Sunday, June 30, 2019

Believe and Receive

Chuckle: What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? A cat has its claws at the end of its paws; a comma is a pause at the end of a clause.
Quote: "If you are too busy to spend time alone with God, you are busier then God intends for you to be." --Unknown Author
"When you ask, you must believe (have faith) and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV). Jesus said, ". . . whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (have faith) that you have received it and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24 NIV).
Think back with me to yesterday. From the time you awoke until you went to bed last night, how many times did you feel inadequate and lacking in wisdom to deal with a situation you were facing? If, after careful reflection on this question, you answer "none," then you probably went through the day depending upon your own strength and wisdom to make decisions and deal with issues that arose. You see, even if we think we know the best answer to a problem, or the best way to handle a situation, we are settling for second best wisdom -- ours.
In our first passage, James is referring to prayer for wisdom. However, when we ask God for wisdom, or anything, we must believe and not doubt. From our two passages, we see that believing (having faith) is essential for God to answer our prayers and grant our requests. Faith is believing God and acting on that faith. "If God says it, I believe it, and I will ask him!" When you pray, do you do so with confidence that God will answer, or is prayer just one more possibility among other resources you depend upon to handle life situations? Maybe you pray something like this: "OK, Lord, I'm asking, but I don't really think you will answer my prayer." What kind of faith is that? A doubting Christian is one who says he trusts God, but really trusts himself or someone else more. He says he has faith but he really doesn't.
A doubting mind is not completely convinced that God's way is best. Such a person makes God's Word just like human advice and retains the option to disregard or disobey it. This kind of person vacillates between allegiance to his subjective feelings, the world's ideas, and God's commands. He is divided inside. God's Word says he is "double-minded." "That person (without faith) should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded person, unstable in all he does" (James 1:7-8 NIV).
A double-minded Christian is one who knows Christ as Savior and is going to heaven, but on a daily basis does not have the faith to trust God in all situations and depend upon His divine wisdom to guide his life. We can pray all night to no avail unless we believe God and take him at his word. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). A pastor said this: "True wisdom enables us to do the right thing in the face of moral dilemmas and to interpret life's experiences in light of eternal values." Only God can grant this true wisdom for living. If we pray with God's will uppermost in our minds, our prayers will be pleasing to him and we can express our desires to him with the expectation that he will answer.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Chuckle: We have a group of preachers in our town who bowl. They call themselves "Holy Rollers!"
Quote: “If he has faith, the believer cannot be restrained. He betrays himself. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this gospel to people at the risk of life itself.” --Martin Luther
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NIV).
Romans was written to the Christians in Rome by the apostle Paul, an intelligent and articulate man totally committed to his calling from Christ Himself. He presents the case for the gospel message clearly and forthrightly in his letter to all believers in Rome – and to us. Even though the persecution of Christians was commonplace during the time of Paul’s ministry, he never wavered in his zeal and commitment to unashamedly spread the gospel wherever he went.
Around the world today, hostility and violence against Christians is rapidly increasing. They are being slaughtered, imprisoned, flogged, and otherwise persecuted simply for pledging their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Sadly, most free-world governments and Christians seem largely indifferent to what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Although, in this country, we do not face the extreme persecutions described above, there is a growing undercurrent of anti-Christian sentiment steadily being revealed. In light of this and the world situation, what should we do as Christians? What we should not do is to be afraid or ashamed to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are ever tempted to stop proclaiming this gospel when faced with opposition or persecution, please remember what the gospel (Good News) is all about. It is the power of eternal salvation for anyone who believes. It is the most important message Jesus has commanded us to proclaim. What an awesome responsibility our Lord has given us – to make disciples of all people. In sharing the good news, there is no place for timidity or shame in the hearts of believers.
As we faithfully proclaim the gospel message in today’s environment, we must do so with Christ-like love and compassion for all people. The most effective way to demonstrate such love is by our joyful service to others, especially those with extraordinary physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b NIV). Someone has said something like this: “Preach the gospel everywhere you go; and, when necessary, use words.” Our actions often speak louder and more effectively than our words. We can never earn salvation by doing good things; but good deeds of service show that our commitment to God is real and verify our faith in Jesus Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Acknowledging Jesus Publicly

Chuckle: Kid's comments on angels: "Angels don't eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows!!!" --Jack, age 6
Quote: "The trouble with opportunity is that it's always more recognizable going than coming."Unknown source
"If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will openly acknowledge that person before my Father in heaven. But if anyone denies me here on earth, I will deny that person before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33 NLT).
In many evangelical Christian churches, an invitation/commitment time occurs at the end of each worship service. This is to give people the opportunity to respond to God's appeal by making a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Jesus does not intend that our relationship with him be kept secret, but He requires a public acknowledgment of our allegiance to him. During His earthly ministry, every person that Jesus called to follow Him was asked to do so publicly. Jesus expects us to let other people know we are Christians -- followers of Christ.
This is a serious issue in a society where keeping our religious beliefs private is seen as desirable by some. Many do not think our Christianity should be acknowledged at work, school, or in any other public venue. There is a concerted effort by some to remove the very mention of God in all public government funded places. Yet we must understand what our Lord expects of us as Christians. When we share our faith one-on-one with others, we acknowledge our Lord in the most direct and fruitful way. Of course, as we acknowledge Christ before men, we must do so with the same love and compassion that Jesus displayed as He drew people to himself.
We acknowledge our Lord by living according to God's holy standards and reflecting the love of Christ in everything we do and say. And acknowledging our Lord publicly by being his witnesses, brings his promises of eternal rewards. To receive rewards, however, should not be our primary motivation for being witnesses for Christ. We should do so out of obedience and heartfelt love and gratitude because of who He is and for what He has done for us -- along with a great unconditional love for those who need to know him as Savior and Lord.
"A Christian's life should stand out to the world as different. We should be like zebras among horses. When our lives are indistinguishable from the world's, we are like albino zebras. They really are zebras, their parents were zebras, they know they are zebras on the inside. But to all who see them from the outside they are no different from horses." Jesus said, ". . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Motives Matter

Chuckle:  In a very dark church building, a man said, "I make a motion we buy a chandelier." Another said, "I'm against it for three reasons: No one knows how to spell it to order it. There isn't anyone in the church who can play it. And third, we need more light in here!"
Quote: “It is motive alone that gives character to the actions of men.” –Jean De La Bruyere
“. . . let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16 NLT). “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired (by other people) because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 NLT).
Our passage is from the lips of Jesus Himself as He delivered what is called the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, Jesus teaches His followers the finer points of godly living. Here we discover that Jesus is more interested in the condition of our hearts than He our specific acts of kindness. He teaches us to do good deeds in ministry to others, but our motives for these good deeds determine their acceptance by God and our ultimate rewards in heaven.
Notice the apparent contradiction in our two Scripture verses. First, Jesus tells us to do good deeds for all to see. Then He tells us not to do acts of righteousness to be seen of people. But close study of Jesus’ words reveals no contradiction at all. The differential factor is motive – why do we do good deeds. Do we do them to bring attention, honor, and glory to ourselves by the praise of other people, or do we do them to bring praise, honor, and glory to our Lord?
In our first verse, Jesus says our motive for our good deeds should be to cause people to praise our Father in heaven. In our second verse, Jesus warns us about doing good deeds to be seen by people to bring their praise to ourselves. Doing good to bring honor to God will result in His rewarding us for such service. On the other hand, if our motive for doing good is to bring glory to ourselves, we will not be rewarded by our heavenly Father. So, we see that motives really do matter to God because they reveal the condition of our hearts.
Satan will tempt us, in his sly and subtle ways, to pervert our motives for serving our Lord. We may have the purest intentions when we begin to do acts of kindness for others and honestly want them to bring glory to the Father. Then, low and behold, people begin to praise us for our actions and Satan tells us it’s OK to bask in the warmth of that praise for what we have done. Then pride begins to raise its ugly head and our motives gradually change from bringing honor to God to bringing honor to ourselves. This is what Jesus is warning us about.
The Lord’s searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive. God loathes the sacrifice of an evil person, especially when it is brought with ulterior motives” (Proverbs 20:27; 21:27 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 24, 2019

Vine and Branches, Part 2

Chuckle: I heard Jeff Smith, a.k.a. The Frugal Gourmet, read this letter from a viewer on the air: "I have had my turkey in the freezer for a year and a half. Will it take longer to thaw?"
Quote: "The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts." --Blaise Pascal
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce more fruit" (John 15:1-2 NLT). Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5 NLT).
Today, we continue to think and learn about the way God prepares us to be fruitful in his vineyard/kingdom. Please remember that Jesus is the vine and the gardener/vinedresser is God, the Father, through His Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, Paul writes: "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." When we are filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit, we are remaining in Christ -- we are firmly attached to him and are the recipients of his life-giving power. His power flowing through us causes us, the branches, to produce much fruit for God's glory. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, He will produce through us love, peace, joy, etc.
You may be producing some fruit for God's kingdom; however, you may feel as if you're not being as fruitful as you should be. You may say, "But I have in my life a lot of dead leaves (sins) of idolatry, anger, hatred, envy, etc. How can I get rid of all these dead leaves and spoiled fruit? How can I have the fruits of the Holy Spirit produced in me and through me?" If you are sincere in these questions and genuinely want to be used of God to bear fruit for His glory, "Standby for NEWS!!" -- as Paul Harvey said for years.
I have learned that dead leaves don't fall off trees -- they are pushed off. As the sap of life flows through the branches, it pushes off the dead leaves to make room for new growth and new fruit. We Christians sometimes try to prune ourselves by trying to pull off the dead leaves of sin from our lives -- bad habits, filthy language, or an impure mind." That's not the way to do it.
We cannot prune ourselves -- that's God work as the vinedresser. We just need to yield ourselves to Christ in repentance, and He will forgive us and fill us with the fullness of His Spirit. We need to focus on Christ, the Vine and allow His Holy Spirit to fill us and flow through us. He will push off (prune away) all those dead leaves and prepare you for bearing fruit. Then, He will produce fruit through you that will amaze you and glorify Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Vine and Branches, Part 1

Chuckle: "To become an angel you first must die. Then you go to Heaven, and then there's still the flight training. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes." --Matthew, age 9
Quote: "Those who seek to live like Christ must also relinquish ourselves to God, that we might learn to be and do nothing but his will. Realizing that we have not the ability to think or do anything good or holy within our own power, we must be willing to submit every faculty or body, soul, and spirit to Jesus." --Andrew Murray
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5 NLT).
Jesus had a wonderful way of teaching his followers by using metaphors and parables familiar to his audience. Vineyards were common in New Testament times and everyone understood the principles of how a vine produces grapes. Accordingly, Jesus used bearing fruit to describe the Christian life which is totally dedicated to spiritual growth, sacrificial service, and leading others to Christ. Jesus went so far as to say we can do nothing apart from him. It is not the branch that bears the fruit, but the vine. The branch is just a rack to hang grapes/fruit on, but it is the vine through whom the spiritual life flows and fruit is produced. Jesus said all he wants from us is to be faithful branches and let him hang the fruit on us.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you" (John 15:1-4 NLT).
Christ is the vine, and God (the Father) is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them more fruitful. Branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. But those who become unproductive -- those who turn away from Christ after making a superficial commitment -- will be separated from the vine. Unproductive followers are as good as dead to God's kingdom and will be cut off and tossed aside.
Notice the two kinds of pruning God accomplishes: (1) cutting off and (2) cutting back (pruning) of branches. Branches showing no life and producing no fruit are cut away at the trunk because they are worthless and also because they often infect the rest of the tree. Those who don't bear fruit, or try to block the efforts of God's faithful followers, risk being cut off from his life-giving power. Perhaps Jesus was making reference to Judas Iscariot, or to others like these: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (I John 2:19 NIV). God prunes the fruitful branches to make them even more fruitful.
As we consider these words of our Lord, we must be careful not to assume God's role by setting ourselves up as the Gardener, and judge, to determine who should be cut off and who should be pruned -- that is God's business. This passage deals with God's relationship with individual branches (Christians) and He is the one who will cut off or prune them according to His own will and purpose without any help from us. We know that God deals with all His children from an attitude of love, compassion, and patience. His goal is to make each of us fruitful, and His heart must break when rebellious branches render themselves useless in His vineyard.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Showers of Blessings

Chuckle: "How do you prepare your chicken," a patron asked. "Nothing special, Sir," replied the waiter. "We just tell them straight out that they're going to die."
Quote For Today: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” --Robert Louis Stevenson
"He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy" (Acts 14:17 ESV).
In my youth, I remember seeing farmers congregate on an old wooden bench in front of a feed store and, looking up at the sky, discussed the prospects of rain and the success or failure of their crops. It was serious business because their livelihood was at stake. They were concerned about providing for their families.
If you grew up on a farm, you likely have indelibly imprinted in your mind the dire consequences of inadequate rainfall. You can prepare the fields perfectly and plant the finest seeds, but without adequate moisture nothing can grow or produce a harvest. In Biblical times, the society was mostly agrarian and conversations often centered around feast or famine, depending upon the amount of rainfall received. Historically, Israel's success or failure as a nation was dependent on God's providing the needed precipitation.
To use an analogy, you may be thinking that you are in a drought when it comes to God's showers of blessings. There may be problems in your life that you feel will never end and you feel helpless to do anything about them. You may be wondering why God does not shower more of His blessings on you and make your life better.
It was true with the ancient Israelites and it is true for God's people today; our faith in God to meet our needs is essential for our emotional and physical well-being. Regardless of the hardships in your life, you must remember that God is in control, genuinely cares about you, and will meet your needs regardless of how dismal things may look to you right now. In the same way that God blessed His people with abundant rainfall and fruitful seasons in Biblical times, He wants us to trust Him to shower His blessings on us at the right time to uplift our spirits and give us hope.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Remember God Today

Chuckle: "Have you ever wondered why they didn't just hang on to them when they were taking the pictures of those criminals on the wanted posters in the Post Office?"
Quote: "As the ship is not made for the harbor, nor the bird for her nest, neither is man made for the storm cellar." --William Arthur Ward
"I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about them" (Psalm 77:11-12 NLT).
Often, when I'm conducting a funeral service, I remind the grieving family of the wonderful gift God has given us -- our ability to remember. This God-given capacity allows us to relive the happy memories of our departed loved ones and those memories can never be taken from us. Have you thought lately about the complexities and intricacies of the healthy human brain that makes it possible to retrieve even some of the most meaningful memories for our enjoyment? Such reflections remind us anew of the magnificence of God creation. And when we remember what God has done for us, we receive great comfort for the present and assurance for the future.
Let's stop for a time this morning and remember together what God has done on behalf of mankind -- for you and me. God's written Word gives the accounts of God’s great love and miraculous accomplishments on behalf of His people down through the ages. Our love and gratitude for Him is magnified each time we remember. When we reflect on God's master plan to bring people into fellowship with Himself through faith in Jesus Christ, we are filled with gratitude, awe and reverence.
Remember when God first revealed Himself to you; how His Spirit drew you into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember how He has worked in your life to give you the strength to deal with every situation you have faced. Remember how much He loves you and genuinely cares about what happens to you. Remember all the joy and comfort you have received from spending time in God's Word; how answers to problems in your life have been revealed therein.
The most important thing for Christians to remember is the price our Lord Jesus paid when he bore our sins on that cross outside Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. Remember that without His experiencing agony of both body and Spirit and the shedding of His precious blood, you and I would be doomed for eternity. Remember, the love, compassion, and forgiveness shown by Jesus as he hung on the cross and what He said on behalf of His tormentors: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." Remember His miraculous resurrection on the third day victorious over sin, death, and the grave.
I pray our remembering together this morning has strengthened your faith and instilled in your heart new levels of love and gratitude for our crucified, buried, and risen Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Courageous Christians

Chuckle: Counterfeiters (kown'-ter-fit'-ers): Workers who put together kitchen cabinets
Quote: "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality." --C.S. Lewis Quoted Cyril Connolly
"Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love" (1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT).
The Dictionary defines courage as "being able to control one's fear and so to face danger, pain, or trouble willingly; bravery." Here, Paul encourages the Corinthians to be alert and on guard against spiritual adversaries and the danger they represent. He reminds them to stand firm in their faith and to be courageous and strong and to show kindness and love in all their interpersonal relationships. These words of encouragement are badly needed by Christians today.
It seems that every day brings another threat to our peace of mind and sense of well-being. If it isn't international terror, it's domestic crime in the form of identity theft, car-jacking, home invasions, and assorted other dangers that threaten us. Add to these the fear associated with the onset of a serious life-threatening illness and facing the reality of our own mortality. These and other threats to our peace and happiness give us plenty of reasons to be fearful, and courage is required in dealing with them.
As Christians, another great fear can come from the growing opposition to Christianity and the erosion of religious freedoms both here in our beloved country as well as abroad. In our passage, the apostle Paul instructs us to be a people of great courage and strength. The ideal for Christians, when it comes to courage, includes a quality of life based on our faith in the ever-present Spirit of Jesus Christ. Here there is no "grin and bear it" helpless attitude, but a more natural and proactive one which can see opportunity in every challenge and victory in every instance of opposition or persecution.
Courage is not only a duty for Christians but also a constant possibility because we have placed our lives in the almighty hands of God. It makes itself evident through patient endurance, moral consistency, infectious optimism and spiritual fidelity. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:32 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 17, 2019

Condemning Other Christians

Chuckle: A child prayed, "Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but I asked for a puppy. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up." Joyce

Quote: “As we learn to shorten the time between offense and forgiveness, there becomes no time left for anger or vindictiveness.” --Unknown source


"So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. . . Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So don't condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian's path" (Romans 14:10,12-13 NLT).

As we study the history of the Christian faith and church, we find numerous incidences where spiritual pride was the basis for criticisms of fellow believers. There are some Christian practices that the Bible leaves open to interpretation, and these differences of interpretation have often become major sources of disagreement and conflict. In Romans, chapter 14, Paul deals with this issue. His thesis is that in Christian practice where there is room for interpretation, we are to accept one another in love even when we disagree.

I know many Christians who practice some aspects of their faith and worship differently than I do, but this makes them no less faithful to their Lord. If a person has been saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, as Savior and Lord and is committed to serving Him, the principle requirement of faith has been fulfilled. We should always be considerate, encouraging and accepting of other Christians rather than being critical, condescending and condemning.

It's true that the church must stand fast against practices that are expressly contrary to God's Word, but we should not create additional rules and regulations and make them as important as God's specific instructions. Too often believers base their judgments of others on personal opinion, preference or adherence to a tradition. By doing so, our own lack of faith is exposed in that we don't think God is strong enough to guide His children without our help.

Paul's message is that we should remain strong in our faith while being sensitive to the faith of others. When we consider the feelings of others before our own, we will always be amazed at the response we will receive. It is very difficult for people to return unkindness when they become convinced they are loved and appreciated -- when they know their best interests are a major consideration in a relationship.

None of us is so strong in our faith that we are without weaknesses and we should always be concerned about the effects of our behavior on others. As we grow in our faith, we will become more concerned about giving an account to God for our own actions rather than judging those of others.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Separation From the World

Chuckle: On a highway billboard -- "ILLITERATE? Write for a free brochure!"
Good Quote: "Each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life -- not by our standard of living; by our measure of giving -- not by our measure of wealth; by our simple goodness -- not by our seeming greatness." --William Arthur Ward
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers" (Psalm 1:1 NIV).
The psalmist begins by emphasizing the joys that come to us when we obey God and refuse to listen to those who are out to discredit or ridicule Him. The word "blessed" means happiness of the kind that only God can give -- a state of pleasurable satisfaction. Those who obey God's Word and live holy lives will have this kind of happiness. However, if we choose to habitually associate with ungodly people, this happiness can become threatened by their influence, causing us to drift away from God and become indifferent to His will. When we get to this point we not only become useless to God, but our happiness is drained away.
Friendships are wonderful, but friendships and associations with those who are indifferent to, or openly oppose, God can do you much harm by undermining your faith. God pours out His blessings on those who are holy and remain obedient to Him. Holiness requires separation from the sinful ways of the world. Peter wrote, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV).
Jesus wants us to be in the world but not of (like) the world (John 17:14-19). If we are to be faithful witnesses to those who need Christ, we must love them as Jesus loves them and establish relationships with them while remaining faithful to our Christian principles and conduct.
In the little book of Jude, we find some very clear instructions. "Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins" (Jude 22-23 NLT). The theme of our passages is that we must share the love of Christ with sinful humanity without becoming comfortable in their lifestyles to the point that we become like them, enjoy their company, and adopt their sinful ways.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Praising Others

Chuckle: “Encouragement is like a peanut butter sandwich – the more you spread it around, the better things stick together.”
Quote: “If you think that praise is due him, Now is the time to slip it to him, For he cannot read his tombstone when he’s dead.” --Berton Braley

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2 NIV).
Praise, compliments, commendations, affirmations, and other words of encouragement are welcomed and appreciated by all of us. Words like, great job; I’m proud of you; I believe in you; inspires and invigorates and can change lives. Of course, our primary motive for Christian service should be to please and glorify our Lord and merit His approval. “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18 NIV).
However, we all enjoy having others commend us for what we do. When someone praises us, it brings feelings of self-worth and confidence. Such praise provides an additional motivation for even greater faithfulness in our service to God and other people. Encouraging one another is a major theme in the New Testament, and praise is a great means of encouragement.
I ran across an old England saying, “Just praise is a debt to be paid.” In other words, we owe it to others to praise them when such praise is truly merited. However, praise that is not merited will cause the recipient of such praise to lose confidence in us because he or she knows we aren’t being truthful. Conversely, praise that is merited but not expressed also discredits our character. Withholding legitimate praise can be the result of envy or resentment because we believe merited praise is being withheld from us. Obviously, this should not be the attitude of a loving, caring Christian. We should praise others without expecting praise for ourselves; however, kindness has a way of returning to us in even greater measure than that which we have extended .
Sometimes lasting and treasured friendships are born out of expressions of praise. If we know someone believes in us, appreciates what we have done, and tells us so, we are drawn to that person in a powerful and unique way. A thoughtful person who praises you will serve as a role-model for you in your relationships with others. The simple courtesy of “thank you for enriching my life with your kindness and faithfulness” can bring cheer to someone who knew they deserved praise but never considered the possibility that they would receive it.
Finally, it is much better if we seek the praise of God rather than the praise of people. Then, when we receive praise from people, we will be free and willing to give God the credit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Commissioned for Service

Chuckle: While walking on a beach, I heard someone shout, "Look, a dead bird!" I saw another person look up at the sky and say, "Where?"
Ponder This: "Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back again tomorrow." -- Martin Luther

"He (God) said, 'Go and tell this people" (Isaiah 6:9 NIV).
After God had forgiven his sins, cleansed and purified him, and called him to a mission, Isaiah responded with, "Here am I. Send me!" Now he was mentally and spiritually prepared to hear what God would wanted him to do. This picture reminds me of how Jesus prepared His disciples to accept His commission by giving them the greatest task ever assigned to anyone -- "Go and make disciples of all nations . . . ." (Matthew 28:19 NIV).
God commissioned Isaiah to prophesy to people whose hearts had become hardened beyond their ability to repent. This seems strange on the surface unless we understand that God had long range plans for his people and looked forward to the day when they would repent and return to him. Jesus' confronted the same hardness of hearts as He preached here on earth. Not only did many not believe, but others were hostile toward Him. When God sends us into his fields of service, He knows the difficulties we will face. Nevertheless, He requires our faithfulness and has promised to be with us in every circumstance. We can never let opposition or unbelief to justify our failure to share the message of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many Christians never accept God's commission and never share Christ with anyone. Many experience guilt and shame for this, but seem powerless to change the situation. Maybe you are one of those who lacks the courage to share the gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Satan will try to convince you that you just aren't up to the task. Here are some excuses I have heard and experienced: "I don't know enough Scripture; I'm afraid I will be rejected; I don't express myself well; I'm afraid of making a mistake, etc."
If you consider these excuses carefully, each one of them features the personal pronoun "I." In other words, they show we are dependent upon our own strength and abilities to witness for Christ. We will always fail when we depend upon ourselves rather than God for courage, strength, and wisdom. Now let's turn these excuses into positives: "God's Holy Spirit will help me share his Word; He will help me overcome the fear of rejection; He will give me the courage I need; He will give me the right words to say; He will take away my fear of making a mistake." "At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19b-20 NIV).
What a difference our dependence upon God makes in the way we reflect Christ to those around us. When we depend upon our Lord, we are relying upon His promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 NIV). One of the most effective ways to share the love of Christ is through your own personal testimony. The simple story about how your personal faith in Christ has changed your life can be used by the Holy Spirit to draw others to himself. Just relax and let our Lord guide you in your encounters with those who need Christ. Above all, let others see Jesus in you by the way you live. Our Lord will never leave you nor fail you!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Challenge and Commitment

Chuckle: Question: "Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?" Answer: "Samson. He brought the house down."
Ponder This: "Conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit blots out every relationship on earth and leaves one relationship only -- 'Against you, you only, I have sinned.'" --Oswald Chambers

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).
When Isaiah found himself in God's presence, he saw himself as wretchedly sinful and unworthy to behold God's holiness. He cried out in desperation, "Woe to me for I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). His repentant cry of confession led God to forgive him of his sin and cleanse him. This process of confession, repentance, forgiveness, and cleansing had prepared Isaiah to hear the voice of God. God had prepared him and made him a suitable vessel which He could use.
Up to this point, God had been teaching Isaiah and creating an awareness in him that he could never accomplish anything of lasting value without God's presence and power. Jesus affirms this truth in John 15:5 NIV, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Isaiah was now ready to hear God's call and challenge. He was now listening for that call because his heart had been made over into one that God could use. I have had church members say, "I just don't hear (sense) God calling me to do this or that ministry." Without being judgmental, it could be that the reason one doesn't hear God's call is that he/she has not gone through the preparation process like Isaiah. When we have been cleansed, purified, and prepared, God will open our spiritual ears to his call.
Isaiah heard God's challenge: "Whom shall I send?" Because of the condition of Isaiah's heart, he never hesitated to accept the challenge, even before God had told him specifically what he wanted him to do. He was willing and committed no matter what the mission turned out to be. God's atonement cleanses and prepares us for God's service. Isaiah was ready!
"Here am I. Send me," should always be our response in obedience to God's call. Millions have heard God's call down through the ages, and have responded with "Here am I. Send me!" As a result, multitudes have come to salvation in Christ. Isaiah was motivated to accept God's call because he "saw the Lord." Wherever you are, and regardless of your age or status in life, God wants you to see Him for who He is, hear Him, and accept the challenge He lays before you. God has no plan "B" for drawing the people of the world to Himself. He uses people just like you and me as conduits of his great love that flows freely for all who will turn to him through faith in Christ.
Maybe you are sensing God's call on your life, but you are not yet willing to respond with, "Here am I. Send me!" I pray God will give you the strength to do so, because true happiness and fulfillment as a Christian comes from knowing one is in the center of God's will and living to please Him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 10, 2019

Cleansing and Usefulness

Chuckle: A cop to a speeder: "Yeah, we have a quota... Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven!"
Ponder This: "Changing the way people act is the fruit of repentance." --Rick Warren
"Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for' " (Isaiah 6:6-7 NIV).
When Isaiah found himself in God's presence, he saw himself as wretchedly sinful and unworthy to behold the holiness of God. He cried out in despair, "Woe to me for I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips." His repentant cry of desperation and confession led God to forgive him and cleanse him.
When Isaiah saw himself as sinful before God, with no hope of measuring up to God's standard of holiness, he became a worthy candidate for action on God's part. He saw himself as unclean and spiritually bankrupt. But when he reached this level of repentance and confession, he became a recipient of God's miraculous forgiveness and cleansing. When the live coal touched his lips, he was told that his sins were forgiven by the power of a merciful God.
In response to God's forgiveness and cleansing, Isaiah submitted himself completely to God's will and his service. No matter how difficult the task, he was willing to go and do whatever God asked of him. The cleansing process was necessary before he could fulfill the task to which God was calling him -- before he could be useful to God. Before you or I accept God's call to speak and act for him, we must also be cleansed as Isaiah was by confessing our sins and submitting to God's control. Submitting ourselves and allowing God to purify us can be painful, but we must be purified before we are worthy to truly represent a pure and holy God.
I am reminded of a quote from a friend of D. L. Moody that went something like this: "The world has yet to see what God can do through a man totally committed to Him. With God's help and grace, I will be that man." These words may not be an exact quote, but the essence is there. This was Isaiah's attitude after God had forgiven and purified him. As he began to more clearly see God, the more aware he became of his own inadequacy and powerlessness to do anything of lasting value without God.
If you are a Christian, God has forgiven your sins and cleansed you with a definite purpose in mind for your life. But the sins of disobedience and indifference may have crept into your life. If so, please hear these words: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (cleanse) us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9 NIV). Are you ready and available to be used of God regardless of where he chooses to send you or what he asks you to do?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dealing with Anxiety

Chuckle: Why is it that when a door is open, it's ajar, but when a jar is open, it's not adoor?
Quote: “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, But only empties today of its strength.” -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon 

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ" (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
Anxiety and worry are major stress producers and can destroy the peace and contentment God wants for us. Let’s see what God’s Word has to say on this subject. The New Living Translation renders the first phrase of our passage as, "Don't worry about anything." Worry has been defined as "a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." Anxiety can literally incapacitate us and render us useless in life. How high is your number on the "anxiety/worry meter?" Does worry, anxiety, stress, and restlessness rule your life? Does worry and anxiety keep you from being a happy and contented person?
In our society, worry contributes to stress which has been identified as a major cause of all sorts of physical and emotional disorders from coronary disease and strokes to obesity. But God's children are instructed, and given the resources, not to be anxious or worry. God is well aware of all the things in our lives that have the potential for causing anxiety, worry, and stress. And, in our passage today, he uses the apostle Paul to teach us to react in a healthy way to these circumstances.
Paul was writing from prison. He was separated from those he loved. Some were attempting to undermine and discredit all he had accomplished in starting churches. He was suffering physically and emotionally and was facing execution. Even in the face of these hardships, Paul said there would never be a crisis so severe and overwhelming that God would not bring peace even in the midst of it. Jesus said: "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).
God has never promised to remove all the stresses of life, but he will always carry the load for you if only you will let him do so. He wants each of us to experience the peace that surpasses all human understanding -- a supernatural peace. This peace is for everyone that knows Christ as Savior and Lord. But if we aren't careful, we will take the view that the troubles we are enduring are just too big and complicated to be accompanied by inner peace. To have this view is to limit God's power to work in your life. We're saying God can't do what he says He will do!
We must take God at his word. His Word clearly indicates there is nothing you can face that is to big, difficult, troubling, or fearful for Him. In all circumstances, turn your worry, stress, and anxiety over to Him and have faith that His perfect peace will guard your heart. Paul tells us to turn our worries into prayers. Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray. Remember, "Worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere!"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Dealing with Conflict

Chuckle: "We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public."
Good Quote: Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” --Martin Luther King, Jr.
          "Love must be sincere. . . Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself" (Romans 12:9,10 CEV). "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out" (Proverbs 17:14 NIV).
Are you involved in a conflict situation with a brother or sister? Is there someone who really gets under your skin by their words or actions and causes you to rise up in defiance with a desire to retaliate? Conflict does not have to be all out war to have devastating effects on our overall demeanor and our fellowship with fellow believers, not to mention destroying our joy and fellowship with our Lord. Unresolved mild disagreements can escalate into much more serious disputes when we allow ourselves to become angry and bitter.
Perhaps you are reluctant to try reconciliation because you don't know how he/she will react to your overtures. But you know, it really doesn't matter how they might react -- you still have the responsibility to love them and honor them above yourself. You may say, "but God must not understand what He is asking me to do. He must not understand how I feel and the fears and anxieties I'm experiencing." Oh yes He does.
God wants to teach us about Christ-like love, the kind of love that allowed Jesus to pray from the cross on behalf of those who were crucifying Him: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NIV). Jesus said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12 NIV). We must trust the Holy Spirit to help us show love to those for whom we may not feel love. We cannot do it in our own strength.
We can honor and show love to those with whom we have conflict by trying to understand their points of view. By viewing the issue from their perspective, you will be better able to display a Christ-like spirit toward them. Try to see them through the eyes of Jesus -- as His precious children for whom He died. Pray for them, give them the benefit of the doubt, and be willing to forgive.
Love and forgiveness are keys to resolving conflicts. "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Toes or Woes

Chuckle: Son to dad watching TV: "Dad, tell me again how when you were a kid you had to walk all the way across the room to change the channel."
Ponder this: "Nothing spoils a confession like repentance." --Anatole France
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).
I hope you participated in a worship service with your church last Sunday. If so, did being in God’s presence with other worshipers cause you to make changes in the way you live? Did the preaching of God's Word pierce and convict your heart of sin in your life? Did you respond to God's message by changing your attitudes, daily activities, and faithfulness to your church? Answers to these questions are terribly important in making our worship acceptable to God.
Years ago, I became aware of something that has caused me to evaluate my own worship and to better understand how people participate in and react to public worship. At the end of worship services, I noticed that some people would routinely say something like this to the pastor: "Pastor, that was a great message. You really stepped on my toes this morning." Then I noticed that, for some of those same people, experiencing God's presence in a public worship service did not result in observable changes in their behavior. Apparently they felt having their toes stepped on week after week was the goal of their worship experience.
Now, look with me at the attitude of Isaiah when he found himself in the presence of Almighty God. When confronted with God's Holiness, he immediately saw himself as an unworthy and sinful person in desperate need of God's mercy and forgiveness. He was so distraught about his condition that he exclaimed, "Woe to me for I am a man of unclean lips." When we find ourselves in a worship service and become aware that the God of the universe is present, that His Holy Spirit is working, and that He is speaking His Word to us through the music, the message, and prayers, our first reaction should be the same as Isaiah's: "Lord I am unworthy to be in your presence. Please forgive my sins and cleanse my unclean lips/life. Help me to adjust the way I live to bring honor and glory to your name."
Is it "Toes" or "Woes" when you go to church? Does your total experience leave you feeling good and happy, or is there also a time of self examination and repentance that makes you feel anything but happy? You see, it is not enough to go to church each Sunday, enjoy the music, listen to the message, and tell the pastor he stepped on your toes. Every worship experience -- every encounter with God -- should change us from the inside out. We should go into every service with open hearts anticipating what God wants to do in us. We should recognize that being in God's presence and hearing his voice should change our lives forever. If our lives are not changed after being in God's presence, we best examine our hearts to find out why.
Isaiah's reaction at being in God's Holy presence was to recognize his total depravity and unworthiness and to see his need for forgiveness and cleansing. When we reach this point of awareness in our worship, God can then change us and transform us into useful instruments for his kingdom's work. Once we have been cleansed, we can then rejoice and praise him for what he has done. Our worship should be a mixture of sorrow for our sins, repentance, confession, praise, joy and thanksgiving. But often I think we focus on the praise, joy, and thanksgiving, but neglect the repentance and sorrow for our sins. When we experience God's presence, each of us should ask, "do I experience woes or only stepped on toes?”
Love, Jerry & Dotse