Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What it Means to be Holy

Chuckle: "No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn."
Quote: “If you think you can walk in holiness without keeping up perpetual fellowship with Christ, you have made a great mistake. If you would be holy, you must live close to Jesus.” --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy as I am Holy'" (I Peter 1:14-16).
"Holy" is an often used word among Christians. What does it mean in practical terms in our lives and how do we attain a state of holiness? In the simplest terms, the word "holy" means to cut or separate, it denotes apartness -- set apart, and so the separation of a person from the common or profane life for a divine purpose. It also means pure or chaste. To be holy is to be set aside by God for his service and to be as nearly like Christ as possible. For unlike other creatures, man was made in the image of God and capable (through the power of the Holy Spirit) of reflecting the holiness of God.
When a Christian realizes who Christ is and what Christ has done for him through his grace, it tends to have a dramatic effect on his or her life, not only in salvation but in holiness." To be "holy" and to be "righteous" are quite similar terms. We are told in Scripture that we have no righteousness or holiness on our own, but any righteousness we might have comes from Christ in us. "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:11 NIV). "But now a righteousness from God . . . comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:21-22 NIV).
          C.S. Lewis once commented to an American friend, "How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, . . . it is irresistible. If even ten percent of the world's population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year's end."
Howard Hendricks wisely observed, "It is foolish to build a chicken coop on the foundation of a skyscraper." The Christian who fails to live a holy life is failing to utilize the foundation for his life that Christ has given him.
So, we can say that to be holy is to be chosen, set apart, and strengthened by God's Holy Spirit to be like Christ. If we know Christ as Savior and Lord, his Holy Spirit lives within us to teach us, convict us, and to comfort us as Christ lives out his holiness and righteousness through us. For this to happen, you must surrender every aspect of your life to his control and direction. Then the true joy of being a Christian will be yours in abundance.
"But the day of the Lord (Jesus' return) will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (2 Peter 3:10-11 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 23, 2017

Living Truthfully

Chuckle: "Old aunts used to come up to me at weddings, poking me in the ribs and cackle, "You're next!" They stopped after I started doing the same thing to them -- at funerals!
Quote: “Conquer a man who never gives by gifts; Subdue untruthful men by truthfulness; Vanquish an angry man by gentleness; And overcome the evil man by goodness.” -- Unknown source

"The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful" (Proverbs 12:22 NIV). "Good people are guided by their honesty; treacherous people are destroyed by their dishonesty" (Proverbs 11:3 NLT).
A few years back I was watching a golf tournament on TV. The commentators were discussing a young player, Brian Davis, who had voluntarily penalized himself two shots for inadvertently moving a reed on his back-swing prior to taking a shot from the rough. The violation of rule 13.4 against moving a loose impediment during a takeaway, was indiscernible but for slow motion replays. No one saw the reed move, and he could have taken the shot as if the infraction had never occurred and no one would have been the wiser. But his personal code of conduct would not allow him to do so. He said he could not have lived with himself if he had not reported the infraction.
When thinking about living truthfully, it's easy to justify untruthful conduct as long as we know nobody's watching. If the fear of getting caught motivates us to be truthful, then we aren't truthful at all. We are masquerading. We are being hypocritical. We are not what we want others to think we are. No, truthfulness comes from a set of character values deep within us that are more important to us than the possible rewards that being untruthful might bring -- like a chance to win your first PGA golf tournament with its million-dollar paycheck.
It should be our desire to live pure and holy lives before both God and other people. There is a definite relationship between living truthfully and living a holy life.
"The relationship between truth and holiness is similar to that between light and vision. Light cannot create an eye or give a blind eye vision, but it is essential to seeing. Wherever light penetrates, it dissipates darkness and brings everything into view. In a similar manner, truth cannot regenerate or impart spiritual life, but it is essential to the practice of holiness. Wherever truth penetrates, it dissipates error and reveals everything for what it really is." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green
Dishonesty, in words and actions, is the opposite of what God expects and honors; and honesty is more than just verbally telling the truth; it is living with integrity not only in what we say, but in what we do. If we want to please God and enjoy the respect of others, like the young golf pro has done, we will live truthfully in all circumstances.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 20, 2017

Kindness Toward Others

Chuckle: "Everybody's got it all wrong. Angels don't wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it." --Olive, age 9
Ponder this: “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” --John Wesley

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT ).
Paul's letter to the Ephesians describes the type behavior that ought to characterize the lives of Christians as we relate to one another. Our actions should be based on kindness and concern for others. Kindness has been defined as love expressed in practical ways. Love will make us more concerned with the needs of others than for our own. It should be our purpose to consider ways to meet other people's needs.
Being tenderhearted means that we are sensitive to how others feel. "If one part (brother or sister) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (I Corinthians 12:26 NIV). We grieve along with our brothers and sisters when they grieve. We also experience great joy when others are rejoicing. Being tenderhearted is showing empathy and compassion toward those around us.
We show forgiveness because we fall short of God's ideal and often need forgiveness ourselves. When we consider that God has so graciously saved us from sin and destruction, we are motivated to forgive others when they offend us. Often we are less patient with our fellow Christians than with nonbelievers. Our expectations are higher for Christians, and, sometimes, we feel betrayed when they fail us. However, when we are tempted to be unforgiving, we need to look closely at the cross and remember the forgiveness we received there. God would have us set aside our self-centered attitudes that causes us to be impatient and critical of others.
Jesus said the world will know we belong to him by the love that we show to one another (John 13:35). Are you often in conflict with others? If so, ask God to give you an extra measure of kindness, a tender heart, and a forgiving spirit. When you permit the Spirit to cultivate these qualities in you, your life will be a tremendous blessing to those around you. One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it is usually returned! Have a great day as you show kindness to those around you!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Keep it Simple

Chuckle: To begin a math class, the teacher asked, "What are 3, 6, 27, and 45?" Timmy quickly answered, "NBC, CBS, ESPN, and the Cartoon Network!"
Quote: "Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting . . . Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well." --Mother Teresa

"Dear brothers and sisters, when I first came to you I didn't use lofty words and brilliant ideas to tell you God's message. For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross" (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NLT).
Many Christians can be classified as brilliant Bible scholars. Their formal theological education, personal Bible study, and rich life experiences have given them deep insights into the difficult to understand Scriptures and the mind of Christ. The apostle Paul was such a man. He was a brilliant scholar and skilled orator who could have easily overwhelmed his listeners with impressive intellectual arguments. But he did not yield to the temptation to bring attention to himself by his impressive knowledge, understanding, and skill in articulating deep spiritual truths.
Instead, Paul kept it simple when conveying the gospel message to those he was trying to reach for Christ. He knew that the simple message of Jesus Christ and the cross expressed with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit was the most effective way to communicate the gospel. He knew that the simple gospel "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16b NIV). Paul understood that we must make our message understandable to everyone if we are to be successful as Christ's ambassadors to a lost world.
Jesus made the gospel both profound and as simple as it gets: "For God so loved the world (every human being) that he gave his one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes (has faith in, trusts) in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV).
We are wise if we follow Paul's example and keep the gospel message simple and basic for those we are trying to reach. Gregory the Great said, "God first gathered the unlearned, afterwards philosophers, nor has He taught fisherman by orators, but has subdued orators by fishermen." We should never depend upon our superior knowledge, understanding, or articulation skills to persuade people to come to Christ. We should use easily understood terms and depend upon the Holy Spirit to add power to our words.
Obviously, Paul does not diminish the importance of formal education and study of the Scriptures for Christians. However, his confidence was not in his superior intellect or speaking abilities, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul's statement about making the message simple and basic should never be used as an excuse for not studying and preparing before preaching or teaching.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Exalted Jesus

Chuckle: "Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until they speak."
Quote: "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." --Charles Spurgeon

"Therefore, God exalted him (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11a NIV).
"Therefore," in verse 9, seems to indicate that the Father's primary justification for exalting Jesus was because of His willingness to humble Himself and be obedient unto death on the cross. Through His humble service, Jesus pleased the Father, who made Him ruler of the universe. He was (1) exalted to the highest place; (2) He was given a name above every other name; and (3) He was given the divine offices of Prophet (Jesus), Priest (Christ), and King (Lord). God wants every tongue to confess Jesus as Lord. Confession includes thanksgiving, praise, and commitment.
At the last judgment, even those who are condemned will recognize Jesus' authority and right to rule. People can choose now to commit their lives to Jesus as Lord or be forced to acknowledge Him as Lord when He returns. We are to lay up treasures in heaven by the way we live, love, and serve. Then, at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), we will receive the rewards for our faithful service. Jesus never sought to be exalted, but exaltation came as the result of His humble and obedient service. This should be our attitude.
The exalted Christ made this promise to those who have accepted Him as Savior and Lord. He said: "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3 NIV). He could return at any moment. Are you ready to meet him? If you are, how can you do anything less than praise Him as your Lord and humbly dedicate yourself to His service?
The following is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: "I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, Alexander, should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant, Jesus, should be able to stretch His hands across the destinies of men and nations. I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term for comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I myself have founded empires; but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded his empire upon love; and to this very day millions would die for him."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Overcoming Loneliness

Chuckle: "What I've learned from dogs: If someone's chewing you out, it helps to stare into space like it's not happening." --Mark Patinkin
Quote: "People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. Let us not erect walls without doors of friendliness or windows of love.” --Joseph Fort Newton

"Turn to me and be gracious to me (O God), for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied. Free me from my anguish" (Psalm 25:16-17 NIV ).
I wonder how many people are drowning in loneliness and despair all around us, while no one notices, or worse yet, no one cares. Some struggle with the need for kindness and companionship, but often their cries go unheard. We assemble ourselves at church and are unaware that someone seated next to us is going under for the third time in a sea of desperate loneliness.
Some think Christians are immune from loneliness and fear. There is an unspoken belief that if you are really a Christian you don’t have problems like that. We all know that's not true. We come to church and sing, "Rescue the Perishing," and fail to notice that there are people perishing right there in the pews. Someone may be dealing with severe grief over the loss of a loved one. Another may have been abandoned by someone deeply loved. Another may have a loved one thousands of miles away in harms way.
In our modern culture, which idealizes independence and individuality, we have paid the price with a loss of friendships, closeness, and community, even among Christians. Self-sufficiency can be a source of pride, but the result is that we no longer belong to anyone. You may be lonely yourself and in need encouragement, or you may know someone mired deep in loneliness and are wondering how you can help. How can you ease the pain if you are lonely and perhaps help others? Here are some thoughts.
      - Stay true to your beliefs and practice integrity. Don't give up on yourself or others. Do your best to live by the values of your Christian faith, staying tuned to the wisdom of God's Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Make up your mind to see the best in others rather than the worst. Focus on the positive, never the negative.
      - Find meaningful, productive, and satisfying work to do. Idleness contributes to the feelings of loneliness and uselessness, but productive work will give you purpose, make you feel better about yourself, and help dispel loneliness. Use your God-given abilities for the good of others.
      - Forgive those who may have wronged you. Harboring resentment and an unwillingness to forgive will only intensify loneliness. You may feel that there is nothing you have done that makes you deserve the mistreatment you may have received, and you may be right. But that doesn't diminish the release and freedom that can come from forgiving the one who hurt you.
     - Finally, take God at His Word when he says: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). Those who walk with God are never really alone.
It is not what happens to us that matters, but how we handle what happens to us. God specializes in solving human problems, and He will help you overcome loneliness if you allow Him to do so.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 16, 2017

Serving Two Masters

Chuckle: "Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with."
Good Quote: "Each man decides whether he will be engulfed by the urgent, engrossed by the trivial, or enriched by the eternal" --William Arthur Ward

"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24 NLT).
As Christians, we have no choice but to live in a society where many people worship and serve money. Christians are certainly not immune to adopting this worldly view. Many spend their entire lives accumulating and storing money and possessions, only to die and leave it all behind. I've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer. Have you? Unfortunately, the commitment of many to money and what it can buy far outweighs their commitment to God and spiritual matters.
Can you honestly say that God, and not money, is your master? Whatever you store up, you will spend much of your time and energy thinking about it, fretting about it, and planning how to accumulate more. Are the Choices You Make Based on Materialism? "Let your character be free from the love of money. . ." (Hebrews 13:5). "For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many sorrows (griefs)" (I Timothy 6:10 NLT). This passage is often misquoted. It is not money that is the problem -- it is our infatuation with it. It is making it our master.
God's Word encourages hard work, and good management to provide for our families. Having possessions, or not, is not the issue. It is our attitudes toward them. We are either serving God or serving money. If we are serving money, we are allowing it to control us instead of the Holy Spirit as we worship and serve God as our Master. We can become possessed by our possessions. An easy test is to ask yourself this question: "Which occupies more of my thoughts, time, and efforts -- God or money?
In the teachings of Jesus, He often contrasted heavenly values with earthly values. He explains that our first loyalty should be to those things that do not fade, cannot be stolen or used up, and never wear out. "Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will be" (Matthew 6:20-21 NLT). If money and possessions are becoming too important to us, we should evaluate our walk with, and faithfulness to, our Lord.
In our basic passage, Jesus is asking us to make a choice: to serve Him or material things. If we choose to truly make Him the Master of our lives, He will teach us to be content with whatever we have because we have chosen that which has eternal consequences. He also tells us not to worry about our physical needs, and promises to supply what we need if we place Him first in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 13, 2017

Vanity and Conceit

Chuckle: A lawyer and a doctor were at the gym. The doctor complained that while he exercises, people always ask for advice. “What should I do?” “Well,” said the lawyer, “when you give advice, send a bill.” In a few days, the doctor got a bill from the lawyer.
Quote: “He is truly great that is little in himself and that maketh no account of any height of honors.” –Thomas A Kempis

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3 NIV).
Vanity is defined as “the quality of being vain or conceited about oneself; excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.” It’s ironic that vanity also means a condition of no real value; worthless.
Many of the world’s problems can be traced to powerful people filled with vanity and conceit. These include brutal dictators and other cruel despots. I’m reminded of a saying that goes something like this: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Such people sometimes see themselves as above the law or rules that apply to everyone else. They see themselves as a cut above those over whom they have influence.
“But lasting good has always been wrought by those who answer to Thomas a Kempis’s description (our quote), and see themselves infinitely small – as a man feels when he stands alone in darkness, looking up to the starry skies.” –Eric Johnston
Those who are infatuated with their perceived importance and power often prey on the powerless. Such an attitude should never be found in a Christian regardless of his or her position of leadership. Our passage warns Christians not to think too highly of themselves, but to evaluate ourselves based on the degree of faith God has given us.
The minds of wise Christians have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who reeducates, renews, and redirects their hearts and minds. Great people are loving, humble, compassionate, and quietly wise, no matter what great deeds they perform or the high honors they receive. Jesus said to His disciples, “. . . whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26 NIV).
“An old fable of Aesop tells of the fox and the crow. A crow once stole a piece of meat. The fox, who wanted the meat, began to compliment the crow. First he complimented the beauty of her black feathers. Then he complimented the beauty of her form. Finally he complimented her singing voice and asked to hear her sing. The crow was so overcome by the praise that she opened her mouth to sing and dropped the meat, which the fox promptly picked up and ate. Our experience tells us that such vanity is not reserved for crows.”
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Winning the Sin Battle

Chuckle: "For a saint to desire to sin is as ridiculous as a rodeo where cowboys ride calves to rope horses. Not only is the experience unnatural, it is extremely unproductive!"
Quote: "Sin is like a man's beard. Although we daily destroy its manifestations, it constantly reappears." --Unknown source

"Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me" (Psalm 119:133 NIV).
As we think about winning the sin battle, I'm reminded of another passage from the Psalms about the importance of God's Word in this battle. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws" (Psalm 119:105-106 NIV). In our basic passage, the psalmist asked God to guide his footsteps so that his life would not be controlled (ruled) by sin. In the second passage, he acknowledged dependence upon God's Word to light his way so that he could avoid Satan's temptation to sin. In both instances, he knew the importance of keeping God's precepts uppermost in his mind.
"Sin" is not a popular subject with many people today. However, if you are a Christian, you know that we live in a constant struggle with our old sinful nature. Notice that the psalmist did not promise God he would never sin. Rather, he asked for God's help to keep him from being ruled by sin. He knew he could not defeat sin on his own no matter how hard he might try.
Near Watsonville, California, there is a creek that has a strange name: Salsipuedes Creek. Salsi puedes is Spanish for "Get out of it, if you can." The creek is lined with quicksand, and the story is that many years ago, in the early days of California, a Mexican laborer fell into the quicksand. A Spaniard, riding by on a horse, saw him and yelled out to him, "Salsi puedes!" which was not very helpful to the struggling worker. The creek has been so named ever since. That is what the flesh (our own strength) is like. We struggle to correct these tendencies -- to get out of the effects of our own sinful nature -- but we cannot do it. --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green
Struggle as we may, in our own strength, we can never win the battle against sin. As a Christian, however, "You are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Romans 8:9a NIV). We must spend time in God's Word and in prayer, and allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to provide us the strength to avoid the habit of sinning. Sinning should become abhorrent to us -- it should be against our new nature in Christ. "No one who lives in him (Christ) keeps on (continues) sinning" (1 John 3:6 NIV). Willfully sinning is unnatural for the Christian and should never become a way of life -- a lifestyle.
When we do sin, we will be miserable and should immediately turn to God and ask His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). If we are walking closely with Jesus, we will not desire to deliberately sin. But sin can creep into our lives and control us if we are not being controlled by the Spirit of God. Please understand that in Christ Jesus, you can win the battle with sin each day and enjoy ultimate victory over your old sinful nature.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Warts and All

Chuckle: A man went to the bank and asked to see the man who arranges loans. "I'm sorry, sir," said the cashier, "the loan arranger is out to lunch." "Then," asked the man, "can I please speak to Tonto?"
Quote: “Spread your arms to those with needs, And serve with joy and zest; Fill each day with golden deeds, And give your very best.”  --William A. Ward 

"Therefore he is able to save completely (all) those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25 NIV).
I once read about a British nobleman who sat to have his formal portrait painted. After it was finished, he saw a most remarkable likeness. But instead of complimenting the artist, he said, "you didn't paint the wart!" The artist responded, "But, sir, I think you are more attractive without it. Don't you think so?" The nobleman answered, "Paint me as I am -- wart and all!"
Aren't you thankful that you are precious and beautiful in the eyes of God, even with all the imperfections (warts) that sin has imprinted upon your heart and life. As did the nobleman, recognizing and accepting our faults (warts) and imperfections gives evidence of a certain level of maturity before God. But God's grace is sufficient to save even the most sinful and unattractive wart-covered reprobate among us; and it is only after we begin to see ourselves in such a hopeless condition that God is able to work His miracle of grace in our lives. After you have experienced God's grace even with your "warts and all," you are now much more willing to accept, overlook, and forgive imperfections in others.
We all have "warts" -- we all mess up -- we all make mistakes -- we all sin (Romans 3:23). When you acknowledge your faults and transgressions, one response is to harbor a sense of guilt and regret and refuse to forgive yourself. Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is yourself, because you may feel unworthy of God's love, grace and forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. Or, on the other hand, you can recognize your shortcomings and remember that God loves you, warts and all, and He demonstrated that love in that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you (Romans 5:8).
Speaking of God's love, I think it was Max Lucado who said, "If God carried a wallet, your picture would be in it." If you know Christ as Savior, when God looks at your picture, I'm sure He doesn't see the warts (sins) because they have all been covered by the blood of Jesus. Our passage tells us that our Advocate, our High Priest, our Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, is right now making intercession for you and me and pleading our case before the Father -- with not a single wart in sight. Praise!!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wishful Thinking and Integrity

Chuckle:  A father was teaching his son to admire the beauties of nature. “Look, son,” he exclaimed, “isn’t that sunset a beautiful picture God has painted?” “It sure is, Dad,” responded the boy enthusiastically, “especially since God had to paint it with his left hand.” The father was baffled. “What do you mean, son? His left hand?” “Well,” answered the boy, “my Sunday school teacher said that Jesus was sitting on God’s right hand.”
Quote: “Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won.” --COL. C. E. Wheat

People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall” (Proverbs 10:9 NLT). The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3 NIV).
Words defining integrity often include honesty, truthfulness, uprightness, honorable, probity, etc. These essential traits are certainly present in a person of integrity. However, I believe integrity, in its broadest definition, also includes other critical traits. Our passage says the integrity of the upright guides them. This makes sense when we look at other meanings of integrity. It also means completeness or wholeness – a complete person not lacking in any component of integrity – an undivided or unbroken state – tried and proven.
Todays’ quote is from the West Point Cadet’s Prayer. As you read it carefully, I’m sure you will notice that the prayer asks God for strength to display other essential character traits not normally included in a common definition of integrity. These include discernment of right and wrong, the ability to make wise decisions, courage in the face of physical danger, intolerance of mediocrity, and a hunger for the whole truth. Now that we have identified the character traits in a person of complete integrity, listen to the following by General Omar N. Bradley, who, in 1949, became the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Cadet’s Prayer contains a warning of two of the worst pitfalls into which men – beset by events – can fall: the loose, wishful thinking that causes some people to hide themselves from the facts (reality); and the willingness to compromise principles for expedient gain.
Wishful thinking is the easy and smoothly paved road to compromise. Knowing that the right road is also the harder one, we have an all-too-human tendency to choose the easier way. And, of course, the justification for our choice becomes a simple task. For we have great powers of rationalization when it comes to proving to ourselves that we have made either a “reasonable” or “practical” choice. (Parentheses mine)
It is futile for us, as Christians, to waste time in wishful thinking – wishing that things were different in our society and the world. Instead, we should fall on our knees before God confessing and repenting of our sins and calling on Him to “make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won.” Each of us should strive to be a person of complete integrity as the Holy Spirit empowers us, and allow that integrity to guide us to make right harder choices, not just the easier reasonable or practical choices.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 9, 2017

Winning the Race

Chuckle: "If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you!"
Quote: “The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.” --Unknown

". . . the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus -- the work of telling others the good news about God's wonderful kindness and grace" (Acts 20:23-24 NLT).
Have you ever considered your Christian life as a race? If so, are you content just to halfheartedly amble along and run with the pack, or are you motivated to run hard, finish strong, and win the race by completing the mission God has given you?
I'm sure you have observed runners in marathons or other types of races covering great distances and have noticed the total dedication and exertion of the runners as they compete. The Apostle Paul was prone to use such athletic events as analogies for being faithful to the task God has set before us as Christians. Even knowing the horrible things that lay ahead, Paul did not shrink from completing his mission. Drawing on this analogy, let's think about what is necessary to finish a race.
First, know the course the race will take -- where you are going. Paul knew what he had to do and kept his focus on the finish line. What marks the course we are to follow in the race of a Christian life? Well there are the five purposes of the church in which God wants us to be faithful: worship, fellowship, discipleship (becoming Christ-like), ministry (meeting needs of others), and evangelism (leading others to Christ). As you run the race, God will give you specific instructions in each of these areas. As you draw near to him, he will reveal his will for your life.
Second, persevere to the end no matter the cost -- compelled by the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit warned Paul that the way ahead would be difficult, He likewise wants us to know the course will not always be easy and pleasant. Sometimes we feel like our lives are failures unless we are getting a lot of recognition, fun, money, success. But Paul considered his life as worth nothing, and unimportant, unless he used it for God's work. What is more important to you -- what you get out of life, or what you put into it? When Jesus said, "Take up your cross daily and follow me," he implied a life of sacrifice. He expects us to endure in the race, even when we "hit the wall," and think we just can't go on.
Third, focus your attention on the finish line -- winning the race. "As for me, my . . . death is near. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me -- the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day of his return" (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT). Although you may not receive your share of earthly recognitions and rewards, you will be rewarded in heaven for your faithfulness. Whatever hardships you may face as a faithful Christian -- discouragement, persecution, or even death -- you have assurance of your reward with Christ in heaven.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, October 6, 2017

Work Ethic for Christians

Chuckle: I've started a new exercise program. As I wake each morning, I always say sternly to myself, "Ready? Now up and down, up, down." After two strenuous minutes I tell myself, "OK, now let's try the other eyelid!"
Quote: "Not teaching your son the value of hard work is like teaching him to steal." --Unknown source
"Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people" (Colossians 3:23 NLT).
It seems to me that in the past much more of people's self-esteem came from the quality of their work -- their pride and joy. Whatever they did, they wanted to give it their best effort so that their work would reflect positively not only on their abilities and skills but, more importantly, on their character. Pride in our work should be a major source of satisfaction in our lives. It is dangerous to generalize, but it seems to me that many of us have lost much of what was once a respected work ethic.
In my own life, I have observed many who did not care how well they did their work as long as they received a paycheck. They did just enough to get by, but were not overly concerned about what people might think of them and the quality of their work as long as they did enough not to get fired. This should never be the attitude of a Christian. We are to be Christ's representatives wherever we are and whatever we are doing. That includes our workplace. We should be the most dependable, productive, and pleasant workers around as we honor our Lord with our labor.
It has been God's plan from creation that we should work in order to provide for ourselves and our families. God's word has much to say about the value of work and the destructive nature of laziness. "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (infidel)" (1 Timothy 5:8 NIV). "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10b NIV).
If we could see our work as an act of worship and service to our Lord, our whole attitude about work would change. It would take the drudgery out of our toil, give us greater self-satisfaction, increase our productivity, and give us greater joy.
Here Paul is admonishing slaves to work hard in order to please their masters -- to work as if they are working for their Lord. Paul is not advocating slavery but is making the point that our work should always be given the best of our abilities. Although Paul was talking about working for earthly masters, the same principles apply when working for The Master, our Lord Himself. We should pray for God to bless the work of our hands and mind and work wholeheartedly to bring glory to our Lord as we reveal Him to others by our character as shown by our work ethic
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Peace for the Storms

Chuckle: Carrying three pieces of luggage, a young woman approached the airport check-in counter and said, "I want this first piece of luggage sent to Cleveland, the second to Toronto, and the third to Miami." The agent said, "I'm sorry, we can't do that." The young lady replied, "You did it last month."
Quote: “Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace.” --John Greenleaf Whittier

"I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14:27 NLT).
Is there anxiety, worry, stress, or fear of the unknown in your life? When you go to bed at night, do you lie awake fretting and stewing about things over which you have little or no control? If you answered "yes" to these questions, you have joined a club with a multitude of members. Many depend upon tranquilizers and other mind-altering medications to relieve their anxieties and give them a sense of peace. For those of us who are Christians, there is a wonderful non-chemical solution for our lack of peace -- the gift Jesus wants us to receive as His gift to His followers.
In our passage, Jesus was about to leave the disciples and be crucified. But He did not want to leave them without presenting them a special gift -- His peace. This gift is real and can be possessed by every believer. The world may wish you peace, but it cannot give it as Jesus can. This peace is a confident assurance that God is in control in every situation. With this peace, we have no need to fear anything in the present or in the future. Christ's peace ". . . which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds" (Philippians 4:7b NIV).
The peace that Jesus gives is not troubled by storms in our lives; and neither is it intimidated by challenges we must face. We need not be afraid, but we do need to be faithful in our walk with our Lord. You may ask: "How do I get from the head knowledge that Jesus grants me peace to a heart that actually experiences this peace?"
His presence within us (Holy Spirit) is the source of peace that only Christ Jesus can give. The promise of His peace is connected to the promise of the Holy Spirit to indwell us. Love, joy, and peace are among the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We must depend upon the promise from our Lord and accept this gift in faith and gratitude while turning all our worries, fears, and anxieties over to Him. I'm reminded of this line from an old hymn: "Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there."
“On my head pour only the sweet waters of serenity. Give me the gift of the Untroubled Mind” –Joshua Loth Liebman
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Repentance and Salvation

Chuckle: Only a Southerner knows exactly how long "directly" is -- as in: "I'm going to town, be back directly."
Good Quote: “To do so no more is the truest repentance.” --Martin Luther

"For God can use (Godly) sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But (worldly) sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death" (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT).
Many of us find it extremely difficult to say, "I'm wrong," or "I'm sorry." Some of us may even feel so self-righteous as to believe we have never done anything for which we need to be sorry. Our selfish pride often hinders us from showing genuine sorrow for our sinful actions. We often hear statements about criminals like, "He or she shows no remorse." Being sorrowful and remorseful (repentant) for our sins is essential before we can experience the joy of salvation and abundant life every day.
Repentance means: "to change one's mind; to feel regret and remorse; to be sorry; to make a 180 degree turn - to go in a new direction." Repentance is an inward turning from sin to God. "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. . . ." (Acts 3:19 NIV). ". . . He (God) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 NIV).
In our passage, Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow are contrasted. Sorrow may be good and godly when it causes changed actions, attitudes, or renewed relationships. Repentance and salvation are the results of godly sorrow for our sins. Godly sorrow and grief are the result of God's grace working in our hearts.
We can experience worldly sorrow from being caught in some ungodly act or by the consequences thereof. We're not sorry we did it, but sorry we were caught. A thief might experience worldly sorrow because he landed in jail. But his sorrow can only become godly sorrow when he realizes he has sinned against God and seeks His forgives. Then the Holy Spirit gives him the ability to repent and receive God's forgiveness. Once we have repented and asked God for forgiveness, the Holy Spirit begins forming us into a new creation – a new person. Once we have received Jesus Christ, our new life will show itself in an attitude of repentance and holiness.
So, repentance is essential for salvation. But also, daily repentance should become a characteristic of every Christian's life. In I John 1:9 NIV, we find these words: "If we (Christians) confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness. From this verse, we know that God, in all his wisdom and mercy, has given us Christians a way to have our lives purified daily by confessing and repenting of our sins, and asking Him to forgive and cleanse us.
This is God's way of making us suitable vessels for His use. God cannot use a vessel that has not been cleansed by His forgiveness. Unconfessed sin in our lives not only makes us miserable, but renders us useless to God in His kingdom's work.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 2, 2017

When Lincoln Prayed

Chuckle: "Our neighbor, the president of the local bank, was ironing a clean shirt to wear to work one morning. "I'll bet," he said to his wife, "that I'm the only businessman in this town ironing his own shirt this morning." "You're probably right," she agreed. "That's because you didn't do it last night."
Quote: Prayer gives a man the opportunity of getting to know a gentleman he hardly ever meets. I do not mean his maker, but himself.” –Dean W. R. Inge 
“To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, . . .(Ecclesiastes 2:26 NIV).
I ran across this article by Robert I. Gannon, former president of Fordham University:
    “This is a story which almost tells itself. It happened during the early hours of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the White House. Abraham Lincoln was pacing up and down, lonely and troubled, as the battle reports poured in and the fate of the United States hung in the balance.
    At that time, when everybody seemed panic stricken, Lincoln went to his room and locked the door. One can picture him there, down on his knees, his great head in his hands, praying like a child. Later, Lincoln described that moment to a friend in this fashion:
    ‘I told God that I had done all I could and that now the result was in His hands; that if this country was to be saved, it was because He so willed it! The burden rolled off my shoulders. My intense anxiety was relieved and in its place came a great trustfulness!’
    It isn’t necessary to say very much in comment on this story. It stands by itself, a reminder that now, as in all times of crisis, there is an enduring source of strength and consolation – if only we have the will and the wisdom to turn toward it.”
This story reminds me of the words of an old hymn, “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.”  In difficult times like those facing our country today, I can’t think of anything more comforting then to know our political leaders, at all levels of government, are humbling themselves before God in prayer and trusting in the power of His Spirit rather than their own understanding and wisdom.  Let’s pray that our leaders will follow the example of Lincoln when wrestling with the monumental challenges facing our country today.
Love, Jerry & Dotse