Friday, September 29, 2017

Words Reveal Our Hearts

Chuckle: Mother: “Tommy, why did you kick your sister in the stomach? Tommy: “I couldn’t help it. She turned around too quick!”
Quote: “Good words are worth much, and cost little.” --George Herbert

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men (people), who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing” (James 3:9-10 NIV).
By and large, each of us is the product of our childhood environment and upbringing. If we grew up in a home and community where people of a different races or ethnicity were looked down upon and demeaned by our parents, or others with whom we associated, prejudicial feelings may have become deeply rooted in our hearts and minds. If so, it may be difficult for us to change our attitude and begin accepting all people and recognizing that God loves them in the same way He loves us.
“If you, . . . ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:8-9 NIV).
Who we really are will be revealed by the words we speak. Harboring prejudices, biases and favoritisms may result in the habitual use of disrespectful and hurtful language. We may try to convince others that we have no prejudices, but our words will communicate otherwise. It could be that the use of prejudicial and unkind words has become a permanent part of a person’s everyday vocabulary. If so, that person may be using offensive language without even realizing the damage he or she is inflicting on others. But make no mistake, our words reveal our true identity.
Even if we don’t intend to hurt anyone by what we say, our manner of speaking can do irreparable harm to our relationships with other people. If you make disparaging remarks about a specific individual, obviously, your relationships with that person will be damaged. However, your words may also be offensive to others who do not share your racial or ethnic prejudices and do not approve of racially charged language.
If we truly know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, our desire will be to see all people through His eyes and love everyone as He loves them. If we love as Jesus loves, we, with God’s help, will make a determined effort to treat everyone with the same love, courtesy, and respect. We will intentionally guard our tongues and evaluate every word we utter to be sure we are honoring our Lord and edifying other people. If we harbor prejudicial feelings, sooner or later our words will reveal the depth of those feelings.
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 2:1 NIV).
The good news is that God wants to change us from the inside out. When our hearts have been purified by the Holy Spirit, our views of others will change and so will our words.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 28, 2017

God's Unconditional Acceptance

Chuckle: "Why did your mom marry your dad?" An elementary school child replied, "My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on."
Quote: "When I believe, I am no longer a mere man, I am already a son of God." --Carlo Carretto

"God sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace (reconciliation) between himself and others" (2 Corinthians 5:18 CEV).
Everyone of us has a strong desire to be loved and accepted -- to be found worthy of inclusion. Just to know we are included in a group, organization, or team contributes to our sense of self-worth and perceived value to others. When we think about our sinful condition, it's hard to imagine that Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, has accepted us as we are and desires a personal love relationship with us. He wants this relationship regardless of our past sins -- He accepts us as precious to Him even with all our "warts" and other imperfections.
God’s unconditional acceptance is driven by His unconditional love. God not only has accepted us, He took the initiative to let us know how much He loves us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, He brings us to Himself and nothing can ever break that bond of love or take away that sense of peace that defies human understanding. Through faith in Christ and the sealing of His Holy Spirit, we have the assurance of an eternal and unchanging relationship with God.
Because we have been accepted by, and made right with, God, we have the responsibility to grant unconditional acceptance to others regardless of their race, ethnicity, or social standing. When God accepted you and me, it was unconditional. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, or nothing we can do to make God love us less. If we could only accept others with this same kind of love, we would not be so hesitant to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.
Evangelist Vance Havner, preaching at the Moody Bible Institute’s Founder’s Week in 1974, stated: “Evangelism is to Christianity what veins are to our bodies. You can cut Christianity anywhere and it’ll bleed evangelism. Evangelism is vascular, it’s our business. Talk about majoring in evangelism, you might as well talk about a doctor majoring on healing. That’s our business.”
If our business is to be evangelism, we must see all people through the eyes of Jesus, and unconditionally accept them as Jesus does. When God reconciled us to Himself, he gave us the privilege of reconciling people to Him. "And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NIV). Oh, that we would be as accepting of others as God has been of us, and turn that acceptance into boldly sharing the love of Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

God"s Masterpiece

Chuckle: When my grandson asked me how old I was, I teasingly replied, "I'm not sure." "Look in your underwear, Grandpa," he advised. "mine says I'm four to six."
Quote: "The visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear so plainly in all the works of creation that a rational creature who will but seriously reflect on them cannot miss the discovery of the Deity." --John Loche

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).
The Greek word translated as "masterpiece" is the same word translated as "poem." In its broadest meaning, it describes God's poem, work of art, workmanship, His perfect masterpiece. When we fully grasp the significance of this miracle God performs in our lives, our love and appreciation for Him will know no bounds.
Have you ever thought of yourself as God's crowning creative act? We all share in being the crown jewel of His physical creation, and when we are created anew in Christ, we become God's ultimate and crowning creative work -- the people God intended us to be from the beginning. We are made new from the inside out by the Holy Spirit working in us. Do you fully understand how important you are to God, and what He has done for you through Jesus Christ? Our salvation is something that only God can accomplish; and as He does His creative work in us, we become His spiritual masterpiece.
Many places in Scripture we are told that it is because of God's great love that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins. By God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are saved and created anew for God's purpose. As God's "new creation," the good things we do allow God's grace to flow through us and into the lives of others and display His creative handiwork to the world. Our transformation from a life of selfish and sinful self-centeredness to a life of Christ-likeness, in both our words and actions, bears witness to the love and power of our heavenly Father.
It's true that no action or work can help us attain salvation, but it is also true that God intends for our salvation (new creation) to result in selfless acts of service. In other words, we cannot be saved by doing good things, but we are saved to do good things which bless others and honor and glorify our Lord. We are saved for a purpose. Let's demonstrate the love of Christ so faithfully that everyone will know we are God's new creation in Christ Jesus -- His creative masterpiece.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Our Hidden Motives

Chuckle: "Lesson I've learned from dogs: Sometimes the less impressive the pedigree, the more engaging the personality." --Mark Patinkin
Quote: "Success is living in such a way that you are using what God has given you - your intellect, abilities, and energy - to reach the purpose that He intends for your life." --Kathi Hudson

"Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen of them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:1 NIV).
We hide much about ourselves: secret thoughts, secret desires, secret feelings because we're ashamed of what's inside of us. Others may think we have a pure heart, are unselfish, are strong and courageous, but we know how impure, selfish, and weak we really are. There is a hidden part of ourselves we never reveal. In Matthew 6, Jesus directs our attention to our hidden lives. He draws the contrast between our outward appearance and our inner spiritual reality. On the outside we can appear to be seeking God, or trying to do what's right; but on the inside we can be preoccupied with impressing others. It's not God's approval we're seeking, but the praise of others.
Eugene Peterson: "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding." Who is our audience? How can we avoid making performances out of our prayers, fasting, and giving? Maybe we should examine our hidden motives.
Question One: How much money, time, and talent would you joyfully give to kingdom causes, if the only one who knew about it was God? If the plate was never passed in worship and if you weren't concerned about your spouse complaining that you're cheap. If you weren't worried that the kids would grow up and see you not being a generous person and all that. If you didn't get a tax deduction for it. Jesus said, "Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you" (Matthew 6:4 NLT).
Question Two: How often would you pray, if no one but God was keeping track? If you weren't trying to teach your children about the importance of prayer; or when you are out for dinner with a group from church and if you weren't concerned that people would think you unspiritual if you didn't say some sort of prayer before the meal... If no one but God knew you were praying, how often would you pray? To what extent would prayer be a part of your life? Jesus said, "But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father , who knows all secrets, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6 NLT).
Question Three: How important would spiritual disciplines like fasting (denying yourself food for a time to pursue spiritual development), coming to worship, solitude, bible study, etc. be if no one but God knew? Jesus said, "But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you" (Matthew 6:17-18 NLT).
We are reminded that God and God alone will pass the final judgment on us. Who have you made your audience? Parents? Teachers? Friends? Husband? Wife? Children? Boss? Co- workers? Church friends? All of these are important people, but we will never be free, never be whole, until God is the One whom we seek to please.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why Attend Church?

Chuckle: "It is bad to suppress laughter; it goes back down and spreads to your hips."
Good Quote: "A Christian who says he worships God every Sunday morning on the golf course is really worshiping golf on God's course."

    "Think of ways to encourage one another by outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT).
I've often heard someone say, "I'm a Christian and have a close relationship with the Lord but I can worship him without attending church." Of course we can worship God any time, but it is God's plan that we should assemble ourselves regularly for corporate worship and fellowship. As Christians, we have many precious privileges that come with our new life in Christ, and one of these is worshiping together. No doubt our primary reason for assembling in God's house is to meet Him, as a body of believers, and worship Him through confession, repentance, praise, prayer, and thanksgiving. However, there are other benefits from worshiping together. Relationships are strengthened, fellowship becomes warmer, and mutual encouragement becomes a powerful force in our lives.
As the day when Christ will return draws closer, we see opposition to Christianity growing, even in our own country. Persecution of Christians is on the rise around the world. It seems anti-Christian forces are becoming stronger each day. In these troubled times, the need for Christians to unite in brotherly love and mutual understanding and support has never been greater. I received this from a friend. Perhaps there's something in it that will encourage you.
          Why Go To Church? A Church attender wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I've gone for 30 years now,"he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving us sermons at all." This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
          "I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!

There are many blessings and great spiritual nourishment awaiting you in your local church. If you are currently active in your church, you don't need me to remind you of this truth; however, if you are not in the habit of attending Bible study and worship, I encourage you to get involved. God will be pleased and you will definitely be strengthened and encouraged -- and God will give you opportunity to encourage others.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sacrificial Lamb

Chuckle: "How old were you on your last birthday?" "Eight." "How old will you be on your next birthday?" "Ten." "I don't think that's possible." "Oh, yes it is -- I'm nine today."
Good Quote: "I believe there are thousands of men who could go to the stake and die, or lay their necks on the block to perish with a stroke for Christ, who nevertheless find it hard work to live a holy, consecrated life." -- Charles H. Spurgeon

    "When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood" (Genesis 22:9 NIV).
I ran across this story which sets the stage for our lesson today. "When telling his young daughter the story of Abraham and Isaac, a father related how God had finally told Abraham not to kill Isaac and provided a sacrificial lamb/ram instead. The little girl looked up with a sad expression and said, 'I don't like killing lambs.' The father was speechless for a moment and then realized how traumatic such sacrifices were -- how serious was the killing of a lamb and how destructive was the reason for the sacrifice, sin. If the killing of a pure white lamb seems horrendous, how immeasurably more so was the crucifixion of the Lamb of God!"
The mistake we can easily make in studying the story of Abraham and Isaac is that the ultimate thing God wants from each of us is to sacrifice our lives to the point of death. But God's miraculous intervention in this story shows that the taking of a human life for His sake is not what God wants from us. He wants us to sacrifice ourselves while living for Him. The only life God demanded for our sins was that of Jesus, the ultimate blood sacrifice.
I think Oswald Chambers said it right as he describes what our attitudes should be toward sacrifice: Lord, "I am willing to go to death with You, but -- I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God." He goes on to say, "It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a 'living sacrifice,' to let Him have all your powers that have been saved and sanctified (made holy) through Jesus. This is the thing that is acceptable to God." The apostle Paul put it this way: "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 your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV).
In Old Testament times, God required the sacrificing of animals for the sins of the people. Every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed in the Temple (Exodus 29:38-42). This may seem cruel and barbaric to us today, but this requirement was a part of life in those days. However, that all came to an end when Jesus came as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Such sacrifices are no longer required because the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the cross fulfilled, once and for all, the requirement for animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10:10). The New Testament shows the need to give ourselves and all we are to God as our act of worship. Now self-giving is the acceptable attitude of worship.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Whole Person

