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Archive for July, 2009

 

Dressed for church -- 1992

Jessica, Melissa dressed for church -- 1992

    

    The passage has only 13 words, yet even the thickest book in the world cannot chronicle the verse’s cumulative impact on the world.     
    When you see Proverbs 20:7 demonstrated in the life of ones close to you, you realize the undeniable truth that God’s Word is true and relevant.
   
    “The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him.”  (NIV)
 
    At first glance, the words seem like a no-brainer.
    Do right and your kids are blessed.
    What caring father would not want blessings for his children?
    It’s almost like a wise grandmother telling a younger mom to buy and cook good, natural food and her kids will be healthier.
    It all sounds so easy, so simple.
    It obviously isn’t easy, however, because the vast majority of fathers don’t live blameless lives, just like the vast majority of moms don’t buy only good, natural food.
    As a result, our children suffer spiritually because of sometimes-poor role-modeling by dads and they suffer physically because of sometimes-poor nutrition provided by moms.
    This should not be.
    But it is.
    How do you fare in this matter?
    It would be foolhardy for me to claim sinlessness for all my years since my children, Jessica and Melissa, were born.  Even though I’ve had occasion when I needed to fall at the feet of Jesus in search of forgiveness, I have pointed my heart to the Lord so that my steps might be more like His.
    You see, I’ve wanted to be righteous, not only to honor my Savior but to also experience the blessing of His presence in my life.  For as He was with me, I was a better role model for my children.
    Blessed with fatherhood, I had a responsibility to be a good shepherd to them.
    It was my duty — and still is in modified ways — to lead them beside quiet waters of emotional safety.
    It was my duty to provide for them to lie down in green pastures and set at the table of financial provision.
    I was to comfort them with my protection from external enemies (my rod) and from their own failures (my rescuing staff).
    I wanted to make sure that they understood the divine offer of goodness and mercy that could go with them all the days of their lives.
    I knew that if Jessica and Melissa saw me authentically trying to live for God in this life, then they would be more likely to choose Christ so that they would dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
    God’s promise in Proverbs 20:7 has been true in my life, even though I’ve stumbled at times along the way.
    He is SO good.
    For both of my children are blessed.
    Richly blessed.
    They are saved.
    They are serving God in very influential ways.
    They are loved by many.
    And they have a limitless love stored up for them in their earthly daddy’s heart.
    Yep, God is good.
    Men, whether your children are yours by blood or yours by relationship with another, invest in their future blessings by submitting yourself more fully to the call of God for righteous living.
    Do for the children what God does for us as described in Psalm 23.
    The more that men in our nation do these things, the more that the children of our future will share in the blessings that God longs to share.
 
As always, I love you
Martin 
   
   
   If you’d like to read the Morning Devotion without having to open your e-mail program, just click on the preceding link and then save the blogsite in your favorites list.  Find the newly added link in your favorites and right-click on it, selecting the copy option.  Then go your desktop screen and right-click again, selecting the paste option.  The icon should appear from which you can open the Morning Devotion each weekday.
  

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When the silence is SO loud

    The silence was so loud.    
    I couldn’t help but to be swept away in the visual imagery of II Chronicles 20:13.
    Countless thousands of Hebrews were gathered at the temple for a worship service called by King Jehoshaphat.  The occasion was the looming attack by a three-nation army that was militarily stronger and way more bloodthirsty than what the king’s army could resist.
    The people were facing destruction and knew their only hope was God’s intervention.
    The king stood in the temple and looked at the teeming masses of frightened people in the outer courtyard and spoke a prayer that included these words:
 
    “O our God, will you not judge them (enemies)?  For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you”  (II Chron. 20:12)
 
    There is no overt mention of a long pause after the king’s words, but the inference is clear from following words that such did occur.
 
    “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord”  (v. 13)
 
    The passage goes on to say that a Levite name Jahaziel was inspired by God to tell the crowd that victory would come if the people would trust God and praise Him abundantly.
    They did praise.
    And victory did come.
    God’s promise came true.
    What was the battle cry, shouted over and over as the enemies — confused by the Spirit of God — were slain by one another to the point of no survivors?
 
    “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever”  (v. 21).
 
    Wow.  There was no “Eat dirt, you pagan!”  or “You shouldn’t have skipped church when you were a kid, so now you die!”
    If you’ll read II Chronicles 20, you’ll see a wonderfully encouraging reminder of why loving and serving God is a good idea.
    What I want you to grasp more than anything else today, however, is the importance of calmly trusting God to be your Deliverer and showing it by choosing to join with others in worship, even when the future looks so dark.
    Notice that verse 13 doesn’t say, “After buying ammo and after shifting their investments overseas, the people gathered for worship.”
    Faced with a crisis, they went straight to the temple to join with others in seeking God’s intervention.
    And they did so without complaining about God’s failures to protect them or whatever.
    They, more than anything else, showed their trust by simply being in God’s house.
    They knew that their words wouldn’t change much.
    But they also knew that their quiet trust in God’s power and promise WOULD change everything.
    So as they stood there trusting and praying, God’s heart was moved.
    And the defeat of the enemy was assured.
    Dear friend, you might be facing a huge battle just now.  You might be in it or it might be approaching.
    Learn from the quiet crowd at the temple.
    Learn that victory comes through patient trust while in God’s house, combined with powerful praise while out in the battle.
    Even when you’re in church, trusting much and saying little, your voice of faith is pleasing to God and deafening to the Enemy.
   
As always, I love you
Martin
 
 
   
   If you’d like to read the Morning Devotion without having to open your e-mail program, just click on the preceding link and then save the blogsite in your favorites list.  Find the newly added link in your favorites and right-click on it, selecting the copy option.  Then go your desktop screen and right-click again, selecting the paste option.  The icon should appear from which you can open the Morning Devotion each weekday.
  

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A difficult decision

From undeniable darkness into the undefined light

From undeniable darkness into the undefined light

 
    It must have been a terribly hard decision for them and their families.
    Thousands of ministers from around the country had seen their national leaders defiantly reject God’s authority and pattern for worship.  They had seen those who condoned immorality and self-adoration while embracing the worship of political power and things made with human hands.
    The faithful ministers knew that the new regime didn’t want them around.  They also were disgusted by the popular and official approval given to religious leaders who condoned rampant, public sin and the worship of golden idols.
    The efforts to dissuade the masses from the rush to sin had been met with blasphemous words and attitudes toward God and toward the faithful ministers.
    It was clear that the hardhearted crew was not going to change, at least through the efforts of the faithful.
    Should the faithful stay and live in the cesspool of hatred and decadence?
    Or should they leave, forfeiting their farms, their side businesses, their friendships, their established routines?
    What would you do?
    The book of 2 Chronicles describes this situation in chapter 11.  Read in the larger context, you’ll see how it plays out.
 
   “The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him (Rehoboam).  The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD.  And he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made.     
   “Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers.  They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time.”
 
    It’s interesting to note that the priests and the Levites didn’t have a much better option to which they could go.
    Scripture is clear that King Rehoboam of the Southern Kingdom was a scoundrel, just as was Jeroboam, king of the Northern Kingdom.
    The point is that the faithful ministers didn’t leave because life was going to be smooth sailing in the south.
    Instead, they and the faithful within their congregations left behind countless amounts of real estate wealth and business opportunity simply because they could accomplish more for the Kingdom of God where there was still at least some measure of receptive soil for their seeds of scriptural teaching.
    It was about stewardship, really.
    The faithful ministers went where they believed that they could accomplish more for God. 
    Many of you reading this devotion can relate in some sense to this story.
    In a way, it might describe a workplace situation that you faced and which you left because of blasphemous attitudes that developed.  You lost out financially because of your choice, but you recognized your responsibility to be where you could do more good for the Kingdom.
    Perhaps your situation involved a change of neighborhoods after seeming “filth factories” moved in all around your house and your efforts to shine the light of faith toward the newbies was met not with indifference but with blunt animosity bent on destroying your sense of well-being and even your faith.
    Perhaps you watched with great pain how “a new Pharoah” gained influence within your congregation and pumped spiritual poison into life after life and even the leadership was caught up in the decay of faith. 
    As happens far too many times in churches, Jesus was evicted as Lord — other than in word — and personal agendas reigned supreme.  Those who asked, “Hey, but what about the Bible’s teaching on this?” were seen as troublemakers rocking the boat and were tossed over the side socially and in an influence sense.
    The above three situations are desperately unpleasing.  Yet, God often leads people to different jobs or different neighborhoods or different congregations just so they can regain more productivity for Him.
    At such times, the faithful are not abandoning their mission for the sake of an easy way out.
    Instead, they are accepting a new assignment to a place with more opportunity.
    During my years in ministry, I’ve tried my best to stay put in a ministry for however long wanted me there.  It has been really tough to do so at times because of the challenges I faced of various sorts.
    I never wanted to leave simply because things got tough.
    Instead, I left when God concurrently opened one door while closing another.
    It was all about stewardship, not comfort zone.
    From a career-progression perspective alone, my philosophy has limited the growth of earthly status among the preacher crew.
    But from an integrity status, I have peace with my pattern of staying put — even in difficulties — until it is crystal clear to me that God has opened a door elsewhere for me to accomplish more for Him.
    If you’re facing a difficult situation just now, please pray earnestly that God show you His will for your life, whether it be hanging tough where you’re at as He works through you to change hearts OR in hanging your banner of faith in a different place where all the hearts are not yet hardened and gospel seeds land on soil, not concrete.
    One other thing.  Please pray that our nation turns from its current path of decaying faith, particularly at a national leadership level.
    I really don’t want to think about having to do the 2 Chronicles 11 thing. But if that is how He leads, then that is what I’ll do. I pray that you choose the same.
 
As always, I love you
Martin
     
   
   If you’d like to read the Morning Devotion without having to open your e-mail program, just click on the preceding link and then save the blogsite in your favorites list.  Find the newly added link in your favorites and right-click on it, selecting the copy option.  Then go your desktop screen and right-click again, selecting the paste option.  The icon should appear from which you can open the Morning Devotion each weekday.
  
 

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sepia tone cross at sunrise header

   
    I’m so grateful for the people who long ago showed me where to find the light switch for my soul.
    Life was SO much better after turning that switch.
    In a physical sense, I have plenty of reminders that walking in the dark is not a good idea.
    Particularly from the knees down.
    It’s a good thing that our big toes are big.  For if they were the size of our little toes, we likely would have destroyed them long ago on bedposts, door frames, sidewalk curbs, etc..
    As it is, we’ve all gone pentecostal at one time or another after smashing our toes into unseen, immoveable objects.
    The fact is that life is better with light than without.
    Life is better when I turn on the switch, physically and spiritually, than when I don’t.
    Psalm 18:28 reminds me that, for the faithful person, God turns darkness into light.
    Hallelujah!
    Whenever I ask God to open my eyes and reveal His glory and provision into my path, my fears begin to fade.
    I see more clearly the stepping stones that He has laid out and I am invited by the Holy Spirit to emerge from the shadows on the fringe of faith.
    God calls me to trust Him as I take His hand and move toward eternity on the narrow path where there are no shadows.
    God never drags us onto the path, my friend.
    He simply invites.
    Then He blesses as we throw the switch of trust within our hearts and minds.
    Hmmmm…….
    God is SO good at turning darkness to light.
    God turns my darkness to light when I feel lost in a cave of carnal chaos from which nobody else would even want to find me, let alone lead me to safety.
    God turns my darkness to light when I’m in a clueless fog about how to sincerely remedy a relationship screw-up.
    God turns my darkness to light when I or someone I love is facing a health challenge for which medical workers have no encouraging answers.
    God turns my darkness to light when I don’t know how to break through the faith-resistant shell of a dear friend who needs salvation in Jesus.
    The fact is that every believer has experienced multiple occasions when God turned darkness to light.  I encourage you to prepare a list of such occasions in your life so that you might cobble together a testimony of why trusting God is the best way to live.
    With such a testimony, you’ll be better prepared to do that which Jesus also commissioned the Apostle Paul to do for the Gentiles:
 
    “To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of their sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me”  (Acts 26:18  KJV).
 
    Jesus loved people and so He made the difficult choice to enter their chaotic, carnal world — with all its pitfalls and slop — so that some might turn the switch of their hearts from darkness to light.
    Will you join me in praying for wisdom so that you and I might become more willing to do the same toward those in our lives still gripped by the lies of this chaotic, carnal world?
 
As always, I love you
Martin
   
 
   
     
   
   If you’d like to read the Morning Devotion without having to open your e-mail program, just click on the preceding link and then save the blogsite in your favorites list.  Find the newly added link in your favorites and right-click on it, selecting the copy option.  Then go your desktop screen and right-click again, selecting the paste option.  The icon should appear from which you can open the Morning Devotion each weekday.
  
 

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The poverty of pride

Jesus, 12,  teaching at the Jerusalem temple
Jesus, 12, teaching at the Jerusalem temple
    Those prideful with knowledge are among the poorest of understanding.
    It is not the information that cheapens them, but instead their attitude.
    It’s ironic when you think about it, actually.
    We are all turned off by a “know it all” personality.  Yet, haven’t we all have tasted the sugar-coated temptation to elevate ourselves above others because of our attainment of knowledge?
    The fact is that old dogs always need to learn new tricks.
    How foolish would I appear to others if I stood in the middle of a computer store and shouted, “I am the greatest typewriter repairman in the world.  Ask me any question about fixing typewriters and I will amaze you with my knowledge!”
    The longer I held to this blind pride of nearly irrelevant knowledge, the poorer I would become in terms of readiness for life today.
    Whether for our personal relationships, our workplace competency, our nutritional practices or our church conduct, the key to growing in blessing is growing in knowledge.
    If you fall into the trap of thinking that you know enough because you know more than others, then I have a great deal on typewriters for you.
    The longer I live, the more I realize how little I know.
    Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible nailed this truth today in a way that sharpened my appetite for learning, even though the mandate of humility was included.
    “Rebuke a discerning man and he will gain knowledge”  (Proverbs 19:25)
    Wow.
    God knows that even discerning people need more knowledge.
    And sometimes, discerning people grow too comfortable in their mastery of information and they overconfidently believe they know all they need to know.
    That’s when subtlety must be replaced by directness.
    Such as when the preacher warns the married elder that he’s playing with fire by counseling a lonely, single woman alone at a coffee shop.
    Or such as when the elder warns the preacher about the same.
    A wise elder or preacher will then recognize the danger and will be glad for the pointed warning.  He will change his counseling strategy to always include his wife or at least another church member in the counseling session.
    It is humbling, yes, to hear such warnings since we realize that we should have known better.
    Yet, it is far better to be humbled in advance of a judgment disaster than to be terribly humbled after a judgment disaster.
    You and I aren’t Jesus and we’re going to fail sometimes by thinking we don’t need more knowledge in a certain area of our lives.
    When God sends someone — even if just the Holy Spirit — to rebuke us in our pride of knowledge, let’s do the faithful thing and show ourselves to be people of discernment.
    Let’s swallow our pride and swallow the pill of rebuke for the sake of progress.
    We’ll be better equipped to serve God and other people.
    And we’ll deny Satan the pleasure of seeing us trust ourselves rather than trust God.
 
As always, I love you
Martin
   
  
     
   
   If you’d like to read the Morning Devotion without having to open your e-mail program, just click on the preceding link and then save the blogsite in your favorites list.  Find the newly added link in your favorites and right-click on it, selecting the copy option.  Then go your desktop screen and right-click again, selecting the paste option.  The icon should appear from which you can open the Morning Devotion each weekday.
  
 

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   Anastasia with a small shell

    I saw a little girl’s face this morning while reading from Psalm 17 in my One-Year Bible.
    I thought of the photo I downloaded yesterday that showed this adorable child standing with her adoring parents on the shoreline of an island just inside the Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast.
  It’s clear in the photo and in my own interaction with Anastasia and her parents, Vince and Tania, that this girl knows that she is loved.
     In fact, the innocent depth of the love she feels is beautiful to behold because it is untainted.
    She hasn’t known what I call an asterisk love, the kind we’ve all experienced with the conditions-based fine print.
    Anastasia instead has the pure, perky, engaging, bubbling love that God desires for all children.
    If only all adults had the measure of responsibility and unselfishness to supply it to them.
    It has been a pleasure to meet and learn more about Vince and his family since their arrival in Sebastian last Thursday.  The family lives outside of London, England and visits the area periodically because of very close friends who live here, Curt and Rosemarie Oxford.
    We all went for a boat ride last Saturday and it was a delightful time.  I particularly loved spending time with Anastasia as she walked on sandbars and looked at shells, crabs, fish, plant life and even a decaying sea turtle carcass.
Vince and girls at inlet island    I was reminded of how much I enjoyed my daughters Jessica and Melissa when they were the same age.
    As I held Anastasia’s hand and attempted to answer her questions about this and that, I recognized that she was a bright, inquisitive child. 
    More importantly, though, I unmistakably sensed that she was extremely healthy in an emotional sense.
    This doesn’t happen by accident.
    This is the fruit of good parenting.
    You see, Anastasia knows that she is the apple of her parents’ eyes.
    She knows that her heart and every part of her being is safe in their protective arms.   
    Unfettered by uncertain love, Anastasia can enjoy exploring the opportunities of childhood without reservation.
    Children like Anastasia have bright futures.
    Thank you, Vince and Tania, for determining that Anastasia would have a more nurturing childhood than did either of you.  The world needs more “cycle breakers” such as yourselves.
    I share this information about Anastasia and her parents because of how her joyful life and abundant potential provides a tangible parallel to what God desires and offers for His children, those who have declared Christ as their Savior.
    Here are the words of Psalm 17:8 that so stirred me this morning.  It is believed that King David wrote these words that were directed at his heavenly Father.
     
    “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
 
    This, dear friend, is the epitome of intimacy.
    To know that seeing me prompts a sparkle in God’s eye makes me feel incredibly valued. 
    To think that God would liken me to that delicious apple that He longs for in order to satisfy His hungry heart… well, that is amazingly affirming to my sense of self and emotional security.
    And to know that He wants to protect me under His broad and strong wings, this too is encouraging since I know well those difficult and dumb times when I thought my wings were tough enough and wide enough to overcome this world.
    Desired by God’s heart and secured by His wings.   Hmmm……
    Understanding these gifts from God are what draws me ever closer to Him, ever closer to the intimacy that He wants and that I need.
    Anastasia’s relationship with Vince and Tania reminds me of what God wants with me and what He wants with you.
    Please, dear friend, understand that God wants you to savor the joy of knowing that you are the apple of His eye. 
    Understand that He wants you to stand securely in the shadow of His wings.
    Choose Jesus as Savior and you’ll allow both God and yourself to experience the promise of Psalm 17:8.
 
As always, I love you
Martin
     
  

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Don’t forget item 12

     
     
    At first, I thought King David had crafted an 11-item checklist for faithful living.  And that’s what I determined was my mission this morning to address in the Morning Devotion.
    But then I realized that there were actually 12 items on the checklist, with the most important one being implied rather than shouted.
    Here are the 11 items from Psalm 15:1-4 that God delivered to believers through the pen of David.  I’ve reformatted the items into a checklist form for you to conduct a personal assessment of how often you practice these standards:

     “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
 
Always    Sometimes    Rarely
__                __                 __       He whose walk is blameless

__                __                 __       and who does what is righteous,

__                __                 __       who speaks the truth from his heart

    As I said above, all of these are vital to a God-pleasing life.  But the missing item in this list is huge when you realize what I did this morning.
    You see, there are countless good, unsaved people who do these things and yet are still going to hell.
    Even though they honor Christians because of respect for their integrity and attitude of self-sacrifice, these unsaved people haven’t chosen to place themselves into the Father’s hands.
    They haven’t chosen to dwell in the sanctuary.
    They haven’t embraced the core life passion for living on God’s holy hill of fellowship with Jehovah and His family.
    As important as the list above is for the purpose of demonstrating my faith, it is not a substitute FOR my faith.
    I cannot keep this checklist and get to heaven on my good works.
    Rather, these good works are prescribed by God as a means of showing that my heart belongs to God.
    They are to be the sure-fire signs that my heart’s desire is to dwell in the sanctuary of God’s presence and live forever on His holy hill that we know as heaven.
    Dear friend, please do your best to live an exemplary life that reflects deep character and disciplined commitment to doing what is right.
    But always understand that how you live your life is always to be a reflection of who you are living for.
    The wrap-up?  Lifestyle is always to be a reflection of faith, never a replacement for faith.
    Resist Satan’s trap of leading you into trusting good works for your salvation rather than your need for recurring intimacy with God in the sanctuary.
    Don’t skip church just because you are a really nice person.
    A lot of really nice people won’t be in heaven because they stopped caring about being in church, God’s earthly, temporary forerunner of His sanctuary.  For in not caring about fellowship with God in His house, such people show that God isn’t ruler — and the Redeemer — of their lives.
    Please remember item 12, my friend.
    I really do want to meet you in heaven.
 
As always, I love you
Martin
   Please consider clicking this link each day to read the Morning Devotion at my blog and you’ll have an opportunity to post comments for others to read of your insights on spiritual growth. You’ll see a more graphically interesting presentation. And you’ll also have a search option to look for certain topics in past devotions. 
   If you’d like to read the Morning Devotion without having to open your e-mail program, just click on the link above and then save the blogsite in your favorites list.  Find the newly added link in your favorites and right-click on it, selecting the copy option.  Then go your desktop screen and right-click again, selecting the paste option.  The icon should appear from which you can open the Morning Devotion each weekday.
   The more readers that follow the Morning Devotion via the blog, the higher the ranking in search engines.  And that means that more people surfing the Web for devotional material will find this ministry, with some of them hopefully finding Jesus Christ as a result. Thank you for considering this request.
 

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__                __                 __       and has no slander on his tongue,

__                __                 __      who does his neighbor no wrong

__                __                 __      

and casts no slur on his fellowman,

__                __                 __      

who despises a vile man

__                __                 __      

but honors those who fear the LORD,

__                __                 __      

who keeps his oath even when it hurts,

__                __                 __      

who lends his money (to believers) without usury (interest)

__                __                 __      and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

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