Friday, August 18, 2017

Love Your Neighbor

Chuckle: One hunter to another: “Look at those bear tracks! I’ll go see where he came from, and you go see where he went.”
Quote: “Today . . we know that all living beings who strive to maintain life and who long to be spared pain - all living beings on earth - are our neighbors.” --Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Jesus states the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, . . soul, . . . mind, . . . and strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31 NIV). "But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the (robbed and beaten) man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him" (Luke 10:33 NIV).
A lawyer asked Jesus, "If I'm to love my neighbor who is he?" Jesus answered with the familiar parable of the "Good Samaritan." The story takes place on the 20 mile steep, rocky, and dangerous road from Jerusalem down to Jericho.
Who is your neighbor? It can be anyone, especially anyone you see, or know about, who has a physical, spiritual, or emotional need. It might be the person seated right in front of you in your worship service. All around us our neighbors are hurting (divorce, death, financial, illness, etc.). Some are poor, jobless, grieving, lonely, and spiritually cold. They need someone to show concern. Our Lord wants us to keep our antennae up and tuned in to the lives of our neighbors like the Samaritan. He saw someone in desperate need, and he put personal concerns aside and stopped to help his neighbor. Here are some key words that describe the attitudes Jesus wants us to have in relation to our neighbors:
Compassion - empathy - share their hurt - experience their grief. The word for compassion is often used to describe Jesus. But here it describes someone acting like Jesus. He let nothing stand in his way. Love does not see obstacles to helping others, only solutions to people's needs. It looks for opportunities.
Contact. The language of love is understood by everyone. Making contact in love with a hurting neighbor will often break down walls of distrust and make the person more receptive to the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Care. Care enough to bind up wounds, administer healing oil, put them on your donkey (car) and get them a room - make provisions for them. Whatever it takes.
Cost. It costs us time, money, energy, materials, and convenience to be a good Samaritan. Being a ministering Christian costs us something if we are to make a difference in people's lives. We must hurt before we help - care before it counts - pay a price before the joy of the blessing comes.
What did the Samaritan get from what he did? He received neither financial reward, prestige, nor recognition. However, he gained the personal joy, peace, and satisfaction from knowing he had touched another life at a critical time and place. God knew what he had done even if no one else did. Jesus said, "If you give a cup of cool water in my name, you will be rewarded." Albert Switzer said, "Really happy people are those who have learned to serve." There's room all around for more happy Good Samaritans.
Jesus asked the lawyer, "Who was the neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?" "The man who showed mercy on him," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Would you go this week and do likewise for someone in need? Sometimes we're so busy making money, taking care of ourselves, and doing our thing, that we miss opportunities for service and the joy that follows.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Healthy Soul and Body

Chuckle: After the church service, a little boy told the pastor; "When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money." "Well, thank you," the pastor replied, "but why?" "Because my Daddy says you're one of the poorest Preachers we've ever had."
Quote: "The whole point of this life is the healing of the heart's eye through which God is seen." --St Augustine of Hippo

"This letter is from John the Elder. It is written to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is" (3 John 1-2 NLT). ". . fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones" (Proverbs 3:7b-8 NIV).
This passage, verse 2 in particular, has caused me to consider its implications for all of us as modern-day Christians. We don't know much about Gaius, to whom this letter is addressed, but evidently he had befriended the apostle John with warm hospitality sometime during his travels. John loved him deeply as a faithful brother in Christ.
Obviously, our physical health should be of major importance to us. Once lost, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to regain. With the epidemic of obesity in this country, and all the associated health problems, there is a growing awareness of the need for more healthy lifestyles in general. John was praying that Gaius was as healthy physically as his soul was spiritually. For John to use Gaius' spiritual health as a standard for measuring his physical health, Gaius must have been a spiritual giant.
John's prayer for Gaius reminds us that God is concerned for both our bodies and our souls. As devoted followers of Christ, we should not neglect the health of either. We should not indulge ourselves in unhealthy ways but care for and discipline our bodies so that we can be at our best in service to our Lord.
Let me ask each of us this question: If your physical health was as good as your spiritual health, would your physical health be better or worse than it is now? Would you want other Christians to pray that your physical health would be as good as your spiritual health? How is your health, spiritually and physically? Maybe it's time for each of us to have a check-up. If the results are not what you want them to be, seek God's help in getting spiritually healthy. Spiritual and physical health should be our goal. Once attained, we should nurture our good health to the best of our abilities, in the power of the Spirit.
“Inner healing is simply this: Jesus can take the memories of our past and heal them . . . and fill with his love all these places in us that have been empty for so long., once they have been healed and drained of the poison of past hates and resentment.” --Francis MacNutt
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Planning: Do the Right Thing Today

Chuckle: "Americans are getting stronger. Twenty years ago, it took two people to carry ten dollars worth of groceries. Today, a five-year old can do it."
Quote: "Our motivation is worth ten threats, two pressures, and six reminders." -- Paul Sweeney

As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:16-17 NIV).
Do you neglect or procrastinate doing what you know God wants you to do? God tells us, through James, that we sin when we fail to do something good we know God would have us do. There are sins we "commit," and there are sins when we "omit" -- sins of commission and sins of omission. Failing to do something good for someone, or procrastinating, are sins of omission. An unknown poet wrote: "procrastination is my sin, it causes me great sorrow. I know I ought to change my ways, and I will, tomorrow." Here's another thought: "Procrastination is the assassination of motivation."
The Bible says that Christianity is not just a life of not doing certain things but a life filled with doing the things God wants us to do. To fail in life, just do nothing -- just do nothing to strengthen your marriage or to teach your children. The solution is doing something now. Write a letter to someone; write your parents; call your best friend and tell him/her what a difference he/she makes in your life; restore a fractured relationship with a friend or neighbor; get right with Christ today; join a church today; get your marriage right today; forgive others today. Not tomorrow!
A pastor put it this way. "I don't know anyone who got married tomorrow. I don't know anyone who died tomorrow. I don' know anyone who sinned tomorrow. I don't know anyone who made a difference tomorrow. I don't know a life that was ever changed tomorrow." That's why God said: "Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Every day we have choices. God puts your life in your hands and says: "it's yours - you can do with it as you wish." You can waste it with drugs, alcohol, or selfish pleasures; or you can invest it in the things that really matter here on earth and in eternity. When you invest your life, you find it; when you invest it, God multiplies it. No matter if you live to be 20, 30, or 90, your life can make a difference today.
You may have seen the movie, "Point of the Spear." It is the story of missionary Jim Elliott and others who were killed by savage Indians in a foreign country as they were sharing the gospel of Christ. Jim had written in his diary a few days before his death: "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose." Today, many of those Indians are Christians. He paved the way with his life. He said, "I'm not going to wait on tomorrow - I'll make a difference today."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Planning: Don't Count on Tomorrow

Chuckle: With hands over a woman’s eyes, a man said: "You have three guesses who this is or I'm going to kiss you." Woman: "Jack Frost, Santa Claus, King Leer. ."
Quote: "His (Jesus') cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by his Resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to any person, and by His Ascension our Lord enters heaven and keeps the door open for humanity." --Oswald Chambers

"What is your life? You are a mist (vapor) that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say; 'If it's the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'" (James 14b-15 NIV).
A young couple desiring to go into missionary work had invited a missionary couple to their home. The host couple kept mentioning that life was "so uncertain" for them because the husband had multiple sclerosis. He could even become immobilized in a hospital bed, or live normally until death, or die unexpectedly. After hearing the term "uncertain" so many times, the missionary turned to the couple and said, "All of our lives are uncertain. You just happen to know it, and most of us don't."
One important reason to include God in our planning for the future is that you cannot be certain of what tomorrow will bring. You may not have tomorrow -- you have only the one opportunity of today that is certain. This fact is less real to young people, but much more real to those of us who are older. Whether you are a teenager or senior adult, life is short and fragile. James says we make a foolish mistake when we presume to have a tomorrow. He also says we are fools if we boast about tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 says: "Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring forth."
How then should we live? Simple! Live one day at a time. Some of us can't enjoy today because we are so worried or preoccupied with the future. Some can't enjoy their marriages because of planning for the future. Others can't enjoy school because they're planning for after graduation and for "when I get out of here." Jesus said: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34 NIV). He is telling us God will take care of tomorrow. So, you should pack your life today with all that God has for you.
Someone has said, "Life is what happens to us while we're planning something else." Many are missing life because being angry with someone is more important than living fully today; being consumed with the past is more important than enjoying the present; worrying about the uncertain future is more important than enjoying today. James encourages you to live it up, God's way. Psalm 90:12 says: "So teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom."
How are you spending your life? Psalm 31:15 says, "Lord, my days (times) are in your hands." God wants us to trust our lives into his care. We should say, "Lord, I don't know how long I will live, but I'll live everyday with the joy of your presence and will be ready when my life ends. Meanwhile, I will allow you to fulfill your purpose for my life."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 14, 2017

Planning Without God's Guidance

Chuckle: “Age makes you take twice as long to rest and half as long to get tired.
Quote: "Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest I know, and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do." --Oswald Chambers

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (James 4:13-14 NIV).
In contrast to the Christi Lane song, "One Day at a Time," we can become so obsessed and preoccupied with the future that we cannot experience and enjoy God's best for us today. "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). James deals with three mistakes we sometimes make which results in the future not being clear and the present not being lived fully. Today, we will deal with the first of these: Planning without God's Guidance.
James describes businessmen talking about how they are going to expand; go to a new place; start a new venture; and the profits they expect to make. Planning ahead is a worthy endeavor, and there's nothing inherently wrong with making a profit. But in our passage, the problem was their failure to consider God's will in their planning. It is dangerous for Christians to make plans without God. We make plans for college, vacations, business ventures, our marriage, our family, etc. Where does the Father's will fit into our planning? James says we are to give God His rightful place in our planning. He wants our plans not be limited by human insight, wisdom, and abilities.
Alexander Saul: Wrote about the Russian revolution in the early 1900's that brought communism. He summed up the destruction of the Soviet Union and Communism by three simple words: "Men Forgot God." These same words could well be written about our nation in the 21st century if something doesn't change. We have forgotten God. How sad it is to see God's people making plans as if God does not exist. We do this often. We go about a life of practical atheism as we make plans for our lives. Where is God in your planning, choices, decisions, dreams, etc. If you include God, your won't make mistakes and you won't be disappointed. I've heard it said: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans!"
James says we ought to say: "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that" (James 4:15 NIV). Most of us who have lived a while have discovered that our best laid plans often go awry. Murphy's law is working overtime to thwart our very best plans and intentions. We have seen plans and dreams crumble around us and wonder why? Our planning should start with: "Lord, what will you have me to do." "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (make your paths straight)" (Proverbs 3:6 NIV). "Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5 NIV).
God always has the last word in any of our plans for the future. As Christians, we need to stop asking God to bless what we want to do. Instead we should ask: "Lord what would you have me to do?" He will bless your plans if they are His plans.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Reality of Sin

Chuckle: A Man said to me, "I had to shoot my dog." "Was he mad?" I asked. "Well, he wasn't very pleased!" he replied.
Quote: "He (Christ) carried our sin, our captivity and our suffering, and He did not carry it in vain. HE CARRIED IT AWAY." --Karl Barth

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV). "Have mercy on me O God, . . . Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1-2 NIV).
We live in a world where absolutes concerning right and wrong are vanishing into a sea of relativism. This leads people to say, "what's right for you may not be right for me -- right or wrong depends upon the circumstances at the time." We see people committing even the most heinous of crimes without remorse, or acknowledging that their conduct is wrong and immoral. As these attitudes spread, they can lead to an undisciplined society of anarchy and chaos.
In the Bible, "sin," means missing the mark and the breaking of God's moral law. The Ten Commandments are an easily understood list of those transgressions that violate God's moral and spiritual laws. Incidentally, they are the basis for most of the laws in our society -- the Judeo-Christian ethic, if you will. Breaking these laws is a crime against society and sin against God. Let's look further at the reality of sin.
First, we must realize that "sin" sometimes describes a condition within the heart and soul of every human born into this world. This sinful condition can only be changed by God's forgiveness and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. The shed blood of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Not only do we need saving from our sinful condition, but we need to be forgiven of our sinful thoughts and actions as well. The Bible uses a variety of terms to describe sin, but the most common one means to miss the mark or deviate from God's standard of moral behavior. Let's focus on "sin" as breaking God's moral laws.
Psalm 51 was written by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah's wife. David had slept with Bathsheba, and then had her husband, Uriah killed so he could have Bathsheba for himself. David was devastated by guilt, remorse, and depression because of his great sins. Can you imagine a Godly man like David committing these sins? Remember, he was crowned King by God Himself because of his strong faith and immaculate character.
You may have heard this saying: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." David was a powerful king and nothing was denied him. He allowed his sinful nature to be tempted by Satan and yielded to the basic lusts of the flesh. The so called, "righteous" and powerful seem to fall the hardest when they succumb to temptation because they have the farthest to fall. In his sorrow and remorse, David came to his senses and concluded that he did not deserve God's forgiveness and prostrated himself before God and pled for mercy. Our loving and merciful God forgave him and restored him, but he dealt with the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. Like David, we all sin and need God's forgiveness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sin is Always Sin

Chuckle: A small boy drew a car with a man driving and a man and woman in the back. "That's God driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden," he explained.
Quote: "There is but one thing more dangerous than sin -- the murder of a man's sense of sin." --Pope John Paul II

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, . . ." (Romans 3:23 NIV). "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23 NIV).
You may have heard the saying, “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” Likewise, sin, no matter what we call it, is still sin. However, we live in a society where, for many, there are no absolutes when it comes to right and wrong. Right and wrong have become relative to the situation at hand. What is right for one person might not be right for another. If we take this view, then it's an easy transition to the notion that sin is not always sin -- not absolute -- the Ten Commandments are negotiable -- they become the ten suggestions.
The murder of unborn children has become an acceptable practice. We have become calloused and tolerant of adulterous lifestyles and relationships often glamorized and promoted by the entertainment media. Dishonesty has become acceptable as long as we don't get caught. Many do not see homosexuality as sin even though the Bible calls it a detestable sin (Leviticus 18:22 NLT) and an indecent perversion (Romans 1:27 NIV). But the definition of sin in God's Word is absolute and unchanging. The good news is that none of these and other sins are outside of God's grace, love and forgiveness. Let's look at three aspects of sin.
First: Sin is a condition. Because of Adam's original sin, we are all born with a sinful nature. "For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death" (Romans 7:5 NIV). We are all sinners because of who we are. The most moral and upright individuals and the most vile and despicable characters you know are equally in need of forgiveness and a Savior. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24 NIV).
Second: Sin is action. We are all sinners because of our sinful actions which show themselves in our rebellion against God and our disobedience of his commands. Sin is any attitude of indifference, unbelief, or disobedience to the will of God revealed in His Word -- whether this attitude expresses itself in thought, word, or deed. "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your life will produce these evil results (actions)"  (Galatians 5:19 NLT). Failing to do good can also be sin (James 4:17).
Third: All Christians sin. Even after we have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ, we l commit sins when we succumb to Satan's temptations. However, if we are genuinely born again, we will be miserable when we sin and will not want to continue to sin. But God has provided a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed when we do sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV).
Sin is sin no matter what kind of spin we choose to put on it. Allowing God to give us a new nature is the only answer. Let's pray that God will give us the courage and will to confront sin firmly as Jesus did -- but in a loving, caring, and compassionate way -- so that people will be drawn to Christ by His love.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Praying for America

Chuckle: A second grader came home from school and said to her grandmother, "Grandma, guess what? We learned how to make babies today." The grandmother, more than a little surprised, tried to keep her cool. "That's interesting," she said, "how do you make babies?" "It's simple," replied the girl. "You just change 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'."
Quote: "Prayer doesn't get man's will done in heaven; it gets God's will done on earth." --Ronald Dunn

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34 NIV).
No doubt you are as disturbed as I am by the moral and spiritual decay in our beloved USA. It seems that nothing is sacred any more and morality has been sacrificed on the altars of self-indulgence and relativism. People are conditioned to want immediate self-gratification with little or no thought for future consequences or the needs of others. Many are becoming increasingly dishonest, promiscuous, selfish, cruel, and demanding. We depend less and less on God's providence in our lives and are oblivious to God's hand and direction in the founding of this great nation. Many of our churches are dead or dying social clubs rather than Holy Spirit empowered organisms serving as beacons of hope to a lost and dying world.
If you agree with my assessment, what should we do about it? What should we ask God to do about it? After all, it will ultimately be God's mighty power working in the hearts of His people that will turn our country around and back to Him. Such a discussion would be incomplete without looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14. "If my people (that's us), who are called by my name (that's us), will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways (that's us), then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." These are beautiful promises from God Himself which we should take seriously and pattern our lives and prayers accordingly.
We tend to blame the condition of our society on those terrible sinful and corrupt politicians, criminals, and hoodlums out there who are destroying the very fabric of our society. But, is this really so? From Scripture, it is clear that God blesses or punishes a nation based on how His own people live. It's true that God wants all unbelievers to come to Him in repentance, but only when God's people get right with Him will we see that happen. When we begin to live holy lives marked by prayer, repentance, kindness, unselfishness, compassion, and service to others, we will be spiritually ready to pray for our nation and for a great revival and spiritual awakening.
First, we must humble ourselves before God. We must recognize our own sin and inadequacies and see ourselves as God sees us. We must see ourselves as the problem in our country because of our pride, greed, selfishness, unconcern for others, etc. When we humble ourselves before God, we will fall on our faces before Him, confess our sins, repent of those sins, and ask him to forgive us and cleanse us. True repentance and forgiveness will then cause us to make conscious decisions to turn from our wicked ways (sins) and live like we really belong to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Praying for our country in the abstract without beginning with personal confession, repentance, and cleansing of our own individual hearts will be futile. Once we have allowed God to deal with our own sins and disobedience, we are prepared to pray for our nation. "God doesn't listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will" (John 9:31 NLT. Let's get right with God, then pray earnestly for His healing of our beloved land.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Salvation Assurances 5

Chuckle: "There is nothing so annoying as having two people talking when you are busy interrupting." --Mark Twain
Quote: "The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt." --Paul Tillich
"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13 NIV).
The last four lessons from 1 John have provided some indicators which, if applicable in our lives, will give us great assurance of our eternal salvation in Christ. In summary, John tells us to look for these conditions in our lives: (1) Obedience to God's commands (1 John 2:3); (2) A genuine desire not to sin (1 John 3:6); (3) A sincere love for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:14); and (4) the Holy Spirit living within us (1 John 4:13). If these conditions are met, John says we will know for certain that we have eternal life. But, if you continue to have doubts, how should you deal with them when they arise? I hope these suggestions will be helpful:
1. Realize that doubt is likely the result of persistent sin in your life -- Satan is the author of doubt. When a sin persists, you will find yourself doubting your worthiness of God's love. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
2. Claim the promises of God concerning your eternal security as a believer. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38 NIV).
3. Focus on the faithfulness of God. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV).
To restore the joy of your salvation and remove any doubts, say to God in repentance: (1) I am wrong (confess specific sins in your life); (2) I am sorry for my sin (remorse - first step in repentance); (3) Forgive me (depending upon His faithfulness); (4) Cleanse me (guilt is taken away and sin atoned for); (5) Empower me (ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your life); (6) Use me for your glory.
Remember, God will not use you as a vessel in his kingdom until you have been emptied of self and cleansed of all sin. But after he has purified your life, he will empower you to be an instrument of his love and forgiveness to those around you. When you are being used of God, you will find that all doubt will disappear.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 7, 2017

Salvation Assurances 4

Chuckle: A Texas cowboy bought a Dachshund when someone told him to "get a long little dogie!"
Good Quote: "Three things we can all do today; Pause a moment to pray, Be a friend both tried and true, And find some good thing we can do." --William A. Ward
"And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. . . . All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God" (I John 4:13 NLT).
To this point, we have seen some indicators that give us assurance of our salvation. They include (1) obeying God's commands (I John 1:3), (2) not having a desire to sin (I John 3:6), and (3) loving one another as Christ loves us (I John 3:14). Today, we see a fourth indicator that our salvation is certain -- the Holy Spirit within us. Jesus told his disciples, and us, that the Holy Spirit "lives with you and later will be in you" (John 14:17 NLT). Those in Christ know they live in God and He lives in them because of this gift. We are the ones who bear witness that God sent Jesus Christ as the world's Savior and who confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us" (I John 3:23-24 NIV).
The apostle Paul sheds some more light on the subject of the Spirit within us. "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" (Romans 8:9 NIV). Paul is very blunt. If we don't have the Holy Spirit, we do not know Christ as Savior.
If you continue to worry about whether or not you have really been saved and are a Christian, but you can answer "yes" to the following question, you can put your mind at ease. Have you sincerely trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation and acknowledged him as the Lord of your life? If you can say "yes," then the Holy Spirit lives within you and your belong to God and your salvation is assured. It is the presence of God's Spirit that gives you the strength to obey his commands, to avoid yielding to sin, and to love your brothers and sisters as Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit within you helps you to act and think as a fully devoted follower of Christ should. The Holy Spirit seals your eternal relationship with God.
"The trucking industry has an interesting illustration of the sealing of the Spirit. For certain types of loads, when a truck is fully loaded and ready for its run, a plastic seal is put around the lock on the door. This seal cannot be broken before the truck reaches its destination without the penalty of loss of one's job. This is similar to the sealing of the Spirit. The seal of the Spirit cannot be broken before the Christian reaches his or her heavenly destination. It is our guarantee of reaching God's destination for us."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 4, 2017

Salvation Assurances 3

Chuckle: "What do you call a receptionist at a beauty salon? Answer: A hair-traffic controller!"
Quote: "It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. 'Look!' they say, 'how they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another.' " --Tertullian
"If we love our brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life . . . Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions" (I John 3:14, 18 NLT).
Jesus said, "A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John. 13:34-35 NIV).
So far, we have seen that obeying God's commands (I John 1:3) and a strong desire not to sin (I John 3:6) are two indicators that we have eternal life through our faith in Jesus Christ. Today, we will see another Christian trait that gives us one more proof that we know Christ as Savior and Lord: Love for my brothers and sisters?
Both our passages were written by the Apostle, John. He, and others of the twelve, had experienced the love of Jesus first hand and understood what it means to love one another as Jesus had loved him. This kind of love translates into actions toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. We go out of our way to show our love for one another. We are sensitive to one another's needs. Love is the evidence that people have been delivered from spiritual death to spiritual life. How are you doing so far?
Real love is much more than a warm and fuzzy feeling toward someone -- it is proven by our actions. Jesus tells us that the greatest love of all is the giving of oneself for the good of others. How can we give up our lives for others? By serving others unselfishly with no thought of receiving anything in return. This involves putting the desires of others ahead of our own. A good way to determine the extent of our love for others is to ask ourselves this question: "How generous am I with my money, my material possessions, and my time?"
"In a boiler room, it is impossible to look into the boiler to see how much water it contains. But running up beside it is a tiny glass tube that serves as a gauge. As the water stands in the little tube, so it stands in the great boiler. When the tube is half full, the boiler is half full; if empty, so is the boiler. How do you know you love God? You believe you love him, but you want to know for sure. Look at the gauge. Your love for your brother and sister is the measure of your love for God."
How are you doing in obeying God’s commands; desiring not to sin; loving your brothers and sisters in Christ? “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Salvation Assurances 2

Chuckle: A Sunday School teacher said to her children, "We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in Bible times. But, there is a higher power. Can anybody tell me who it is?" One child blurted out, "Aces!"
Quote: "For a saint to desire sin is as ridiculous as a rodeo where cowboys ride calves to rope horses. Not only is the experience unnatural, it is also extremely unproductive."Unknown source
"No one who is born of God will (want to) continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he is born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are. . . . . ." (1 John 3:9-10 NIV).
Last time we saw that our obedience to God's commands indicates that we belong to Him through faith in Christ and gives us assurance of our salvation. Today, we see another way we can know for sure that we have eternal life. This passage does not mean we will never sin as a Christian. Rather, it means we have no desire to sin. We don't want to sin and when we do, we're genuinely sorry and repentant. Those who are habitual sinners with no remorse are under the control of Satan - those whose lifestyle is includes indulgence in sin. Satan's existence has always been characterized by sin and rebellion against God.
Unfortunately, we all sin, even when we don't want to: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8 NIV). But even though we all sin from time to time, as Christians, sin should no longer be attractive to us. "He or she cannot go on sinning" means that true believers do not make a practice of sinning, and neither do they become indifferent to God's moral laws. Even though all believers still sin, they are striving every day to be victorious over sin. Our genuine desire is not to sin, and when we do, we are deeply disturbed and immediately claim the promise in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
We are "born of God" when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and gives us new life in Christ. Being born again is much more than just a fresh start; it is a rebirth -- receiving a new family name based on our faith in Christ who died with for us. When this happens, God forgives us and totally accepts us. The Holy Spirit also gives us a new mind and heart, and begins helping us to become like Jesus. Our perspective changes because we have a mind that is renewed day by day by the Holy Spirit.
So, if you, as a Christian, abhor sin and want to avoid falling into its trap, here are three steps that will help you find victory over prevailing sin: (1) Seek daily the power of the Holy Spirit and God's Word; (2) Stay away from situations where you will be tempted to sin; and (3) Seek the help of other Christians -- be open to their counsel and willingness to hold you accountable for your actions as they pray for you.
"It is always a somewhat surprising characteristic for believers who have grown in holiness to increasingly feel themselves to be sinners. Why? Consider the air in a room. It looks fresh and clean, but when it is penetrated by the sunlight we see that in reality it is full of dust and other impurities. In a similar way, as we draw nearer to God and are penetrated by His light, we can more clearly see our own impurities and begin to feel something of the same hatred for sin that God feels." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Salvation Assurances 1

Chuckle: Mr. and Mrs. Roberts had reached the airport just in the nick of time to catch their flight for their vacation in the Bahamas. “I wish we’d brought the piano with us,” said Mr. Roberts. “Why on earth would we bring the piano?” asked the wife. “I left the tickets on it!”
Ponder This: "It is never right to think that my obedience to a word of God will bring dishonor to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonor is not obeying him." --Oswald Chambers
"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13 NIV).
Numerous times people have asked me how a person can be sure of his or her salvation. How can a person be certain that he has been saved? How can a person know with certainty that his or her eternal home is in heaven?
It's not uncommon for a Christian to doubt his or her salvation from time to time, and I'm sure Satan wrings his hands with glee when he is able to destroy the confidence of a Christian. But God wants you to have complete assurance in your faith once you have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. How about you? Are you certain that if you were to die tonight you would spend eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ? You can know for sure! In the little book of 1 John, we find some very clear indicators to help us know for certain that we know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Today, we will deal with the first indicator.
"We know that we have come to know him (Christ) if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk (live) as Jesus did" (1 John 2:3-6 NIV)
Jesus expects and wants each born again person to follow His teachings. To obey is to show we belong to Him and have eternal life. The opposite is also true -- not obeying shows we are not His. Obedience also shows our love for our Lord. In John 14:15,23, we find Jesus speaking: "If you love me, you will obey what I command. . . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching."
Our passage summarizes two ways we can know we belong to Christ. First, if do what Christ says; and, second, if we live as Christ lived. Each of us is to live each day as Jesus went about His daily life here on earth. How are you doing so far? Do you have a genuine desire to understand Jesus' commands and teachings, and are you making every effort to obey them?
The obedient disciple not only has assurance that he or she belongs to Christ, but also becomes a channel for God to express His redemptive love to others. If we intentionally choose to disobey God's commands, we can hardly have confidence that we know Christ as Savior and Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sacrifice or Inconvenience

Chuckle: First girl: "I spend hours in front of the mirror admiring my beauty. Do you think that's vanity?" Second girl: "No, it's imagination."
Quote: "The principle of sacrifice is that we choose to do or to suffer what, apart from our love, we would not choose to do or to suffer." --Archbishop William Temple

But Jesus called them (his disciples) together and said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give (sacrifice) my life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28 NLT).
Here, Jesus teaches His disciples and us about the kind of servant that God wants in His kingdom. Jesus capped off His lesson by using Himself as the example of kind of servant we should emulate. His message is that rather then using people, we should serve them. We become first by putting ourselves last; and we become a leader by being a servant to others. In other words, it is by being a servant that spiritual leaders are born. This concept is alien to the secular world, but central to the kingdom of God.
The dictionary defines "sacrifice" as "the act of offering something, as the life of a person or animal to God; the act of giving up one thing for the sake of another." The supreme sacrifice is "the giving of one's life for a cause." The major theme is that a meaningful sacrifice is costly to us.
In the Hebrew culture, the word, "sacrifice" meant the taking a life and the shedding of blood. People brought their best lambs, goats, bulls, rams, etc., to be offered as sacrifices to God. The blood of animals was intended to cover their sins and the sins of their households until Jesus came.
After Jesus gave Himself as the ultimate atoning sacrifice by the shedding of His blood on the cross, animal sacrifices were no longer required. ". . . we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 9:10 NIV). This is "because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4 NIV). "Without the shedding of (Jesus') blood, there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22 NLT). The once for all sacrifice by our Lord means that no other blood sacrifice will ever be needed. Jesus' come to earth to redeem mankind by sacrificing Himself to ransom us from the bondage of sin.
Today, when we speak of "sacrifice," I'm afraid we often really mean "inconvenience," not legitimate sacrifice. Our definition of "sacrifice" often falls way short of the kind of sacrifice Jesus is talking about when He speaks of giving His own life as a ransom for many. A true servant, and devoted follower of Christ, continually makes sacrifices on behalf of others. What are we prepared to sacrifice (give up) for our Lord in ministry to others -- our time, our money, our abilities? Are you ready "to offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God? (Romans 12:1 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse