Friday, June 30, 2017

Words From the Cross: It Is Finished

Chuckle: "You are wonderfully mature when you and your teeth no longer sleep together!"
Quote: “The Cross is a tree set on fire with invisible flame, that illumineth all the world. The flame is love.” --Thomas Traherne

A jar of wine (vinegar) was setting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, "It is finished" (John 19:29-30 NLT).
Today, we see the completion of God's redemptive plan. Until this time, a complicated system of sacrifices had atoned for sins. From the time of Adam and Eve, people have been separated from God by sin, and only blood sacrifices could bring forgiveness. Jesus, however, became the ultimate, final, and once for all sacrifice by his shed blood on the cross. The word "finished' means "paid in full." God's purpose for sending His one and only Son, was to finish God's work of redemption and salvation -- to pay the penalty for your sins and mine.
At least twice in Jesus' ministry, he proclaimed victory. One was at the beginning of his ministry and the other at the close. You will recall when he finished Satan's third temptation in the wilderness, he shouted, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10 KJV), declaring victory over Satan's temptations. Now at the close of his ministry, he cried out in final victory, "It is finished!"
The first shout of victory followed forty days of hunger and temptation. The last followed many hours of anguish and excruciating suffering. No pressure was great enough to cause Jesus to divert from being God's suffering servant and sin bearer for the world. Even at our best, we are weaklings and often lose our resolve and direction, but Jesus was different! He never fumbled, mumbled, stumbled, or grumbled. He kept His eye on the Father and His purpose. He would not turn back. He was determined to finish His task which the Father had given Him. His cry of victory, "It is finished!" reveals three truths worth taking to heart.
First, Jesus has completed his suffering on our behalf. The suffering of Jesus was in full accordance with God's eternal plan and purpose. He bore on His body all that you and I deserve to suffer for our sins throughout eternity. This truth is too profound for us to fully comprehend! Jesus' suffering did not begin on Calvary; he was dogged by the Pharisees and Sadducees who made His life miserable by finding fault with everything He did. He was persecuted at ever stage in his ministry. But His greatest suffering came in Gethsemane and on the Cross: (1) He was beaten with thongs laced with pieces of bone or lead; (2) A crown of thorns was placed on His head and a purple robe put on Him; (3) He was nailed to the wooden cross. The price was paid.
Second, the prophecies of Jesus' life and death have been fulfilled. From the Garden of Eden through the last chapter of the last book of the OT, we have the "Messianic Strain." Every book makes Jesus known and presents a "drama of redemption." Every one has something to say about God's eternal purpose in the world. They predict the coming of Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection. God's purpose was not to be thwarted. Every prophecy, every ceremony, and every ritual concerning the Savior's death for our sin were fulfilled.
Third, God's plan for our salvation has been finished. All that was necessary to atone for humankind's sin has now been accomplished. Of course, the glorious resurrection had to follow, but the price had been paid. The Father raised up the Son -- the Son paid the price. Jesus had completed the work God sent Him to do. It was finished! Praise!!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Words From the Cross: Thirst

Chuckle: A wise old farmer's advice: "A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor."
Quote: “The cry of thirst which Jesus gave on the Cross was a statement of need. He spoke of a world in need; for the myriads who would hunger and thirst down the ages of history.” --Norman Goodacre

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled (Psalm 69:21), Jesus said, "I am thirsty" (John 19:28 NIV)
I have read that in the Swedish language the same word is used for thirst and fire. It describes the terrible agony that extreme thirst can bring to a person. Death producing thirst can burn like fire in one's mouth and throat as the all-consuming need for water intensifies. A person can live for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. It was inevitable that Jesus would have a terrible thirst as he was being tortured unto death on the cross.
When we consider Jesus' horrible thirst on the cross, it reminds us of other Biblical uses of thirst to teach spiritual truths. Early in his ministry, Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water(John 4:7). He used the occasion to introduce her to the kingdom of God and "living water." Those who drink this eternal water will never thirst again spiritually. Jesus began and ended his ministry on earth by asking for a drink of water. He often used thirst as a theme -- spiritual water for the soul and physical water for the body.
Jesus’ cry, "I am thirsty," seems relatively insignificant when compared to other brutalities Jesus suffered, in reality, it may have been the most severe torture of all. Dying of thirst is one of the most cruel and painful deaths. Have you ever been really thirsty -- so thirsty that water was all you could think about? I’m sure It is a hopeless excruciating feeling.
In answer to Jesus' plea, the soldiers gave him vinegar to drink. When we first read this, we are tempted to suppose that the soldiers intended to insult Jesus. A closer look at customs of that day, however, shows that vinegar was the common drink of the Roman army and likely to be readily available. Elsewhere, we read that Jesus was offered a medicated potion, wine mingled with myrrh, to deaden his pain. But He refused to meet death in a stupefied state. I can’t help believing that if He had escaped the pain and suffering through some sort of medication, he would not have born our sins completely. The vinegar, or sour wine, was refreshing but did nothing to deaden His pain.
Calvary was not a pretty place. Have you ever grasped how truly ugly Jesus' sufferings were and how we should shudder every time we read the story? Because he suffered, millions have been blessed with forgiveness of sin, personal eternal salvation, and strength for everyday living. Even in his cry of thirst we see him bearing our sins in his own body on that “old rugged cross.”
When we have met the Jesus and surrendered our lives to him, we will no longer thirst, for our needs have been met and God's Spirit will have taken up residence in our hearts. "But whosoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14 NIV). The message from the cross is that Christ can quench our spiritual thirst because he once thirsted. He can make us alive because he conquered death.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Words From the Cross: Loneliness

Chuckle: Somebody asked me if I always wake up grouchy? I said, "No, sometimes I just let her sleep."
Quote: "He knows not his own strength who has not met adversity. Heaven prepares good people with crosses." –Unknown source

At about three o'clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani," which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Matthew 27:46 NIV).
When our pain threshold is exceeded, we go into a state of semi-conscious delirium where normal stimuli cannot reach us. We wonder how far Jesus, as a human, had gone toward his pain threshold when He cried out these words. But He was still conscious enough to reach back to Psalm 22:1 to express what He was feeling. By quoting this Psalm that pertained to God's purpose of redemption, He was giving witness that He was the Messiah. No doubt Jesus' physical agony was horrible beyond words, but even worse was the feeling of spiritual separation from his Father. Jesus suffered this double death to insure that you and I will never have to experience spiritual death with its eternal separation from God.
At Calvary, Jesus was traveling a lonely road in order to bring forgiveness to mankind. In our lives, there are also some duties we can share with others, but some must be faced alone. In Gethsemane Jesus had suffered just such an experience. There he prayed alone, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine" (Matthew 26:39 NLT). Now He was facing an even worse experience alone.
Of all the words Jesus spoke from the cross, these are the hardest to fully understand. Martin Luther said, "God forsaking God? No man can understand that." He was right, yet not completely right. For while "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19); and even though He "was come from God, and went to God" (John 13:3); He still died as a man. The early followers of Jesus were so touched by his cry of pain and loneliness, that they recorded it in Aramaic, the language in which Jesus spoke it.
Another difficulty in understanding Jesus' cry that God had forsaken him comes when we read his subsequent words from the cross as he entrusted (committed) his spirit into his Father's hands (Luke 23:46). It appears God did not totally forsake him; however, there is no doubt that as a man Jesus felt forsaken in his agony. Scripture teaches us that God is always watching over his own. Even in our darkest hours we have his promise of his presence with us. We all can remember experiences when we felt as if everyone had abandoned us -- maybe even God. But, one of the greatest heresies possible is to believe God forsakes his own. If you belong to God, he will be with you to the end! And we don't have to wait until we die to be in God's presence.
As a human being, Jesus suffered; a fact we must never forget. Although his Father was with him in times of loneliness and heartache, there came a time when Jesus had to pay the supreme sacrifice for human sin. No theologian can fully explain why it was necessary for Jesus to die in order for humans to live. But God willed that humans could only be saved from their sins by a divine sacrificial substitute -- and he had to do it alone as the once for all perfect sacrifice. Yet, Christ could have called on his Father "who will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels" (Matthew 26:53). "Nails Held Him there, but love made Him stay!" Jesus endured the agony, loneliness, and abandonment because of his love for you and me. What are we willing to endure because of our gratitude and love for Him?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Words From the Cross: Duty to Family

Chuckle: "When you become dissatisfied and wish you were young again, think about algebra!" --Will Rogers
Great Hymn: “When I survey the wondrous cross On which the prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.”Isaac Watts

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple (John) whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, the disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27 NIV).
Much about the relationship of Jesus with his mother remains a mystery, however, there must have been a deep love between them. Mary was the only person that knew by experience that Jesus was virgin born. Everyone else, including Joseph, had to accept that truth by faith. After all the events leading up to Jesus' birth, Mary "treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19 NIV). Mary suffered great grief and heartache as she watched her firstborn Son condemned and hanging on a cruel cross. However, she received some kind and loving words from Jesus when he said to John, "here is your mother." In his dying hours, he was mindful of her and made provision for her by entrusting her care into the hands of a trusted disciple and friend.
Even though Jesus' third utterance from the cross may seem to have a less profound and important message for our spiritual lives than the others, it may, in reality, have the most. Our love and concern for our families and the weakest around us exemplifies the attitude of Jesus when he reached out to those many others would have shunned as less important and not worthy of their attention. Have you observed that quite often, we treat those closest to us with less courtesy, compassion, and kindness than we do for casual acquaintances?
Even as He died, Jesus, as the eldest son, considered it his duty to provide for the welfare of His mother. His earthly father, Joseph, must have been dead by then, and Jesus asked John to care for his mother. In his time of agony, Jesus saw not only the weak men but the weeping women, especially His mother. With tenderness and love, he made certain she would be properly cared for and respected. He fulfilled his duty as her son and set an example for us in how we should relate to our mothers and fathers. Other than salvation, our families are our most precious gifts from God, and we should value them and care for them no matter the circumstances. This means putting their welfare ahead of our own. We should never neglect our loved ones.
Today, let's think of ways we can show exceptional love and kindness to those who are most precious to us -- our spouses, our parents, our children, and other family members. By doing so, you will bring them great joy and comfort, and God will bless you with joy of your own.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 26, 2017

Words from the Cross: Salvation

Chuckle: Alex: “Weren’t you afraid when the robber pulled a knife on you?” Will: “No, I knew he wasn’t a professional. The knife still had peanut butter on it.”
Quote: “The Cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed forever to show us how God would become a man and a man become God.” --Malcolm Muggeridge

Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43 NIV).
As Jesus died on the cross, God used the anger of human beings to glorify himself. It also offered Jesus an opportunity to display his great love, grace, and mercy even as his own life slipped away. Today, let's look at the interaction between the repentant criminal and Jesus as they hung there on their respective crosses.
We often hear the phrase, "his/her last words were. . ." Some of the most enduring quotes are the final words of people before their deaths. The last words of the two criminals crucified with Jesus show the great contrast between them and revealed the type people they were. One continued to reject and mock Jesus with a sneer to the very end. The other must have understood the spiritual nature of Jesus' message and requested to be a part of Christ's kingdom. Our passage is the loving response of our Savior to the man's "deathbed" confession of his sins. Jesus said the man would share a life with him beyond the grave.
It doesn't matter how old you are or how many years you have lived a life of sin and rebellion against God, you can repent of your sins and be saved by God's grace through faith -- anyone can. A wise pastor once said: "I believe in deathbed confessions. I believe one can be saved in his last moments. I've seen several, and I know deathbed confessions are valid and accepted by God."
There can be no doubt about the authenticity and sincerity of the thief's confession because Jesus validated it with his response. It seems the dying criminal had greater faith than the rest of Jesus' followers put together. The thief was saying, "I'm sorry for my sins. I accept you for who you say you are. Please let me share with you wherever you go." This is all any of us can do, regardless of our age or circumstance. No one is saved by being good, but by throwing oneself on the mercy of God through repentance and faith. When we approach God in this way, we have his promise that our sins will be forgiven and that we will spend eternity in His presence. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).
A certain atheistic barber was talking with a minister as they rode through the slums of a large city. The unbelieving barber said, "If there is a loving God, how can he permit all this poverty, suffering, and violence among his people? Why doesn't he save them from all this?" Just then an unshaved and filthy man crossed the street. He had long scraggly hair hanging down his neck. The minister pointed to him and said, "You are a barber and claim to be a good one, so why do you allow that man to go unkept and unshaven?" "Why, why . . ." the barber stammered, "He never gave me a chance to fix him up." "Exactly," said the minister. "Men are what they are because they reject God's help!"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 23, 2017

Words From the Cross: Forgiveness

Chuckle: "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint." --Mark Twain
Quote: "There he hangs, nailed to the Cross in the darkness and He loves us still." --Fr Andrew SDC

"Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NLT).
Here, Luke records the first of Jesus’ seven utterances while he was hanging in agony on the cross, and His words give us insight into why He died. Three of the sayings were directed to His Father, and four to the people witnessing his crucifixion. The first laid the foundation for the ones to follow. If Jesus had not had a forgiving spirit toward his tormentors, he never could have been the world's Savior. Even in the face of human hatred and injustice, Jesus revealed the extent of His divine love and forgiveness.
At Calvary, three people died, Jesus and the two criminals/thieves, and there were three different approaches to the deaths that occurred. One died without hope because he was stubbornly unrepentant and rejected God's love. One died pardoned from sin because he repented and pled for mercy: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom"  (Luke 23:42 NIV). The One on the center cross died for the sins of mankind because He was the only one who could. Jesus' death came as a beam of eternal light in a dark world.
We must understand that Jesus' prayer for forgiveness (Father, forgive them) was not a universal request, but referred to those who were putting Him to death. The gospel teaches that for people to be forgiven and saved, they must repent of their sins, individually, and place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. What then was Jesus asking his Father to do? As it relates to salvation, forgiveness releases us from the guilt and consequences of our sinful acts and attitudes. This forgiveness requires repentance on the part of those seeking forgiveness. Paul uses the word justification to describe those who have been saved and have begun the Christian life.
Forgiveness can also mean giving of one's self to restore a relationship (soul-union) between the one who was wronged and the one who did the wrong. God's forgiveness restores us to a personal relationship with him. This is why we must forgive to fully understand God's forgiveness. Those who have never forgiven cannot fully understand what takes place when God, for Jesus' sake, forgives them. Jesus said, "Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44 NIV). Implicit in Jesus' prayer on the cross was the request that God gives his enemies opportunity to be sorry for their terrible sin, repent of their sins, and turn to the Savior.
A person becomes a Christian by experiencing God's forgiveness through what Christ did on the cross as atonement for sin that was perfected in his resurrection. I believe Jesus was asking His Father to withhold condemnation of those who crucified Him until they became aware of what they had done and repented of their sins. God has done that for you and gives you opportunity to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord. A beautiful poem: "The sandal tree perfumes, when riven, The axe that laid it low; Let man who hopes to be forgiven Forgive and bless his foe." --Source Unknown
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Living with Terrorism

Chuckle: "If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would’ve put them on my knees!"
Quote: "When I stand before God at the end of my life I hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and can say, 'I used everything you gave me!'" --Erma Bombeck

"The Lord is my light and my salvation -- so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger -- so why should I tremble?" (Psalm 27:1 NLT).
Fear is a dark and foreboding feeling that can ultimately make us prisoners within ourselves. I’m sure we all live with a nagging uneasiness about being attacked by terrorists or other criminals. We are reminded every day that ruthless people do not hesitate to kill innocent men, women, and children to further their selfish and irrational religious, political, or economic causes. As God's people, we must turn to our source of comfort and strength and trust Him. Remember, He stands ready to free us from the insidious feelings of fear and anxiety if we will only trust Him completely. 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).
God would have us remember that our eternal destiny is secure through the blood of Jesus and cannot be changed by terrorists or anyone else. We can find peace in the face of the storm of cruelty and chaos from the Prince of Peace. Jesus said, "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul" (Matthew 10:28 NLT). God doesn’t want us to live in a state of panic or worry about what could happen to us.
So, what should we do in the face of the growing threat to our safety and well-being? One thing is certain. Having a strong faith should not translate into carelessness or foolhardiness. God wants us to trust Him, but He has given us wisdom to understand that we should adopt safe practices and take precautions as we go about our daily lives. This does not mean you are overcome by uncontrolled fear or panic, but rather are acting wisely. Staying alert for suspicious actions, sights, and sounds around you can provide early warning that something bad is about to happen and could save your life or the lives of those you love. We should all be vigilant.
I believe the terrorist and other criminal threats we face should impact the way we pray. Obviously, we should pray for God's protection of our troops and law enforcement officers fighting the war on terror and other criminal activity. But, how about our prayers for the terrorists and criminals? Listen to the psalmist's prayer: "Arise, O Lord, in anger! Stand against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice" (Psalm 7:6 NLT). Outrage because of what's happening seems appropriate when asking God for His protection and justice for the perpetrators.
Now, here's the tough part. Jesus said, "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemies. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV). It is possible to love our enemies while despising the things they do. This is how Jesus loves you and me when we sin. We can pray that the hearts of the terrorists will experience the love of the one true God and that their lives will be transformed by His mercy and grace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Laziness or Diligence

Chuckle: "Why did Moses wander in the desert for 40 years? Even then men wouldn't ask for directions."
Quote: “Thou, O God, dost sell us all good things at the price of labour." --Leonardo da Vinci

"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:12 NIV).
Lazy is defined as, "not eager or willing to work or busy oneself; slow and sluggish." Has anyone ever accused you of being lazy? I can think of no greater put-down than to be labeled as "lazy," especially by our Lord. As Christians, our hope (assurance) of salvation should keep us from becoming lazy or feeling bored in God's service. Instead, we should be like the athlete who trains hard and runs with all his strength, while remembering the reward that lies ahead. We should never be accused of being lazy when it comes to serving our Lord and others. Here are three characteristics of a Christian who is not lazy but is a diligent one.
Godly Living. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is you spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV). As living sacrifices, we daily lay aside our own desires to follow him, putting all our energy and resources at his disposal and trusting him completely to guide us. This type of sacrifice is possible out of gratitude for our sins having been forgiven and for our belonging to Christ.
Godly Loving. Jesus said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13 NIV). Jesus loved us so much that he gave himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We may not be called upon to die for someone, but we can show sacrificial love in various other ways: listening, helping, encouraging, giving, and praying. Give all the love you can, then love some more.
Godly Laboring. "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" (I Corinthians 15:58 NIV). Sometimes we become apathetic about serving our Lord because we do not see the outcomes we had hoped for. God would never have us become discouraged over apparent lack of results of our labors. Since we know our labor is not in vain, we should always work enthusiastically as we search for new opportunities for service.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Joy of Knowing Christ

Chuckle: "From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." --Winston Churchill
Quote: "Gratitude and faith are brothers, and their children -- optimism and enthusiasm -- are first cousins." --William Arthur Ward

"We can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God -- all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends with God." (Romans 5:11 NLT).
We should be grateful for what God has done for us rather than grumbling because He has not done enough. I suspect each of us has no problem finding something to grumble about if we really try. If we lose sight of the miraculous relationship we have with God through Christ, we become susceptible to feeling sorry for ourselves when we face even minimal hardships.
Just think about it; through Christ you are not only a child of God, but a friend of God. Jesus said to His disciples, "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it -- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. You are my friends if you obey me. . . . Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me" (John 15:12-14,15b NLT).
Because Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, He has every right to call us servants; but forgoing that right, He chose to call us friends, and He laid down His life for His friends. As children and friends of God, "then we are heirs--heirs of God and heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8:17 NIV). Yes, we can grumble and complain when we experience disappointments and hardships; but if we really understand our amazing relationship with Almighty God, the joy we experience should far outweigh any suffering we may be asked to bear.
Believers in the first century suffered extreme economic and social persecution. Some were even tortured and killed. These same types of persecution are being exacted on Christians in parts of our modern-day world. Yet, like the first century Christian, those being persecuted continue to experience great joy because of their relationship with our Lord. "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:16 NIV).
The next time you feel like grumbling, reflect on your eternal relationship with the Creator of the universe and the love He has shown you. This reflection should convince you to be praising Him rather than grumbling because things are not exactly like you would prefer. Our hardships are nothing compared to the sufferings of our Lord which made our inexplicable joy possible.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 19, 2017

Joy That Jesus Gives

Chuckle: "Some people are funny," mused the curbstone philosopher, "I know a man who had not kissed his wife for ten years. Then he shot a fellow who did."
Quote: "All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring from the want (lack) of thankfulness for what we have." --Daniel Defoe

Jesus prayed, "And now I am coming to you (Father). I have told them (disciples) many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my my joy" (John 17:13 NLT).
The word, "joy," conjures up in our minds a state of happiness, safety, comfort, peace, contentment, well-being, etc. One could go on and on reflecting on the ramifications of the word "joy" and specifically its meaning for us as Christians. I'm often amazed at how unhappy and devoid of joy some Christians appear to be. Some even seem downright sad, defeated, and dejected. Why is this so? Of all people, the body of believers should exhibit abundant joy. Each of us would be wise to take a spiritual snapshot of ourselves and see how it compares to the picture Jesus paints of a Christian full of HIS joy.
As Jesus spoke with His disciples, he often expressed His desire that they be filled with joy as they realized they are the beloved of God who had made them His children and joint heirs of His kingdom along with Jesus Christ because of their faith in Him (Romans 8:16-17). They, who had once been declared dead in their sins were spiritually alive in Christ (Romans 6:4). With the assurance of God's miraculous salvation through Christ, how could His disciples be anything less than joyful? How can we? If you are living a life without joy, you are failing to claim your spiritual birthright. As a child of God, you should never be satisfied with a life without joy.
For the purpose of our discussion, I want to distinguish between "happiness" and "joy." They are essentially synonymous in our current English usage. However, from a spiritual standpoint, I like to think of them this way. We usually think of happiness as being the result of having everything we want. This way of thinking makes our happiness dependent upon the circumstances of our lives. However, the "joy" that Jesus wants for us is not circumstance driven. If we distinguish between happiness and joy this way, every believer should have a permanent, deep, and complete fullness of joy that cannot be taken away even during the most trying of circumstances.
"Joy is consistently the mark both individually of the believer and corporately of the church. It is a quality, and not simply an emotion, grounded upon God himself and indeed derived from him . . . . Every believer is called upon to share in the joy of Christ by a daily walk with him and a daily practice of rejoicing in the knowledge of him and his salvation" (New Bible Dictionary).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Your joy, then, is a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to make himself known in your life. Our passage for today from John 17, is a part of our Lord's prayer. Jesus prays for His disciples and, ultimately for you and me. He did not pray for us to escape life's grief and troubles. He prayed that we would be filled with the same joy the Father had given Him. This is a supernatural joy that comes from a genuine, intimate, and continuing love relationship with the Father. It is the kind of joy that cannot be shaken by external circumstances. Do you have this kind of joy?
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 16, 2017

Faith is Giving When I Don't Have It)

Chuckle: Troy: “I spoke at the Boston gardens to thousands of people.” Paul: “Really? What did you say?” Troy: “Get your peanuts and popcorn here.”
Quote: "Whatever we hold to ourselves is loss. Whatever we give to God is gain." --Gilbert Shaw

"Now I want to tell you, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done for the churches in Macedonia. Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more" (2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NLT).
Our passage about the Christians at Macedonia reminds me of my childhood days. I grew up as the son of rural pastor who often ministered in areas where most of the people were poor and barely eked out a living on less than ideal land. Even, as a teenager, I was impressed by the kind generosity of these humble and loving people. As the saying goes, "they would give you the shirts off their backs," and rejoice at the opportunity.
It has always been God's plan and desire that faithful giving by His people would provide the means for accomplishing His work here on earth including caring for the poor. For a church to reach people for Christ, disciple them into mature Christians, provide ministries to those in need, send missionaries around the world and provide adequate worship, educational and fellowship facilities, financial resources are required. If you enjoy all your church has to offer but do not give sacrificially for its support, your enjoyment is being subsidized by the faithful giving of others.
God has made us stewards of all the money and possessions He has entrusted to us. I believe God uses our finances to test the dimensions of our faith. We can give either by fear or by faith. If we give by fear, we say, "how much can I afford to give?" If we give by faith, we say, "How much does God want me to give?" God knows we have trouble with greed and selfishness and His Word has much to say about it. It tells us that God's minimum standard is for us to return the tithe (ten percent) of our income to Him for His work (Malachi 3:8-10). Offerings are gifts over and above the tithe. For your consideration, here are some additional Scriptures about giving.
Jesus said, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8 NIV). "Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Matthew 19:21 NIV). "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap" (Luke 6:38 NIV). "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35 NIV). "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you" (Acts 3:6 NIV). "Each man (person) should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Faith is Persisting When I Don't Feel Like It

Chuckle: "The trouble with bucket seats is not everyone has the same size bucket!"
Quote: "Great faith is not the faith that walks always in the light and knows no darkness, but the faith that perseveres in spite of God's seeming silences, and that faith will most certainly and surely get its reward." --Fr Andrew SDC

The Lord said to Paul, "My (God's) grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me . . . "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13 NIV).
We are often tempted to base our actions on our feelings. If it feels good, do it. We want to protect our comfort zones at all cost. But when we function within our comfort zones, we are totally depended upon our own strength and feelings to determine what we should or should not do. To persist in our faith often means trusting God for our strength when we may not feel like persisting.
This reminds me of a funny story about a mother who was trying to get her adult son out of bed for church one Sunday morning. After several pleas from his mother, the son said, "I don't want to go to church -- I just don't feel like it." Finally, in complete exasperation, his mother said, "you must get up and go to church, your the pastor!" This humorous story reminds me that there are times when each of us does not feel like persisting in serving our Lord, even pastors. That's when we must persist and say with Paul, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength"
We don't know exactly what the physical malady was that plagued the apostle Paul. But it must have been painful and caused him to ask the Lord to heal him. He called it a "thorn in the flesh" and said it was a "messenger from Satan sent to torment him." Paul's plea with God to heal him prompted God to say that He would not heal Paul, but instead said, ". . . , My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Think about all that Paul did for the Lord, even at times when I'm sure he didn't feel like it.
As I reminded us in a previous lesson, God does not ask us to do anything for which He will not give us the strength and courage to faithfully persist and follow Him. When we persist in faith, we are amazed by how much we will learn to rely on God's promises and how He will give us a degree of happiness we cannot otherwise imagine. Remember how God continued to strengthen and encourage Abraham as he persisted in his faith. He will do the same for you and me.
In nature, electricity and water always flow along the path of least resistance. Frequently people are like that, too. But there is one difference between ourselves and electricity or a river. They will never have to give an account for what they have done or failed to do. We will. Thus, perhaps we should incline ourselves to take the path of greatest persistence rather than the path of least resistance.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Faith is Thanking God Before I Receive

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Chuckle: A cop to a lady stopped for speeding: "So you didn't think we gave tickets to pretty women? You're right, we don't. . .! Sign here."
Quote: "A faith that sets bounds in itself, that will believe so much and no more, that will trust thus far and no further, is none." --J. C. and A. W. Hare

"It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho seven days and the walls came crashing down" (Hebrews 11:30 NLT).
You may remember the story of how God delivered the city of Jericho into the hands of the Israelites (Joshua 6:12-20). In faith they obeyed God's command and walked around the city once each day for six days; then on the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times.
When they had completed the seventh time around the city on the seventh day, Joshua commanded the people to "shout! For the Lord has given you the city" (Joshua 6:16 NIV). Even before they took the city, they shouted with joy in anticipation that God would give them the city as He had promised. The Israelites were to shout the victory before the victory came so that the victory would come.
Faith is thanking God for something he has not yet done because we know He will do it. This requires faith so great that God's honoring His promises is a foregone conclusion. Anyone can praise God after He has fulfilled a promise or given us something in response to our prayers: But that's not faith, that's gratitude. We can praise and thank God for our salvation because we know He will take us to spend eternity in His presence when our life on earth comes to an end.
"In the classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Claus utters what much of the world thinks faith is: 'Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.' In other words, faith is irrational, contrary to experience, logic, and knowledge, and is so even at the most common sense level. Of course, the Bible knows of no 'common sense' that is not sensible enough to recognize that God exists and can do anything."
If you become certain of God's call on your life to go to a certain place and do a certain thing, In faith you can thank God ahead of time for the victory He will give you as you are obedient to His instructions. To doubt that the outcome will be what God wants it to be is to doubt God and feel He has made a mistake. God does not ask us to do anything for which He will not equip us and ensure us victory if we are obedient.
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Faith is Obeying When I Don't Understand

Chuckle: A little girl told her grandfather she was writing a story on his word processor. "What's it about?" he asked. "I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."
Quote: "The act of faith is more than a bare statement of belief, it is a turning to the face of the living God." --Christopher Bryant

"It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he is going" (Hebrews 11:8 NLT).
If we received such a call from God, most of us would want to know exactly where God is sending us, how long will it take us to get there, what will it be like when we get there, what are the risks to me and my family, and exactly who is going to provide for my needs? But the Bible tells us that Abraham obeyed without question based on God's call and single promise that He would bless him greatly and give him the land that God would show him as an inheritance.
God's command to Abraham was straightforward: "Go to a land I will show you." Without knowing where he was going or fully understanding why, Abraham obeyed and launched out in faith. Faith is obeying God and walking toward Him with expectation and anticipation even when we don't fully understand, but trusting that He will open doors and give us direction as we go.
I remember a time when I was sitting in my car in a WAL-MART parking lot just listening to the radio and watching people go and come while my wife shopped. It suddenly dawned on me that this was a teachable moment for me from God. The automatic doors to the store would not open until someone walked toward them. I could sit in my car all day long and those doors would never open for me -- I had to start moving and walk toward them for them to open.
What a picture of how we should exercise our faith. Instead of sitting and waiting for God to open doors for us, we need to get up and get going, and as we walk toward God, He will open doors of ministry for us and give us the understanding that we will need to fulfill our calling. You may be a skilled teacher, but are unsure where God would have you to exercise that gift. In an attitude of prayer, go to your pastor or appropriate staff member and let them know you are seeking God's will for you life -- and let God open the door and lead you to where He wants you to serve.
We may not fully understand what God has in store for us when we are obedient to His Word, but in faith we know we can depend upon His guidance, direction and protection as we obey. When God gives us a seemingly impossible task, do we write it off as impossible, or do we adjust our lives to see how, not if, God will accomplish His will through our obedience? Obviously, the later should be our reaction. That means exercising our faith by being obedient even when we don't understand what our destination or final outcome will be.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 12, 2017

Faith is Believing Without Seeing

Chuckle: More fun with the English language. "Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present."
Quote: "Faith is to believe what you do not yet see: the reward for this faith is to see what you believe." --St Augustine of Hippo
FAITH IS BELIEVING WITHOUT SEEING
"What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot see. . . . So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith" (Hebrews 11:1,6 NLT).
Do you remember when you were a child and how excited you became as you looked forward to your birthdays? You couldn't wait for them to roll around because you anticipated receiving gifts and maybe even a special party in your honor. You knew you were in for some wonderful surprises by those who remember your birthday. Looking forward to birthdays provides a child anticipation, excitement, and hope (assurance). When Christians exercise our faith in God, we experience similar feelings. Faith is believing, based on prior experiences and His promises that God loves us and will provide us with new and amazing surprises in His own time.
Faith is the evidence, certainty and reality of things we can't see. Faith gives us assurance that something will happen long before we can see it with our physical eyes. We see it in our mind's eye before it happens. Believing in God's character is the beginning of faith and believing His promises is the ultimate end point of our faith. It's interesting that we often say, "Seeing is Believing;" but God Word says "Believing is Seeing." "So we don't look at our troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever" (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT).
A little blind girl was trapped in a burning building and was screaming from a third floor window. The firemen on the ground below were holding a net and pleading with the girl to jump. But her fear of what she could not see, the unknown, was just too great and she wouldn't budge. Then her father arrived from work and joined the firemen. He called up to his daughter and told her to jump. She had such faith and trust in her father that the sound of his voice gave her courage and she jumped into the net without hesitation. She could not see what was below with her physical eyes but knew it would be alright because she had faith in her father.
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed. . . Nothing will be impossible with you" (Matthew 17:20 NIV). Jesus commanded His followers to go a make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Was this really possible? It is with God. When God gives us an assignment, it's no longer impossible, but a certainty -- if we only believe Him and step out in faith. Our faith gives us the ability to see the impossible being accomplished long before God chooses to bring it to pass. We should all remember, "And without faith it is impossible to please God"  (Hebrews 11:6 ).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 9, 2017

God's Timing is Always Best

Chuckle: A man and wife rushed into the dentist’s office, and the wife said “I want a tooth pulled quickly with no numbing agent because I’m in a terrible hurry.” “You certainly are a brave woman,” said the dentist. “Show me which tooth it is.” The wife turned to her husband, “Open wide, dear, and show the dentist which tooth it is.”
Quote: "Are we detached enough from our own spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told." --Oswald Chambers

"These things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place" (Habakkuk 2:3 NLT).
We are an impatient people. We live in the day of instant gratification. People want everything immediately, if not sooner. We Christians are as vulnerable as anyone to this line of thinking. We sometimes think that if God doesn't answer our prayers immediately, he isn't going to answer -- or maybe he didn't hear us. But God answers prayers in three ways: "Yes," "No," and "Wait." How shameful it is that "wait" is not more prevalent in our functional vocabulary. Sometimes I think we are so impatient that when we ask God to give us patience, we want him to do it right now!!!
God's timing does not correspond with ours. The Bible says one day is as a thousand years to God, and, according to his Word, waiting patiently for God's timing in everything pleases him and it also removes great stress from our lives. Once we learn patience (a fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22) with God and other people, we are letting the Holy Spirit do his work through us.
"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing" (Psalm 40:1-3 NLT).
Waiting for God to help us is not always easy, but we can see in this psalm how David received four benefits from waiting. God (1) lifted him up out of despair, (2) set his feet on solid ground, (3) steadied him as he walked, and (4) put a new song of praise in his heart. Many times blessings cannot be received and appreciated unless we go through the trial of waiting and trusting God's timing.
"Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful" (Romans 12:12 NLT). Remind yourself continually of God's faithfulness. He is actively working in your life to help you become all he intended you to be when he created you. As we wait, we should continue to be steadfast in our prayers and service. “God gives when he will, as he will and to whom he will.” --St Teresa of Avila
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Light of the World

Chuckle: A Sunday School teacher asked her class, “What did Jesus say about people getting married?” Little Johnny quickly answered, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”
Quote: "In darkness there is no choice. It is light that enables us to see the differences between things: and it is Christ that gives us light." --J.C. and A.W. Hare

"Christ will give you light" (Ephesians 5:14 NKJV). "In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:4-5 NIV).
I'm a "morning person?" I usually pop out of bed while it is still dark because I enjoy the time with the Lord as I take in the first rays of dawn's early light and the glorious beauty of a dazzling sunrise? As I witness the sun's appearance over the horizon each morning, I'm reminded of all the blessings light brings into our physical lives.
However, as amazing as the morning sunrise is, it pales in comparison with the "Light of the World" who reveals to us spiritual truths and produces righteousness within us. Do you arise with joy and say, "Good Morning Lord," or "Good Lord, its morning?" I hope you begin each morning with anticipation and excitement about what the "Light of the World" has in store for you that day. He wants to light your way with hope even when the road ahead seems dark and foreboding.
In the same way that light dispels darkness, Jesus Christ wants to brighten your life each day. His powerful divine light can penetrate the very depths of your soul to illuminate and remove the hurts, frustrations, and disappointments that otherwise darken your life. As His light brightens your life, He takes away those things that keep you from experiencing joy as you grow in Him.
Whether you are a "morning person" or not, you can experience the light of Christ in your life. You can still see each day as a new experience with the Light of the World. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12 NIV).
Yes, the Light of the World will light your path as you follow Him even through the darkest of times. You can become a child of the light and reflect His light into the lives of others. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8-10 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse