Friday, December 22, 2017

The Eternal Jesus

                                        Image result for christmas religious clip art           
Note: I’m taking a short break and will resume my daily messages on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018). May your Christmas be filled with God’s LOVE, PEACE and JOY.
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Chuckle: Fun with the English language: "If you have a rough cough, climbing can be tough when going through the bough of a tree.”
Quote: “I hope your Christmas has had a little touch of eternity in among the rush and pitter and all. It always seems such a mixture of this world and the next – but that after all is the idea!” –Evelyn Underhill

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev. 1:8 NIV).
At Christmas, the eternal nature of the Baby born in Bethlehem should give us reason to rejoice. His life did not begin in a manger. He always has been, is today, and always will be Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Creator of the universe. Let's stroll through the pages of God's Word and try to understand the eternal nature of Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1-3).
In John 1, we see the historical significance of Jesus. He participated with God the Father in the creation. Nothing was made that Jesus didn't make. These verses affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, a concept that some people cannot accept. However, the Bible is clear -- there is only one true God, and He chooses to reveal Himself in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Since there is only one true God, then Jesus is God. It has always been God's plan to reveal himself to mankind through becoming flesh and living among us. In Isaiah 7:14, 9:6 and Micah 5:2, written more than 700 years before Jesus was born, we find these words:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Isn't it exciting to see God's plan of redemption unfold before our very eyes in the pages of His Word. It gives us some insight into the very nature and mind of God. It reaffirms God's love for us from the beginning which He has revealed to us by His Word and in his deeds. Christ's birth in Bethlehem fulfilled these prophecies. I never get tired of reading the Christmas story. I encourage you, right now, to turn to Luke 2 and read it slowly, deliberately, prayerfully, and with rejoicing.
Let's never forget that Jesus (God himself) was born into the world for one great and overriding purpose -- our salvation (redemption) from the power, penalty, and eventually, presence of sin. This same baby Jesus, some 33 years later, would show God's boundless love for us by dying an excruciatingly painful death to pay the penalty for our sins. Let’s rejoice because of God's great love, mercy, and Grace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Time Had Come

Chuckle: "Four stages of life: You believe in Santa Claus. You don't believe in Santa Claus. You are Santa Claus. You look like Santa Claus."
Quote: “Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.” --James Hudson Taylor

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (children). Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir of God through Christ"  (Galatians 4:4-7 NIV).
Have you ever thought about how God selected the exact time for Jesus to be born and to live here on earth? Have you considered the perfect nature of God's timing in his master plan for our redemption? The coming of the Messiah was promised in the Old Testament; and for centuries the Jews looked forward to his coming and wondered when he would appear.
Listen to Max Lucado: "It all happened in a most remarkable moment . . . a moment like no other. . . . God became a man. Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb. The omnipotent, in one instant, became flesh and blood. The one who was larger than the universe became a microscopic embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. God had come near."
Paul, looking back on that event, said, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son." Jesus came only when the time was perfect and according to God's master plan. When that time had come, God's Son changed our relationship with God forever. He came "that we might receive the full rights of sons and heirs of God's through Christ." I think it accurate to say this passage describes the living God making a sovereign decision out of his love and mercy toward mankind.
God sent his preexistent Son into the world to eventually suffer and die in our stead for our sins. No single event in human history has had the impact on individuals and entire civilizations as that one birth in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Human history is measured from before (b.c.) or after (a.d.) Christ. His coming into the world changed everything, made everything right and fulfilled God's eternal plan.
"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'" (Luke 2:13-15 NIV). The significance of Christ's birth cannot be fully understood and appreciated until he lives in your heart and life as Savior and Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Journey to Bethlehem

Chuckle: The interviewer to the job applicant, "for a man with no retail experience, you're asking for a high wage." "Well," said the applicant, "the work will be a lot harder for me since I won't know what I'm doing!"
Quote: "This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stained-glass window's hue, A Baby in an Ox's stall." --John Betjeman, Christmas

At that time the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All returned to their own towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendent of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancé, who was obviously pregnant by this time" (Luke 2:1-5 NLT).
In accordance with a Roman decree, all inhabitants were required to register where they lived and owned property. However, Jews were required to return to their ancestral home to register. These registrations were used as the basis for establishing tax rolls. Isn't it amazing that God caused Caesar Augustus's decree to be issued at the precise time that would cause Jesus to be born in the village of Bethlehem just as the prophet Micah (5:2) had predicted 750 years before?
God worked through ungodly rulers and their selfish political purposes to bring about the most amazing, indescribable, and unrepeatable gift of salvation. It must have been a most difficult trip to Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph. Mary was going to have a baby at any time and the trip from Nazareth was a long (70 miles) and tiring one.
The prophecies of old; the miraculous birth of John; Mary's conception by the Holy Spirit; Joseph's encounter with the angel of the Lord; and the account of Joseph's and Mary's trip to Bethlehem, all confirmed that God was in control and arranging a sequence of events leading to the birth of our Savior. What an amazing display of God's love, power, and eternal plan to redeem us from the bondage of sin. Let's rejoice for the God-given privilege of experiencing the wonders of Christmas!
A Christmas prayer: Lord, give me a new and fresh appreciation for your love for me, and let your love flow through me into the lives of others. Help me to touch the lives of those needing a kind word of encouragement and support. Make this Christmas a most memorable one for others because I allow the spirit of Christmas to bless them through me. I pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

But You, O Bethlehem

Chuckle: "A young preacher who was a guest preacher for a city church, in the absence of the pastor, prayed thusly for the pastor: 'May the pastor of this church be filled with fresh veal and zigor!"
Quote: "Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength." --Ralph W. Sockman

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past" (Micah 5:2 NLT).
Today, we hear the prophetic voices from 700 B.C., foretelling not only the birth of Jesus, but the very village where He would be born. Ephrathah was the district in which Bethlehem was located. This is just one more tile in the mosaic of prophecy pointing to the day when God Himself, in the form of His Son, would enter our world as flesh and blood to live among us and to identify with us.
The promised "ruler" is Jesus, the Messiah. The promised eternal King would be from the lineage of King David, who would come to live as a man. Bethlehem was also the place of David's birth and his ancestors lived there. "This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of King David and of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1 NLT).
Jesus' existence can be traced to a time before the world was created. His eternal presence is revealed by the apostle John: "In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1-3 NLT). Although eternal, Jesus Christ entered the stage of human history as the Christ Child, Jesus of Nazareth.
So, the prophecy of Micah helps us understand God's master plan for His Son to enter the world as a human being in the most humble of circumstances. Jesus made His entry into the world by being born in a stable to poverty-stricken parents in a small village called Bethlehem. There He was placed in an animal feed trough called a manger. This is the way God chose to send the King of Kings and Lord of Lords into this world to save us from the penalty of our sins and to give us the best life here on earth. Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Virgin Will Conceive

Chuckle: (church bulletin blooper): "The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, 'Break Forth Into Joy.'"
Quote: "Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from (within) it. He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside." --Oswald Chambers

"Look! A virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him 'Immanuel,' (which means) God is with us" (Isaiah 7:14b NLT). "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 NLT).
It's important for believers to have an appreciation for God's plan to send his Son into the world to live among us and to pay the price for our sins through his shed blood. Our passage was written some 800 years before Jesus' birth. This gives great credence to the fact that all Scripture is inspired of God and written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus is a cornerstone of our Christian faith. The term "virgin" in our text is the translation of a Hebrew word which describes a young woman who is unmarried even though she is sexually mature and of the age to be married. This young woman was destined to bear a son to be named Immanuel which means "God with us." Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 to show fulfilment of this prophecy and identifies the virgin as Mary who bore a son, Immanuel the Christ.
God's people were experiencing dark and difficult times when Isaiah foretold Jesus' birth, as they were at the time of his actual birth. The coming Messiah would be the light of the world even in the darkest of times. The Holy Spirit being his Father, and the titles given him in Isaiah 9:6 allude to the deity of the Son to be born of a virgin. With Jesus birth came a message of hope foretold by Isaiah, and the establishment of his eternal kingdom in the hearts of people. He came as the redeemer of all people to deliver them out of the bondage of sin and the consequences thereof.
It is absolutely mind-boggling when we try to fully grasp the magnitude of God's love, mercy, and grace revealed in the Christmas story -- the story of the birth and ministry of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! "God gave him a 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 every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9b-11 NIV).
God made one of the most complex and mind-boggling events in history so simple that even the common man could have enough understanding to stand amazed and rejoice in them. Let's take the time this Christmas to thank God for the gift of his love and the gift of his Son. And let's do so with great rejoicing!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, December 15, 2017

Thinking Like Jesus

Chuckle: "My sister has a life-saving tool in her car designed to cut through a seat belt if she gets trapped. She keeps it in the trunk!!!"
Good Quote: "The love we give away is the only love we keep." --Elbert Hubbard

"Let this mind (attitude ) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 KJV)
If we could only learn to think like Jesus and have His attitude, all our problems in living like Jesus would be solved. However, before we can begin to think like Jesus, we must have the desire to do so. Before the "how to" must come the "want to." How is your "want to" coming along?
Prior to Jesus’ ascension back into heaven, He made some amazing promises. Among them was the promise that He would always be with us in the form of his Holy Spirit. It is His indwelling Spirit that gives us the ability to think like Christ by helping us understand the mind of Christ as revealed in God's Word -- to understand how Jesus thought and acted.
Having said this, what was the mind of Christ really like while he was here on earth? Well, he humbled himself even unto death and was willing to give up all his own rights as God by coming to earth to save people from their sins as the Father had planned. He accepted the role of, and had the heart of, a servant. He made himself nothing so that He could be everything to you and me. He is the supreme example of humility. Likewise, we should be humble servants living our lives for the good of others.
If we allow it, the Spirit of God will teach us to have the mind of Christ. He will teach us to get outside our selfishness and into the lives of others. One of God's primary purposes for the church is to build bridges of love to the people who need Christ. In John 20:21, Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so I'm sending you." We must give up the idea that the church is some sort of fortress to protect us from the world and to make us comfortable and cozy with friends who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and act like us. It's true that the church can be a place of comfort and security, but Jesus commissioned the church (Christians) to go where it is uncomfortable -- our there where the people are -- where the action is.
When we begin to think like Jesus, we will have a love like His for people who are hurting, regardless of ethnic, economic, or social status. Jesus loved and touched people where they were. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36 NIV). Jesus was referring to the sick, hungry, and naked -- those with desperate physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Finally, when we begin to think like Jesus, we will adopt his methods in dealing with people. In Luke 6:36, Jesus tells us to "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." When we think like Jesus, we will not say, "come to our church," but rather, "we're coming to you." Rodney Stark was puzzled about how the early Christians, a marginalized and persecuted people, were able to touch so many. In his study he concluded: "Their sacrifices released an explosion of light the world had never known."
When we think like Jesus, we will love our enemies. We will not explode in anger at those who are evil, but reach out in love to touch them. Jesus taught the early Christians to love and give more than they would ever receive in return. They refused to hide in safety. Their radical love was followed by selfless good deeds. Any act of kindness, no matter how large or small, says there's a God who loves you -- and I love you too.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Even Greater Things

Chuckle: "Nowadays early to bed and early to rise probably means the television set isn't working."
Quote: "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish." --Michelangelo

"The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater (things) works, because I am going to the Father. You can ask for anything in my name and I will do it" (John 14:12-13 NLT).
When we read about all the miracles Jesus performed in the lives of lost, sick, needy, lonely, hungry, and hurting people, it's hard to imagine that any one person, or groups of people, could ever do greater things than Jesus did. If you consider that Jesus even raised the dead, it's hard to imagine his followers doing something greater than that. Yet, here, Jesus says this will be so. This begs the question, how could this be true?
I think a simple way to address this question is with another one. "After Jesus goes to the Father, what, or who, would enable the followers of Christ to do even greater things than Jesus did?" Jesus was not saying His followers would do greater individual works. But rather, the disciples, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, would carry the Good News of Jesus Christ and God's Kingdom from Palestine to the whole world.
Jesus was limited, geographically, in the scope of his earthly ministry, but he prepared his followers for a much larger mission, and he empowered them to accomplish it with his Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you" (John 14:15-17 NLT).
In the power of the Holy Spirit, down through the centuries, Christians have led millions to faith in Jesus Christ, many more than Jesus did personally. As he promised, Jesus is still with us in Spirit. "No, I will not abandon you as orphans -- I (my Spirit) will come to you" (John 14:18 NLT). By faith we can appropriate the Spirit's power each day we live. In our first passage, Jesus says we can ask for anything in his name and he will grant that request if such requests are consistent with his character and purpose.
Jesus will give us the love, wisdom, and power to accomplish His Great Commission: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT).
You and I are members of Jesus' team with the mission of doing even greater things as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An Angry Jesus

Chuckle: Clerk: "This jug is genuine Indian pottery." Customer: "But it says, 'Made in Cleveland.'" Clerk: "Haven't you ever heard of the Cleveland Indians?"
Quote: "Anger would inflict punishment on another; meanwhile, it tortures itself." --Publilius Syrus

He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, (was) deeply distressed (grieved) at their stubborn (hardened) hearts, . . ." (Mark 3:5 NIV).
Anger, in human terms, usually refers to selfish, destructive feelings -- a strong annoyance and a desire to fight back when someone hurts us or opposes us. Such feelings can lead to harmful and objectionable behavior. However, the anger of God is the response of His holiness to the sinful actions of people. When God takes action against sin, it is called "wrath." In the Old Testament, the word translated as "Divine anger" is used 177 times, but the word "anger" is rarely used in the New Testament. Our focal passage is one of those instances. Let's focus on what angers Jesus and how He reacts when angry.
We are told in Scripture that Jesus was without sin (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15), even though He did become angry on occasion. In our passage we see Jesus' angry reaction after being criticized for healing a man on the Sabbath. The Matthew and Luke accounts of this event leave out the word anger, apparently because they were unwilling to ascribe to Jesus this "human" emotion. But the kind of anger Jesus felt is revealed by His being "deeply distressed (grieved) at their stubborn (hardened) hearts."
Another instance where Jesus showed strong emotions and even anger was when He witnessed the actions of the Temple merchants and money changers. ". . he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons (sacrificial animals). He said to them, It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers'" (Matthew 21:12-13 NIV). Here, Jesus is reacting to the desecration of the holy temple as a place of worship and the injustices against worshipers. He showed God's righteousness indignation.
Anger is a normal human emotion. However, it can lead to sin when we become angry for the wrong reasons and we act in sinful ways. Anger becomes a sin when we allow it to fester until it causes us to become bitter and act in ways harmful to others and/or reflects unfavorably on Jesus Christ and Christianity. "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV).
Jesus became angry for the right reasons -- sinful behavior and injustice. Likewise, we should be indignant and even angry when we see people being mistreated, abused, or neglected. Such anger or indignation should motivate us to do everything we can to correct injustice. However, becoming angry to the point of offensive behavior is never justified.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Good Omelet

Chuckle: Teacher: “Phil, who was the first woman?” Phil: “I don’t know.” Teacher: “Here’s a hint. It had something to do with an apple.” Phil: “Oh, I know. Granny Smith.”
Quote: “No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet.” –C. S. Lewis

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others” (Romans 12:4-5 NIV). “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV).
I must admit I had never thought to use eggs and omelet as an illustration for  describing a healthy church, that is until I ran across the above C. S. Lewis quote. It reminded me of a central Biblical truth -- the body of Christ, the church, is comprised of many individual Christians, each of which is essential to the health of the church. “From him (Jesus) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part (member) does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV). However, if some of the members are “bad eggs,” the church will never be what Christ intended it to be – a “good omelet,” pleasing to our Lord. To put it another way: the quality of the church is dependent upon the spiritual condition and contribution of its individual members.
There are many things we can do in an effort to compensate for the spiritual inadequacies of church members. However, no matter how many times we reorganize or rearrange the members, it is, ultimately, the condition of the hearts of individual members that will determine the condition of the church as a whole. Rearranging a church of bad eggs is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – both are exercises in futility. Let’s consider this question: does my faithfulness to our Lord and His church qualify me as a good egg contributing toward making my church what God wants her to be – a good omelet?
What “bad egg” attitudes can seriously damage the fellowship and effectiveness of the church? Here are a few for your consideration.
          My personal contribution to the ministry of the church is not important.
          I don’t have the ability to do anything significant to strengthen my church.
          I don’t need to attend church to have a good relationship with God.
          I don’t like the way the church is being run, so, I choose not to participate.
          Someone hurt my feelings so I’m dropping out of the church.
You get the idea. If we don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good another. But what a beautiful thing it is to see a church where, in the power of the Holy Spirit, all its members are actively contributing to its loving fellowship and effective ministries – a congregation of “good eggs” working together to produce a “good omelet” for the glory of our Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Good Eye

Chuckle: "My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't!"
Quote: "To be blind is bad, but worse is to have eyes and not see." --Helen Keller

"Your eye is a lamp for your body. A pure (good) eye lets sunshine into your soul. But an evil (bad) eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness. If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be" (Matthew 6:22-23 NLT).
Those in law enforcement often find that multiple witnesses to the same crime will see the event with differing perceptions of what went down and what the perpetrator looked like. In other words, our eyes can sometimes fool us into thinking we see one thing when, in reality, we should have seen something entirely different. In the spiritual realm, our spiritual eyes/vision must be trained by God's Word and Holy Spirit to see clearly the reality of what God wants of us and to see the world as God sees it.
In the same way that we can train our physical eyes to accurately transmit to our minds true reality, we must also allow God to train our spiritual eyes to discern spiritual truth. When we are able to see spiritual truth clearly and accurately, our whole being will be filled with the light that only the Light of the World can provide.
The Message translation of our passage reads like this: "Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light." The next verse says, "If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have."
Our spiritual eyes perceive incorrectly the things of God because of a lack of understanding or discernment. It's easy to jump to conclusions and discredit a spiritual truth because our impaired spiritual vision transmits to our hearts and minds an incorrect image of God, His love, and His truths.
I'm sure you have heard "there is none so blind as those who won't see." Our spiritual eyes determine if we see light or darkness. If we make up our minds about God's truth using our distrustful squinty eyes and lack of faith, we can miss the amazing message of Scripture. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Many of those who are lost will "pull the blinds on their windows" and miss experiencing the light of God's love and the eternal joy of knowing Christ and trusting Him. But Christians can also miss the joy of a close personal daily fellowship with Christ because we will not surrender completely to Him and let His Spirit light our way and give us 20-20 spiritual vision.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Student and His Teacher

Chuckle: "We have a group of preachers in our town who bowl. They call themselves "Holy Rollers!"
Good Quote: “A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.” --Patricia Neal

"A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40 NIV).
All of us are familiar with the relationships between students and teachers. However, when it comes to our being the students and Jesus being the teacher, we all have much to learn. Take a look at these passages and let them sink into your heart.
"Let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5 KJV), "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV), "I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:16 NIV), "You call me 'teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (John 13:13 NIV).
From these passages, what is Jesus trying to teach us? There is no question that he was revealing his goal of making us like himself in every way. He wants us to follow his example by thinking like him, loving others like him, acting like him in our relationships, and acknowledging him as our Master Teacher.
I think these messages are relatively easy to understand. However, there's a message here that may not be as obvious to us. The first phrase in Luke 6:40 is also found in Matthew 10:24a, and was used by Jesus to warn his disciples that they could not expect to receive better treatment than their Master received. He never let them forget what it would cost to follow him. Whoa! What's this? Do you mean that, as a Christian, I should expect to suffer as Jesus suffered, to be ridiculed as he was ridiculed, to be shunned as he was shunned, and to be abandoned by those close to me as Jesus was abandoned. . . .?
As our mind (attitude) becomes like Jesus; as our actions become like Jesus; as we exhibit Christlike characteristics in our lives, we have learned to let Jesus live through us. When we become "fully taught," we will reflect Jesus in everything we do. When this happens, we must expect others to react to us in the same way people reacted to Jesus. Are you ready for that?
I think we are often guilty of wanting to live the Christian life while leaving all the suffering and dying to Jesus. In other words, we put ourselves above our Lord by our unwillingness to suffer for him as he suffered for us. However, there is nothing that will draw us nearer to our Lord than when we are called upon to suffer for (with) him. The apostle Paul understood this truth when he said, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in death" (Philippians 3:10 NIV). Paul wanted to know his Lord so intimately that he welcomed opportunity to suffer with him as a means of drawing even closer to him. How do you feel about suffering for your Lord?
"The disciple who perfectly understands the rules and sees the example of his Master, will think it his business to tread exactly in his steps, to do and suffer upon like occasions, as his master did: and so he will be like his master." --Whitby
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Temptation and Sin

Chuckle: "The trouble with resisting temptation is it may never come your way again.” --Unknown
Quote: "O help me Father in heaven to overcome and resist temptation in every form or shape.” --Emmeline B. Wells

". . . but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:14-15 NIV).
Everyone is tempted.  It happens to all of us. "Temptation is common to man" (I Cor. 10:13). Temptation even came to Jesus. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one (Jesus) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). New Christians may be surprised to feel a pull toward those old sins. But remember, it's not a sin to be tempted. The sin comes in the yielding to the temptation.
Who tempts us? God does not tempt us, but uses temptations to help us grow toward maturity."God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone" (vs.. 13). We tend to blame God for our weaknesses, but that blame is misplaced. It's not God's will for us to yield to temptation. When we yield, we are the ones who make the conscious decisions and no one is to blame but ourselves.
Some say: "I was just made that way - it's just my nature!" (liars, cheaters, thieves, adulterers, etc.). We justify our actions by blaming God for making us that way. "To err is human, but to blame God is more human." Then if we don't blame God, we can blame our parents - "it was the way they raised me." Parents often fail in their responsibilities, but yielding to temptation occurs within us and we make the decisions. Nobody can make you yield to temptation. Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve, etc.
What are the results of yielding to temptation? "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (vs.. 15). When we succumb to temptation, we begin to die to purity, purpose, life, joy, meaning.
How can you and I overcome temptation? We must deal with our desires. You don't have to give in -- its up to you. You are the final authority. You have a new nature in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lives within you. A little girl once said in response to a question about how to deal with temptation: "When Satan comes knocking at the door of my heart, I send Jesus to the door. When Satan sees Jesus, he says, 'Oops, I'm sorry. I must have the wrong house.'" "Greater is He that lives in us than the one who lives in the world." I John 4:4.
Here are some practical suggestions for dealing with temptations. (1) Recognize your desires as real and normal. (2) Keep your focus on Christ, the giver of every good and perfect gift. A trained dog will "sit" in front of a steak keeping his eyes on his master, and will eat the steak only after the master signals it's OK. (3) Discover and understand the areas where you are the weakest and most vulnerability and stay away from temptations in those areas. If you don't want to be stung, stay away from hornet's nests. (4) Learn to say "no" in the power of the Holy Spirit. "Walk (live) by the power of the spirit and say no to the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). (5) Acknowledge past failures, ask God for forgiveness, and begin focusing on Him.
Use the fellowship of Christians in your church to help you -- a friend in Sunday School -- an accountability group. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Corinthians 10:13 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Affection of the Strongest Kind

Chuckle: "Marriage is an institution. Marriage is love. Love is blind. Therefore, marriage is an institution for the blind!"
Good Quote: "A bell is not a bell until you ring it; A song is not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay; Love is not love until you give it away." --Oscar Hammerstein II

"It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:7-8):
Isn't this the most touching expression of love and devotion you've ever read? Here Paul turned from his high expectations for the future to his tender and compassionate love for the Philippian Christians. God's grace had given them a special place in his heart. In my years as pastor, God brought across my path some of the most precious people in the world. Bonds of love and friendship were developed and continue to this day. I can appreciation the heart of Paul and his love for the Christians in Philippi.
Partakers (sharers) of God's Grace: "It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart . . . all of you share in God's grace with me." It was unthinkable to Paul that he would fail to express his love and desire to be with the Philippian Christians or to pray for them. As fellow recipients of God's grace, they shared a bond like no other. The Philippians were not shamed by Paul's imprisonment. Rather, they identified with his cause and, in many ways, participated with him.
The affection of Christ Jesus. In verse 8, Paul expresses his deep yearning to be with them once again. "I long for all of you." He compares his love for them to that of Jesus. This deep yearning of Paul to be with his Christian friends serves as an example to all of us. If we say we love one another, why do so many Christians have little or no desire to be together with brothers and sisters in Christ? Some of our greatest joys and blessings should come from spending time together in fellowship and worship. Which of these definitions describes your love for others?
"Infantile love follows the principle: 'I love you because I am loved.' Mature love follows the principle: 'I am loved because I love you.' Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says: 'I need you because I love you.'" --Erich Promm
Paul definitely displayed mature love by first telling the Philippians of his deep love for them which then led to his telling them how he yearned to be with them. What a beautiful picture of the way we should love, need, and enjoy one another.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A New Command

Chuckle: "Did you hear about the dyslexic Satanist? He sold his soul to Santa!"
Quote: "It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us (Christians) in the eyes of our opponents. 'Look!' they say, 'how they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another!'" --Tertullian (160-225 AD)
 
Jesus to His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35 NIV).
From the time that Moses received the Old Testament Law from God, the standard for loving others was, "love your neighbor as yourself." For the sake of discussion, let's call this "neighborly love." But Jesus went far beyond neighborly love when He described the kind of love we should have for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ -- the kind of sacrificial love He had shown for his disciples and has shown for you and me.
I believe Jesus gave this "new command" to His disciples because:
    (1) They had experienced Jesus' love first hand and could now understand the dimensions of that love.
    (2) They were experiencing a major crisis because their Lord, teacher, mentor, and companion was about to leave them, and they needed a new kind of love for each other to see them through.
    (3) Soon after His resurrection, Jesus would give them the most awesome task ever given, the Great Commission, to evangelize the whole world. To be successful in this mission, they would need a Christ-like love for each other and for a lost world. 
No longer is "love your neighbor as yourself" sufficient for Christ's followers. Now we are commanded to love one another in the same way Jesus has loves us -- a love that:
    (1) Is based on Jesus' example. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." The apostle Paul put it this way: "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us . . ." (Ephesians 5:1-2). This kind of love is unconditional and demands nothing in return.
    (2) Gives credibility to our witness. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples." When those we are trying to reach for Christ see us loving one another the way Jesus loves us, our words will ring true and we have credibility. Others will be drawn to Christ by His love.
    (3) Is demonstrated by our actions. "Dear children, let us love not with words or tongue, but with actions and truth" (1 John 3:18). This means going out of our way to encourage, strengthen and otherwise help one another. It means placing the welfare of others ahead of our own. It means giving even when it hurts. It means doing whatever is necessary to meet spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
    (4) Is a love not of our own strength. Loving one another as Jesus loves us is impossible in our own strength, but is entirely possible when we allow Jesus, in the form of His indwelling Holy Spirit, to love through us. "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Allowing Jesus to love through us is dependent upon our love for Him. Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my words" (John 14:23). If we truly love our Lord, we will obey this "new command."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Season of Advent

Chuckle: "Why are there so many Smiths in the phone book? Because they all have phones!"
Good Quote: "When our hearts are filled with gratitude to God, there is no room for envy, covetousness, or greed." --William A. Ward

"Advent" means "the coming" and, as applied to the Christmas season, refers to the coming of Christ as the incarnation of God himself. For many centuries, Christian churches have observed Advent as a special time of worship, repentance, reflection, and preparation in anticipation of Christmas Day. Advent is celebrated the four Sundays prior to Christmas. Lighting the candles on the Advent Wreath, together with appropriate reminders of God's gift of the Christ Child to us can be a meaningful worship experience.
Depending upon the source, the candles can have differing symbolic meanings, but in every case they remind us of our need to prepare our hearts for celebrating the holy birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. The steps in Advent are symbolized by the Advent Wreath and five candles (3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white). The evergreen wreath is made in a circle which symbolizes the eternal nature of the life God gives us as believers. For our purpose, the candles will have meaning as follows:
1. The first purple candle is the "Prophecy" candle, lit on the Sunday closest to November 30. It reminds us of the foretelling of Jesus' coming, by the prophets, many centuries prior to His birth. "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son" (Isaiah 7:14). "For unto us a child is born . . . and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7).
2. The second purple candle, lit on the second Sunday of Advent, is the "Bethlehem" candle which reminds us of the humble nature and place of our Lord's birth in the city of David. "But you, Bethlehem, . . . out of you will come the one who will be ruler over Israel, . ." (Micah 5:2).
3. The third purple candle, lit on the third Sunday of Advent, is the "Shepherd's" candle reminding us that the lowly shepherds in the fields were the first to hear of Jesus' birth. It also reminds us that Christ is the "Good Shepherd" who loves His sheep perfectly. "The shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about' " (Luke 2:15).
4. The pink "Angel's" candle, lit on the last Sunday before Christmas, reminds of the angelic proclamation of the "good news" of Christmas and points to the eminent coming of the light of the world. The angel said to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy . . . Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).
5. The white center candle is the "Christ" candle and is lit Christmas day or at the end of the last service prior to Christmas. It symbolizes that the time of repentance and preparation is over and the Lord has come. The whiteness of the candle represents the pure Light who came into the world as a baby born of a virgin, and reminds us that Jesus the Christ is the center of our Christmas celebration.
Love, Jerry & Dotse