Friday, April 27, 2018

A Purified Heart

Chuckle: "if you want the world to beat a path to your door, try taking a nap on Saturday afternoon."
Quote: "There cannot be perfect transformation without perfect pureness." --St John of the Cross

"He (Jesus) gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse (purify) us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right." (Titus 2:14 NLT) "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me'" (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).
Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9 NIV). We can only see God as He chooses to reveal Himself to us, and He does so through His Word and the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we can see and understand God's will for our lives. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus says it takes a pure heart to see God. "God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God." You can read your Bible, attend church services every time the doors are opened, and even spend time in prayer, but if you are harboring sin in your heart, you do not have the capacity to see God the way He wants to be seen. When, however, you allow God to purify your heart, you will have an encounter with Him that will change your life forever.
When Isaiah witnessed the holiness of God in the temple, he became aware of his sinful condition and repented of his sins. God cleansed him of sin and purified his heart by having a seraphim touch his lips with a burning coal. Immediately, Isaiah began to see and hear things he had never experienced before. He began to understand the mind of God and his plan to have a special messenger take his message to the people. Once Isaiah began operating with a pure heart, he was able to say to God, "here am I send me."
Once Isaiah was cleansed and purified, he became a vessel that God could use. He understood God's desire to communicate with his people and how he fitted into that plan. Once he became sensitive to the call of God on his life, he was prepared to say "Lord, I'm available! What do you want me to do?"
If you have become preoccupied with the things of this world and have drifted away from God and His Word is no longer a priority in you life, perhaps you need to let God forgive you, cleanse you, and purify your heart. This purifying experience is available to every Christian for the asking. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV).
Do you have the joy you once had in your life? Are you excited about the things of God? Do you have a genuine desire to be used of God to influence others? If you answered "no" to these questions, I encourage you to allow God to remove the impurities that hinder your relationship with Him. Then you will see Him in a new light and your service to him will be a source of great joy and fulfillment.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thirsting for God

Chuckle: "When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra." --Will Rogers"
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled" --Matthew 5:6 NIV

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Psalm 42:1-2 NIV).
Dotse and I enjoy sitting on our back porch and watching deer that graze and bed down on our lawn. They are fun to watch but they certainly are destructive to plants and shrubs. Here in Central Texas, we normally have several months of hot dry weather each summer. The deer sometimes become desperate for water and we see them drinking from fish ponds, bird baths, etc. You can actually see them panting from the heat and the need for water. Their severe need causes them to take extreme measures to quench their thirsts.
In our passage, the psalmist so yearned for God's intimate presence in his life that he compared his longing for God to that of a panting deer's thirst for water. What an amazing testimony by the writer of this Psalm who was likely in exile somewhere to the north of Mount Hermon. He was longing to be on the mountain with God himself. Evidently, he felt that God was far away and not available to him. He was in a desert with no way to quench his thirst.
Have there been times when you have felt that God was far away? I think every Christian has, or will, have such an experience. When we feel this way, we need to remember that God does not move away from us -- we move away from him. It may be that some sin has gained a foothold in your live which creates a breach in fellowship between you and God. You may have allowed something to become a higher priority than your relationship with the living Lord. A warning signal is the absence of a thirst and yearning for God. But the important thing is to recognize your condition and draw near to God out of a deep personal need for his forgiving, healing, and comforting presence in your life. As you draw near to God, he will draw near to you.
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10 NIV). Jesus continued, "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Harboring Hatred is Harmful

Chuckle: "I finally got my head together, and then my body fell apart!"
Ponder This: "Hate at its best will distort you; at its worst it will destroy you, but it will always immobilize you." --Alex Haley, author of "Roots."

"Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart" (1 John 3:15 NLT). "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs" (Proverbs 10:12 NIV).
"Hatred" is defined as a strong dislike for someone. Is there anyone you just can't stand? Is there a burning rage against someone smoldering deep within your heart? If you find yourself answering "yes" to these questions, I don't need to remind you of the misery that such feelings can bring into your life. It takes a lot of energy and effort to harbor hatred because hatred is a terribly destructive force and will eventually consume you. There is no doubt that Christians are to love all people but despise sin. In our 1 John passage, John echoes Jesus' teaching that whoever hates another person is a murderer at heart (Matthew 5:21, 22).
Christianity is a religion of the heart; and outward compliance with a set of standards alone is not enough. It is the condition of the heart that matters to God. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7 NIV). Bitterness against someone who has wronged you is an evil cancer within you that can render you useless as a Christian.
I think the best test to determine if you are harboring hatred toward someone is to answer this question: Do you find yourself hoping that a person will get what's coming to him or her -- that something bad will happen to him or her? If you consciously wish hardship on anyone, you are exercising your hatred. If someone has committed a sinful offense against you, it is alright to hate their sin, but not the person. Your reaction should be to ask God to help you love the offender by enabling you to pray for that person. Remember how Jesus looked down from the cross at his tormentors and said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NIV). Jesus never stopped loving no matter the offense.
Hatred for someone comes from indulging your own selfish desires -- being concerned for yourself at the expense of others. Instead, allow the Holy Spirit to fill and control your life, leaving no room for hatred and bitterness. Anger leads to bitterness and bitterness leads to hatred. Love, mercy, forgiveness, and humility are powerful weapons against hatred. "Get rid of all bitterness. . . . Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT).
Here comes the clincher. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters too" (1 John 4:19b-21 NLT). God's love is the source of human love, and this love is contagious. As you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (the Great Commandment, Mark 12:30), God will kindle a fire of love in your heart and you cannot help but love as God (Jesus) has loved you. There will be no room in your heart for hatred.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Indelibly Marked

Chuckle: A password audit found a young lady using this password: MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento." When asked why the long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least eight characters long and include at least one capital.
Quote: "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." --Anne Frank

God said, "I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on my hand" (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT).
The Children of Israel were in bondage in Babylon. Some felt that God had forsaken and abandoned them. But Isaiah reminded them that God would never forget them, as a loving mother could never forget her little child. When God said, He had written their names on His hand, He was referring to an ancient practice at the time of Isaiah's prophetic ministry. It was a custom to show their allegiance to some important person by permanently marking their hands with the name of that person.
In addition to God's marking the names of His people on His hand, there are numerous other references in Scripture that tell us God has placed our names in His permanent record, if we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Our names are written in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15; 21:27). Jesus "calls his sheep (followers) by name" (John 10:3 NIV). "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13 NIV). "He (Jesus). . . set his seal of ownership on us . . ." (2 Cor. 1:22 NIV).
Like the Children of Israel, there may be times when you feel God has forgotten you. But all these promises from God's Word, affirm that you belong to God and He has marked you as His most treasured possession -- "a people belonging to God" (1Pet. 2:9 NIV). God genuinely cares about you and you are always on His mine. I believe it was Max Lucado who said, "If God carried a wallet, your picture would be in it." There is ample evidence that God has committed to love and care for you, and there is not the remotest possibility that He will ever forget you or abandon you. "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb. 13:5 NIV).
If you have lost a loved one or some other tragedy has befallen you recently, I pray you will draw comfort from knowing that God is aware of your pain and wants to grant you a special measure of His love, grace, and peace. Please turn to Him and let Him fill your heart with His presence and His joy.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thoughts are Key

Chuckle: "I just got skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious."
Quote: “All the events in your life are a mirror image of your thoughts.” –Unknown source

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- If anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think on such things" (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
Many people carry key rings containing many keys. Sometimes they fumble trying to find the right key to open the door leading to where they want to go. We can find ourselves frustrated and anxious in such situations. The right key is the answer. The same is true in our spiritual life. We may search and search to find the key to a closer walk and fellowship with God. The key that Paul shows us will help us get from where we are to where we can realize God's promise of peace and fulfillment.
Paul's key is to "think on such things" as he enumerated in our passage. In other words, he tells us to allow only godly thoughts to fill our minds. These words mean to ponder, dwell, and concentrate on such praiseworthy things. If we want to draw nearer to God, the thoughts we entertain will make the difference. This is because our actions will reflect the thoughts of our hearts. Holy thoughts will result in holy words and actions. Jesus said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34b NIV).
This theme is emphasized in Romans 12:2b NLT, "but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." When we think on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things our lives will reflect such thoughts and we will draw closer to God. As Christians, we know it is the Holy Spirit who guides us to entertain godly thoughts. It's only when the Holy Spirit renews, reeducates, and redirects our thoughts that we become truly transformed. Under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will be on the offensive to fill our minds with thoughts and values totally different from those of the world.
Do you have problems with impure thoughts and daydreams? If so, you might consider what you are putting into your mind from TV, books, conversations, movies, and magazines and replace the polluted input with wholesome material. Above all, study God's Word and pray -- asking God to help you focus your mind on what is good and pure. Then you will be motivated to put your wholesome thoughts into godly words and actions. In the process, you will grow spiritually and draw closer to your Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 20, 2018

Helping Others Deal With Tragedy

Chuckle: "Birthdays are good for you -- the more you have, the longer you live."
Quote: "Hope means expectancy when things are otherwise hopeless." --G.K. Chesterton

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).
When someone close to us experiences a tragic loss, such as the death of a loved one, we feel inadequate to express our feelings as we grope for the right words. We hope to somehow make the tragedy a little more bearable by our presence and support. Because of our human inadequacies, there's only one place to go for consolation and comfort -- God's Word. How can we minister to those experiencing tragedies in their lives?
We can intercede for them in prayer. I love this prayer. "O Lord, who is the comforter of your children, the God of love and tenderness, I pray for those who mourn at this time. We need not tell their sorrow to you. In the stillness of our hearts we ask for them your sustaining grace. Be their stay in this sore trial; the strength of the fainting heart and the Light of the darkened home. Open their eyes to see the Father's House on high, and may they feel assured that the departed has found a better life, and a more perfect rest in you. Almighty God, may this visitation of death be your voice speaking to us, and may it minister to a truer and holier life in our souls. May our passing days be rich in those things which death cannot take from us; and may you strengthen us to live that life of faith and righteousness, of love and peace, which makes the last earthly change but a step nearer to you, our Everlasting Refuge and Home. Hear us for your mercy's sake, through Jesus Christ our Lord." --John Hunter
We can help meet their spiritual needs by encouraging them to turn to God for comfort, strength, and peace rather than being angry with God. "The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving" (Psalm 28:7 NLT).
We can help meet their physical needs in practical ways. "When God's children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night" (Romans 12:13 NLT). You can help greatly by your compassion, warm hospitality, and other practical ministries.
We can help meet their emotional needs by making ourselves available and by spending time with them. We can be a shoulder to lean on and cry on. We can offer a sympathetic ear to their expressions of pain. "When others are happy, be happy with them. if they are sad, share their sorrow" (Romans 12:15 NLT). "Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 NLT). Hurting people need empathy and understanding rather than advice.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why Not Be Happy?

Chuckle: What is an eyedropper (i-drop-ur)? A clumsy ophthalmologist.
Quote: "Man still wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible." --St Augustine of Hippo

"So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God" (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NLT).
God wants His people to be happy and optimistic about today and the future. I don't think it pleases our Lord when we are grouchy, grumpy, and pessimistic Christians. It's sometimes easier, however, for us to dwell on the things that are wrong and unpleasant in our lives than to focus on all the blessings that God gives us every day. As I read this passage, I'm reminded of another one: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17 NIV).
I think we often look for happiness in the wrong places. It's tempting for us to look at the years gone by as times of true happiness. We may say something like, "Oh, how I wish I could go back to those good old days!" We can fail to see all the reasons we should be happy today rather than dwelling on the past. God wants us to enjoy life and be happy in our relationship with Him today and every day, even in the face of physical limitations, pain, heartache, financial difficulties, etc.
You may say, "But Jerry, you don't understand. With all my problems, I just don't have much to be happy about." I do understand the feeling, but I'm also convinced that we sometimes let such feelings overtake us without taking inventory of the positive and happiness producing blessings available to us -- our children, grandchildren, other family members, friends, fellow believers, and most of all, a God that loves us with a love that exceeds our ability to fully understand.
True happiness is a matter of choice. When we chose to look to God for happiness rather than the past or our current circumstances, we are often amazed at how our attitude toward life changes and we find ourselves being happy in spite of the difficulties and challenges we face. With the proper view of God, we will find happiness as we enjoy all the good gifts He showers on us. What is it in your life that really makes you happy?
"Happy the man (person) to whom 'tis given
To eat the bread of life in heaven;
This happiness in Christ we prove,
                                      Who feed on His forgiving love."
--Charles Wesley Hymn
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Making a Difference

Chuckle: "Back in the sixties when the economy was suffering in England, some consideration was given to selling the Rock of Gibraltar to the French. All negotiations were halted when the British learned the French were planning to rename it "De Gaulle Stone."
Good Quote: "That best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and love." --William Wordsworth

"You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand" (Galatians 6:2 CEV).
Sometimes you may feel like a total failure. You may perceive that your life is not positively impacting anyone in a meaningful way. You may think that the routine of your day is unimportant. You may be thinking that you should be doing more with the life God has given you. Welcome to the club. I suspect we all have had similar feelings.
Recently, I received a kind note from one of my devotional readers who said a particular lesson had met a specific need at a critical time in his life. It's always good to know that our lives and ministries are having a positive impact; however, when such comments of affirmation and encouragement are not forthcoming, it's good to remember who we are serving and from whom our most important encouragement should come. As Christians, our service is to our Lord, and we serve Him by serving others -- meeting the needs of people around us. It is His approval that should be our motivation, not the response of the people we serve.
A sign read, "There is no limit to the good that a man can do, if he doesn't care who gets the credit." If you really don't care who gets the credit, then you can just enjoy yourself and do all kinds of good deeds for others. Just be glad that it is done, and don't worry about who gets the credit on earth, because your heavenly Father knows.
Just think of the lives you touch each day: your family members, neighbors, workmates, classmates, etc. Consider those who depend on you. Think about the positives in your life. The great preacher, Dwight L. Moody once wrote: "He does the most for God's great world who does the best in his own little world." Jesus always encourages His followers to be faithful in the little things of life, as unimportant as they may seem to us.
You are God's unique creation, with unique gifts and abilities and you can make a difference. All around you there are people who need a hug, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, a show of genuine love, and compassion. Just love them as Jesus loves them. There's no better time than the present to refocus on touching the lives of others in kindness and love. A helping hand reveals the condition of the heart.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Faith of a Child

Chuckle: "Children are like mosquitos: the minute they stop making a noise, you know they're getting into something."
Quote: “Faith fills a man with love for the beauty of its truth, with faith in the truth of its beauty.” --St Francis de Sales.

Then Jesus prayed this prayer, "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!" (Matthew 11:25 NLT).
Words spoken by Jesus himself penetrate our hearts and minds in extraordinary ways. His words in our passage are no different. Here, Jesus mentions two kinds of people in his prayer: (1) Those who see themselves as learned, wise, and clever -- arrogant in their own knowledge and wisdom; and (2) Those who approach God with a humble faith like that of a little child -- open to receive the truth of God's Word.
To hear our Lord praying these words to his Father should cause each of us to examine our motives, priorities, and where we are placing our trust. How do you see yourself -- as wise and self-sufficient, or as one who seeks God's truth with humble childlike faith, realizing that only God holds all the answers to our questions about life and eternity?
In his teachings, Jesus often contrasted the believing wise and the foolish unbelievers and emphasized a need to become wise through a simple faith like that of a little child. Here are additional words from Jesus. ". . . I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, anyone who becomes humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3-4 NLT).
These words should cause each of us to fall on our knees and ask forgiveness for our arrogance, self-centeredness, and self-serving attitudes. Children are, by nature, innocent and trusting, and Jesus used a child to help his self-centered disciples understand his teaching point. We are to be humble with sincere hearts -- not childish in our actions but with childlike faith.
"When a father picks up his little daughter and tosses her into the air, she laughs and enjoys it, for she trusts -- has faith in -- her father. Even though she finds herself in unusual situations, like being upside down four feet above the floor with nothing supporting her (normally a most uncomfortable circumstance), she does not fear, for she trusts her father. That is the sort of faith we should have toward our heavenly Father, too."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 16, 2018

Your Importance to God

Chuckle: "Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late."
Quote: "Our worth comes from the image of God in all of us, and must be the basis for our concept of ourselves." –Unknown source

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers -- , the moon and the stars which You have set in place -- what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us?" (Psalm 8:3-4 NLT).
Each of us was created with a powerful curiosity and the insatiable need to explore God's creation -- to go where we've never gone before. We want to know what's beyond that next mountain, ocean, or planet. We may go to new places physically or explore them through written and pictorial descriptions.
Knowing how He had made us, God laid open to us the entire universe to reveal Himself and His power to satisfy our desire for discovery. The more mysteries that are uncovered, the more we find out about who God is and what His attributes are. All His creation helps us to understand not only who God is, but, equally important, who God is not. The Bible says He is not limited in power. He is not apathetic about what happens to us. He is not partial. His love is not limited.
When you are tempted to question your worth and importance, remember that you are highly valuable to God. We have great worth because we bear the stamp of the Creator Himself (Genesis 1:26a). Great effort is being exerted by scientists to prove any theory other than the miracle of creation by God's own hands. As more scientific evidence is found, it becomes more and more difficult for the non-creationists to explain how the universe and the living creatures therein came into existence. The Scriptures tell us that man has exchanged the truth for a lie.
Paul writes, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. . . Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Rom. 1:20, 22-23 NIV).
Yes, God wants us to discover the greatness of His creation which reveals the dimensions of His power and His great love for us mortals, the crown of His creation. God has proven over and over how much He loves you and me, with the ultimate expression of His love being shown on a cross outside Jerusalem where His only Son suffered, bled, and died. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV). How can you read this verse and not see how important you are to God, our Heavenly Father.
So, God gave us His whole creation to show us the dimensions of His power, and He gave His Son to show us the dimensions of His love. Because God has declared your value to Him, you can be set free from feelings of worthlessness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 13, 2018

Heaven: Our Eternal Home

Chuckle: "Eating a puffed rice cake is like eating the lid of a Styrofoam minnow bucket!"
Quote: "There are no crown-wearers in heaven that were not cross-bearers here below." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; Trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-4 NIV).
Do you find yourself thinking about heaven from time to time? Do you really believe there is such a place? Do you know for certain that you are going there when you die? Do you ever wonder what heaven will be like? I do. And I'm reminded of the old hymn, "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!" R. G. Lee described heaven this way: "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create." In chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation, we are given a glimpse into heaven and a brief description of what it will be like. We know for certain that it will be so far beyond anything the human mind can conceive that we will be overwhelmed when we see it.
In our passage, Jesus comforts his disciples prior to his crucifixion and tells them He is going to prepare a place just for them, and us, in His Father's house or heaven. He was asking them, and us, to have faith as follows:
First, Faith in the Person named Jesus Christ. He said we should have faith (believe in, trust) in Him. "You believe in God; believe also in me." You see, it is in the person of Jesus Christ that we must trust to have assurance of eternal life. It is one thing to believe in God, but something altogether different to believe in the person of Jesus -- to have a personal relationship with Him. The Bible declares it is faith in Jesus alone which gives us hope, comfort, and assurance of spending eternity in heaven. "Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV). Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die" (John 11:24 NIV).
Second, Faith in a Place called Heaven: We are to have faith that a place has been prepared and reserved for us in our Father's house -- our eternal home. Jesus said: "I go to prepare a place for you." Old hymn: "There's a land that is fairer than day and by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore." Your faith in the person of Jesus Christ prepares you to have faith in a place called heaven.
Third, Faith in a Promise From Jesus: We are to have faith in His promise to return: "I will come again and receive you unto myself." What will happen when Jesus returns in power and glory? The Bible tells us that the dead in Christ will be raised first to be inhabited by their spirits from heaven. Then we who are alive at his coming shall be changed into our "glorified" bodies and then be caught up together with them in the air - forever to be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:16 NIV).
Jesus went on to say, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 NIV). Have you placed your faith in the person of Jesus Christ? Have you prayed asking forgiveness for your sins and asking Him to come into your life and be your Lord and Savior? If so, then heaven awaits you as Jesus promised. May this thought bring you much peace and joy. . . .!! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Heaven: Who Will Be There?

Chuckle: On the way home from Sunday morning worship, A pastor I said to his wife, "You know, I don't think I have ever preached worse." In an effort to cheer him up, she said, "Sure you have, honey."
Today's Quote: "Take all the pleasures of all the spheres, And multiply each through endless years -- One minute of heaven is worth them all." --Thomas Moore

    "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36 NIV).
There is a popular belief today that a loving God will allow everyone into heaven as long as there is a thread of decency in their character. It seems that nearly everyone is going to heaven, and hell is reserved for only the vilest of characters like child-molesters, murderers, or other heinous persons including those we just don't like. It's understandable that we are repulsed by the thought of a fellow human being spending eternity separated from God in a horrible place the Bible calls hell -- a place many say does not exist.
According to Scripture, both heaven and hell are indisputable realities, regardless of our personal feelings about them. Heaven is described as a blissful place of eternal peace, joy, and comfort in the presence of our Lord. R. G. Lee said this about heaven, "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create." It is reserved for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as evidenced by their service to Him and other people.
Hell, on the other hand, was not prepared for human beings but for the Devil and his angels. "Then he (Jesus) will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matthew 25:41 NIV). God does not send people to hell; they go there by choice.
We cannot dismiss the reality of hell without dismissing the teachings of Jesus himself. Jesus was rejected and insulted when he confronted people with the harsh reality of their sins. He often spoke about hell as the place of eternal suffering for those who willfully and persistently reject his love and free gift of salvation by grace through faith in him.
Yes, hell is a real place that will be inhabited by the eternal souls of real people -- even good moral people who have rejected Christ. This truth should never be sugar-coated, glossed over, or watered down to please those who do not want to hear about or acknowledge hell's existence.
So, back to our original question: "Who will go to heaven?" Answer: Those who have humbled themselves before God, repented of their sins, and have received forgiveness by placing their faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death on Calvary's cross. These words are not Jerry Stratton's opinion but the Words of God himself as expressed by Jesus Christ and others in the Bible, God's Holy Word.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hard Times: New Opportunities

Chuckle: "Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hairstylist you like."
Quote: "Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and take without forgetting." --Elizabeth Bibesco

"As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (Philippians 1:13-14 NIV).
Adversities bring new opportunities to share Christ. It is in times of trouble that our true Christianity becomes evident -- when our faith measures up to the test. Difficulties makes evident our faith, which should set us apart from those without Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 15:20, "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known." His arrest and imprisonment, to keep him from his mission, actually afforded him opportunity to continue it.
While he was in prison in Rome, "boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). In Philippians 4:22, we can see how effective Paul was in spreading the gospel message. "All the saints greet you, especially those who belong to Caesar's household."
Often, while dealing with our own adversities, God provides opportunities to share the gospel with others. This truth was recently brought home to me in a personal way. While being treated for my own health problem, I was afforded the opportunity to witness and minister to a physician who was dealing with advanced cancer.
Adversities bring new opportunities to encourage others. "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (Philippians 1:14). I'm reminded of Peter and John, who had been threatened and warned by the religious rulers to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. They boldly said to them, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19).
Christians enduring hard times can serve as role models for less mature believers. Paul's imprisonment served as a catalyst for Roman believers to spring into action for the Lord. If he could continue preaching while in chains, surely they could do it in whatever circumstances they were facing.
In a time when persecution of Christians was increasing, the church at Rome was in dire need of encouragement. Paul's trouble and ensuing testimony gave them such encouragement. Could it be that your faithfulness to God during difficult times would serve as an encouragement for others to serve the Lord more faithfully? Someone has said, "A brook would lose its song if God removed all the rocks."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Raising Good Adults

Chuckle: A sign on a country road -- "WHEN THIS SIGN IS UNDER WATER, THIS ROAD IS CLOSED!"
Good Quote: "Who our ancestors were is not nearly as important as the kind of ancestors we shall someday be." --William Arthur Ward

"And now a word to you fathers (and mothers). Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4 NLT). "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, . . . Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, . . . Similarly, encourage young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good" (Titus 2:3-7 NIV).
I once read an article in Better Homes and Gardens by Jack Croft. He makes the case that in the past decades parents have focused on building self-esteem in their children to make them happy and well adjusted. However, many older parents and grandparents have been concerned that over emphasis on "building self-esteem" has resulted in less discipline, more permissiveness, and the creation of selfish spoiled children. This article validates those concerns.
Studies are showing that building self-esteem is not the most important consideration in developing good adults. Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, professor of psychology, "found that by virtually any measure, self-esteem has not lived up to its promises." It simply doesn't work. He goes on to say, "my advice would be to forget about self-esteem and concentrate on self-control." "Self-control" is mentioned numerous times in Scripture as an important character trait for God's people, but "self-esteem" is only implied in phrases like "love your neighbor as yourself." We are to value ourselves as God values us -- but never to become self-centered, arrogant, and demanding. Dr. Baumeister defines "self-control" this way: "Being able to resist temptation, control your impulses, focus your thoughts, and perform up to your capacity." That sounds Biblical to me.
Our passages focus on teaching children and youth through discipline, Godly instructions, and setting a healthy example for them. Role-modeling is a highly successful teaching method in any situation. Another psychologist, Charles Elliott, co-authored "Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth." He suggests we, as parents, should allow our children to see us walk away from a frustrating situation (deal with it later) rather then exploding in anger. By example, you can show your children a better way to handle frustration.
Mr. Croft says, "A criticism of self-esteem is that it focuses too much on self, instead of teaching kids about others. Ask your child, 'How do you think Johnny felt when that happened?' If the answer is not a good one, help them to put themselves in others' shoes."
Now to the clincher. "Self-control" is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. For Christian parents and grandparents, modeling self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit will teach Christian kids to depend upon the Holy Spirit for the strength they need to exercise self-control -- control over their wills, tongues, actions, and passions so that Christ is honored. Teach children to try new things but not be devastated when they fail, but rather to laugh at themselves and have fun.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 9, 2018

Our Great Intercessor

Chuckle: How would you make a marriage work? "Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck." -- Ricky, age 10
Good Quote: "To God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in One, Be honour, praise, and glory given By all on earth, and all in heaven." --Isaac Watts

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will" (Romans 8:26-27 NLT).
Are there times when you feel so distressed, depressed, and discouraged that you don't know where to turn and have difficulty putting your feelings into words? Are there times when your feelings are so complex and confusing that you don't know how to ask God for relief? I'm sure each of us has experienced such feelings at one time or another. When this happens, we must be reminded that, as Christians, we are not alone in this battle of life. We are not limited by our own finite resources in coping with difficulties, disappointments, and distractions.
When you feel distressed, it is not necessary to put your prayer requests into words, because the Great Intercessor will do that for you. With God, Himself, helping you to pray, there's never a reason to be hesitant or afraid to come to Him in prayer. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence (boldness), so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
We should boldly and confidently approach God even when we realize how little we know and how poorly equipped we are to pray properly. But the Holy Spirit stands ready to help us express our love for God, our deep desire to worship Him, our sincere attitude of repentance, or even with our personal requests. Even when nothing but groans come from within us, the Holy Spirit understands and will intercede for us in accordance with God's own will; and God will certainly answer such prayers.
The Holy Spirit is God, but He is in some ways distinguishable from the Father. The Spirit prays for us to the Father. The Spirit is a form of God as is Jesus, the Son of God. This intercessory communications within the persons of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are a part of the great mystery of the Trinity.
The intercession of the Spirit introduces a level of divine communications which is far above the level of human words in which our sometimes awkward prayers are interpreted and translated into the high and majestic language of God Himself. PRAISE!!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 6, 2018

Lasting Friendships

Chuckle: "I drive much too fast to worry about cholesterol"
Quote: "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." --Henry Ford

"There are 'friends' who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24 NLT).
It's easy to treat people as a means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. As a gregarious man once boasted, 'I have friends I haven't used yet.' A false friend is like your shadow. As long as there is sunshine, he sticks close by. But the minute you step into the shade, he disappears.
Do you have someone who you consider a close friend? Is that person trustworthy with even your most personal information? Is that person someone who lifts you up with wise and helpful counsel when appropriate? In our selfish, what's in it for me, world, it seems to me that true, genuine, and lasting friendships are few and far between. In many situations, casual acquaintances have been substituted for legitimate friendships. Many people are lonely among the crowds and feel cut off and alienated from other people. When they look at all the people around them, it makes them even more aware of their isolation. As we think about friendships today, let's do so from two perspectives: the friend you need; and the friend you are.
All of us are in need of friends who genuinely care about us, stick close to us, listen to us, and offer loving assistance in our time of need. They are faithful both when things are going well and in times of adversity. A true friend is not judgmental, but offers love, encouragement, support, unselfish advice and constructive criticism when appropriate. It is better to have one friend like this than dozens of false and superficial "friends." A true friend is not hot and cold -- he or she is consistent and always has your best interests at heart. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17 NIV).
A friend who genuinely cares about you may find it necessary to give you unpleasant counsel and advice at times. However, you will always know that such advice from a trusted friend is for your own good. "Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6 NLT). On the other hand, a false friend may whisper soothing and sweet words and happily send you on your way. Even though painful at times, a friend's advice can be very beneficial if we will only listen. "The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense" (Proverbs 27:9 NLT).
The best way to find a true friend is to be one. There are people around you who are in desperate need of a friend. Ask God to guide you to a person who has a friendship need that only you can satisfy, then accept the challenge of being a true and trusted friend. Be aware that a careless tongue will destroy trust, the very foundation of friendships. "A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; a gossip separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 16:28 NLT). An extension and paraphrase of the Golden Rule: "Be a friend to another and as you would have him or her be a friend to you."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Living With a Clear Conscience

Chuckle: While driving down the freeway, a senior citizen answered his phone. He heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on Interstate 77. Please be careful!" "Heck," said Herman, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"
Quote: "When a man is content with the testimony of his own conscience, he does not care to shine with the light of another's praise." --St Bernard of Clairvaux

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience . . ." (Hebrews 10:22 NIV). "They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a pure (clear) conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9 NIV).
As a boy, I loved to play basketball. At one point we lived a short distance from my school which had a gymnasium. Even though the gym was off limits during non-school hours, I had learned how to get into the gym in such a way that no one would know I had been there. One day, my dad confronted me and asked if I had been in the gym. I knew I had done wrong and hoped that, after I confessed, I would receive dad's forgiveness -- which came after a fierce tongue-lashing. After receiving my dad's forgiveness, my guilty conscience faded away because I knew he loved me even though I had done wrong. Genuine forgiveness is the only cure for a guilty conscience.
As a follower of Christ, we were given a clear conscience when all our sins were forgiven and we were made pure and acceptable before God. He cleansed us and made pure in His sight. I pray you have experienced such cleansing because you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Even though we are given a clear conscience, it's up to us to keep it that way every day of our lives.
In 1 John 1:9, God lets us in on a fantastic provision He has made for His children. He knows we commit sins every day we live, even though we should strive not to do so. In our weakness, He promises: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." As we spend time each day with our Lord reading His Word and in prayer, He sensitizes our consciences to recognize even the most obscure sins that keep us from being what God wants us to be. As we become aware of each sin in our lives, and the pangs of guilty conscience set it, we should confess our sins and ask forgiveness. Then we should pray for the strength and grace to help us not repeat them.
In the same way that our consciences are sensitized when we spend time with our Lord, the opposite is true. Our consciences can become insensitive and dulled and we are free of guilt and remorse. If there are sins in your life with which you have become comfortable and no longer feel guilty about, please draw near to God, confess those sins and seek forgiveness. This is how spiritual renewal starts and where you can begin to live each day with a clear conscience.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Apostasy: Its Danger

Chuckle: "You know it's going to be a bad day when you turn on the news, and they are showing escape routes out of the city!"
Good Quote: "If we refuse to be used by God, we may be used by the godless" --William Ward

"God gave this unchanging truth once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some godless people have wormed their way in among you, . . . The fate of such people was determined long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. . . How terrible it will be for them! . . . They are like wandering stars, heading for everlasting gloom and darkness" (Jude 3b-4,11,13b NLT).
The word, "apostasy" refers to a rebellion against God and His truths, originally instigated by Satan, the apostate dragon. (Job 26:13). It also means the intentional disregard for the truths of God's Word, and substituting one's own evil interpretations. The most dangerous apostasy for the church comes from those who know the truth, but are lured away by false teachings, and then feel it is their duty to discredit God and His church. Apostasy emerges from within the church fellowship when we begin to give more credence to worldly views than Biblical truths.
"There was a pastor of a very well-known Bible church, one that taught the Word of God. Today he is a denier of the deity of Jesus Christ. He is a professor at USC, one who does everything he can to turn young people away from Christianity. He also falls into the category of an apostate, somebody who knows the truth, has all the information about truth, and willfully turns his back on the truth for his own pursuit." --John McArthur
An apostate's defection from the faith may be intellectual, perhaps from one's materialistic worldly philosophy which leads to denouncement of Christianity and the church; or it may be moral and spiritual, as with Judas Iscariot, who for money betrayed his Lord. Sometimes apostasy can be a subtle and creeping spiritual disease among Christians -- a compromise here and a compromise there. At other times it leads to a sudden and total abandonment of Christianity. Apostasy is a constant danger to the Christian church and there are many warnings about it in Scripture. Jesus warned about apostasy in the last days. "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people" (Matthew 24:10-11 NIV).
A person can become convinced that God's Word isn't believable or doesn't make sense to his carnal mind; therefore he declares it untrue. If the apostate is a smooth communicator who preys on those not well founded in the Word, he can lead in a gradual erosion of the sacred tenets of Christianity. The result can be a watered down gospel and a church operating outside God's Biblical standards.
There are many examples of apostasy: denial of the deity of Christ; denial that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and nothing else; denial that Jesus died for our sins and rose again the third day; denial that Jesus will return to earth for a second time to claim His church, etc. If we call ourselves Christians, we must be careful not to let worldly influences draw us away from the truths of God's Word that leads to apostasy.
Love, Jerry & Dotse