Thursday, August 30, 2018

Worship With Integrity

Chuckle: He: "I got this great new hearing aid." She: "Are you wearing it now?" He: "Yes. Cost me four thousand dollars, but it's top of the line." She: "What kind is it?" He: "Twelve Thirty."
Quote: "The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure." --A. W. Tozer

"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Mark 7:6 NIV).
Our Lord is not interested in ritualistic worship that does not come from a pure heart. When we worship, it should be a time of personal encounter with our Heavenly Father -- a time when we pour out our hearts to Him in love, thanksgiving, and praise with an attitude of repentance and contrition for our sins. We should worship with excitement at the prospect of hearing God's voice as he speaks to us and directs us toward a more perfect relationship with Him. When we leave a worship service, our lives should be forever changed by what has happened there. It is impossible to sincerely enter God's presence in worship without being drawn closer to Him and becoming more like Jesus.
Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are not. In our passage, Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because their worship was not genuine. They were not motivated by love in their worship but by a desire to attain profit, to appear to others as holy, and enhance their personal status. You may attend church because your spouse nagged you into going, or you may go in order to be seen and improve your image in your community, while, at the same time, down deep in your heart, you would rather be somewhere else. When our hearts are right with our Lord, our motives for worship will be pure and our worship will be a result of genuine love for Christ and the excitement about the opportunity to let him shape our lives. We will worship with integrity.
Luther Dorr shares about worshiping with integrity: "The Lord brought home the need for me to worship with integrity in an experience I had as a faculty member of a Baptist Seminary. I had rushed to chapel services from the class I had been teaching. The first hymn was already being sung. I found the page in the hymnal and joined in the singing.
However, my mind was still on some discussions we had in the class previous to chapel. I had sung three stanzas before I realized I had been singing the words from memory, not conscious of what I was singing, while my heart and mind were doing something else. I was participating in a worship activity, but I was not worshiping the Lord consciously through the words of the hymn. The Lord seemed to call me to get my whole self into chapel and to come to Him in worship with my mind and heart as well as with my physical presence and voice. I still have to do the same thing today."
Going through the motions of worship without a change of heart is useless in God's eyes. Above all, He wants a genuine love relationship with each of us. So, He gave us the Great Commandment telling us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. God wants our worship to burst forth from our hearts out of love for Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Worship Biblically

Chuckle: “I hooked up my accelerator pedal in my car to my brake lights. I hit the gas, people behind me stop, and I'm gone.” --Steven Wright
Quote: "There is only one perfect act of worship ever offered and that was the life of Jesus Christ himself. From His conception to His ascension, He ever offers that life to the Father as the perfect act of worship in Heaven, and when we worship all we do is join Him." --Fr Peter Ball
"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23 NIV). "Do not worship any other gods besides me" (Exodus 20:3 NLT)
The Biblical vocabulary for worship is extensive. However, I think the primary components of worship are summarized in adoration and service, with special emphasis on service. As we look at these two acts of worship, we should always do so in light of what the Scriptures tell us about God and what it means to truly worship Him. We must exercise great care that we worship God only as He has instructed us in His Word. Basically, worship is always pictured as human response to God's revelation of Himself.
Adoration is the foundation of worship and pictures the redeemed person contemplating the grandeur of God and loving and praising Him in his holy perfection. The Biblical picture of worship is to prostrate oneself on the ground before God in adoration, awe, and reverence.
Of course worship can be perverted and directed to false gods. In Biblical times people often fashioned gods out of stone, wood, gold, silver, etc. We Christians are quick to say we are beyond such fallacious worship of idols. However, If possessions (cars, houses, boats, jewelry, money, etc.) become more important to us than our worship of God, we have in reality bowed down to false gods. In worship, we are to seek after the God of Scripture and walk with Him and worship only Him in spirit and in truth.
The other Scriptural essential concept of worship is service. I’m told by Greek scholars that a Greek word in the New Testament (latreuo) is particularly helpful in our understanding of worship. This word is sometimes translated "to worship" (Philippians 3:3), and is often translated "to serve" (Matthew 4:10).
There is no doubt that reverent adoration and faithful service are both Biblical expressions of worship. However, both must be directed only toward pleasing God and bringing Him glory. We see in Isaiah 6 that both concepts, adoration and service, were combined beautifully. Isaiah was brought to a reverent recognition of God's holiness and his own sinfulness before God could purify and use him for His service (Isaiah 6:1-9).
Prayer, music, confession, adoration and service are all actions of Biblical worship. However, these actions must be performed with attitudes of love, reverence, humility, faithful submission, obedience, thanksgiving, and rejoicing. It is through both individual and corporate worship that believers discover their God-given purpose in adoring (loving) and serving God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Worship Preparation

Chuckle:  A little boy asked, "Why don't you come to my church next Sunday?" "Because I belong to another abomination," the answer came.
Quote: “The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure.” -- A. W. Tozer
Jesus said, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24 NIV). "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Psalm 95:6 NIV).
During the week, as you look forward to participating in worship services on Sunday, how do you prepare your heart and mind for worshiping with your brothers and sisters in Christ? For our Sunday worship to be what God desires, spiritual preparation during the week is a must. Daily private worship through prayer, Bible study, confession, praise and thanksgiving will prepare your spirit for congregational worship on the Lord's day.
Worship is not a performance to bring attention to those on stage, be they preachers, singers, instrumentalists, or laypersons. No, worship is an offering to God and must be done privately from the heart and is not visible to the human eyes -- it is done in the spirit. For our worship to be pleasing and acceptable to God, it must be genuine and emanate from the heart.
God is spirit, not a physical being whom we can see and touch. He exists in a different realm or plane from humans and He is not subject to the same limitations of a physical body like ours. Our relationship with God is deeply personal and He can be worshiped only at the intensely personal level. We worship God's Spirit from deep within our human spirits as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Worship in Spirit and truth requires spiritual preparation.
So, how can we prepare our hearts for congregational worship? As we go through the week, we can spend time daily alone in prayer and meditation on God's Word. We can confess and ask God to forgive specific sins in our lives (1 John 1:9). We can look forward with excitement to joining God's people in worship on Sunday. We can pray for the pastor, the music worship leader, and all the other worshipers. We can serve the needs of others. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us restore any broken relationships that detract from our ability to worship. We can recognize the benefits of public worship and anticipate that God will transform our lives each time we come together.
As we prepare our hearts through the week, we will discover that our worship becomes never ending. We will come to better understand what Paul meant when he said we should pray without ceasing. We will come to realize that we are worshiping our Lord continuously seven days a week, not just on Sunday morning. Then we will be prepared to join our brothers and sisters in meaningful, uplifting, and live-changing worship on Sunday. God will work miracles in the hearts of those who have adequately prepared for worship.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 27, 2018

Worship Only God

Chuckle: Bumper Sticker: "A word to the wise is sufficient; but who can remember the word!"
Quotable: "Genuine worship consists of humble adoration and devoted service."  --Unknown Source

"Get out of here, Satan," Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God; serve him only.'" (Matthew 4:10 NLT).
Please notice two words in our Matthew passage. "Worship" means to fall face-down to the ground before God in humble adoration; and "serve" means the outward actions which express an inward attitude of reverence and humility. In other words, worship is incomplete without service, and will never be pleasing to our God.
A.W. Tozer made this statement in his book, "The Pursuit of God:" "It [the new birth] is, however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end."
We can be certain that God is bigger than our finite minds could ever imagine or understand. As I thought about greatness of God, I was struck by the feeling that the magnificence of my God is often lost in the inadequacy of my worship. As we worship, I wonder how much of what we call worship is really a set of rituals and routines that make us feel better for another week rather than an experience that helps us grow in our knowledge and understanding of our indescribable God.
Often our worship at the altar of wealth, materialism, and pleasure is in direct competition with our worship of God. If there is anything that draws us away from continually exploring the depths of God's being, we can never worship in a way that honors God and brings pleasure to Him. The more we learn about our awesome God, the more we realize how much we don't know and the more we desire to learn of Him. Worship must begin by recognizing the "bigness" of God and proceed toward complete surrender to Him.
If you find yourself searching for and desiring what the world has to offer, the words of Jesus to Satan should come to mind: "You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." If our worship is too small for the size of our God, He wants to grow us to the point that our worship becomes increasingly more worthy of Him. As your worship pleases God, He will reveal more and more of Himself and help you become more spiritually mature and Christ-like.
Is your worship incomplete because you have reduced God to conform to your small mental image of Him? Are you committed to constantly exploring the depths of the Triune God who has no limit and no end? If so, your worship will become more and more pleasing to God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Making Worship a Habit

Chuckle: “I suppose a fellow can worship on the golf course — but it’s almost as unhandy as playing golf in church.”
Quote: "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.” --Sir William Temple
"He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom." (Luke 4:16 NIV)
I'm amazed at how many "Christians" see little or no connection between public worship and their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You hear such statements as: "I'm a Christian but not a part of any organized religion or church; or, I can worship God anywhere -- I don't have to worship in church." These and many other reasons (excuses) are offered to rationalize why some don't regularly attend worship services with God's people. However, such an attitude goes against the example Jesus set for us and other Biblical instructions. Dr. Mark Kemp had this to say:
"Regular worship with God's people is as important to our Christian journey as regular stops at the gas station are important when traveling across the country. (It is a lot cheaper and more filling to go to worship than the gas station!) To live the Christian life without taking time to fill our tank in worship and fellowship with God is a recipe for burn out. Jesus made time for both private prayer (But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed, Luke 5:16) and public worship, (Luke 4:16). If Jesus depended on these two great encounters with God to keep His tank filled and His life focused on the Father's purpose, how much more do we need to make both private prayer and public worship habitual in our lives."
Then, here are some additional instructions from Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as we see the Day approaching."
Besides the obvious benefits of public corporate worship, we encourage one another as we share love, understanding, and support for one another. There's nothing that can compare to the value of a gathering of God's people as they pray, sing, study God's Word, and minister to one another through warm and loving fellowship.
If you are out of the habit of worshiping with a church, please think and pray about getting involved anew in regular public worship. You will be blessed and strengthened and you will enrich the lives of those with whom you worship. There are six Biblical functions of a church: worship, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, ministry/missions, and fellowship. To follow Christ’s teachings, we should worship God by our active involvement in each of these church functions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Worship and Traditions

Chuckle: "The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so he can tell when he's in trouble."
Quote: “Just because something is tradition doesn't make it right.” --Anthony J. D'Angelo

Jesus replied, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. . . For you ignore God's specific laws and substitude your own traditions" (Mark 7:6-8 NIV).
I once heard a sermon entitled, "The Tyranny of Tradition," which did not minimize the value of traditions, but emphasized the danger of traditions becoming too important to us. You can sense the disappointment and impatience in the words of Jesus when he criticized the Pharisees for their obsession with traditions (rules) of men at the expense of drawing near to God (Mark 7:1-13). Traditions can become diseased when:
1. They focus on the external. In verse 5, the question about why the disciples didn't abide by tradition was answered in this paraphrase of verse 6 - "because your keeping of traditions was a means of external praise to God without an internal commitment of the heart." Being overly concerned with the externals will cause us to focus on the negative. "We don't do it that way in my church." Being overly concerned with tradition can cause us to put on an external facade (mask) which does not reflect the content of our hearts. We mistake rituals and traditions for righteousness. The way we worship becomes more important than why or who we worship.
2. They dwell on the past. "I've been a member of this church for 40 years, and that's the way we've always done it around here!" Some say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But the problem may be obsolescence, not brokenness. Our traditional methods may no longer be effective. It is God's desire that His kingdom within us be worked out through us. We must never change the gospel message, but we need to change our methods to reach today's generation. As instruments of God, we should be willing to change our approach, eager to share Christ with them through their preferred media, in their language, and at their level of understanding?
3. They become personal. When tradition becomes crystalized in our minds, it causes us to say such things as, "That's just the way I am and always will be!" "I'm too old and set in my ways to change." This attitude may blind us to the possibility that God may be wanting to change you and me and our attitudes. Like the Pharisees, we may take it as a personal attack when our traditions are challenged. Because they were personaly offended, they were not open to new revelations and instructions from God.
Obviously, Jesus was not saying that cleanliness was wrong, but that the traditions of cleanliness had become too important to them. They had become the personal guardians of traditions. Because of their attitudes, they were trying to make Jesus their target and victim because He dared challenge what they held dear. We must constantly ask, "what is right," not "who is right?" Our primary concern should be to worship God in spirit and in truth rather than being bound by our diseased traditions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Worship and the Heart

Note:  I could not post the devotional for Aug 22 due to a power failure at our house.
Chuckle: "I heard that 3M and Goodyear are merging. The new company will be called MMM Good!"
Quote: We are often so caught up in our activities that we tend to worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.--Charles Swindoll

"The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men'" (Isaiah 29:13 NIV).
If we aren't careful, our worship can become a matter of meaningless ritual rather than a life-changing experience with God. Rituals and traditions are originated and developed by men, and rituals, like traditions, can remain meaningful in worship only as long as they don't become more important to us than the purpose of our worship -- form over substance. There is a spirit of reverence, awe, spontaneity, and expectation in a time of genuine worship powered by and guided by the Holy Spirit of God.
If we do something in the same way on a regular basis for a long time, we can fall into the habit of just participating in rituals and traditions of worship and lose sight of the intended meaning and significance. In private quiet time, or corporate public worship, it is our awareness of God's presence and our responsiveness to His glory that makes worship meaningful and pleasing to God.
We know Jesus thought Isaiah's words from the Lord, in our passage, were so important that He quoted them in Matthew 15:7-9 and Mark 7:6-7. We are all capable of hypocrisy, and can often slip into routine patterns of "worship," and become neglectful in giving God our love, praise, adoration, and devotion. We may fool others about the condition of our hearts in worship, but not God. If we want to be identified as God's people, we are wise to be obedient and worship Him with sincerity and honesty -- with a worship that emanates from a pure heart.
From our passage, we see that worship that pleases God involves the heart, not the lips. God is not interested in what your lips say, but is extremely interested in what's in your heart. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). When you worship is your heart overflowing with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving? Before we spend time alone with God or in a worship service with our church families, it is essential that we become aware of being in His presence and prepare our hearts for genuine heartfelt worship.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 20, 2018

Together in Christ

Chuckle: New bride to husband: "Nonsense, dear. It's just a coincidence that I never liked you until you won the lottery." --Art Bouthillier
Quote: "We may not always see eye to eye, but we should always walk hand in hand."Unknown source

"Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose" (I Corinthians 1:10 NLT).
Sadly, there are dissentions and divisions within many Christian churches. But the more I think about the problem, the reason becomes progressively more clear. The Bible tells us there is spiritual warfare going on in the world between the forces of evil (Satan) and the Holy Spirit of Almighty God. If Satan can divide us Christians and thereby damage our witness, he has neutralized the church, and scored a major victory.
In Paul's writings, unity within the church is a major theme. As background to our passage, Paul had founded the church at Corinth on his second missionary journey. Eighteen months after he left, arguments and divisions arose, and some church members slipped back into immoral life-styles. By using the term "brothers and sisters," He is emphasizing that all Christians are part of God's family and they share a unity that runs even deeper than that of blood brothers and sisters.
We should be united in spirit, thought, and purpose, but this does not require everyone to agree on everything. However, there is a great contrast between differences of opinions and divisions within the fellowship. Paul is encouraging all believers to behave in a way that will reduce arguments and increase harmony within the body. Petty differences should never divide us.
Most contentions today are the result of conflicting personalities -- basically the same as in the day of Paul's writings. They are usually caused by intellectual conceit, selfishness, or by a lack of consecration and humility. The idea that "God has revealed to me how the church should function, but not to you," is often a thread that runs through lack of unity. The evils connected with divisions in modern-day churches are many, and they only serve to weaken the church.
It behooves each of us to be agents of love and unity but never of division. This will be our attitude if we have the good of the church and the mission of God's kingdom uppermost in our minds and hearts. The appeal for unity is made with love and concern. "I appeal to you" -- and in love -- "brothers and sisters." Unity, then, is realized when each member of a congregation turns his or her thoughts to Christ rather than individual feelings.
The church filled with strife may do well to be reminded of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar who, coming on deck and finding two British officers quarreling, whirled them about -- pointing to the ships of their adversary -- exclaimed. "Gentlemen, there are your enemies."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Needs and Wants

Chuckle: "The trouble with being a leader is that you can't be sure whether people are following you or chasing you!"
Quote: “Lord, for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray; Keep me, my God, from the stain of sin, Just for today.--Mary Xavier

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19 NLT).
We sometimes have a difficult time distinguishing between our wants and our needs. As a society, we have become spoiled because of the abundant material blessings God has given us. As we read passages of Scripture about how God will supply our needs, we can drift into thinking that God should supply our wants as well. Expecting God to provide each and everything we desire shows a lack of understanding concerning God's promise to us. We may not always have all we want, but by trusting in our Lord, our attitudes and appetites can change from wanting everything in sight to accepting God's provision with sincere gratitude.
Jesus was teaching His followers not to worry about their basic needs like food, water, and clothing. Then He laid out a condition for God's meeting these basic needs. "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after those things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:31-33 NIV).
God owns all things, knows all things, and sees all things. He is keenly aware of the needs in your life and mine. In fact, God often provides even before we become aware of our needs. As a pastor, I have been amazed at the number of testimonies from people about God's goodness as He ministers to their needs. We can trust God in all areas of life and that He will meet not only our physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well. God even gave Paul the courage to face death. He will meet your need for comfort and peace when you lose a loved one. He will give you strength and peace to help you deal with a serious illness.
Paul's words: " . . for I have learned to be get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT).
Notice that Paul had learned to be happy and content. Learning is a process of growing in faith. Have you learned to place God's kingdom and His righteousness first in your life? Have you learned to take God at His word about meeting your basic needs? Have you learned to be content and trust our Lord in every situation?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 16, 2018

When The Heart Turns Away, Part 2

Chuckle: "Patient: Doc, what should I do with all the gold and silver in my mouth? Dentist: Don't smile in a bad neighborhood."
Quote: "(God) You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." --St Augustine of Hippo

"But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen for (wilt not hear) my voice and are not obedient), and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship (serve) them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 30:17 combined KJV, NIV, NLT).
Our passage shows the classic pattern for God's people rebelling against Him. This is how it happens.
First, The heart turns away from God. This is the first step in a fractured fellowship with God. Our hearts and minds can be drawn away by selfish ambition, materialism, worldly standards of success, or pursuit of sensual pleasures. The same principle applies to marriage partners. Often, the first step in a troubled marriage occurs when the heart of one partner turns away from the other. What happens when our hearts turn away from God?
Second, We no longer hear God's voice. Communications with God cease. We no longer lift our voices to God in prayer and praise, and we don't want to hear Him speaking to us for fear He will ask us to do something we've already decided we don't want to do. We may stop attending church where we might hear God speak to us. We may reason that as long as we don't hear God, we're not faced with the decision whether or not to obey Him. We become disobedient by not hearing and heeding God's voice. Likewise, communications will stop between marriage partners when the heart of one has turned away. As a pastor and marriage counselor, I've often heard, "he/she doesn't listen to (hear) me any more."
Third, We begin to disobey God. Godly principles that once guided our lives become less important and we no longer obey God's commands. Sadly, if our hearts are far enough away, we may no longer feel guilty about our disobedience because we don't hear God's Spirit dealing with us. The attitude of our hearts and minds control our spiritual ears.
Fourth, We create substitutes for God. When anything takes precedence over our love relationship with our Lord, we have created "other gods." Not only is God dishonored, but we lose the joy of our salvation and daily fellowship with our Lord. This joy can only be restored by making a conscious decision to turn our hearts back toward God, listen intently for His voice, and obey Him. Then our fellowship with Him will be restored and great joy will fill our lives.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When the Heart Turns Away, Part 1

Chuckle: Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited - until you try to sit in their pews!
Quote: “The hearing ear is always found close to the speaking tongue.” --Douglas Jerrold

"But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen for (wilt not hear) my voice and are not obedient), and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship (serve) them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 30:17 combined KJV, NIV, NLT).
When I was a boy, my family lived in a rural area (back in the sticks) in the mountains of North Arkansas. In the summer, I loved to spend time exploring the woods, streams, and caves around our home. But I knew that about sundown my Mother would step onto the back porch and call me to come in because it was getting late. But often I didn't want to come home because I was having so much fun doing what I wanted to do.
In my childish mind, I came up with the perfect excuse for not answering Mother's call. If I could get far enough away from home at sundown, so that I could not hear her voice, how could she possibly hold me responsible for not obeying her? Later, I could say, "Mom, I didn't hear you calling me!" My heart and mind were turned away to other things which had become more important than listening for and obeying Mother's voice.
I think our attitude toward hearing God's voice is sometimes quite similar. If our hearts are turned away from God and other things have become more important than hearing God's voice of instructions for our lives, we will be out of earshot and will not want to hear Him and obey Him.
As a pastor, I have heard Christians say, "I just haven't heard God telling me to take that Sunday School teacher position" -- or some other ministry responsibility within the church. Could it be that some have turned their hearts away from God and can no longer hear Him and don't know if God is speaking to them or not?
To hear God, we must draw near unto Him and listen intently for His voice. When our hearts turn away from God, we have allowed something, or someone, to draw us away and become more important to us than hearing and obeying God. In our passage, we see the classic pattern of God's people rebelling against Him.
This pattern includes: (1) we allow our hearts to turn away from God; (2) because we aren't listening, communication with God stops; (3) we begin to disobey God's commands; then (4) we are drawn away and begin to worship substitute gods. Next time we will look more deeply into each of these steps in rebellion against God.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

God of Surprises

Chuckle: Two political candidates were hotly debating. Finally, one of them yelled at the other, "What about the powerful interest that controls you?" The other guy screamed back, "You leave my wife out of this!"
Quote: "You pray in your distress and in your need, would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and your days of abundance." --Kahlil Gibran

"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. . . .Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. . . . But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished." (Acts 12:5, 7, 16 NIV).
This passage reminds me how surprised and astonished we are sometimes when God actually answers our prayers. I must admit there have been times when I've prayed for something to happen while not really believing that God would grant my request. There have also been times when God totally surprised me by answering my prayers in ways I could never have imagined.
We may think these early Christians showed a lack of faith by praying while not expecting the answer they received; but is that really the way it was? I believe they had faith that God would answer their prayers; but when they saw Peter at the door, they couldn't believe it. They were astonished by such an amazing demonstration of God's power. Evidently, the middle of the night rescue of Peter from prison by an angel of God was far beyond their expectations. Perhaps they expected that God would answer in a more "normal" way. Do we expect God to answer our prayers by doing certain things in certain ways?
If we make a habit of praying earnestly and continually, no doubt we will be astonished by God's mighty works far beyond what we expect. If we are never astonished by what God does, is He really working in our lives and around us? Remember, it is God Himself who answers our prayers, not our finite mental image of God.
I believe God expects us to be a people of faith who always believes that God answers our prayers if we are praying in accordance with His will. When you pray, you should believe you will get an answer, and when the answer comes, be astonished but don't be surprised. Instead, just be thankful. "But when he (a person) asks, he must believe and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV).
A final thought: If we pray selfishly, we have every reason to doubt that God will grant our requests. James warns us about praying selfishly. "When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 13, 2018

Tears of Concern

Chuckle: "The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom." --H. L. Mencken
Quote: "You may soon forget those with whom you have laughed, but you will never forget those with whom you have wept."Unknown source

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, . . ." (Philippians 3:18-19a NIV).
What does it take to make you cry? Some cry easily; for others it's more difficult. As I get older, I seem to weep more easily and somehow I feel good about that. The Bible says that "Jesus wept" when confronted with the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Jesus showed that He cares deeply about our sorrows, enough to weep with us when sorrows overtake us. Being moved to tears by concern is a Biblical way to show our love and compassion for others. Back to my original question: what does it take to make you shed tears?
In our text, Paul was not ashamed to shed tears and neither was he ashamed to tell others about it. His concern, that moved him to tears, was the plight of the unsaved who had declared themselves enemies of Christ. He had a burning desire to see people come to Christ. He was keenly aware of the eternal consequences of their rejecting the salvation that is available only through faith in the crucified, buried, and resurrected Jesus Christ.
It simply broke Paul's heart because he loved people and was terrified that many of them would go out into eternity lost forever with no hope. He was determined to do everything within his power to lead people into a saving relationship with Jesus. He was totally committed to the task of rescuing the perishing.
I ask you again: what does it take to make you cry? How long has it been since you shed tears for an unsaved family member, co-worker, classmate, or neighbor? When we come face to face with the reality that a lost person will spend eternity without God in a place of eternal punishment, and if we really care, the tears should flow freely. But tears without action are wasted. If we see someone drowning, each of us no doubt would shed tears of concern. But if we stand on the shore and cry and do nothing to help the person who is dying, what good are our tears?
Oh, you tears,
I'm thankful that you run.
Though you trickle in the darkness,
You shall glitter in the sun.
The rainbow could not shine if the rain refused to fall,
And the eyes that cannot weep are the saddest eyes of all.
Charles Mackay
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, August 12, 2018

From Sorrow to Joy

Chuckle: "Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now!"
Quote: "Faith is knowing there is an ocean because you have seen a brook." --William Arthur Ward

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9 NIV)
In your mind's eye, travel with me back in time to the triumphant entry of our Lord into Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago. He was welcomed as the long awaited Messiah and King with shouts of joy and praise. The path, over which He traveled on a donkey, was strewn with palm branches and cloaks from the revelers. It was truly a festive occasion for so many, But they were totally unaware how things would change before the week was out, and that their hero and source of joy would be crucified and His body laid in a borrowed tomb. It wasn't until Jesus' resurrection from the dead after three days that their sorrow could be erased, their joy restored, and their hopes fulfilled.
Imagine the roller-coaster nature of their emotions as the week unfolded. They went from extreme joy to devastating disappointment, sorrow, fear, and uncertainty. Their experiences will cause most of our disappointments to pale in comparison. However, you may have experienced similar feelings about things that have happened, or are happening in your life.
Perhaps you were looking forward to a new job, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, or an exciting professional opportunity. Perhaps you praised and thanked God for the opportunities you were experiencing or anticipating. Then circumstances beyond your control destroyed your plans and left you distraught and depressed. If your emotions have gone from great joy to great sadness, it's important that you keep your eyes on our Lord and realize that He is in control and will, in His own time, restore your joy.
Remember, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV). So, every day greet the Savior with praise, as did the people on His path into Jerusalem, and do so with great joy. Things may not go the way you had hoped or anticipated in the near term, but you can take comfort from knowing God is with you and will work everything out for your good according to His purpose and plan for your life. In His time He will restore your joy.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b KJV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Loving God

Chuckle: "There would be fewer problems with children if they had to chop wood to keep the television going."
Quote: “I did not hear the words you said, instead I heard the love you showed.” --Unknown source
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31 NIV).
What does "with all your heart" mean to you and me? Obviously, when Jesus says we are to love God with all our hearts, he's talking about something much different than the organ in our chests that pumps blood throughout our bodies. In Scripture, the heart is mentioned numerous times and usually describes the very center or totality of your being. All your heart, as used in our passage known as the Great Commandment, includes your appetites, emotions, passions, intellect, will, thoughts, and spirit. One scholar has suggested the Great Commandment might be better translated: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart -- that is with all your soul, mind, and strength."
When you love God completely, with every fiber of your being, then you have fulfilled the intent of God's command. However, I think many of us want to love God with only parts of our hearts. We may love God with our emotions but insist on holding back our passions and wills as private property belonging only to us. That tendency explains God's command to love Him with ALL your heart -- holding nothing back.
God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than he is in our actions for Him. You may be involved in every activity of your church, but activities will not satisfy God and will not cause Him to overlook a disobedient and sinful heart. It doesn't matter how active you are in your church unless you devote yourself to knowing Him and loving Him with all your heart.
As a Christian, you remember full well, the joy, excitement, and peace that entered your heart and life when you first gave your heart to Christ. But over time, temptations of the world may have drawn your heart away and you no longer love God with all your heart. If so, you are being disobedient to the Great Commandment and need to turn your heart back to Him in an attitude of repentance and ask his forgiveness. When you do this, the great joy of your salvation will return and you will be amazed at how clearly you will once again hear God's voice as He reveals His will for your live.
As you face each day uncertain about which course of action to follow in a given situation, just ask yourself which action best demonstrates love for God and love for others. We are reminded that "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (I John 4:20 NIV). One of the best indicators that we love God with all our hearts is how we love other people.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Humility and Relationships

Chuckle: Grandson: "Grandpa, do you know how you and God are alike?" While mentally polishing his halo, grandpa said, "how are we alike?'' "You're both old.”
Quote: "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." --Charles Spurgeon

“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:10 NIV). “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2 NIV).
What does it mean to humble ourselves before our Lord and others? I ran across the following two stories which can teach us valuable lessons about humility.
1. In September of 1986, two Soviet ships, a liner and a freighter, collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. 398 passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship's presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. When they came to their senses, it was too late.
2. A former missionary told the story of two rugged mountain goats who met on a narrow mountainside pathway. On one side was a chasm 1,000 feet deep; on the other, a steep cliff rising straight up. There was no room to turn around, and the goats could not back up without falling. What would they do? Rather than fight for the right to pass, one of the goats knelt down and became as flat as possible. The other goat then walked over him, and they both proceeded safely.
The story about the mountain goats teaches us a valuable lesson about humility when compared to the stubborn pride of the ships captains. When Jesus left His heavenly home, He humbled Himself and paid the penalty for your sins and mine. He saw us literally trapped between our sin and God's righteousness with no way to help ourselves -- no way of escape. He came in humility and took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5-8). Then, by dying for sinful mankind, He let us "walk over Him" so that we could experience forgiveness and receive eternal life.
By His humility, Jesus took the penalty for our sins upon Himself. Peter pointed to Christ as an example of humility. When we are mistreated for Jesus' sake, we must learn to be humble enough to let others walk over us if need be. This is not a sign of weakness but of strength and true humility. Such a response, when done for Christ's sake, brings glory to His name.
Jesus said, ". . ., whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV). Does stubborn pride dictate the way we relate to others? Will we humble ourselves for the sake of others and for God's glory? 
“Spread abroad the name of Jesus in humility and with a meek heart; show him your feebleness, and he will become your strength” –Thomas Merton; The Wisdom of the desert
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Living Faith

Chuckle: One preacher asked for a discount at a store saying, "You know I'm just a poor preacher." "I know," said the storekeeper. "I heard you last night!"
Quote: "Trust God as if your salvation depended entirely on faith; serve God as if your salvation depended entirely on works." --William Arthur Ward

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)
Please notice, in our passage, that faith "lived" in young Timothy's grandmother and mother . As I study this passage, I'm reminded once again that our faith is to be living, dynamic, and demonstrated by actions. It is a faith of "doing," not just something we have been given by God. It is true that faith has its beginning in our hearts when we commit our lives to Christ; however, God does not intend for it to just remain there. It is to be revealed to others through our actions. James expresses this concept like this:
"So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all -- it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, 'Some people have faith; others have good deeds,' I say, 'I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds; but I will show you my faith through my good deeds (by what I do)'" (James 2:17-18 NLT).
We can never earn our salvation just by service to others. We can never earn our way into God's favor. However, our actions show that our commitment to God is real. Acts of loving service are no substitute for, but rather a verification of, our faith in Christ. When we become Christians, "We are God's workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
It takes very little effort just to express our faith verbally, but it requires a serious effort to always express our faith by our actions -- to meet the needs of others, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual. "As gloves are to a surgeon's hands, so are Christians in service for God. It is actually God's hand doing the work. We are but used by Him and therefore have nothing to boast about" –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green.
Let's pray together that God will help our faith become more alive and more evident by our Godly actions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 6, 2018

Snatching Them From Danger

Chuckle: Only a Southerner knows the difference between a "hissie fit" and a "conniption fit," and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.
Quote: "Let those who thoughtfully consider the brevity of life remember the length of eternity." --Thomas Ken

We know Jesus wants Christians to be in the world but not of (like) the world. In the little book of Jude, we find some graphic words of instruction and warning. "Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins" (Jude 22-23 NLT).
As I read today's passage, I'm reminded of the times I've cooked hotdogs or hamburgers on our backyard grill. More than once a patty or wiener has fallen through the grill into the red-hot coals below. My instant reaction was to quickly snatch the meat out of the fire before it is was consumed while, at the same time, trying to avoid being burned myself. To me, that's the picture Jude paints for us here. He says we are to show mercy to the unsaved, and to those who have fallen into sin, mixed with fear lest we become stained (burned) by the same sinful (corrupted) ways of the world.
The first thing we see from this passage is that we should look with mercy upon non-believers and those who are doubters. We are to see them through the eyes of Jesus with the same love and compassion that He has for them. In love and mercy, we are to do everything we can to "snatch" them from Satan's clutches and bring them into the comforting love of Christ -- as the Holy Spirit gives us strength.
When reaching out to those to whom we witness, we must be careful not to fall into the quicksand of compromise. Always be careful not to become so much like non-Christians that no one can tell who you are or what you believe. Draw others for Christ, but don't allow them to draw you into sin.
How can we avoid being drawn away from our Lord and into the ways of the world while maintaining contact with those who need Christ in their lives? By keeping our eyes focused on Jesus; By spending time regularly in prayer and Bible study; By relying everyday on the Holy Spirit for strength to resist the various temptations that Satan places before us; By being faithful and active members of a Bible believing church; and by "Living in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you" (Jude 21 NLT).
We also have responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Christ who stray into sin. At the first indication that they are being drawn away from our Lord and into the ways of the world, we should befriend them and do everything in our power to love them back into the warm and loving fellowship of believers. In my experience as a pastor, I have discovered many "Christians" who have left the fellowship of the church for various reasons, and are convinced that nobody cares. It's up to us to prove them wrong. . . .
Love, Jerry & Dotse