Thursday, January 31, 2019

Worship and Encouragement

Chuckle: Parachute recall notice: On page 7 of the instruction manual, please change the words ‘state zip code” to “Pull rip cord
Quote: “There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.” --Katherine Butler Hathaway
"Let us not give up (not forsaking, KJV) meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching"  (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).
We may attend church services out of devotion to our Lord; to participate in worship; to pray; to enjoy the beautiful music; and to hear a relevant sermon. These are all appropriate reasons for faithful attendance which benefit us greatly. But, have you thought about how your presence encourages others? Notice what God's Word says:
"Not forsaking" is the more clear KJV rendering. The call of these words is for faithfulness in common worship and fellowship. Here, God issues a solemn warning against setting a bad example by abandoning public worship. The active Christian life, inspired by love, is kept alive and growing by people who care enough for their Lord and one another to assemble together.
"Encouraging one another" reminds each of us to consider the discouragement we bring to the Christian church when we deliberately remove ourselves from its services. We see there is much more to worship than listening to a sermon and saying a prayer, as important as these things are. In this passage is more evidence that God is interested in having our relationship with Him borne out by the way we relate to other people. Encouraging one another should be a major objective every time we come together, as well as other times when we make contact.
I have heard people say, "I'm a Christian and have a close relationship with the Lord but I can maintain that relationship without attending church." Or, "I can worship the Lord without attending church." Of course we can worship God other than in a corporate worship service, but it is God's plan and instructions that we should not neglect coming together. In addition to worshiping God, the interpersonal relationships which are developed provide a source of encouragement even in the worst of times. Relationships are strengthened, fellowship becomes warmer, and mutual encouragement becomes a powerful force in the lives of worshipers.
I've heard people say "it doesn't matter which church I go to," when they really meant, "it doesn't really matter which church I stay home from!" How about you? If you are already a faithful church attendee, then consider this an affirmation of your faithfulness. If not, perhaps it has given you another reason to be faithful -- to be an encourager. Your faithful participation in worship services serves as a witness to your devotion to our Lord
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Encourage Someone Today

Chuckle: (child's prayer): "Dear God, I like the story about Noah the best of all of them. You really made up some good ones. I like walking on water, too." Glenn
Quote: “We live by encouragement and die without it - slowly, sadly, angrily.” --Celeste Holm

"And let us consider how we may spur (stimulate) 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. . . ." (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).
Today, there may be issues in your life that cause you to need a pat on the back, an understanding hug, a knowing look, or a word of encouragement. You may feel as if the good things you do for others go unnoticed and unappreciated. We all experience these kinds of feelings and needs from time to time. And when we do, isn't it wonderful to have someone sensitive to our needs who responds with the right gesture at just the right time?
How would you define the word "encouragement?" It seems to me that it is something we do that inspires others to have renewed courage, spirit, or hope. By encouraging someone, we stimulate and affirm him/her as a person of value. It's important to note the distinction between appreciation and affirmation. Appreciation is expressed as a result of something accomplished. However, affirmation brings encouragement by addressing the value of the person. Most of us need mass doses of affirmation and encouragement.
If I were to ask you why Christians assemble for a worship service, how would you answer? You might say: "to participate in life-changing worship through the singing of hymns, praying, giving tithes and offerings, hearing inspirational music, and finally, listening to a helpful sermon." Although these answers are accurate, there is another important reason which should be included. Our Scripture passage will help us to discover that reason -- to encourage one another.
In the early church, persecution was prevalent and martyrdom was commonplace. As a result fear gripped the hearts of individual believers and whole congregations. Some defected, others drifted away to safety. A letter began to circulate among the Christian Jews addressing those who persevered and endured the persecution. Today, we know that letter as Hebrews. The writer understood the value of people coming together for corporate worship and fellowship. He warned them not to compromise their beliefs and then informed them of the importance of those times they spent together. He points out the following:
(1) Let us seriously consider how to stimulate one another (vs. 24) (2) Let us faithfully assemble ourselves together (vs. 25) and (3) Let us encourage one another (vs. 25) - the major point of this passage.
I read somewhere that "encouragement is like a peanut butter sandwich -- the more you spread it around, the better things stick together." Encouraging one another is a major responsibility of each Christian. Let's encourage someone today.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Crutch for the Weak

Chuckle: "Have you ever wondered why Goofy stands erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!"
Quote: "Jesus will not overlook your shortcomings or simply encourage you to do better the next time. He will give you victory in the midst of your failure." --Henry Blackaby

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9b, 10b NIV).
I once read about a controversial celebrity who said that religion/Christianity was only a "crutch" for the weak. He meant this statement to be a put-down of Christians whom he saw as only a bunch of insecure people who cling to religion out of desperation -- too weak to stand on their own. Without realizing it, he had expressed an eternal truth about the relationship of Christians to their Lord. He was exactly right about our dependence upon God, but our Lord is so much more than a crutch. He is:
Our Savior because we cannot save ourselves;
Our lifeboat in a sea of despair;
Our shield protecting us from the evil one;
Our strength in our times of greatest weakness
Our companion when we are lonely;
Our comfort when we are grieving;
Our peace in the storms of life;
Our "Crutch" to help us walk with Him;
Our . . . . . . . You fill in the blank.
So, it is perfectly accurate to say Christianity is a crutch for the weak. "Crutch" is not the best word, but it communicates our need for God. The problem with most of us is that our pride will not allow us to see ourselves as weak and in need of a God's help. We must learn to see ourselves as God sees us. He recognizes our weaknesses and our desperate need for His strength every day.
I once knew a youth minister who signed all his correspondence with, "Striving to be weak." This young man had come to understand that God is His strongest when we are our weakest -- that in our weakness, God's power is made manifest through us. It is a sign of courage and humility when a person comes to realize his dependence upon God. He recognizes that his strength is totally inadequate to solve the problems facing him.
When we consider that God's power is displayed in proportion to our weakness, we should be encouraged and our hope should be increased. The critical factor in this equation is whether or not we recognize our weaknesses and limitations. It's only when we acknowledge our weaknesses that we will learn to depend upon God instead of our own abilities, strength, and energy. When we affirm God's strength and our weakness, He will develop our character and deepen our worship.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 28, 2019

Consciences of the Unsaved

Chuckle: Thomas Edison's Mother: "Of course I'm proud that you invented the electric light bulb. Now turn it off and go to bed!"
Quote: "Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything." --Laurence Sterne

"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14 NIV).
We often observe criminal activity and the offender shows no pangs of conscience or remorse. We marvel at such out of control lives and the obvious total disregard for the welfare of others. One truth is patently clear -- unless a person's conscience is adequately trained and sensitized, it is useless as a moral guide for human conduct. Our consciences will be trained in the secular morality of the world or by the morality of God's Word and the Holy Spirit.
Before we become Christians, our consciences are trained by the definitions of right and wrong that we have been taught in the home, school, and other life-shaping venues. Unfortunately, all too many children grow up in homes where parents have no moral compass. These children will, in turn, contribute to a society with no moral absolutes -- seemingly without conscience. This is the "if it feels good, do it" generation. Right and wrong become relative terms and their definitions depend upon the situation at the time. The conscience of a non-Christian is missing the key factor for a conscience that will lead to conduct that pleases God and glorifies him through one's relationships with others. The unsaved conscience has no concept of what it means to live one's life with the sole purpose of pleasing God.
You may say, "But, Jerry, I know a lot of people who are not Christians who live good clean moral lives -- how do you explain that?" You're right. I have also made such observations, and we should be thankful for such people. Some non-Christian homes produce children who live moral lives -- up to the point of pleasing God. They make a huge difference in alleviating human suffering and their kindnesses are extremely beneficial to our society. However, none of what they do will lead to their eternal salvation or gain them any status in the eyes of God. Without Christ, they are still lost and without hope. . . .
You see, when our consciences are being shaped and ruled by the Holy Spirit, we not only will do good deeds and live a morally upright life, but our very motives for our actions will also be controlled by the Spirit. When we live by a Spirit-controlled conscience, we please and honor God. "The Lord's searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive" (Proverbs 20:27 NIV).
In our Hebrews passage, we see that only the blood of Christ can cleanse and purify our consciences so we no longer make wrong decisions that can lead to our spiritual death. Such decisions include choosing the wrong way to salvation -- i.e., depending on a good moral life to earn God's favor and ensure us a place in heaven.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Searing of Conscience

Chuckle: The customer called the waiter over and said, while pointing to his steak, "Didn't I tell you, 'Well done'?" The waiter replied, "Thank you, Sir; I seldom get a compliment."
Quote: "Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest that I know, and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do." --Oswald Chambers

"Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:2 NIV). "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more"  (Ephesians 4:19 NIV).
Last time, we saw how living Spirit controlled lives will sensitize our consciences to detect even the most minute breach in our moral and ethical standard of conduct. We saw that Paul was striving to have a clear conscience before God and before people. In our Scripture passages for today, we see that our consciences can become seared, dulled, and unreliable as guides for our lives. How can our consciences become "seared?" In the simplest terms -- SIN!
"The conscience is like a sharp square peg in our hearts. If we are confronted by a questionable situation, that square begins to turn and it's corners cut into our hearts, warning us with an inward sensation against doing whatever confronts us. If the conscience is ignored time after time, the corners of the square are gradually worn down, and it virtually becomes a circle. When that circle turns within our hearts, there is no inner sensation of warning, and we are left without a conscience." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
If we allow unconfessed and unforgiven sin to become prevalent in our lives and compromise, our consciences will lose their sensitivity to right and wrong. This will gradually render us spiritually undiscerning -- unable to discern what is right from what is wrong. Eventually our consciences will become useless. We then begin to live a life of disobedience and sin without the pangs of conscience we once felt. I believe this explains why some professed "Christians" can indulge in the most destructive, hurtful, and immoral behavior with, seemingly, no remorse or regret. The more we sin, the more our consciences are disabled. The "hot iron" of sin will have "seared" our consciences. They have hardened our hearts against the Holy Spirit.
The positive side of all this is that the Spirit can, and will, provide our consciences with very definite and reliable guidance if only we allow him to do so. The Spirit filled life is the Spirit controlled life. The Spirit controlled life will be led by a Spirit controlled conscience. Whatever sin is in your life that interferes with your inner communion with God, confess it, ask forgiveness for it, and let it go so that your inner vision from God (conscience) will remain clear and crisp.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Consciences Within Us

Chuckle: "God does not believe in atheists; therefore atheists do not exist."
Quote: "A man who loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping." --Izaak Walton

"So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man" (Acts 24:16 NIV). "I speak the truth in Christ -- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit"  (Romans 9:1 NIV).
"A mother was helping her son with his spelling assignment and came to the words 'conscious and 'conscience.' When she asked him if he knew the difference between the two, he responded, 'Sure, Mom, 'conscious' is when you are aware of something and 'conscience' is when you wish your weren't.'"
The human conscience is a complex subject indeed. We often hear such statements as: "Let your conscience be your guide;" "My conscience is clear;" "I did it with a clear conscience;" "I can sleep well at night;" or "My conscience is bothering me." Sometimes, we see someone do a terrible thing and we react with: "Don't you have a conscience?"
In Scripture, the word for conscience is "that faculty by which we apprehend the will of God, as that which is designed to govern our lives." Hence we feel a sense of guiltiness before God when we sin against him. The Holy Spirit guides the Christian conscience in knowledge and emotion.
The Spirit controlled conscience results in a process of thought which distinguishes what it considers morally good or bad, commending the good, condemning the bad, and so prompting us to do the good and avoid the bad. As we grow in our faith, our consciences become progressively more sensitive to the will of God. If you have occasion to question whether an action is right or wrong, it's probably wrong in the sight of God. Otherwise, your conscience would have allowed you to do it without question.
Have you ever done something after having rationalized that it was not a sin, but you felt a sense of guilt from having done it anyway. As a Christian, when you sin against another person or against God, you will have this miserable feeling of guilt and sorrow. That's because your conscience is being influenced by the Holy Spirit that dwells within you, and is being sensitized to even the nuances of right and wrong. As you allow the Spirit to control your life, your conscience will become increasingly reliable as your moral guide. It could be said that God's Word and the Holy Spirit become the conscience of a Christian.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Calm During the Storms

Chuckle: A father told his teenage son that if he brought his grades to a B average, studied the Bible, and got a haircut, then he would talk about the boy using the family car. After six weeks, the dad said to the son, “I’ve noticed your grades are up and you’re studying the Bible. but you haven’t had you hair cut.” The boy said, “Dad, as I studied the Bible, I noticed that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair... and there's strong evidence that even Jesus had long hair.” The dad replied, “Did you also notice that they walked everywhere they went?”
Quote: "O God, make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace.” –St Clement

"Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul, you must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'" (Acts 27:23-24 NIV)
Those who sail the high seas are constantly reminded that they are at the mercy of elements totally beyond their control. They prepare to deal with storms as best they can while recognizing and respecting the risks involved. Life is like that. We know storms will come into our lives but God has given us instructions on how to prepare for and deal with them. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV). When we recognize that our lives are in God's hands, and in faith trust Him in all situations, we can enjoy a sense of calmness and peacefulness regardless of the severity of the storms that buffet our lives.
In our passage, we learn that when threatened by severe storms, the sailors and soldiers with Paul were in a state of panic, but Paul's relationship and fellowship with His Lord allowed him as God's servant to remain calm and at peace. God’s promise and Paul’s faith allowed him to remain calm and lead and encourage others.
"Storms" provide the true test of our relationship with God. It is easy to have faith and trust God when we are experiencing smooth sailing, but when the seas of life become rough and threatening, we can be calm because we rely on God's presence and trust in His promise. Can God use your calm and peaceful demeanor to influence others as you pass through the storms in your life?
A hurricane is a storm with cyclonic winds greater than 74 m.p.h. But there is a place of perfect calm in its center -- the eye. So it is with us in the storms of life. With the Lord as our center, there is calm and peace, even during the darkest of times and the severest of storms. Jesus said to his disciples; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

By God's Spirit

Chuckle: When God finished the creation of Adam, He stepped back, scratched His head, and said, "I can do better than that!"
Quote: "Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking with you." --T. S. Eliot

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6 NIV). "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord," (Micah 3:8a NIV).
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the challenges you face you each day? You may feel that the problems facing you are just too great to overcome. Do they seem too massive for you to handle? When you awake, do you say "good morning Lord," or "Good Lord, it's morning?" Did you feel this way when you awoke this morning and thought about the day ahead?
We must remember that we serve an omniscient (all-knowing) God. He knows about and understands everything that concerns you and fully recognizes your inability to handle life's challenges in your own strength. But, He enables you to face them in the power of His Spirit. This means we are not limited by our own abilities and wisdom, but have the unlimited resources of our heavenly Father at our disposal -- if we but trust and rely on Him in every situation.
Many believe that to survive and excel in this life they must be tough, self-reliant, strong, independent, and unwavering. But God tells us that in our weakness, the strength of His Spirit is revealed. It's only in the power of the Spirit that anything gets done that has lasting value. "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5c NIV). It's easy for us to say we trust God's Spirit to guide, teach, and direct us when at the same time, we go through life trying to solve all our problems in our own strength as if God doesn't exist.
I'm reminded of the funny story about a man who was working on the steep roof of his house. He lost his footing and was tumbling toward the eave and the inevitable life-threatening fall to the ground. In his plight he prayed, "Lord, please save me!" Then with relief in his voice he said, "oh, never mind Lord; I've caught on a nail." This humorous little story reminds us that if he had truly been depending upon God's Spirit, he would have prayed something like this: "Thank you, Lord, for placing that nail where it would break my fall." How many times do we fail to give credit to God for inexplicable occurrences that we call good luck or good fortune or credit them to our exceptional abilities.
Today, let's pledge together to live for God with complete trust in Him rather than our own strength. Let's seek Him in every situation and we will all be amazed at what God can accomplish in us and through us in the power of His Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 21, 2019

Helping the Brokenhearted

Chuckle: A child's comment on the Bible: "The epistles were the wives of the apostles."
Quote: “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and recovered hope.” –George Eliot

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us" (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT). "When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow" (Romans 12:15 NLT).
The dictionary defines "brokenhearted" as "Full of sorrow or despair; very unhappy." When our hearts are broken, it's difficult to think of anyone but ourselves. We are hurting so badly that the plight of others is sometimes obscured by our own pain. But, in my spiritual journey, I have been greatly inspired by godly people who had the strength to be more concerned for others than themselves even in the most heartbreaking circumstances. When we see someone like that, it indicates a level of faith and trust in our Lord that should be the goal of each of us. Even when your heart is breaking, God can use you to help comfort others. Your troubles can give you great understanding and insight into the feelings of others whose hearts are likewise broken.
Once you have taken your broken heart to the Lord and he has given you his peace, comfort, and strength, he definitely wants to use you as a blessing to others. You can encourage others who are brokenhearted by your presence and with words of comfort -- words that will lift up the hurting. God will give you the ability to remain strong and steadfast in your own faith so that the weakened and discouraged will seek your counsel as someone who has gained credibility by overcoming a similar hurt.
"We have been greatly comforted, dear brothers and sisters, in all of our own crushing troubles and suffering, because you have remained strong in your faith" (I Thessalonians 3:7 NLT).
God can heal your brokenness, and his healing will give you an inner peace and cause you to rejoice. As others see God's healing in your life, and your rejoicing, they will rejoice with you. There will never be a time in your Christian life when God cannot use you to bless others if only you can get outside yourself and see those around you who are hurting.
"Faith, like light, should always be simple and unbending; while love, like warmth, should beam forth on every side, and bend to every necessity of our brothers and sisters." --Martin Luther
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, January 20, 2019

God and the Brokenhearted

Chuckle: "A little boy kept looking at the rack of greeting cards. The clerk asked if she could help him -- birthday? Illness? Wedding? The boy shook his head no and answered wistfully, "Got anything in the line of blank report cards?"
Quote: "Be not miserable about what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father, who cares for you today, will care for you tomorrow." --Francis deSales

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18 NLT). "He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3 NLT).
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could escape the pain of grief, loss, disappointment, sorrow, and failure. But troubles are a part of life and come to all of us. God does not promise us trouble-free lives, but he does promise to be "close to the brokenhearted" and to be our source of strength, courage, and wisdom as he helps us to deal with our heartaches.
One of the most severe by-products of a broken heart is the deep sense of loneliness. When our hearts have been broken, everyone and everything around us can become distant, out of focus, and of limited value in helping us deal with the situation. On the other hand, if we turn to him, God not only has the answers for mending a broken heart, but he will actively participate in its healing. God makes some amazing promises to the brokenhearted.
Let's face it, the Christian life is not always easy. Broken hearts and disappointments are commonplace. They may be the result of an unfaithful spouse, a rebellious child, betrayal by a trusted friend, or from our own indiscretions and bad choices. There are times when everything is out of whack and nothing makes sense -- the whole world seems to be crumbling around you.
From our passage, we see that God not only understands, but is always near to the brokenhearted and wants to heal the wounds responsible for our sorrow. He will comfort the brokenhearted by his presence, compassion, a listening ear, abiding love, healing hand, encouragement, and blessings. When one of His children is brokenhearted, so is our Lord.
So, how should I react to a broken heart? When heartbreaking experiences come your way, don't get frustrated with God. Instead, admit that you need God's help and thank him for being by your side. Call to him in your time of need and be honest with your feelings. He loves you and will draw you close by his presence.
"Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I have come to you in prayer" (Psalm 143:7-8 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Brand New Nature

Chuckle: "This lady said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore."
Quote: "Righteousness is one thing, self-righteousness is another. May God keep me from ever confusing them." --Lionel Blue

"In its (old nature's) place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you" (Colossians 3:10 NLT).
Most of us don't have much difficulty with our conduct while we have our church face on, along with our Sunday clothes. It's those other six pesky days that give us the most trouble. When Paul says we are to be clothed with a new nature, he means that our conduct every day should match our professed faith. If we say we are Christians, we should act like it. Our conduct should always reflect our new nature. But, if you are like I am, my actions don't always measure up, in spite of my best intentions. My spiritual clothing sometimes becomes soiled and tattered.
Putting on the new nature is a straightforward action that is as simple as putting on clothing. However, Paul recognized that our new nature requires renewing every day we live. In the same way that we change into clean and fresh clothing each day, our new nature (clothing) must be cleaned and made fresh as we continually learn more about Christ with the intent to be like him.
God's answer to our failures is to extend to us the privilege of a brand new start each morning -- to avail ourselves of Christ's Spirit living within us and allow Him to teach us. Christians should be in a continuing, never ending spiritual education program. The more we learn about Christ and his work, the more like him we become. Christ-like humility will become more and more natural to us. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 NIV).
Becoming like Christ is a life-long process and we will never be perfect as Christ is perfect. However, like Paul, we can say, "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep on 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).
A brand new life every day really is possible if we determine to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen" (2 Peter 3:18 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Overcoming Bitterness

Chuckle: "A human-resources manager was going over one candidate's application. At the end of the line, 'Sign Here,' the woman had written, 'Pisces.' " --James Dent
Quote: "The person who is busy counting his blessings has no time to take inventory of his injuries." --William Arthur Ward

Last time we saw that harboring bitterness can destroy us.  But God’s Word tells us how to avoid becoming bitter and how to overcome any bitterness that may have taken root in your heart. Such bitterness can harm your relationships with others and ultimately rob you of the  joy that can come from service for our Lord.  Let’s look at three translations of Hebrews 12:15.
"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (NIV). "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble (NKJV).  Here is yet another way of saying the first phrase of this verse: "Look after each other so that none of you will miss out on the special favor of God" (NLT).
You cannot miss the strong message that each of us should have a special concern for our fellow believers and help them grow in Christ. You can just feel the love, warmness, and oneness among believers that the writer of Hebrews is advocating. This kind of relationship is based on unconditional love and mutual respect for one another. Such a relationship among Christians will be used of God to bless the lives of non-believers and draw them to Christ.
We are also warned about letting bitterness disrupt our relationships. Like a small root that grows into a huge tree, even the smallest bitter feeling toward another can grow into a monster that destroys even our most cherished Christian relationships. Such bitterness, if left unchecked, can become so deep-rooted within our souls that it is difficult to weed out. A "bitter root" sometimes comes when we don't get our way; or when we allow disappointment in others to grow into resentment; or when we nurse grudges over past hurts. The fruits of bitterness include jealousy, dissension, and general disharmony in the fellowship.
It's so easy to rationalize and justify our bitterness, especially when we feel we have become the object of unkindness or mistreatment. You may say, "After what that person did to me, I have every right to be bitter." If you are trying to justify your bitterness, beware that if that bitterness is allowed to fester and grow, you can become so used to living with it that it becomes a permanent part of your personality.
You may become comfortable with your bitterness, but no one else will be. Others will be repulsed and driven away. God knows that bitterness will eventually destroy you. He understands the final outcome of uncontrolled bitterness and anger. If you are harboring bitterness, you should understand that there is nothing so deeply imbedded in your heart that God cannot root out and remove. When we allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to take control of our lives, he can heal even the deepest of hurts that result in bitterness.
If you choose to live with anger and bitterness in your heart, you are denying God's grace the opportunity to set you free from these horrible feelings that rob you of your joy. Why not go to God in prayer asking forgiveness for harboring that bitterness in your heart and let him take it away and replace it with his peace and joy? Then to complete your restoration process, go to the person to whom you are embittered and ask his/her forgiveness as well.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Bitterness Can Destroy Us

Chuckle: "The odds of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on the floor are directly correlated to the newness, color, and cost of the carpet!!"
Good Quote: "Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eye." --Harry Emerson Fosdick

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no root of bitterness grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15 NIV).
Have you noticed that some people just seem to be angry and bitter by nature? When we see folks in that state of mind, we would do well to consider what may have caused them to be that way. Also, each of us would do well to determine, with God's help, that we will not allow ourselves to become bitter.
Bitterness has a way of destroying our happiness and our appeal to others. The reasons for bitterness are sometimes difficult to identify and even more difficult to root out. It might be the result of abuse and other deep hurts received as a child -- hurts that seem impossible to forget. It might result from hurtful and demeaning remarks from a family member, friend, or coworker. It might come from being cheated or defrauded in some way. It can come from a sense of being treated unjustly.
Often the person who hurt you in some way is unaware of the extent of your bitterness. If not dealt with in a godly way, time, rather than diminishing the hurt, seems to sharpen the pain and drive the bitterness even deeper into your soul, causing it to fester and grow and take control of your life. It will cause you to be a pessimist rather than an optimist. It will cause you to see the glass as half empty rather than half full. It will adversely impact your attitude about everything.
Once bitterness reaches a certain level, it becomes easier to justify. You feel so justified in your feelings of anger, hurt, and disappointment that you even become comfortable with those feelings. You become suspicious of the motives of others and read something sinister into everything they do and say in order to feed your feelings of bitterness and self-pity. This type of bitterness can cause people to go for years without speaking or interacting with one another. It can destroy family relationships and even fellowship between church members.
If you are harboring bitterness toward someone, please remember it has the potential to destroy you -- your happiness, your influence, and your usefulness to your Lord. Such feelings toward others can interfere with your ability to worship our Lord in a way acceptable to Him. But the good news is that your anger and bitterness are not outside the reach of God's grace, healing, and forgiveness. I like these words by Henry Blackaby:
"When you allow bitterness to grow in your life, you reject the grace of God that can free you. If you are honest before God, you will admit the bitterness and allow God to forgive you (and heal you). Bitterness enslaves you, but God is prepared to remove your bitterness and replace it with his peace and joy."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, January 14, 2019

Be Slow to Become Angry

Chuckle: A father said to his teenage daughter he wanted her home by 11 P.M.  “But Father,” she complained, “I’m no longer a child.”  “I know,” answered her father. “That’s why I want you home by 11!”
Good Quote: “As we learn to shorten the time between offense and forgiveness, there becomes no time left for anger or vindictiveness.” --Unknown

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20 NIV).
We live in a time when a disagreement often becomes justification for personal attack, abuse, and sometimes even violence against the person or persons with whom we disagree. The ability to have civil and courteous discussions of divergent points of view seems to have been lost by many of us. It seems we have come to think a disagreement automatically means a fight. Anytime two or more people interact there will be disagreements from time to time.
Discussing differing points of view, if done in a courteous and agreeable way, can broaden our thinking on the issues and increase our appreciation and understanding of other people. When we close our minds to points of view other than our own, we stop learning and increasingly expend our energies defending our own crystallized opinions. Then, our intolerance of other views continues to grow and, eventually that intolerance transfers from the issues to those expressing opposing views -- it becomes personal. If not dealt with, the intolerance then festers within us and eventually gives way to full-blown hostility, anger, and even rage. Once this stage is reached, we may not stop talking but communications with those who disagree with us will stop, leaving no basis, or will, to better understand one another.
If we allow our talking and listening to become out of proportion, our natural inclination is to become frustrated and angry with the other person. In our passage, we are admonished to be quick to listen. This means we accept everyone's right to speak and pay them respect by listening to them attentively. It does not mean we should necessarily abandon our convictions and adopt theirs -- rather it means we recognize the right of others to have differing views. When we listen with patience, attentiveness, and courtesy, our attitude will not be lost on the one who is speaking. It takes two angry people to have a fight. As long as one person refuses to become angry, the possibility of mutual understanding increases -- and good will is fostered.
There is much said in Scripture about Christians controlling our anger. We see from our passage that anger can become destructive and keep us from becoming the righteous persons God wants us to be. I believe the first step in controlling our selfish anger is to pray for God's help. Then, focus on seeing other people as God sees them -- as precious souls who need the same love and forgiveness that we have received. Rather than becoming angry and bitter toward someone, try praying for that person. You will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to remain angry with a person for whom you are sincerely praying. Finally, you might try to better understand the person instead of becoming angry. Once you understand his or her background and the challenges they face in life, you can better understand what makes them act the way they do.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Armor of God

Chuckle: Two boys were walking home from church after hearing a sermon on the devil. One asked the other, "What do you think about all this Satan stuff?" The other replied, "Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It's probably just your Dad."
Quote: “The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error.” --William Jennings Bryan
"A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10 NLT). Why do we find it so difficult to live the Christian life? Why are we beset by temptations that threaten to destroy us? Why do we have difficulty finding the words to be a witness for Christ? Why do our plans for Christian service often come to naught? What is wrong with us? The answer is rather simple -- we have a powerful enemy whose goal it is to render us ineffective as representatives of Jesus Christ.
But the good news is that God has provided us the protective spiritual armor to withstand Satan's attacks. Paul tells us to "Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against the strategies and tricks of the Devil" (6:11 NLT). As Christians we battle daily with the powerful evil forces of fallen angels headed by Satan. I'm sure you know from experience that he is vicious and relentless in his attacks. If we are to resist him, we need to avail ourselves of God's strength and utilize every piece of His armor.
Satan uses every enticement to lure us away from our Lord and to make us feel defeated and useless. He wants to neutralize us and make us of no value to Christ. He often uses evil people as his allies; however the battle is best described as moral and spiritual warfare. Listen to a description of some of Satan's methods.
"These people are false apostles. They have fooled you by disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder his servants can also do it by pretending to be godly ministers" (I Corinthians 11:13-15a NLT). We must depend upon the Holy Spirit for the ability to discern the truth and identify those who are genuine Christians and those who are not.
So, how do we go about defending ourselves from being defeated by Satan's wiles? Paul lists several pieces of armor we need to put on. Briefly, these are first of all salvation, then truth, righteousness, peace, faith, God's Word, and prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this space, I cannot adequately address each of these, but I encourage you to study Ephesians 6 more fully.
The point Paul is making is that we need not be defeated, but victory does not come without adequate preparation and effort. His message is to the entire church as well as to individual believers. Being active in the church (body of Christ) will provide you with the loving support of other Spirit-led Christians who will help you find the strength to resist the crafty and deceitful lures of the Evil One.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Chuckle: "Angels talk all the way while they're flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead." --Daniel, Age 9
Good Quote: “That, of course, is the devil's bargain of addiction: a short-term good feeling in exchange for the steady meltdown of one's life.” --Daniel Goldman

"Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you" (Ephesians 5:18 NLT).
People who are trying to become free from an addiction to drugs or alcohol understand an important concept. They know they will always be recovering. The lure of those substances is so menacing that former abusers who are wise know how susceptible they are to being enticed. They must always be on guard. Time and again, people in the public eye seem to be cured, but then have a relapse. This principle is true not only of drug abusers but of all sinners like you and me. Those of us who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross are not 'recovered' sinners, but 'recovering' ones. We are just one sin away from falling back into a self-destructive pattern of behavior. That's why we must be so careful to avoid any activity or relationship that will reintroduce us to the sin we hate.
We are tempted when we are drawn toward a sin. It doesn't become a sin until "lust has conceived." (James 1:15) And the more we deliberately expose ourselves to temptation, the less our resistance will be. Because we are all recovering sinners, we need to leave plenty of room between us and sin. If we do, we will be less likely to stumble again. "So get rid of all filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has implanted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls" (James 1:21).
Sometimes it takes radical action to break a sinful habit. We need to do more than ask God for cleansing each time we succumb to temptation. We must take whatever steps are needed to get addictions and bad habits out of our lives. We must confess our sin and determine to be done with it. Then we must feed our mind with God's Word and do all we can to stay away from the people and places that tempt us to sin. That's what Christ meant when He said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out" (Matthew 5:29).
As the apostle Paul addressed the danger of excusing sin under the guise of Christian liberty, he wrote, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Corinthians 6:12). His words can guide us in evaluating those gray areas that the Bible does not specifically label as sin.
How can we tell when something legitimate has moved from enjoyment to addiction? When people cling to activities despite negative effects, it generally indicates addictive behavior. Despite eye and wrist strain, and complaints from their families and employers, some continue to spend hours a day browsing and gaming on the Internet. Or there can be an addiction to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Sinful habits can include bad tempers, bad language, and other hang-ups that have flawed their lives.
Has someone close to you spoken about overindulgence in some area of your life? A defensive attitude may indicate that it's time to step back and view ourselves through the eyes of those who love us. It takes humility to admit that our enjoyment has become addiction and to seek God's help to break free. If you're going the wrong way and feel cut off from God, remember, you can return. Respond to the tug of His forgiving love on your heart and come back to Him today. (Most of the above was taken from a One-Place Newsletter. The specific author is unknown.)
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Adversity Brings Blessings

Chuckle: "The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public." --George Jessel
Quote: When you think of the blessings of God, remember one child's description of an elevator: "I got into this little room and the upstairs came down." --Unknown Author

"The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41 NLT). "God blesses the people who patiently endure testing" (James 1:12 NLT).
Have you ever thought of blessings being the outcome of persecution and suffering? It is alien to the world's way of thinking to say that adversity and suffering could be reasons for rejoicing. However, sometimes the greatest blessings come out of difficult times because these experiences can serve to deepen your relationship with your Lord and dependence upon Him.
Our passage is referring to the beatings Peter and others had suffered. This was the first time any apostles had been physically abused for their faith. But to them such abuse was reason for joy. They fully understood how Jesus had suffered on their behalf and praised God for allowing them to share in that suffering -- to be persecuted for their Lord.
When I think about blessings coming as a result of trials and troubles, I'm reminded of the beatitudes. "Blessed (happy) are those who mourn, are persecuted, are insulted." To be happy and blessed when everything is going wrong requires viewing life from God's perspective. Such blessings come solely from our relationship with Jesus Christ.
The rewards from having Christ in your life can make all the adversity and trials of this life appear as insignificant compared to the joy of belonging to him. For blessings to come from adversity, that adversity must be the result of our faithfulness to our Lord. If trouble comes to us because of our sinful actions, there's no way God can bless us. However, when we suffer trials, persecution, or other hardship because of our loyalty to Christ, He will be with us all the way.
"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad -- because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world" (I Peter 4:12-13 NLT). Be happy if you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God will come upon you . . . it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his wonderful name" (I Peter 4:14, 16 NLT).
The apostle Paul puts joy and praise into perspective because of God's blessings for his people. "How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ" Ephesians 1:3 NLT). Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, . . ." Someone has said, "A brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Name You Bear

Chuckle: "Birthdays are good for you -- the more you have, the longer you live!"
Quote: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” --William Ashley (Billy) Sunday

"The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:26 NIV).
The story is told about Alexander The Great, the great military leader of the fourth century B.C. He once confronted a cowardly soldier and asked him his name. The soldier replied, "Alexander." Then Alexander the Great said to him: "Change your ways or change your name."
Names are important even today and were especially so in Biblical times. We bear the name "Christian" because of our relationship to Christ. But we must remember that being called "Christian" does not make us Christians. The story about Alexander the Great, caused me to wonder if my actions as a Christian would cause Jesus to say: "Change your ways or change your name." Various names have been given to Christians that define them.
Believers: This term is often used to describe the belief system of Christians. We believe: in God the Creator; the Bible -- God's Holy Word; that we are sinners and that we desperately need a savior; Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is our Savior because of his atoning sacrifice on Calvary's Cross; Jesus arose from the dead on the third day; we have been saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ; God's Holy Spirit lives within us; in the bodily return of Jesus Christ one day and that eternity in heaven awaits all true Christians.
Disciples: This term means students, apprentices, and followers of Christ. A disciple is submissive to God as Jesus was submissive to the will of his Father when he died for the sins of the world. A disciple's actions are patterned after the life modeled by Jesus when he was here on earth. This includes living a life of love, humility, and service. Disciples strive to conform their lives to the will of Christ.
Saints: A Biblical term describing all genuine Christians. Paul often began his writings with the words like: "To the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi," etc. It means we have been sanctified (set apart) and made holy for God's service. It means we should live pure and holy lives, and live up to the name of Christ we bear.
Witnesses: Jesus said to his followers, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV). In New Testament times, faithful witnesses for Christ often laid down their lives as martyrs. When Peter and John were threatened for preaching in the name of Jesus, they said, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20 NIV). As Christ's witnesses we are charged with the mission of telling others what we have experienced in Christ. Are you and I living up to the name Christian?
Love, Jerry & Dotse