Friday, February 24, 2017

The Bible: Life's Instruction Book


Psalm 111:10 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.

Once I helped a friend assemble a movie display at a theatre. This was not a simple display where he and I could just open the box and put the display on the wall. It was a complicated display that was nearly as tall as I am and twice as long. It had very complicated instructions.

We spent three hours inserting tab A into slot B while attaching strap C to holder D. It was obvious that whoever designed the display was a brilliant engineer with a flair for thinking of ways to make cardboard look like a whole city block. But they clearly did not know how to write instructions in plain English that non-engineers could understand. It took quite a while to figure out the difference between tab A and tab J and holder D and holder Z. But piece by piece we assembled the display. Following the directions exactly, one step at a time, we finally got the project done. It looked amazing when it was finished.

Life is a lot like building a complicated display. We do not just take life out of box and instantly have good marriages, healthy families, meaningful careers or vibrant spirituality. In order to make life work, there are a lot of things that have to be done in the correct order and at the right time. We need a set of directions for how to get through life. If we skip a step in those instructions, or try to take a short cut, life ends up lopsided.

Fortunately, there is a set of instructions for life. It is called the Bible. Many people think the Bible is out of date and no longer relevant to our post-modern culture. They clearly have not read the Bible carefully. The stories in the Bible reveal people dealing with many of the very same problems that we hear about in our modern era. In the Bible we can find stories of people facing financial issues, family problems, war, crime, and corrupt governments. We can find stories of believers making right choices, as well as believers making terrible choices. The Bible is full of stories about how people dealt with real life issues. It also contains a lot of helpful advice about how we can deal with our own issues in life. Though life is complicated, if we follow the instructions God gave us, like the movie display my friend and I assembled, life can end up looking pretty good when we get to the end.

Lord, help us to study the Bible more and follow Your directions life. Amen.

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This devotional is from the book “Heavenly Mundane” by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Right Information Leads to Right Choices

Psalm 33:11 - The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.

I was on the way to visit a friend at his home. He was interested in being involved in our ministry so I was eager to meet with him. I had never been to his home before but he gave me the address and I used by GPS to navigate my way there. However, when I arrived, I could not find the house. There were houses with numbers higher and lower than the address he had given me, but that house number was missing. After driving up and down the road a couple of times, I called him on his cell. We realized I had gone to Stevens Street, when I was actually looking for Stephens Street. The streets are pronounced the same way, but have a slightly different spelling. They are on opposite sides of town. I would have never found the address on the first street, because that address does not exist. We had a good laugh about it when I finally got to the right place. What a difference those letters made!

That experience made me think about how important it is to make sure we get our facts right before striking off on some task, journey or line of thought. If we have a faulty premise, it will lead us the wrong direction and we may never find what we are looking for. Even if the mistake is subtle or if it sounds right but is not, if our faulty premise takes us in a wrong direction, we will be frustrated and never may find what we are looking for.

For example, if we are considering marriage, if we start out thinking that if it does not work out, we can just get a divorce, that will impact how we handle conflict in our relationship. Such thinking leads us to a much different conclusion than we would come to if we went into it thinking we were going to stick with out no matter what and trust God to make the relationship what it should be.

If we are thinking about what college to go to, if we start out thinking which school has the best recreational activities, we will end up in a much different place than if we ask ourselves which school will best help us gain the training we need to achieve our career goals.

Examples are numerous, but the point is clear. We need to start off with right information and correct reasoning so we can head the right direction in life. How do we find the right info? Do some research. Discuss the issue with people who have already been there. Ask lots of questions. Most importantly, read the Bible and pray for guidance! The Bible is still relevant for today and God’s advice is always right. As we learn to trust in the Lord’s advice, we will head in the right direction in life.

Lord, help us listen to Your advice and follow Your directions. Amen.

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This devotional is from the book “Heavenly Mundane” by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Christianity 101

Mark 8:36-37 - For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Shortly after Pope Francis became Pope I heard an interesting comment on the news. The commentator was talking about Pope Francis and his emphasis on compassion for the vulnerable. In the banter back and forth between the various commentators, this fellow said, "It's just Christianity 101. The basis of Christianity is to help the poor." This commentator was not a theologian, nor was he an official spokesperson for Pope Francis, but he expressed a common idea that many people have, which is that the primary purpose of the church is to help the poor and needy.

While helping the poor and vulnerable is a key part of how Christianity demonstrates the love of Christ to others (James 1:27, John 13:35), it is not the basis of Christianity. The basis of Christianity is what Christ has done. Christianity 101 is that people, by nature and by choice, are sinners. Anyone who doubts this need only watch the nightly news to see the depravity of people. But Christianity 101 also says that God loves us and His love is more powerful than man's sinfulness. Christianity 101 teaches us that our messed up condition must somehow be corrected. After all, a loving God would never leave us in our messed up condition. This idea that sin must be atoned for is where our concept of justice comes from. Innately, we know that there is a consequence for bad actions and a price to be paid when a wrong is done. One does not have to be a theologian to understand that. Thousands of years of human history have clearly proven that we are incapable of fixing our messes ourselves, therefore, God sent His Son Jesus to earth to show us a better way to live. Jesus then offered Himself up as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, thereby satisfying the nature of justice, as well as setting an example for daily life. That is Christianity 101.

This does not mean that helping the poor and the needy is unimportant. Clearly Jesus expects us to do that, but helping the poor and needed is Christianity 201, not 101. People must first address their own sinfulness before they can help others in ways that make a long term difference. People must first find the love of God in their own life before they can adequately give that love to someone else through compassion that really helps, instead of a patronizing attitude that actually hurts.

Perhaps the problem with much of what the church is doing is that we have attempted to help the poor and needy without first finding the help that God gives in our own lives. We must first enroll in Christianity 101, and then progress to Christianity 201. When the church gets the order right, it will become what it was meant to be, a place for both spiritual peace and compassionate charity. Either one without the other is an incomplete picture of what the church is supposed to be.

Lord, help us know You personally in a real and vibrant way and then enable us to assist the poor with both their physical and spiritual needs. Amen.

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This devotional is from the book “Heavenly Mundane” by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Do We Believe in Ministry More Than Video Games?

Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
 
My primary ministry is to coordinate the work of my denomination in the region where I live. In that role I get to spend time with many fine young couples who have a passion for changing their corner of the world. They are often serving in challenging settings, whether off the beaten path rural communities or inner city urban areas. Many of them are serving small churches with limited budgets. Many of them are starting new churches in places underserved by existing congregations. One of the things I help them do is connect with partners who will stand with them in prayer, giving and volunteering until their ministry is strong enough to stand on its own. Those partners come from other area churches as well as from churches outside our area. It is a lot of work to find partners willing to sacrifice their time, their treasure and their talents to help a church they are not even part of. But the Lord touches hearts and partners join the cause.

One week a pastor sent a Facebook message to me. He had been working the social media angle pretty hard trying to find partners. Though some people had responded, many had not. In a pointed moment of realization it occurred to him that many of the people he was contacting about partnering with him were ignoring his messages about partnering but sending him countless messages inviting him to play games on Facebook. He found it ironic that they would talk to him a lot about video games but not about sharing Jesus with others. His message pondered what it would be like if he could get people as excited about partnering with him in ministry as they were about playing games on Facebook. I wonder the same thing.


People who tell me they do not have time to volunteer seem to have the time to play on both softball and basketball leagues. People who tell me they do not have money to donate somehow have the money to drive the latest model car with all the upgrades. Pastors who tell me their church is too stretched to help plant another church find money for another round of renovations in a sanctuary that already looks pristine. Church youth groups and senior adult groups go amazing sight-seeing trips on fully equipped buses, but seem unable to take those same people on a mission trip. Once I got a letter from a mega-church asking me for money. They wanted to build a $120,000 playground for the children in their already well-funded private school. I sent them a letter back suggesting they tithe off their playground fund to a church plant in New England. I never got a response.

The point I am trying to make is that we have somehow gotten our priorities all messed up. Now Christians play games and have fun instead of being about the business of winning others to Jesus. I am not suggesting that we should never have fun or play games, but somewhere along the line we must stop playing games with our faith and start doing whatever it takes to win our nation to Jesus.

Lord, help us be serious about the business of sharing Christ with those around us. Amen.

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This devotional is from the book “Heavenly Mundane” by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:


Monday, February 20, 2017

Jellyfish Declare God's Praise

Colossians 1:17 - He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.

When my family lived in Connecticut, we were members of the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. We would visit several times a year and it was always exciting to see what new sea creatures they had on display. We especially loved the jellyfish room. It was a whole room containing jellyfish of all types and sizes. Signs on the walls point out that jellyfish have no brains, no lungs, and no hearts, but are very much living creatures.

One case is filled with jellyfish no bigger than finger tips. Beside that case is a picture of the largest jellyfish ever found. It was the size of a school bus! Imagine a living creature the size of a school bus that has no brain, no lungs and no heart. God was being extra creative when He made that!

As my family loved the jellyfish room because we found it amazing how these creatures could be alive without the vital organs that most other creatures have. After one visit, we discussed how jelly

fish could even live. Without hesitation, my daughter replied, "Jesus!" What a great answer. Though we may not understand the vastness of the universe, every intricate piece of it points to a Creator. That Creator knew how to make living creatures that do not follow the rules that our limited understanding of science uses to explain the world around us. Jellyfish are a reminder that we serve a holy God who created all things and continues to hold all things together.

Lord, help me to find Your hand in all of creation. Amen.

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This devotional is from the book “Heavenly Mundane” by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. Dr. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: