Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Heart, New Spirit, New Nature

Chuckle: "Insomnia is contagious; if your baby has it, chances are you will have it too!!"
Quote: "If his conditions are met, God is bound by his Word to forgive any man or woman of any sin because of Christ." --Billy Graham

"Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins" (Acts 3:19 NLT). "And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command" (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NLT).
What a beautiful picture of God's love and plan for the life of every human being. God had Ezekiel record for us an Old Testament image of the New Testament plan of salvation through faith in Christ. When we place our faith in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, God, through his Spirit, creates within us a new nature. ". . . 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). In the life of a Christian, there is a continuous battle between the old sinful nature and the new nature God has given us.
"So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. The two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict" (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT).
Over the course of time, the way we live is dependent upon which nature we choose to give control over our lives. If the old nature wins, we will drift away from God and the joy of a daily walk and fellowship with him. When this happens, we lose interest in attending church, we stop studying God's Word, We stop praying, and we stop enjoying the fellowship of other Christians. If you find yourself in this situation, you need a renewal of commitment to God. You need revival. You may need to pray as did the psalmist: "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 NLT).
"A man once came to Gipsy Smith, the celebrated English evangelist of an earlier time, and asked him how to have revival. Gipsy asked, 'Do you have a place where you can pray?' 'Yes,' was the reply. 'Tell you what to do, you go to that place and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk draw a complete circle all around you -- and pray to God to send revival on everything inside the circle. Stay there until He answers -- and then you will have revival.'"
Every Christian can claim the promise of I John 1:9: "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong." By admitting our sins and receiving Christ's cleansing, we are (1) agreeing with God that our sin is truly sin and that we are willing to turn away from it, (2) ensuring that we don't try to conceal our sins from him and consequently from ourselves, and (3) recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on his power to help us overcome it.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A New Life Has Begun

Chuckle: Father to son, "What did you learn in school today?" Son: "three and three are seven." Father: "But three and three are six." Son: "Then I guess I didn't learn anything today."
Quote: "Lord my God, you have formed me and reformed me." --St Anselm

"What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons (new creations). They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone, A new life has begun" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).
Last time, we used this basic passage to emphasize that we are “New Creations” when we are born again by faith in Jesus Christ.  The next two lessons will focus on the specific dimensions of New Creations – New Life, New Heart, New Spirit and New Nature.  Today, we will focus on what it means to have a new life in Christ.
The greatest mystery and most wonderful miracle recorded in the Bible is what happens when a person is "born again" spiritually and becomes a totally new life in Christ from the inside out. This miracle is only possible by God's grace through faith and the saving power of God's Holy Spirit who transforms a lost sinner into a brand new creation in Christ. Such a person is ". . .God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
When we are born again and are "in Christ," we are not rehabilitated, or reeducated -- we are re-created (new creations). This means that nothing will ever be the same in our lives -- we are totally remade. We have not just turned over a new leaf and made some promises, but have received new life with a new nature and a new Master.
You may be thinking, "but what happens to all those bad habits, addictions, and sinful actions in which you may have indulged?" When you are born again, you are justified before God who remembers your sins no more and removes them as far as the east is from the west. It's as if you had never sinned. God provides us a full pardon through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our record before God is wiped completely clean and all sin is forgiven and forgotten. Wow!! Just take a moment and let that sink deep into your heart and mind.
One of the reasons this truth is so difficult for many is the mind-set that we need to make changes in our behavior by our own will rather than giving our total being over to the One who gives us new life. Godly changes in our behavior will come as the result of our new life. I like the words of Henry Blackaby:
"The profound testimony of Scripture is that the blood of Jesus Christ and the death of the Son of God is sufficient to completely free you from your sin. Satan will seek to convince you that it is not. Whom will you believe?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A New Creation

Chuckle: The worst analogy ever written in a high school essay was . . . "Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze!"
Good Quote: "All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons (new creations). They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NLT).
This passage contains one of the most miraculous truths in Scripture. When a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, he or she becomes a new creation -- a brand-new person on the inside. By the working of the Holy Spirit, he or she is not the same anymore. Rather, we think differently, speak differently, and act differently. We have a new nature. In the first creation, God brought people into physical existence from nothingness; but in this new creation, he brings us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Christians are not reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated, but are transformed human beings living in an eternal union with Christ. This new relationship with Christ becomes the controlling factor in one's life. When we are converted/saved, it is not the equivalent of turning over a new leave and promising to do better. It is the beginning of a new life under the control of a new Master. As a new creation in Christ, we receive a new nature with a new attitude toward God and life itself. We are no longer driven by the standards of the world, but by the standards of God's Word.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). The Message Bible puts it this way: "He (God) creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."
Notice that our salvation is not the result of doing good deeds. No, our salvation is by grace through faith -- resulting in our recreation. Then, as a natural progression from our rebirth, God expects us to do the work which he has arranged in advance for us to do. As a new creation, we do the work (ministry) of God while empowered by, and under the direction of, his Spirit. "When God's work is done in God's way for God's glory, it will never lack God's supply. God is not obligated to pay for our selfish schemes. He is obligated to support his ministry." --Hudson Taylor
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Miracle of Mercy

Chuckle: A woman says to the postal clerk, "May I have 70 Christmas stamps? The clerk asks, "What denomination?" The woman says, "Lord help us. Has it come to this? Give me 8 Catholic, 12 Episcopalian, 8 Methodist, 9 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 22 Baptists."
Quote: “The corn that makes the holy bread By which the soul of man is fed, The holy bread, the food unpriced, The everlasting mercy, Christ.” --John Masefield

"He who covers (hides) his transgressions (sins) will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes his sins will obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13 AMP).
Sin is not a favorite word in our modern vocabulary. We would much prefer to call our impure thoughts and actions by other terms such as, mistakes, errors, or short-comings. But we are wise to deal honestly with the meaning of sin as it relates to the way we live. In the original language, the word, "sin," means to miss the mark that God has set for us -- to miss living by God's standards for human conduct -- to rebel against God. The word "Sin" describes those ungodly things we do, the good things we fail to do, and the condition into which everyone is born.
The greatest sin of all is rejecting God's free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The wonderful truth is that our merciful God will forgive all our sins if we genuinely repent and ask His forgiveness and cleansing. We all need to be reminded that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV), and we all need forgiveness.
When you ignore your sins and try to conceal them, you do major harm to yourself and sometimes to others. Sins that are not dealt with create a lifestyle which includes many individual sins. A destructive cycle of rebelliousness and deception is created within you. In the same way Adam and Eve wanted to hide their sins from God, it is human nature to try to hide ours from Him and others. Something deep within us strongly resists admitting that we have sinned -- done wrong. But, when we openly and humbly admit our sins and seek God's forgiveness, a healing process begins that will ultimately result in a sense of well-being, peace, and eternal security.
Even though Christians have been saved from the eternal penalty for their sins, we all need to continually confess our sins to God, and admit that we need God's mercy and forgiveness each day we live. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV). When we accept God's mercy, forgiveness and cleansing, He sets us free from the damaging cycle of sin in our lives and also frees us from the anger, bitterness, rebelliousness and corruption that precipitated our sinful actions.
We should fall on our faces before God in gratitude and praise Him for His love, mercy and grace. Further, we should ask God's forgiveness for failing to ask for His mercy and forgiveness. Without the shed blood of Jesus and God's boundless love, amazing grace, and infinite mercy, there would be no forgiveness of sins.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Living Sacrifice

Chuckle: A child's answer to a science test question: "What does the word "benign' mean?" Answer: "It is what you will be after you be eight."
Quote: "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." --Albert Pike

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV).
I'm sure you remember the Old Testament story of Abraham and his son, Isaac (Genesis, chapter 22). The short version: God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham did as God commanded. He bound Isaac, laid him on the wood, and raised his knife to kill him. As he raised the knife, God stopped him and said to him: "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12 NIV). God provided a ram to be offered instead of Isaac after Abraham had passed the test of faith. You see, God did not want Isaac to die. He had great plans for both Abraham and Isaac. He wanted both of them to be living sacrifices.
The message for us is that God wants us to love and trust him so completely that we will sacrifice ourselves by dying to self and living lives of sacrifice for him. He wants us to sacrifice through identification with Jesus' death which then makes it possible for us to live and do as Jesus did. Doing the will of our heavenly Father becomes our first priority. Oswald Chambers puts it this way:
"I am willing to be identified with Your (Jesus') death so that I may sacrifice my life to God." He goes on to say: It is of no value to God to give him your life for death. He wants you to be a living sacrifice, to let him have all your powers that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus. This is the thing (sacrifice) that is acceptable to God."
Salvation is a free gift, which we do not deserve, made possible by God's love and grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not something we can earn. Because of God's free gift, we owe him everything we have and are. We owe him ourselves and all we have as an act of sacrificial worship. Our worship should be a matter of applying faith to everyday life. This is possible when God changes our mindset by his Spirit working in us, giving us the ability to discern God's will in all we do.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Be Quick to Listen

Chuckle: "These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after."
Quote: “The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second step is listening.” --Unknown source

"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).
Although the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a great deal of difference between hearing and listening. The dictionary defines hearing as "the act of receiving sound through the ears." To listen is "to pay attention to someone in order to hear." As I recall from my physiology classes, hearing is the involuntary function of turning sound waves into electrical impulses which are received and interpreted in our brains. Briefly, here's how it works.
Sound waves travel through the ear (auditory) canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate. The vibrations are then transferred to the cochlea through a series of three small bones attached to the eardrum. These tiny bones are called the incus, malleus, and stapes. Because of their shapes, they are sometimes called hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The cochlea turns the vibrations into electrical impulses which are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve. The brain is trained to interpret these impulses. Assuming healthy ears, hearing occurs whether we want it to or not and requires no effort from us.
Listening, on the other hand, implies intent -- to pay attention. To listen, we intentionally focus our attention on the person speaking and make an effort not only to hear what he or she is saying, but to appreciate, and understand what is being said. Listening requires effort and a genuine interest in the person who is speaking as well as his or her words.
When we listen intently to a person, we are saying: "You are a person of value whom I love and respect and what you have to say is important to me." Each of us receives great satisfaction from knowing we are speaking to someone who not only hears us but listens to us attentively.
Here is a good example of the difference between hearing and listening. It is the last play of the fourth quarter and your favorite team is lined up on the two yard line about to score the winning touchdown. And at that precise instant, your wife calls out, "honey, would you please take out the garbage." You will hear her words but they won't register because you aren't listening -- your attention is elsewhere. Your lack of response can easily be interpreted that you are intentionally ignoring your wife and refusing to listen to her. Not Good!!
Every person deserves to have us listen to him or her. This is especially true among fellow believers. As we are "quick to listen," our understanding of each other will deepen, our fellowship will become warmer, our appreciation for one another will increase, and our love for each other will grow.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Last Will Be First

Chuckle: A new rural resident called the local authorities requesting the removal of the "Deer Crossing" sign on their road. Their reason was that many deer were being hit by cars and they no longer wanted them to cross there.
Quote: "Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character." --William Arthur Ward

Jesus said, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first" (Matthew 19:30 NIV).
You may remember the inspiring story of Derek Redmond, the sprinter who finished last in the 400 meter finals during the 1992 summer Olympics. He pulled a hamstring and only made it across the finish line with the help of his father who came out of the crowd to assist him. Derek garnered more attention and acclaim than the actual winner because of his courage and determination to finish the race and never quit. Even today, as we think about the scene, the runner who finished last is the first one we remember.
Jesus taught His disciples by saying, ". . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV).
You may feel as if you are always bringing up the rear -- last place, in the game of life. But it is a reality that most of us Christians will never receive the notoriety of a Billy Graham, Lottie Moon, or other well-known Christian faithful. We may never receive first place recognition in this life; however, it is not the world we seek to please, but the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. When it comes to being first or great, Jesus completely dismantled the world's values and turned them upside down, as reflected in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. It is not our stature that will be rewarded but our enduring faithfulness -- even for the small things we do for God's glory.
As we see in the above passage, our greatness and being first is dependent upon our humbling ourselves and being lowly servants to others. Jesus set the example for us as He came to serve and give His life for you and me. In this world, not many powerful and acclaimed people got to where they are by being humble, kind, and understanding. But in the heavenly world to come, the last will be first. We should not be working for human approval, but be faithful to the One whose approval really matters.
I started with a story about an Olympic 400 meter race. Listen to Paul's words to young Timothy as he thought about his eminent death. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day . . ." (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV). Paul was not interested in being first in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of his Lord. Paul was not alone as he finished his race. Like Derek Redmond, his Father was there to help him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