Chuckle:  "In a school essay on parents, one little girl wrote: 'We get our parents when they are so old it is hard to change their habits!'"  
Quote: “Almighty God, bestow upon us the meaning of words, the light of understanding, the nobility of diction and the faith of the true nature. And grant that what we believe we may also speak.” –St Hilary of Poitiers
Jesus prayed: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!” (Matthew 11:25-26 NLT).
Jesus refers to two kinds of people in His prayer to the Father, the “wise and clever” – proud and arrogant in their own wisdom and knowledge – and the “childlike” – humbly open and responsive to the truth of God’s Holy Word. To which group do you belong? Do you consider yourself wise in your own eyes or do you search for truth with childlike faith and understanding that only God holds all the answers to our questions
Speaking of childlike faith, I have been touched by the words of Elder J. J. Johnson, Pastor of Sunlight Christian Spiritual Mission African Baptist Church in New Orleans. He was a man who could scarcely read and write, but with a level of faith seldom seen.  Please read with your physical eyes and listen with your spiritual ears to what Elder Johnson says in this sermon excerpt
    “If you don’t believe in God, you ain’t a whole man; you just a number in the book. A lot of smart people claim they don’t believe nuthin unless they can see it. Look, friend, you can’t see electricity in that high-tension wire up yonder, but I DARE YOU TO TOUCH IT!  No, you can’t see that electricity but you can see the light.”
What a beautiful expression of his faith. I think each of us goes through life searching for that which will make us whole/complete and bring us ultimate fulfillment – true contentment, peace and happiness. No doubt, we all want to be seen as a whole person, not lacking in anything that draws us closer to our Lord. The kind of faith Elder Johnson described meant not only believing in God but trusting Him with your eternal soul and in every circumstance of life here on earth.
When a father tosses his little daughter into the air, she giggles and is not afraid. Even though she sees herself in the most unusual and threatening circumstances with nothing between her and the hard floor below, she has no fear because she trusts her father to catch her and gently lower her to the floor.  That’s the kind of childlike faith and trust each of us should have toward our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Possessions Can Possess Us

Chuckle: "Only floss the teeth you want to keep!"
Quote: "It is impossible to out-give God, to out-reach His concern, to outrun His mercy, or to out-live His love." --William Arthur Ward

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38 NASB).
This devotional is borrowed from an unknown author. I hope it is a blessing to you.
God is the source of everything and He supplies "all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19 NIV). And His riches are unlimited and eternal! Our obedience to His principles demonstrates that we trust Him in all areas of our lives, including our finances and possessions. According to Deuteronomy 14:23, one purpose of tithing was to teach the people of Israel to put God first in their lives.
How we handle money reveals much about the depth of our commitment to Christ. Jesus often talked about money and one-sixth of the gospels, as well as one out of every three parables, touch on stewardship of money and possessions. Money matters. For some of us, though, it matters too much. "But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9 NLT).
Often, it is easier for a person to live by faith when he does not have money than when he does. The one who has nothing has little choice about how to live and is much more inclined to live totally dependent on the Lord. But when a Christian has money in the bank, he has a choice to make. He can spend it by faith or he can spend on self. John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest gentleman on board the Titanic, once said, "I am the most miserable man on earth." In a situation of plenty, it becomes most important for Christians to properly use the wealth that God gives them.
Attitude toward things and not the things themselves constitutes good or evil. On the one hand, it means that the Christian must not covet money or the things it can buy. On the other hand, it doesn't mean the Christian should not enjoy the things that God gives him, if these things are placed in proper perspective and bought in the will of God.
If every one of your possessions and all your finances were taken from you today, would you still find yourself able to thank the Lord? Would you be content in all things? Chances are this won't happen, but you should, be truthful as you contemplate your answer to these questions. What standard of measure do you use in counting your blessings?
“Money is an article that may be used as a universal provider of everything – except happiness.”
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Selfishness and Happiness

Chuckle: Patient: “Doctor, Why do you whistle when you operate?” Doctor: “It helps take my mind off my work.”
Quote: “He who lives only for himself is truly dead to others.” –Publilius Syrus

“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1 NIV). “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).
Everyone I know is searching for happiness. But searching for happiness by being selfish is like trying to catch an elusive butterfly. When you stop trying to catch it and instead devote your attention to tending your garden, often the butterfly will quietly and unexpectedly light on your shoulder. You can try and try to catch happiness to no avail; but when you stop searching and begin immersing yourself in the really important things in life, happiness will present itself when you least expect it. This is because your mind is on something bigger and better than yourself. To put it another way, it seems to me that happiness is a by-product of a well lived life, not a separate entity to be pursued.
The world would have you believe that happiness will come only when you look out for yourself at the expense of others. Self-indulgence in money and things is touted as a means to attain happiness. The concept of happiness differs between individuals, but a truth from God’s Word is that no person can be truly happy who lives solely for himself. But the wise person makes his relationship with God his first priority, followed by concern for others, and lastly himself. In our passages, we are warned about selfishness.
Preoccupation with self and selfishness can destroy relationships within families, churches and communities, but genuine humility and selfless concern for others will produce healthy relationships. This does not mean we should put ourselves down, but that the wellbeing of others is more important to us than our own. This means having the wisdom to forecast outcomes from selflessness and the desire to unselfishly share our time, talents, money and possessions with others to enhance their lives.
Ralph L. Woods: An ambitious farmer, unhappy about the yield of his crops, heard of a highly recommended new seed corn. He bought some and produced a crop that was so abundant his astonished neighbors asked him to sell them a portion of the new seed. But the farmer, afraid that he would lose a profitable competitive advantage, refused. The second year the new seed did not produce as good a crop, and when the third-year crop was still worse it dawned upon the farmer that his prize corn was being pollinated by the inferior grade of corn from his neighbors' fields. --C.R. Gibson, Wellsprings of Wisdom.
Seeing others’ interests as more important than our own connects us to Christ, the ultimate example of humility and service, and puts us on the road to true happiness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 18, 2017

Interceding Holy Spirit

Chuckle: More fun with the English language. "The buck does funny things when the does are present."
Quote: "The best prayers have often more groans than words." –Unknown Source

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for; nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will" (Romans 8:26b-27 NLT).
Have there been times in your life when you were praying but just could not find the right words to express the condition of your heart? Have you been in such pain and sorrow that no words were adequate to express the way you felt? I'm quite sure each of us has had a similar experience sometime(s) in our lives. What a beautiful picture of God's grace and provision we see in this passage.
The Holy Spirit takes our burdens, griefs, sorrows, and frustrations and intercedes with the Father through groans that cannot be expressed in words. Isn't it wonderful that the Holy Spirit of God is interceding for us in the same way we pray intercessory prayers for our fellow believers. But, that's not all. Listen to this: "Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God (the Father) and is also interceding for us" (Romans 8:34 NIV and Hebrews 7:25).
Here's the picture! God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinitarian Godhead, are all involved in the intercessory process for us as believers. God the Father, who knows all hearts, searches all human hearts while the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus intercede for all Christians. Even when you don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with you and for you. God understands those prayers even if they reach Him only as groans and He answers according to His own will. If this doesn't light your fire, your wood is wet!
We are admonished to intercede for one another as the Holy Spirit and Jesus are interceding for us. "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone. . ." (1 Timothy 2:1 NIV). Notice that intercession is only one form of prayer mentioned here. We may deal with other forms of prayer at a later date.
With God helping us pray, we should not hesitate to approach His throne of grace in prayer boldly with freedom and confidence. "In him (Christ) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:12 NIV). We do so with the confidence that the true meaning of our prayers will be accurately communicated to our Heavenly Father by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 15, 2017

Confidence in God

Chuckle: A pastor was talking to some children and asked, "What is brown, furry, with a bushy tail, and hides nuts?" One little boy replied, "I know the answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel."
Quote: "God is sufficiently wise, and good and powerful and merciful to turn even the most, apparently, disastrous events to the advantage and profit of those who humbly adore and accept his will in all that he permits." --Jean-Pierre de Caussade
"But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head" (Psalm 3:3 NIV).
What is your first reaction when problems arise in your life? Where do you focus your attention for help in dealing with adverse situations? How do you plan ahead for dealing with troubles when they come, and how do you shield yourself from their damaging impact?
When King David wrote this psalm, he was not setting on his comfortable throne in the safety of a palace, but was running for his life to escape from his rebellious son, Absalom, and a host of other traitors. It's a gross understatement to say he was dealing with major troubles. When trouble comes, it's tempting to think God has turned His back on us and is meting out his wrath upon us. This attitude often causes us to turn away from God in time of trouble rather than toward Him. But David remembered an eternal truth: God is always with us even when everything and everyone seems to be against us. "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Romans 8:31 NIV).
Someone has said, "glance at your problems and gaze at God" when trouble closes in. This makes eminent sense if you think about it. The key question is where do we focus our attention during troubling times? If we gaze (focus) on our troubles and only glance at God, the perceived magnitude of our troubles will increase and our confidence in God and dependence upon Him will decrease. Like David, we should learn to keep our eyes focused on God in all circumstances.
Jesus said to His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV). As we keep our eyes (gaze) upon our Lord and focus on His faithfulness, our confidence in Him will become stronger and unshakable. God will never abandon us, and we can enjoy the peace of Christ even in the most troublesome of times.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Why Does God . . .?

Chuckle: Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."
Good Quote: "The love of God is like the Amazon River flowing down to water a single daisy." --Unknown

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV).
I'm sure many of us have asked the question, "Why does God let horrible things happen, like the recent hurricanes that took many lives and did untold millions in damage to homes and other property?" Inherent in this question are certain affirmations for Christians: (1) That God is in control, and (2) That we can't understand God's ways. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8 NIV).
We can never answer all the questions to everyone's satisfaction. But, for us as Christians, when we ask these questions, we must remember that God is good and we can trust Him. So, we should ask God what he would have us learn and do as a result of these type disasters. Using Luke 12:13-21, our pastor pointed out three major lessons for us. I want to share them with you.
1. Life is more important than possessions. In verses 14-15, we find two brothers squabbling over their inheritance. Jesus knew their hearts and said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (vs. 15). We live in a society of greedy people. We love our stuff. In fact, much of what we do indicates that our stuff is more important to us than anything else. But, did you notice, in the aftermath of the hurricanes, all people could think about was the safety of their loved ones, not their possessions. It takes disasters like this to help us put possessions in perspective. It teaches us about values. . . .
2. Eternity is more important than time. In verses 18-21, Jesus shows us how valueless our possessions really are when our lives come to an end. A rich man was worried about where he could store all his possessions. He was content with himself because he had all the material things he would ever need. But in verse 20, Jesus said: "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be required from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (verses. 20-21).
3. Generous Christian ministry is always needed. We see the generosity of the American people, especially Christian people, in the face of such terrible need resulting from natural disasters. What if the rich man had used all his riches to honor God by helping others in need? God blesses us so we can bless the lives of others. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of us were less self-centered and greedy and more loving, compassionate, and giving all the time; not just in times of great emergencies.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When Christians Die

Chuckle: A cop to a speeder: "Warning! You want a warning? O.K., I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket."
Quote: "The awful importance of this life is that it determines eternity." --William Barclay

    "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those (Christians) who fall asleep (die), or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV).
As Christians, we have the assurance of spending eternity with God in a place the Bible calls Heaven. But before we get to heaven, we must die physically -- that is, unless we remain alive until Jesus returns. Today, we can be comforted by considering death from the Christian perspective.
From the movie, "Forrest Gump," you may remember Forrest standing by the grave of his wife, Jenny. He said, "Mama always told me that dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn't." The prospect of dying isn't an easy concept to deal with, but it is normal and certain for all of us, and we can be comforted by letting God's Word speak to us about it. Most people believe in some kind of life after death, but to many it is a great mystery. The most complete statement on life after death for Christians is found in I Thessalonians 4:13-17. Paul tells us what will happen and how.
The Greek word for death simply means "separation." The word does not express finality. It is the separation of soul from body when our physical life on earth is ended. What happens between physical death and the resurrection? We can call this the "disembodied state." Our mortal bodies are in the grave, but our eternal spirit is at home with the Lord. Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9. We know from Scripture that:
          1. We will be alive and awake. Jesus said, "Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:26). The clearest teaching on this is in Luke 16:22-23, where, after his death, we see Lazarus alive and conscious in Abraham's bosom, while the rich man was tormented.
          2. We will be at home at last. In I Thessalonians 4:14, we are told that when the Lord returns, He will bring with Him those believers who have (died) fallen asleep. In Philippians 1:21-22, Paul tells us that to die is "to be present with Christ." "To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).
          3. We will be in paradise. Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, "Today, you will be with me in paradise." This is sometimes referred to as the "Third Heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:4). The Jews believed in three heavens: (a) where the birds fly; (b) where the sun and moon are; and (c) where God is. We see the first by day, the second by day and night, and the third by faith. We will be in God's presence. That is paradise.
          4. We will be at rest (Revelation 14:13. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor." "Blessed" means "happy," or "fortunate." "Rest" does not mean inactivity, but a time of refreshment. Our spirits will be active and refreshed in the Lord's presence.
So, you see, Christians should not necessarily relish death, but we should have no fear of it. If we allow our faith in God's promises to remove our fear of death, an extra dimension of joy will be added to our lives here on earth.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Life of Purpose -- Summary:

Chuckle: A children's Sunday school class was studying the Ten Commandments. They were ready to discuss the last one. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. Susie raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, "Thou shall not take the covers off thy neighbor's wife." --Unknown
Good Quote: “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes.” --Orson Ferguson Whitney 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in a secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV).
If we go through life without realizing and fulfilling the purposes God intended for us, we risk coming to the end of our lives without a sense of peace, fulfillment, and completeness. Even if we achieve great success by worldly standards, at the end of our lives, we might have to say, "I have reached the top rung of the ladder -- only to learn I had placed the ladder against the wrong wall." Let me summarize our study of the five life purposes by quoting directly from Rick Warren's "Meditations On the Purpose Driven Life."
1. WORSHIP: You were planned for God's pleasure! "After all this, there is only one thing to say: Have reverence for God, and obey his commands, because this is all that we were created for" (Ecclesiastes 12:13 TEV).
2. FELLOWSHIP: You were formed for a family! "It was a happy day for him when he gave us our new lives, through the truth of his Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in his new family" (James 1:18 LB).
3. DISCIPLESHIP: You were created to become like Christ! "God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son . . . We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him" (Romans 8:29 The Message).
4. MINISTRY: You were shaped for serving God! "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
5. EVANGELISM: You were made for a mission! "Jesus said, 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'" (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).
If you have further interest in the study of God's purposes for your life, I recommend you get a copy of Rick Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life." It is potentially a life-changing read.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 11, 2017

Made for a Mission, Part 2

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Made for a Mission, Part 1

Chuckle: "I would be unstoppable, if I could just get started!" --Unknown
Good Quote: “If we want to be used for the benefit of mankind—helping the Lord with his mission — we must ourselves be in a position to be used by him.” --Elaine Cannon
As Jesus was praying to his Father, he prayed: "In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world" (John 17:18 The Message).
In His book, "The Purpose Driven Life," Rick Warren identifies from Scripture five purposes for our lives: (1) "You Were Planned for God's Pleasure," (2) "You Were Formed for A Family," (3) "You Were Created to Become Like Christ," (4) "You Were Shaped for Serving God." The fifth, and final, purpose for your life is that you were made by God for a specific mission here on earth. Simply put, that mission is to be ambassadors for Christ and to tell the good news of Jesus to the people around us. This is called evangelism.
It is here that many Christians get weak in the knees. When we hear a sermon on witnessing, we get tense, uneasy, and uncomfortable. We've heard it all before, and we aren't very excited about hearing it again. We know what we ought to do, and we feel frustration and guilt for not being more bold in sharing with others how they can know Christ as Savior and Lord. But make no mistake; once we become Christians, it becomes our God-given mission to share Jesus and the five purposes for life with those around us and throughout the world. As Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, he said to his disciples and to us:
" . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV). "All authority (power) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).
You see, your ministry in your church and mission in the world are both important as you carry out God's purposes for you life. Please let the following additional Scriptures passages speak to your heart: "Through Christ God has made peace between us and himself and he gave us the work of telling everyone the peace we can have with him. So we have been sent to speak for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NJB). "The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me, to tell people the good news about his grace" (Acts 20:24 NIV).
The greatest concern of God's heart is bringing all his lost children into the fold of his love. As Christians, we must make God's greatest concern our greatest concern if we are to be fully blessed and happy. In later lessons, we will look at some of the reasons, excuses, and objections many Christians use to justify their failures in being witnesses for our Lord. We will also explore some ways we can overcome these hindrances that keep us from being faithful to God's fifth purpose for our lives.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Serving God, Part 3

Chuckle: After seeing his brother baptized, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."
Good Quote: “Lose yourself in generous service and every day can be a most unusual day, a triumphant day, an abundantly rewarding day!” --William Arthur Ward
"God has given each of some special abilities. Be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessing" (1 Corinthians 12:7 NJB).
We continue our study of God's fourth purpose for your life and mine, as identified from Scripture by Rick Warren: "You Were Shaped for Serving God" by serving others.
When God made you he threw the mold away, so to speak. There is not another person in the world exactly like you. Only you are uniquely you! When you use your unique spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences in service to God by meeting the needs of others you are performing your unique ministry that God intended for you. Sadly, many Christians do not experience the joy that comes from serving God as he shaped them to do.
Think for a moment about the abilities and gifts you know you have. Are you using them fully for God's glory? In addition, you likely have many undiscovered abilities and gifts that you are unaware of because you've never tried to use them in God's service. Let me encourage you to be bold in trying to do some ministries you've never done before. You will never fully understand the dimensions of your gifts and abilities until you use them in service. To learn to swim, you must get into the water. . . .!
"Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts of Christ's body. Let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be" (Romans 12:5 The Message).
When you do your best, you always feel good about the results. You will experience joy from knowing you have served God well. However, Satan is actively trying to steal your joy of service from you by tempting you to compare your ministry to the ministry of others, and by tempting you to conform your ministry to what others expect of you. Both are dangerous traps that will distract you from serving in the unique ways God intended for you to serve. The Bible teaches us that we should never compare ourselves with others: "Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don't compare yourself with others" (Galatians 6:4 NIV).
If you want to be fruitful and attain fulfillment, put to use your unique God-given spiritual gifts in ministry to others. God wants you to be all you can be -- the person he made and shaped you to be! If your area of ministry matches your shape, you will be successful. So remember, if you are a Christian, God has equipped you to serve Him by serving others; God will empower you to serve by his Holy Spirit; and God is exalted when you serve using his gifts and his power.
Love, Jerry & Dotse