Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Grace or Goodness

Chuckle: (church bulletin blooper): "For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs."

Quote: "The death and resurrection of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Preaching Jesus as merely a good person who is an example of good living falls short of preaching the Gospel." --John Danforth

"God saved you by his special favor (grace) when you believed (had faith). And you can't take credit for this: it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT).
In his book, "Faith and Politics," former Senator John Danforth uses the term "protestant liberalism" to describe a disturbing tendency in some Christian churches to preach and teach what I will call a "social gospel," which places major emphasis on living moral and ethical lives based on Jesus' teachings and example. Many of these same preachers seldom, if ever, bring listeners face to face with the stark reality of their sins and the eternal truth that repentance and faith in the atoning blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the only way to receive God's forgiveness, His free gift of salvation, and assurance of eternal life in heaven.
There is a place for such preaching and teaching, but not at the expense of the good news (gospel message) that God sent his Son to die on that cruel cross outside Jerusalem so that you and I can be redeemed, reconciled (made acceptable) to God. We all know that Christians and non-Christians alike are capable of living moral lives and doing much for the good of humanity. However, the problem arises when people are misled to depend upon their good deeds to earn God's favor -- trying to earn their way into heaven by being good.
Our passage clearly points out the sequence of experiences that result in salvation and then our doing the "good things" that God has planned for us to do. We are told that God "created us anew" when we accepted his gift of salvation through faith. This tracks with another message: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). James also addresses this faith versus good deeds issue. "But some will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18 NIV). You see, we can say we have faith, but do nothing to show it; or we can do all sorts of good things without having faith. Neither approach will impress God.
Once we have a genuine salvation experience, our good deeds performed for the glory of God will bless the lives of people and ultimately result in our being rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. "For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our (physical) bodies" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT). Here, Christ will reward us Christians for how we have lived. Each of us must give account for how we have lived out our faith. Being a "good" person without a life transformed by faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. But being saved by God's grace through faith followed by doing good deeds for His glory is what God desires for each of us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reformation Day

Chuckle: Jonah's Mother: "That's a nice story. Now tell me where you've really been."
Quote:  “The invention of printing and the Reformation are and remain the two outstanding services of central Europe to the cause of humanity” –Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain

"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:17 NIV).
Most Lutheran and some other Protestant denominations observe "Reformation Day" on October 31. It commemorates Dr. Martin Luther's posting of his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st, 1517. This act triggered the movement in world history known as the Reformation. While the historical date for the beginning of Reformation is October 31st, it is often celebrated by churches on the last Sunday in October. The Reformation was the great rediscovery of the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church had been plagued by false doctrines, superstition, ignorance, and corruption. Since most ordinary Christians were illiterate and had little knowledge of the Bible, they relied on their clergy for religious instruction and guidance. Tragically however, monks, priests, bishops, and even the popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like purgatory and salvation through good works. Spiritually earnest people tried to justify themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all kinds of religious performances and devotions, but they were left wondering if they had done enough to escape God's anger and punishment.
The truth of the gospel -- the good news that God is loving and merciful, that He offers each and every one of us forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done for us -- was largely forgotten by both clergy and laity. The Holy Spirit used an Augustinian monk and university professor named Martin Luther to restore the gospel to its rightful place as the cornerstone doctrine of Christianity.
Our passage was a major factor in convincing Martin Luther that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works, and that any righteousness a Christian has comes from God as a result of his/her faith in Jesus Christ. The quote within the passage: "The righteous will live by faith" is from Habakkuk 2:4.
Luther drafted a series of ninety-five statements in Latin discussing indulgences, good works, repentance, and other topics, and invited interested scholars to debate with him. The publication of the Ninety-five Theses brought Luther international attention and into direct conflict with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Holy Roman Emperor. A little over three years later, he was excommunicated by the pope and declared a heretic and outlaw. This was the beginning of the Reformation, the culmination of which was the writing of the Augsburg Confession of 1530, the first official Lutheran statement of faith.
Martin Luther and his colleagues came to understand that if we sinners had to earn salvation by our own merits and good works, we would be lost and completely without hope. But through the working of the Holy Spirit, the reformers rediscovered the gospel -- the wonderful news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem and justify us. As Luther wrote in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed.
“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true."
On Reformation Day, we glorify God for what He accomplished in 16th century Germany through His servant, Dr. Martin Luther -- the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We also earnestly pray that God will keep all of us faithful to the true gospel and help us to joyfully declare it to the world. This verse from a beautiful hymn captures the theme of the Reformation celebration:
By grace God's Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of your own merit
That Jesus died your soul to win?
No, it was grace, and grace alone,
That brought Him from His heav'nly throne.
I hope this brief summary on the Reformation will stimulate you do study further this most important movement in the history of Christendom. Have a wonderful day as you celebrate God's love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 29, 2018

Having Fun Yet?

Chuckle: “Laffing iz the sensation ov pheeling good all over, and showing it principally in one spot.” --Josh Billings
Quote: “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes real happiness. It is not obtained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” --Helen Keller

Jesus said, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10 NIV).
Having fun is one of the greatest blessings of life, and I believe God created us to be happy, to laugh and have fun. As we think about having fun in this life, let’s begin by defining “fun.” What is fun anyway? Before you go looking in the dictionary, try to define “fun” from your own experiences. I suspect your definition contains words like; play, enjoyment, happiness, laughter, amusement, good times, etc. Now, which of these words describing “fun” does God not want us to have as Christians? I believe “life in all its fullness“ that Jesus promises in our text will be a life filled with fun. If I were to select a synonym for “fun”, it would be rejoicing or happiness.
When we are happy and having fun, we will “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT). Paul was in prison when he penned these encouraging words to the church at Philippi. In other words, he did not allow his adverse circumstances to spoil his inner attitude of happiness, and he wanted the Christians at Philippi to share in his unspeakable joy because of his relationship to his Lord. This line of thinking reminds me of a book we have entitled: “Happiness is a choice.” We can be happy and have fun if we decide to do so. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NLT).
Each day, without really trying, we can find reasons to be down in the dumps and miserable in our self-pity. But this is not God’s plan for your life. Because of his indescribable love, amazing grace, and limitless mercy, we always have reason to rejoice, be happy, and have fun. Life can be a “hoot” if we retain our sense of humor and determination to be happy. This can happen if you allow God’s Holy Spirit to give you an attitude adjustment. He will give you reason to rejoice and enjoy life even in the most adverse circumstances. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2 NIV).
Finally, no Christian should ever see sinful actions as fun. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 NIV). “Fun” to a Christian describes those wholesome actions that please God and bring us joy and pleasure. Of course, Satan will try to convince us that sinful behavior is more fun. But we should shun even the very appearance of evil and cling to that which is good and have fun doing it. “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9b NIV). Our greatest joy comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Preaching the Cross

Chuckle: "He charged nothing for his preaching, and it was worth it too." --Mark Twain
Quote: "I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come." --Abraham Lincoln

"I know very well how foolish the message (preaching) of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God. As the Scripture says, 'I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas" (I Corinthians 1:18-19 NLT).
Unfortunately, not all of us preachers are equally articulate and eloquent in proclaiming the gospel message. However, a lack of individual ability in preaching the Word of God does not diminish the importance and power of the message. The important thing for any preacher is that he speaks in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of his eloquence. I urge you to listen to your pastor/preacher with a sincere desire to absorb the message and never with an attitude of a critic that nit-picks his delivery.
In verse 17 of our chapter, Paul says that God did not send him to give clever speeches/sermons with high sounding ideas, but to preach the Good News so that the cross of Jesus Christ would never lose its power. The word "preaching" means to evangelize or cast the net. The technical meaning is to proclaim good tidings. Here, Paul is more interested in the content of his preaching than the method. The primary purpose of preaching is to bear witness and is the essential task of the Christian minister. But every Christian has the responsibility to proclaim the gospel message.
Please notice that the first letter to the Corinthian church is addressed "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -- their Lord and ours" (I Corinthians 1:2 NIV). Paul's words are for every Christian. You may not be a vocational preacher, but you certainly have a responsibility to proclaim the message of the cross.
Why is it so terribly important for each of us to be messengers of the "Good News?" It's because "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NIV). Each one of us who has experienced salvation through faith in Christ has a God-given responsibility, privilege, and commission to tell others the Good News.
You do not need to be a great speaker with an impressive vocabulary to share the Good News effectively. I believe the most powerful and effective way to communicate the power of the gospel is through your personal testimony of what Christ has done in your life. Many will respond to a simple testimony given with an attitude of love and understanding.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Abounding Grace

Chuckle: Hearing her young son open the front door, A mother shouted, “Be careful on that floor, Jimmy; it’s just been waxed.” Walking right in, Jimmy replied, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m wearing my cleats.”
Quote: “It is good for us to think that no grace or blessing is truly ours till we are aware that God has blessed some one else with it through us.” --Phillips Brooks

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV).
A few years back, I received an e-mail from Dayspring Devotions in which they emphasized the wonderful acts of God's grace toward each of us every day we live as Christians. I will quote them before providing some commentary of my own.
"Grace. What a wonderful word! The very sound of it brings health and healing, comfort and reassurance, encouragement and hope. What does this wonderful word mean to us who have trusted in Christ? What is Grace? Here are some helpful and wonderful definitions that have been written and spoken through the years:
Grace is God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
Grace is God's unmerited favor.
Grace is God working in us the will and desire to do the things that please him.
Grace is receiving from God what we do not deserve, freely, without money or price.
Grace is God's influence upon us resulting in happiness and thankfulness."
Any strength we may possess that let's us pattern our lives after Jesus, by showing unearned and undeserved love, is given to us by God Himself. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy of receiving God's grace because if we earned it, we would deserve it, and grace, by its very nature, is that which we do not deserve.
"For it is by (God's) grace you have been saved through faith . . ." (Ephesians 2:8 NIV). Our very salvation and eternal life are gifts from God -- by His grace. "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me . . ." This undeserved grace is a function of God's love and mercy. We just need to accept God's free grace gift, then allow His grace to work through us. It is this work of God that motivates us to work for Him for His glory and the good of others.
During the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt came to Clara Barton of the Red Cross to buy some supplies for his sick and wounded men. His request was refused. Roosevelt was troubled and asked, "How can I get these things? I must have proper food for my sick men." "Just ask for them, Colonel," said Barton. "Oh," said Roosevelt, "then I do ask for them." He got them at once through grace, not through purchase --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Contentment is a Choice

Chuckle: "So, if your house is a mess and there's no one there to see it, is it still messy?"
Quote: "Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty." --Socrates
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (I Timothy 6:6-8 NIV).
In Philippians 4:11, Paul tells us that, over time, he had learned to be content. Have we? Or do we show evidence of our discontent? Some believe that changing their circumstances or the acquisition of material things will bring them contentment. But trying to obtain contentment from possessions is like trying to carry water in a sieve -- it just "doesn't hold water." Potential reactions to life's difficult circumstances include bitterness, depression, selfishness, and finally, contentment. Which reaction is most prevalent in your life?
Contentment comes from trusting God's sufficiency, rather than our own. The scripture speaks of many things which rob us of contentment and tells us what our response should be. Luke 3:14 NIV: ". . .be content with your pay (wages)." I Timothy 6:8 NIV: "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." Hebrews 13:5 NIV: "Be content with such things as you have..." Without Christ, the inward source of contentment, you will never find it in people, places, or things. God was Paul's source of contentment everywhere and in all things. How was this possible?
He accepted and was content in all circumstances. ". . . whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:12 NIV). I read somewhere that we should never pull tomorrow's clouds over today's sunshine. Never cross a bridge until you come to it. Always take life one day at a time. Today is all you have. We must get over our past failures, those who have failed us, and unpleasant circumstances. Receive God's forgiveness and joyfully share His love with others.
Paul knew God would provide him strength to do all God wanted him to do. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV). Literally, Paul says, "I can do all things God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength." This attitude is based on the foundation of our Christian faith -- the all-sufficient Christ.
Paul was satisfied with his provisions. "I am amply supplied" (Philippians 4:18 NIV), and this is assured by the fact that "My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19 NIV). He did not require more than God had given him to be content. How content are you? Are you at peace with yourself, with others, and with your Lord?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Devotion to Christ

Chuckle: A fella I hadn't seen in quite a while, said to me, "I thought you were dead!" "No," I said, "but I do have many of the symptoms."
Quote: "We would often be ashamed of our best actions if the world only knew the motives behind them." --Francois De La Rochefoucauld

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
Have you given much thought to what it means to be fully devoted to Christ? In his Gettysburg Address, while dedicating the cemetery there, Abraham Lincoln used these words in reference to the soldiers buried there: "They gave the last full measure of devotion" to their country. A devotion so great that one would willingly give his life for the object of that devotion grabs our attention and causes us to reflect on our own level of devotion.
Paul realized that Christ gave His last full measure of devotion when He died that we might live. He also recognized that to become like Christ should be the goal of every believer. In our passage, Paul says, in essence, that his old self had been crucified (died) so that Christ could become his life by living in him and through him. This is an awesome concept, and one that every Christian should aspire to live out. It means removing self so completely that our lives become Christ living in and through us. People will see Christ when they see how we talk and act.
Obviously, the first step in becoming completely devoted to Christ is to trust him by faith as Savior. ". . . man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ" (verse 16). Saul (Paul) had previously worked hard to please God by observing and enforcing God's Old Testament laws -- trying to live the "good" life. In his zeal to serve God, he became a chief persecutor of early Christians. However, when he met Christ, he came to realize that living by a set of rules was inadequate, and that he could be reconciled to God only by faith in Jesus Christ. When he gave his heart and life to Christ, his old self died, and now it is Christ living in him. When Christ died, our sins died with Him and relationally we have become one with Christ. Now His experiences are ours.
It was Christ's love and sacrifice for him, that motivated Paul in his devotion to him. Because we have been crucified with Christ, we have been reconciled to God and are free to grow in Christ's likeness. And in our daily lives, we have Christ's resurrection power as we continue to fight against sin. We are no longer alone because now Christ lives in us -- He is our strength for living and our hope for the future. What is your level of devotion to the Christ who gave His last full measure of devotion to us?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 22, 2018

God's Beautiful Creation

Chuckle: A new bride cooked her first meal for her husband. “My mother taught me to cook, and I can cook two things well – apple pie and meatloaf.” The husband took a bite of his supper and asked, “And which one is this?”
Quote: “All created things are living in the Hand of God. The senses see only the action of the creatures; but faith sees in everything the action of God.” –Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ

This is what God the LORD says – he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people and life to those who walk in it: “I, the LORD, have called you righteous. I will take hold of your hand” (Isaiah 42:5-6 NIV).
Picture with me, in your mind’s eye, a beautiful crystal-clear mountain stream (Bear Creek) flowing along a 200-feet high cliff on one side and fertile level bottom land on the other. Listen to the gurgling sounds as the water flows over the gravel shoals. Listen to the sounds and smells of mowers cutting hay on the bottom land. As you stand knee-deep in the cool water at the edge of this beautiful pristine stream casting a lure into the deep blue holes of water, your mind goes back seventy years to when you were a teenager and your family lived in this area. You remember playing in this your favorite swimming hole. You have always loved this place but, as a teenager, you tended to take for granted the pristine beauty of this truly wonderful place.
The above describes what I saw the last time Dotse and I visited with my brother and wife in the beautifully mountainous Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas where I grew up. In many ways, it was a true worship experience for me as my memories allowed me to relive experiences of long ago. The beauty and complexities of God’s creation came rushing anew into my awareness and ignited a new and deeper appreciation for our God and His magnificent creation. We are reminded in Scripture of the message conveyed to us through God’s creation. Listen!
“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” (Romans 1:20 NIV).
God’s general revelation through creation reveals a God of power, intelligence, and intricate detail; a God of order and beauty; a God who controls powerful forces far beyond our ability to fully comprehend. However, it was not until we had the Bible describing the coming of Jesus Christ that we could fully understand God’s special revelation of Himself, including the dimensions of His love, grace, and mercy. The Creator of the universe made it possible for us to experience His forgiveness of sin and His promise of eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus.
Wherever you are today, I encourage you to step back and take a fresh look at God’s creation and marvel at the power, majesty, and handiwork of the God we serve. Also, reflect on Jesus’ role in creation. “Through him (Jesus) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Valued Friendships

Chuckle: While bragging about their dads. the first boy said, "my dad scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, called it a poem, and they gave him $50." The second boy said, "that's nothing. My dad scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, called it a song, and they gave him $100." The third boy said, "I got you both beat. My dad scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, called it a sermon, and it took eight people to collect all the money."
Quote: “So long as we love, we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I should say that we are almost indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

Jesus said to His disciples: “I command you to love one another in the same way that I love you” (John 15:12 NLT). “The greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:13b NLT).
I’m sure each of us has a personal definition of a true friend that has evolved from our own experiences in human relationships. Someone has defined a true friend as “the first person who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” Someone else has said, “Value a friend who, for you, finds time on his calendar – but cherish the friend who, for you, does not even consult his calendar.” Today, let’s consider this question: Am I the friend that is cherished by those who call me friend?
Hopefully, we will not be required to give our lives for our friends, but there are numerous other ways to show the nature of our love and friendship to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our sacrificial love can be shown by helping, listening, encouraging, giving. I think Jesus is saying that we should search out those who need this kind of love and and do everything possible to meet that need -- then give even more of ourselves. True friends always place the needs of friends ahead of their own – They live for others rather than themselves.
Casual acquaintances will not suffice as substitutes for genuine friends. However, I think many of us live in a world of acquaintances rather than unwavering friends. Acquaintances may fool us into thinking they are friends, but “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.” We have not truly lived until we have a wall of love and friendship surrounding us to protect us from storms of life.
“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person (friend), having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out just as they are, chaff, grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keeping what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” –George Eliot
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Life of Worship

Chuckle: A Texas cowboy bought a Dachshund when someone told him to "get a long little dogie!"
Quote: "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the Holiness of God, To feed the mind with the truth of God, To purge the imagination by the Beauty of God, To devote the will to the purpose of God." --Archbishop William Temple

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life -- your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life -- and place it before God as an offering (your spiritual act of worship)" (Romans 12:1 The Message).
When I mention the word "worship," what comes to your mind? For many of us, it likely would be Sunday morning services at our church where we are fed spiritually each week. That's a wonderful place to start, but that should not be the extent of our worship experience. We should worship God by offering to him our bodies and everything we do each and every day.
I once read the weekly sermon in our local newspaper by Dr. Jeff Miller. He told the story of a mother who discouraged her children from feeding crackers to the seagulls along the beach. She reasoned that by feeding the gulls the children might destroy the birds' appetite for a more healthy lunch of fish. A fish market worker responded that the gulls received so much food from humans at meal times that they didn't fish anymore. They had lost their wild natural instinct to fish for their food. Dr. Miller went on: "Just as the seagulls are dependent upon getting fed at a certain time of the day, I wonder if we are solely dependent upon Sundays to get spiritually fed."
We see in our passage, that every thing we do every day in life should be done as an act of worship. Participation in worship services is very important for our spiritual growth, but we certainly don't have to wait for Sunday morning worship services to be spiritually fed. If we take the initiative in seeking (foraging for) spiritual food, we will offer our bodies as living sacrifices and dedicate even the most routine activities of life to God as acts of worship. Because we hunger and thirst after God, we will regularly seek spiritual food from his Word. Then, God will nourish us and cause us to grow in our faith through our everyday acts of worship.
God wants us to lay aside our own selfish desires and follow him by putting all our abilities, energy, and other recourses at his disposal every moment of every day. He wants us to trust him and depend upon his wisdom and guidance in every aspect of life. If we do this, worship will become a 24/7 activity and we will not become dependent solely on Sundays for our spiritual nourishment. Our actions on the job, in the classroom, or around the house will be done in a way that will honor and please God. If we worship God during the week in all our activities, we will be much better prepared for corporate worship on Sundays.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Work in Progress

Chuckle: "I always use notes when I preach, in case I say something I want to remember!"
Quote: "In God, we live every commonplace as well as the most exalted moment of our being. To trust in him when no need is pressing, when things seem to be going right of themselves, may be harder than when things seem to be going wrong." --George MacDonald

"And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Jesus comes back again" (Philippians 1:6 NLT).
There have been times in my life when I felt I wasn't making much progress in my Christian growth and maturity. You may feel that way now or have felt that way in the past. Our lesson today, reminds us that each of us is a work in progress and that God will not be finished with us until his return or our lives on earth come to an end.
Our passage does not mean that your salvation is incomplete until Jesus comes. When a person first prays to receive Christ as Savior, he or she becomes what the Bible calls a "babe in Christ" -- fully saved and destined for heaven; but that's just the beginning for a Christian. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (I Peter 2:2 NIV).
We all know that for a baby to grow physically, he or she is dependent upon proper food, exercise, instruction, and nurturing by his parents and others. Likewise, for a baby Christian to grow spiritually, he or she must receive spiritual nourishment from God's Word, spiritual exercise through obedience to God, and many forms of nurturing by other Christians.
God will help you to grow in grace until he has completed his work in your life. However, you must have the desire and willingness to grow for God to do everything He desires to do in your life. When you are discouraged at your perceived lack of progress in spiritual growth, remember that God will never give up on you. He promises to take you from where you are to where He wants you to be. When you feel unfinished, incomplete, or distressed by your shortcomings, remember God's promise. Please don't make the mistake of letting your present condition rob you of the joy of knowing Christ or keeping you from growing closer to Him every day.
"We have all been driving down a highway and noticed bright orange signs that state, 'BEGIN CONSTRUCTION' and 'END CONSTRUCTION.' One thing about these signs is that they tend to remain around long after the construction work is over. If one of us were to announce -- that for the time being -- God's construction in our lives was going to be halted, would our friends say, 'I didn't know any construction was going on.'"
When God saves you, you belong to him and always will. You can take this truth to the bank. However, once you are saved, God wants to continue His work in you until Jesus comes or the end of your earthly life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Our Imperfections

Chuckle: Ted: “You seem unhappy.” Roger: “Yeah, I am. Living with my mother-in law has been stressful and hard on both me and my wife.” Ted: “Well, if it gets really bad, you could just ask her to move out.” Roger: “We can’t. It’s her house.”
Quote: “Gladly we desire to make other men perfect but we will not amend our own fault.” --Thomas a Kempis

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). “Stop judging others . . . First get rid of the log in your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:1,5 NLT).
Isn’t it amazing how clearly we can see imperfections in others, but are totally blind when it comes to seeing our own? Many of us are really umpires at heart; we enjoy calling balls and strikes on someone else. But as we persist in judging others, we may come to view their minor imperfections as major while seeing our own major faults as minor and insignificant. Have you ever honestly taken stock of your imperfections? When you do, it may not be a very pleasant task. We all have blemishes and imperfections. For some, they are physical limitations. To others, they may be mental/emotional. Of course, our most serious imperfections are spiritual – originating from our propensity for sin.
By what standard should we measure our imperfections? This is the most important question we must answer if we are to honestly evaluate ourselves. The temptation is to say, “compared to others I know, I’m not so bad.” However, comparing our imperfect lives to those of other imperfect people will not give us the answers we should desire. No, when we begin to measure our imperfections against God’s standards, as spelled out in His Word, we are ready to let God’s Holy Spirit convict us and give us the strength to deal with our imperfections – that is if we are truly repentant.
Our imperfections, from God’s point of view, are called sins, even though we would prefer to call them missteps, mistakes, errors, shortcomings, etc. The most dangerous way to live with our imperfections is to become comfortable with them and go through life as if there is no need for alarm. The apostle Paul lived as close to perfection in his relationship with his Lord as any Christian who has ever lived. Yet, Paul was keenly aware of how far he was from spiritual maturity and perfection. Here’s what he has to say.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be” (Philippians 3:12 NLT).
Instead of finding imperfections in others, we are well served by turning our faults and imperfections over to God and let Him deal with them. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 15, 2018

What Influences You Most?

Chuckle: The church custodian quit, and the pastor asked the organist if she would be able to clean the church. The organist thought before replying, "Do you mean that I now have to mind my keys and pews?"
Quote: "Control your thoughts and desires; they may break into words and actions at any moment." --Unknown source

"But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law" (Psalm 1:2 NLT).
Everything you watch, read, or listen to influences your life. If you watch, read, or listen to wholesome materials, you will be influenced in a positive way. Of course the opposite is true as well. You may say: "I can watch trash on TV or read an off-color magazine or book without it affecting my thinking or the way I live." Let me explain why I believe this attitude to be wrong for Christians.
It's obvious that we have been influenced negatively by the things of the world if our actions become sinful. However, it may not be so obvious if only our thoughts are influenced. You can fool the people around you by playing the part of a faithful Christian while harboring sinful thoughts and desires. Failing to act on those secret desires does not mean you aren't sinning against God. Sins begin in our hearts and minds, but often don't remain there.
Remember, "Men look on outward appearances, but God looks upon the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15). "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man" (Proverbs 27:19 NIV). Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28 NIV).
Our sinful thoughts may not result in outward rebellion against God, but they can keep us from doing anything worthwhile for Him. If our minds dwell on ungodly things, we become apathetic toward God's work and disinterested in spiritual things. Here's a quick way to evaluate your heart and mind. Do you experience joy from studying God's Word and serving Him? If something else gives you greater joy, you have been influenced by the world.
Notice in our passage what makes devoted followers of God (Christ) happy -- the Word of God. It occupies first place in their order of priorities. They think about it day and night. They fill their minds with the things important to God. If you meditate on the Bible and absorb the godly principles that nourish your heart, mind, and spirit you will find fulfillment and happiness that only God can give. You will not focus on temporal things that soon pass away, but upon the eternal that can never be taken from you.
Love,  Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Jesus, Our Salvation

Chuckle: "Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald they don't recognize you."
Good Quote: "If you keep watch over your hearts, and listen for the voice of God and learn of him, in one short hour ye can learn more from him than ye could learn from a man in a thousand years." --Johannes Tauler

". . . and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:11 NIV). "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus Christ is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).
Many times I have been asked, "how can I become a Christian -- how can I know for sure I have been saved from my sins and have eternal life?" These verses give us a beautiful answer. Salvation is as close as your heart and lips. God's plan of salvation is so simple many just cannot believe it. We want to make it complicated and difficult. If we sincerely believe, and have faith in him, in our hearts and say with our mouth that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved.
The primary reason people think salvation is a difficult and complicated process is the preconceived notion that it must be earned by living good moral lives. I've had people say to me, "when I get to the point that I can live a Christian life, I will give my life to Christ." This is getting the proverbial cart before the horse. We must see ourselves as sinners, come to Jesus in repentance, ask him to forgive our sins, and trust our very lives and eternal souls into his hands through faith. Once we have been saved, he will then give us the strength to clean up our lives and serve him with holiness.
"Therefore, If any man (person) is in Christ (saved), he is a new creation; the old (life) is gone, the new life has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
We can see from these passages that good works that matter to God come as a result of our salvation, not to attain it. Our salvation comes from believing (having faith) and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord. Confession and belief (faith) belong together like a hand and glove. A true believer will confess Christ publicly. Believing and confessing are not two stages in a process, but two parts of the same transaction.
Several years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, "What did you think about as you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth?" The astronaut replied, "I remembered how the spacecraft was built by the lowest bidder." We as Christians can rejoice that the work of salvation did not go to the "lowest bidder" but was performed by an infinite God. There will never be a deficiency in his work. Our salvation is as sure as the architect of that salvation, Almighty God!" –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Listen Carefully

Chuckle: Little Amy confided to her uncle, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry the boy next door." "Why is that?" "'Cause I'm not allowed to cross the street."
Good Quote: “Half an hour's listening is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed." --St Frances de Sales
"So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it" (Hebrews 2:1 NLT).
I remember a game we played in my youth group when I was a teenager. It went like this: A person at the beginning of a long line of players would whisper something into the ear of the next person. That person then whispered what he had heard to the next person, and so it went to the end of the line. Then the last person would voice what he had heard and it was compared to what the first person had actually said. It was amazing, and sometimes hilarious, how distorted the original words could become. The distortion occurred from misunderstanding, embellishment, or just a failure to listen carefully.
Listen to what God said to his people through Moses. Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, "Listen carefully to all the laws and regulations I am giving you today. Learn them and be sure to obey them!" (Deuteronomy 5:1 NLT). In both our passages, a major emphasis is given to listening carefully to God, learning from God's words, and obeying what we have heard and learned. How carefully have you tuned your spiritual ears to listening to what God is saying to you? How committed are you to following God's directions so they do not become distorted, diluted, or irrelevant in your life because of the world's distractions?
James reminds us that listening carefully to the Word is the first step in becoming what God wants us to be. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22 NIV). We are to pay close attention and listen in a way that produces clear understanding with the intent to live out the instructions we have heard. Paying close attention involves the focusing our minds, bodies, and senses. This will help insure that God's Word does not become distorted or forgotten in our daily lives. The ability to Listen carefully to God and other people is a wonderful trait.
"His thoughts were slow,
His words were few and never formed to glisten.
But he was a joy to all his friends,
You should have heard him listen!'
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Making Things New

Chuckle: "We need a responsible person," said the employer. "I hope you fit that description?" "Yes, Sir, I'm your man," answered the potential employee. "On my last job, every time anything went wrong, they said I was responsible."
Good Quote: "We cannot hold a torch to light another person's path without brightening our own." --Ben Sweetland

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. . . . God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 NIV).
I was born in Zinc, a small mining town in the mountains of North Arkansas. It was called "Zanc" by some of the locals. The town was located in a beautiful little valley with Sugar Orchard creek and the railroad running through it. As a child, I remember it being a bustling community with a several stores, post office, canning factory, and other businesses. My grandfather, and later my uncle, owned and operated one of the grocery stores there. I thought it was the most wonderful place on earth.
However, today Zinc has grown old and there is almost nothing left of the community -- just a few houses but no commerce of any kind. When I last visited the place, I couldn't help thinking how nice it would be if I could just snap my fingers and blow away the "oldness" and make it like it once was -- make it new. But there's no way I can make the old town of Zinc new and there is no way I can make myself new. Only God can do that and only He can make me acceptable in His sight.
In our passage, we see ourselves with our old sinful nature with no way for us to change our condition in our own strength. Our old nature has become polluted by sin and the standards of the world and is not a pretty sight in the eyes of God. In the same way it would take a "miracle" to make Zinc new again, it takes God's power to miraculously make us into new creations with new natures. It takes God's Holy Spirit remaking us once we repent of our sins and place our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. When we are "born again." as Jesus describes it, we are "in" Christ, and if we are in Christ, all things about us are made new. This means our lives and new nature are now controlled by the Spirit of God, not the lure of the world.
Does your life need a makeover to bring it into compliance with God's plan for you? Do you have the new nature that God wants to give you? If not, won't you bow your head this morning, give your heart and life to Jesus Christ, and ask Him to forgive your sins, and make you into a new creation -- a new person? Let Him make all things new and give you a new nature, a new purpose, a new joy, and a new peace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Finding Your Life

Chuckle: TV repairman: "So, what seems to be the problem with your TV?" Woman: "It has double images. I hope you men can fix it."
Quote: "No conceivable life can be so interesting and stimulating as that which we live in Christ." --William Little

Jesus said, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it" (Matthew 10:39 NLT).
To the unsaved, and even to immature Christians, these words from Jesus are difficult to understand. It's a great paradox that one finds his life by being willing to lose it, just as he inevitably loses his life by trying to save it. The contrast is between living selfishly only for ourselves, and living sacrificially for Christ. Each person can find eternal life, and the abundant life here on earth, by surrendering his or her life to Christ or forfeit it by indulging in self-trust, self-love, and self assertion.
It's believed that Jesus may have also been making a reference to martyrdom. The one who, under trial, seemingly saves his life by renouncing Christ actually loses it; but the one who remains faithful suffers martyrdom for acknowledging his faith in Christ seems to have lost his life but actually finds his life in Christ.
What is the practical application of Jesus' words for us as we live each day? Simply stated, we must get our priorities in the right order. We can become so busy and preoccupied with our own lives that our priorities become upside down. The least important becomes most important. The most important becomes least important. The valueless becomes most valuable and the most valuable becomes a mere trinket in our flawed value systems.
The more we love the things of this world (leisure, power, popularity, wealth), the more we discover how relatively unimportant they are in God's grand scheme of things. The life Christ wants for us can only be achieved by loosening our greedy grasp on earthly rewards and follow Christ with His eternal rewards. Then we will understand and claim the promises of our lord when He said, "I have come that they (we) may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV).
Our Lord wants our lives to be abundantly full and rich in Him, both here on earth and in eternity, and our eternal lives begin the moment we pray to receive Him as personal Lord and Savior. Have you claimed Christ's offer in your life? Are you living for Christ or for yourself?
Love, Jerry & Dotse