God's Unlimited Grace

Chuckle: The last fight was my fault though. My wife asked "What's on the TV?" I said "Dust!" --Red Skelton
Quote: "When I say 'I'm a Christian,' I am not holier than thou. I'm just a simple sinner who received God's grace, somehow!" --Unknown origin

    "The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . From the fullness of his grace we have all received (one) blessing (grace) after another" (John 1:14, 16 NIV).
God's grace is an amazing attribute of his character. Literally, "grace" is getting what we do not deserve -- or more than we deserve. Grace should not be confused with "mercy," which is not getting what we deserve, or "justice," which is getting what we deserve. Initially, God's grace is the means whereby we are saved: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
As important as God's grace is for our salvation, there is much more of his grace available to us every single day. Remember, God wants each of us to experience a life full of joy and peace. He wants us to have the absolute best and fullest life that only he can give us. See John 10:10.
Our basic passage tells us that Jesus came full of grace and truth. God's "grace" springs from his never ending boundless love and generosity. "Truth," on the other hand, stresses God's determination to be consistent, reliable, predictable, and trustworthy in his dealings with us. You can trust all the promises of God recorded in his Word. You can take them to the bank, so to speak. Grace without truth would make it meaningless. In declaring the character of God, Jesus combined an infinite tenderness toward us, as sinful people, with an unswerving fidelity and faithfulness.
Also, notice that God gives us his grace followed by even more grace -- one portion of grace after another. The flow of God's grace is like the waves of the ocean. One wave of grace is followed by another wave of grace over and over again. God's grace is never ending. Once the gift of God's grace is received, it never stops flowing and growing.
God wants us to be conscious of his grace and draw upon it daily for strength, peace, and comfort. And, as the God of truth, he wants us to trust him implicitly and rely upon his promises. Promises like: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:4b NIV), or "I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 18, 2019

Spirit of the Golden Rule

Chuckle: A man writing to the meteorologist: “I thought you may be interested in knowing that I shoveled eighteen inches of ‘partly cloudy’ from my sidewalk this morning.”
Quote: “Blessed is he who does good to others and desires not that others should to him good.” – Br Giles Little Flowers of St Francis

“in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV.
Near the end of His Sermon on the mount Jesus introduced His famous Golden Rule. Unlike similar sayings by other Jewish teachers, Jesus stated the rule in a positive way – by telling us what to do rather than what not to do. This rule represents the very essence of Jesus’ teaching concerning human relationships. He wants us to apply the principles of this rule by positive actions toward others in the same way we want others to treat us. However, our desire to have others do good to us should not be our motivation for doing good. Our motivation should be our obedience to our Lord and genuine love and concern for others. Our quote for today says it quite well.
The Golden Rule, provides the basis for how we should relate to other people; that is unless we distort its meaning to fit our selfish and self-centered attitude. Sometimes, mainly in jest, I’ve heard it stated like this: “Do unto others before they do it unto you.” Or, “do unto others as they do unto you.” These tongue-in-cheek distortions of the Golden Rule, seem to describe the attitudes of some in our selfish, greedy, and materialistic society. If we care only for ourselves, we violate the spirit of the Golden Rule by our unconcern for others.
It is relatively easy to refrain from harming others, but much more difficult to take the initiative and do something good and uplifting for them. Remember, these are the words of Jesus – His Golden Rule. As He formulated it, He described the very foundation of genuine goodness and mercy. It’s not possible to live by the Rule unless we love others with the kind of love God shows to us every day. As we study the Golden Rule together, I’m sure God would have each of us to think of someone whom we can bless today by our good, kind, and merciful actions that demonstrate our love.
No doubt the way we relate to others will determine how we are treated and God is pleased when we treat our brothers and sister will love and compassion, regardless of how they treat us in return.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Patience When God Seems Far Away

Chuckle: There are many places I have never been, however, I have been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my friends, family and work."
Quote: "Though God takes the sun out of heaven, yet we must have patience." --George Herbert
"I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence!" (Psalm 139:7 NLT). Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor (Holy Spirit), who will never leave you . . . he lives with you now and later will be in you" (John 14:16, 18 NLT).
Our passages state an iron-clad take to the bank truth -- as Christians, God's Spirit is always with us and we can't get away from His presence. This is an amazing and reassuring truth for all believers. But if this truth is enduring, why do we sometimes feel like God is a million miles away? Good question. When things aren't going the way we want, we may feel God has abandoned us, is far away and is no longer acting in our best interest.
We need patience during those times when we don't hear anything or feel anything from God. In Job's case, all the things that were happening to him just didn't make sense. But they made perfect sense to God who was testing Job. Times like these come for all of us, and when they do, it may be that God is testing our faith. When we are willing to persevere with patience during such difficult times, then God will do a mighty work in our lives as He did in Job's.
If you believe you can never escape God's presence and you believe the promise, "never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5 NIV), then God is never far away, but may be withholding evidence of His presence to accomplish His purpose in your life. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV). As He did for Job, God will bring good to you as He acts according to His will.
So, if you find yourself feeling like God is far away, draw near to Him by focusing your attention on Him in prayer, Bible study, and sincere worship. Then He promises to draw near to you (James 4:8). If you feel that God is far away, that's all it is -- a feeling. We must be patient and trust God's promises even if our feelings tell us something else.
Another thought: I was a pilot in the Army and learned early on that I could not trust my feelings when flying in the clouds with no visual reference to the ground. I had to trust the truth that the instruments were telling me about the airspeed, altitude and attitude of the aircraft. Trusting my feelings could lead to disaster, but trusting the instruments always brought me to a safe landing at my destination. God will do that for you if you trust Him completely in all situations, including His promise to be with you always, rather than trusting your unreliable feeling that He is far away
Love, Jerry & Dotse.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Patience When Disaster Strikes

Chuckle: Sign in a Texas country store: "Be patient. None of us am perfect!"
Quote: "Patience is more than a virtue; it is a daily necessity. It is not an elective; it is a required course in the school of life." --William Arthur Ward 

"Job is an example of a man who endured (disaster) patiently. From his experience we see how the Lord's plan finally ended in good, for he is full of tenderness and mercy" (James 5:11 NLT).
Personal disasters are perhaps the most difficult kind of trials for us to endure with patience; but there is no time when the need for patience is greater. I doubt if anyone in history has ever experienced such personal disasters as Job. In two days, Job lost his family (children killed in storm), lost all his possessions, lost his friends, and had a painful disease. His wife came to him and suggested he "curse God, and die" (Job 2:9c KJV).
God never told Job why he was suffering -- why he was having to endure all those hardships. But, even in face of total disaster, he continued steadfast in his faith. He hung in there. He never cursed God and never gave up. He said of God: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15 KJV).
Life's disasters come in many forms including financial ruin, painful loss of beloved family members, diagnosis of a terminal disease, devastating loss of house and other property during a natural disaster, etc. In times like these, the true metal of our faith is revealed. Each time I read the account of Job's extreme trials and disasters, I'm reminded that my disasters to date have been minor in comparison. Sometimes we see our relatively minor inconveniences and disappointments as disasters. Tornados, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc., remind us that disasters can come at any time and when least expected.
When disaster strikes, our first reaction is to ask "why did a loving God allow this to happen." As Job struggled to understand why these terrible things were happening to him, it became clear that God did not intend for him to know the reasons. He had to face life without satisfactory answers to the question, why? It was only when he trusted God without answers that his faith became fully developed.
I think the operative question for each of us is this: Is our faith strong enough to remain unshaken no matter what disasters befall us? No doubt God allows our faith to be tested from time to time as He did with Job. When hardships come, can we progress from questioning God about "why" to hearing God's questions to us about our trust in Him? Can we stand the test with patience and say to God with Job: "I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance" (Job 42:6 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Patience During Difficult Times

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Chuckle: Jonah's Mother: "That's a nice story. Now tell me where you've really been."
Quote: "Like farmers, we must learn that we can't sow and reap the same day." --Unknown Author

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming" (James 5:7 NIV).
Most of us don't like to wait in line at the grocery store, doctor's office, traffic light, restaurant, etc. Restaurants even have the audacity to call the attendants "waiters." After all, we're the waiters - we do all the waiting. . . . We are an impatient generation and we want gratification right now, if not sooner.
Let's remember, "patience" is a fruit of the Spirit recorded in Galatians 5:22. To develop Godly patience requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. In the next few lessons, we will be learning about patience from God’s Word.
As Christians, we need patience during difficult times. Those Christians to whom James wrote this first century letter were going through tough times -- persecution, suffering, hardships. One meaning of the Greek word for patience is to wait with long suffering -- never quit even when the going gets tough. When tempted to throw in the towel and quit, stand firm and stick to it even when everything in you wants to give it up.
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV).
In a Christian's life, there are times of great emotional joy -- when God seems so close and so real and your joy comes from serving him. At other times, when it appears as if no one else cares about God, or his work, and you feel like the lone ranger, you feel like saying "Oh, what's the use." James says that's when God will give you patience.
Extraordinary patience is required by farmers during extreme draughts. Like that farmer who puts the seed in the ground and waits patiently for the harvest, that's what God wants us to do -- plant the seed of the good news and be patient as God's Holy Spirit brings forth the harvest in His own time. "You too, be patient and stand firm." (James 5:8 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Chuckle: “How long have you been driving without a tail light,” the policeman asked the lady he had pulled over. “Oh, no!” the woman screamed as she ran to the back of the car. “Just calm down,” said the officer. “It’s not that serious.” “But it’s my husband I’m worried about. He’s in the trailer that was hitched to the car!”
Quote: “life is too short to be small.” –Disraeli

"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." (Proverbs 19:11 NIV).
Petty means “of little importance; small; minor; trivial. Narrow minded or ungenerous, especially in trifling matters. Of lesser importance or rank; subordinate. Having or showing a narrow, mean character.” On the practical side, pettiness is like making mountains out of mole hills. We let small, unimportant and insignificant things upset us and turn us into monsters that others do not want to be around.
Life is too short to worry and fret about the small stuff. The challenge for us is how to tell the small stuff from the really important stuff. All too often the small and insignificant becomes the elephant in the room in our minds. Do you have short fuse when it comes to your pet peeves? We tend to want people to act right, follow the rules, and not do anything to hurt our feelings. I have seen “Christians” get their feelings hurt over some insignificant petty issue and either leave the church pouting like a child who didn’t get his way, or carry a lasting grudge that disrupts the warm loving fellowship God wants for His people.
Our passage says we should not be offended or personally affronted by the actions and choices of others. We are to be forgiving even when the offense is against us and even though it is difficult – even when we are hurt deeply by someone’s words or deeds. It is God’s responsibility to deal with the sinful actions of others, not ours. We are to love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven us.
I believe pettiness among Christians can be attributed to a lack of spiritual maturity. We should strive to become mature followers of Christ. In his New Testament writings, Paul describes his dealing with believers who were not maturing and pettiness was often the result, especially in new congregations. Here’s what Paul said to the Corinthians. “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV). As we mature spiritually, we become more and more like Jesus and selfishness and pettiness are replaced by love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.
“Every day, God grants us the precious gift of life. Yet every day, we squander it with our selfish, petty concerns, rather than helping someone as He helps us.” –Kirn Hans, Behind My Mask
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 11, 2019

Soaring Like Eagles

Chuckle: Flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you will think of us."
Quote: "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." --Corrie Ten Boom

"But those who (wait on) hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).
I loved flying from the first time I boarded an airplane, and became a pilot during my military career. As I soared among the clouds I always felt a unique sense of freedom, strength, and peace. I felt free from the restraints of earth and the daily challenges and obstacles of life on the surface. Sometimes I would power back the engine and enjoy the relative quiet as I glided through the air and thought about what it must be like for an eagle to soar quietly, effortlessly, and unrestrained on the rising air currents.
In our passage, God recognizes that we will become tired and frustrated from the demands of life and from pursuing goals that sometimes seem too high to even hope to accomplish. But, His message to us is that we serve a loving and powerful God who is never too tired or busy to listen to us as we turn to Him for help. He stands ready to renew our strength and take away the stresses of life that crush us and make us feel as if we can't go on.
Waiting on the LORD is the eager but patient expectation that God will make good on all the promises in His Word by giving us strength to rise above life's challenges and difficulties. It means complete trust in God in every circumstance. It also means that God does not merely renew our failing strength, but exchanges it for His unfailing strength. Those who trust God discover a new source of power for living. Here are His further promises.
"The LORD . . . does not become tired or need rest. No one can understand how great his wisdom is. He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak" (Isaiah 40:28-29 NCV).
If you feel tired and defeated by life's problems, remember God's promises. He stands ready to lift you up and help you to soar high above the difficulties facing you. He wants to set you free by drawing you closer to Himself. As you "draw near to God, He will draw near to you" (James 4:8) and you will sense the strength and freedom depicted by the soaring eagle. However, God's strength is available to us not only when we feel like soaring or running, but as we faithfully walk (plod) along through life with Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Stain of Sin

Chuckle: "Some churches are now serving coffee after the sermon. Perhaps this to get people thoroughly awake before they drive home!"
Quote: "Sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent, and self-sustained." --Augustine

"Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18 NIV).
God has a way of communicating with us that leaves no doubt about His meaning. In the New Testament, Jesus often spoke in parables (common story to communicate a deep spiritual lesson) using familiar references easily understood by his audience. These parables are sometimes called, "earthly stories with heavenly meanings." Here in Isaiah, God, through the prophet, used metaphors, which had clear meaning in the culture of that day, to describe the sins of his people.
Crimson was the color of a deep-red permanent dye which was a stain almost impossible to remove from cloth. The stain of sin seems equally permanent, but God can remove sin's toughest stain from our lives as he promised to do for the Israelites. Earlier in this chapter, God had chastised his people for having blood on their hands because of the misery and injustice they brought upon less fortunate people. The bloodstains on the hands of murderers are probably the reference here. "Your hands are full of blood" (vs. 15).
But we don't have to go through life permanently soiled by our sins, regardless of their severity. We are assured in God's Word that if we are willing and obedient, Jesus Christ will forgive and remove our most indelible stains. "Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1-2 NLT).
When we pray for forgiveness as did the psalmist, God has promised to "forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV). God wants to forgive and cleanse us. That's why he allowed his beloved Son to die -- so he could offer us a complete pardon for our sins. When we come to Christ, he forgives all our past sins and we don't need to keep on confessing them again and again. They're gone forever!! We never again need to fear God's rejection because of our sins. However, we must remember that true confession and repentance involves a commitment not to continue to sin.
Do you fully appreciate what it means to have your sins forgiven and the stain of those sins removed by the Creator of the Universe through faith in his one and only Son? We all are wise if we take the time to just dwell on this truth and wallow around in God's love.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Stepping Stone or Stumbling Block

Chuckle: Places to visit: "I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump to get there, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore."
Quote: "Appreciation is thanking, recognition is seeing, and encouragement is bringing hope for the future." --Anonymous

"Think of (consider) ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24 NLT).
I once read about an elderly lady who said: "As a Christian, you can either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block. It's your choice." As I thought about this passage and this woman's statement, I realized that, at times, I have been both a stumbling block and a stepping stone to others. We are always being one or the other depending upon the one we choose to be.
"Think of" and "consider" are translations of a word that means a kind of rivalry. The thought may be translated, "let us rival one another as we stir up, spur, and encourage one another to love others and do good deeds for them." This is a kind of rivalry which is not contentious or bitter but both constructive and productive. It is a spiritual rivalry which causes us to utilize all our spiritual resources as we encourage and rival one another in love and acts of kindness.
Every day we make choices that influence the lives of those around us. Not making a choice is to choose to be a stumbling block -- there is no neutral ground. We are either encouraging others by our words and actions or we are discouraging others by our words and actions. Just as Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters," we cannot be neutral. There is no such thing as Christian non-responsibility.
Think with me about your life. Do you know fellow believers who need a kind word, a pat on the back, or an understanding ear to listen? Have you chosen to be a stepping stone by spurring other Christians on toward greater faithfulness? When you choose to make a difference, you not only benefit your brothers and sisters but bring great joy to yourself as well. It's been my experience that a serving Christian is a happy Christian.
If we take the time to be sensitive to the needs of others, with the accompanying opportunities for service, we can be stepping stones. Being a stepping stone may be as simple as making a phone call, sending an e-mail, or posting a thoughtful card. Or it may mean making significant personal sacrifices of time, money, and effort to help and encourage other believers. If we choose to do so, you and I can brighten the day of someone and be a stepping stone for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sinful Anger or Righteous Indignation?

Chuckle: Golfer: "I'd move heaven and earth to break 100 on this course." Caddy: "Try heaven. You've already moved most of the earth."
Quote: "A man that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good." --Henry Ward Beecher

“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).
Wikipedia defines righteous indignation as, "a reactive emotion of anger over either an obvious or perceived mistreatment, insult, criticism, overpowerment, oppression, malice, etc." It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice." How can we be certain that our anger is righteous indignation and not sinful rage? I believe the answer is rather simple to state, but difficult to live out. Anger is righteous indignation when it is directed at that which angers Jesus Himself and when we react as Jesus reacted when He was angry.
Following Jesus' example, righteous anger and indignation are justified when we are confronted with sin and injustice. Some examples would be anger towards spousal abuse, child neglect/abuse, pornography, homosexual activity, racism, abortion, discrimination and the like. Jesus' anger and indignation, were directed at obvious sinful behavior and injustice. However, Jesus' anger was always couched in His overriding love and compassion. Even when hanging on the cross, He could have expressed anger and hatred toward His tormentors, but instead, He showed love and forgiveness by saying, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
When Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because of the hardness of their hearts, He did not exact revenge, but showed grief and compassion for them (Mark 3:5). When we become angry, we best examine our motives before we act. We should resist the temptation to retaliate in kind or exact revenge when we, or others, are mistreated. Aren't you thankful that Jesus didn't react in kind to the rejections, insults and agony He suffered. In McCosh's book, Motive Powers, he provides some cautions concerning righteous indignation.
"We may be angry and sin not; but this disposition may become sinful, and this in the highest degree. It is so when it is excessive, when it is rage, and makes us lose control of ourselves. It is so, and may become a vice, when it leads us to wish evil to those who have offended us. It is resentment when it prompts us to meet and repay evil by evil. It is vengeance when it impels us to crush those who have injured us. It is vindictiveness meant to give pain to those who have thwarted us. Then sin has Already entered."
God knows our hearts and motives and we should never try to disguise hateful anger as righteous indignation. Destructive anger has a condemning component, while righteous indignation always has a redemptive component based on love and forgiveness. Believers have many opportunities to channel their righteous anger into constructive ministries that counter the influence of evil in society. If our anger results in bringing others into a loving and saving relationship with Jesus Christ, it is righteous indignation. Forces antagonistic toward God and Christianity challenge us to love as Jesus loved while acting in opposition to such forces.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Search Me O God

Chuckle: "Smartness runs in my family. When I went to school I was so smart my teacher was in my class for five years.” --George Burns
Quote: "When God measures a person, he puts the tape around his heart and not his head." --Author Unknown

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life" (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT).
We do not know our own hearts well enough to search and test them for ourselves. David asked God to search his heart and mind and point out any wrong motives that may have been behind his strong words against his enemies. This request is important because "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve" (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT).
Our tendency is to want to examine our own hearts, but, in our own strength, we are incapable of doing so by God's standards. If we sincerely ask God to examine our hearts, while studying his Word and praying, He will reveal secret motives, weaknesses and sins that we never knew existed. Have you ever acted in a sinful way, then asked yourself, "Why did I do that?" Your actions may be the result of some hidden motive that only God can reveal when you let him do a thorough heart and mind search.
In a similar way, we may think we can make ourselves good enough to be acceptable to God by cleaning up our lives according to the best of our abilities. But God knows our actions mean nothing without a change of heart. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7 NIV).
God makes it clear that we sin based on the condition of our hearts. Our hearts are inclined toward sin from the time we are born. Even Christians can forget God and slip into sin, but to sin or not is our choice. We can yield our lives to Satan's temptations, or we can turn to God, confess our sins in repentance and allow God to cleanse and purify our hearts as he removes the motives for our sinful actions and words. See 1 John 1:9.
When people observe your life, does what they see accurately reflect the condition of your heart? It can -- if you ask God to search your heart, as David did, and reveal any hidden motive or condition that offends him and causes you to bring dishonor to his Name. Once God has cleansed your heart and forgiven you, then your joy will return in full measure.
Love, Jerry & Dotse