon?” asked the first. “I know,” said the second, “let’s flip a coin. If it comes down heads, let’s go skating, and if it comes down tails, let’s go swimming.” “And if it comes down on its edge,” said the third, “let’s stay in and do our homework!”
Quote: “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” --Woodrow T. Wilson

“Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation” (Proverbs 3:3 NLT).
Last time we dealt primarily with loyalty between friends. Today, let’s take a much broader view of what it means to be loyal. I like these words, “Loyalty is a positive, wholehearted and outflowing devotion to something beyond your private self, bigger than you are.” --Harvey N. Davis
My closing statement last time was, “The selfish person is loyal only to self.” Today’s quote makes it clear that genuine loyalty involves absolute self-sacrifice. It requires the exact opposite of selfishness, and is unconditional devotion to something much bigger and more important to us than ourselves.
Living only for self is like heading into a blind alley that goes nowhere, and I believe it is impossible to find happiness and fulfillment if we live only to satisfy ourselves. On the other hand, living to serve God and for the betterment of other people, organizations or institutions will result in our own success, happiness, and fulfillment. From our definition of loyalty, how loyal are you? I think you would agree that the following deserve our complete loyalty:
1. Your God and church
2. Your family
3. The organization for which you work
4. Your community
5. Your country
Now back to the question: Do you believe each of these entities has been made stronger, better, finer and more resilient because of your unwavering loyalty and dedication? If you answered, yes, I believe you have come to understand the broader meaning of loyalty and have found the secret to genuine happiness. To help you and me in evaluating our own personal loyalty for these entities, I will list again some descriptive terms for loyalty: fidelity, faithfulness, allegiance, trustworthiness, constancy, integrity, sincerity, honor, commitment, honesty, dependability, duty, devotion.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Loyalty in Relationships

Chuckle: At the beginning of math class, the teacher asked, “Timmy, what are 3 and 6 and 27 and 45?” Timmy quickly answered, “NBC, CBS, ESPN, and the Cartoon Network!”
Quote: “Unless you can find some sort of loyalty, you cannot find unity and peace in your active living.” --Josiah Royce

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (Proverbs 17:17 NLT). “Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation” (Proverbs 3:3 NLT).
In times past, it was not uncommon for a loyal person to work for the same company for the duration of his or her professional career. Today, frequent moves from one job to another, for whatever reason, seem to have become the norm.
Loyalty is dead, the experts proclaim, and the statistics seem to bear them out. On average, U.S. corporations now lose half their customers in five years, half their employees in four, and half their investors in less than one. We seem to face a future in which the only business relationships will be opportunistic transactions between virtual strangers. –Frederick F. Reichheld
Loyalty within and between corporations is determined by loyalty between individuals. Likewise, loyalty between individuals is influenced greatly by loyalty to our Lord. This is not to say a non-believer cannot be a loyal friend. However, a Christian should be a loyal friend because of his loyalty to God. Let’s look at some synonym's for loyalty: faithfulness, allegiance, fidelity, trustworthiness, constancy, integrity, sincerity, honor, commitment, dependability, duty, honesty, devotion. Using these characteristics, we can easily evaluate our loyalty to our friends, family members, workmates, classmates and fellow Christians.
For Christians, it is our love for and loyalty to our Lord that motivates us to build healthy relationships with others, and our love for others is the basis for our loyalty in every relationship we have. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34b NIV). “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT).
What kind of friend are you? We can know a lot of people and call them friends without being true, trusted and loyal friends. A loyal friend is always available in times of distress and personal struggles. Stop for a moment and assess your loyalty to those you call friends. If your loyalty toward a friend is weak, conditional, and inconsistent, perhaps your loyalty to our Lord may be suspect. Remember, a selfish person is loyal only to self.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, May 8, 2017

Be Quiet and Listen

Chuckle: A Sunday School teacher was teaching on the Good Samaritan. She asked the class, "What would you do if you saw a man bleeding beside the road?" A student jumped up and said, "I'd faint!"
Quote: "It's a good idea to tune your instruments by prayer before the concert of the day begins." –Unknown source

"But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!"  (Habakkuk 2:20 MSG).
Many Christians begin their day with a time of prayer. It's always beneficial to find a quiet place to be with God as the day begins. However, the kind of prayer we experience is extremely important if the precious time is to be of maximum benefit. There is a temptation to do all the talking to God while being too impatient just too shut up and listen -- to wait silently and reverently and listen for what God has to say. After all, what God says is more important than what we might want to say to Him.
I remember someone saying, "you're not learning anything while you're talking." If we limit our prayers to quickly voicing all that we want God to do for us during the day, we may miss out on hearing the Master's voice and receiving His instructions and direction. Our God is real, alive, powerful, and the source of all wisdom. We are wise if we spend time in patient silence listening to His voice.
As Christians, we are blessed to have the Holy Spirit of God resident in each of us. If we are listening, He will convict us, teach us, direct us, and comfort us, but we must be listening for the Spirit to communicate with us. As we are quiet before God, He may convict us of our need for forgiveness, or our need to forgive someone else. In other words, what we hear from God, when we just shut up and listen, can determine the course of our day and our attitude toward what we may encounter. When we intently listen with expectation, God will speak to us precisely at the point of our greatest need.
"An aircraft pilot was following a major highway and observing traffic below. He noticed the driver of one car was attempting to pass a large truck, but because of oncoming traffic and no-passing zones, he was not able to pass safely. Again and again, just as he would pull out, an oncoming vehicle would force him to retreat. The pilot, who could see several miles down the highway, thought to himself, "If I could only talk to the driver, I could tell him when and where it is safe to pass."
God, of course, is the ultimate Pilot and his perfect knowledge is exactly what we need to guide our life. Prayer is how we communicate with to God, and as we learn to listen to His responses, we will find the guidance we seek for each day 
Love, Jerry & Dotse