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Archive for August, 2009

God’s treasure in waiting

The seed for a rich blessing was planted in me yesterday afternoon and I didn’t even know it.

Until this morning, that is.

The cool thing is that the young lady (I’ll refer to her as RB) talking with me about our out-of-state rental home didn’t know she was planting the seed that would germinate during my daily Bible reading time in the One-Year Bible.

I love how the Holy Spirit works.

Here is the passage that triggered my recollection of RB’s comments to me after our conversation yesterday turned from real estate over to matters of real importance — the things of faith.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18).

This statement by the Apostle Paul was made within the larger context of a believer’s hope in an eternal blessing despite the reality of earthly trials.

The principle of delayed gratification applies on so many settings, however.

And the capacity to embrace the long-term view of faith can be ours only as we comprehend the reality of God’s existence and His Truth.

Let me explain how this connects with yesterday’s events.

RB is a talented, single woman who has landed a job in the town where our rental home is located. She saw an advertisement about the home and contacted me. RB and I had a lengthy, faith-filled conversation yesterday that was followed by another lengthy conversation — also filled with faith — between RB’s mom and myself.

Lori also talked with RB last night and was blessed as was I in yet another conversation, this time more specifically involving the rental unit.

The portion of my conversations with RB that most stood out, though, was her stated commitment to do the right thing in her social life.

It’s important to understand that RB is an intelligent, vibrant, attractive woman who is a wonderful conversationalist. She is also young and single.

Most importantly, though, she’s committed to the Lord.

It is this last factor that prompted RB to unknowingly plant the seed that sprouted in a faith-affirming way this morning.

You see, as RB and I were discussing the challenge of waiting on the Lord for certain things in life, she mentioned that her faith is sustaining her as she waits on the Lord to introduce her to her future husband.

“I know he’s out there and the Lord is preparing him for me. I know that I certainly wasn’t ready a couple of years ago if I had met then the person God had planned for me,” she said.

RB said she wanted to be married and have kids and spend the rest of her life with a husband she adores. It’s just that until God brings that person into her life, she will not attempt to find a lesser substitute and rework him into what she wants.

She said that she had learned through experience that trying to fill this void without God’s help was not a good idea.

I told RB that I admired her faith and self-discipline and that I was convinced that God would honor that commitment at some point with a fantastic, role-model marriage.

And then this morning, I read, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”

I immediately thought of RB.

I’m convinced that God will bless RB’s faithfulness.

For she is certainly putting a smile on His face.

Smiling daddies are more prone to doing good things for their kids, aren’t they?

RB’s Abba Father is no different in that desire.

He IS different, though, in that He can bring a good thing that human hands cannot.

He CAN lead just the right, godly, intelligent, vibrant, attractive man to RB. And that guy will be a wonderful conversationalist.

I love how God is and I know I’ll love seeing how God works in this part of RB’s world.

You know, God will do really neat things for His Kingdom with a surrendered couple like this.

Hang in there, RB. Keep trusting. Keep waiting.

Fix your eyes on what is unseen to you just now, but that which God has already seen.

The application to the rest of us? Whether it involves the need for a job or for better health or for a car that doesn’t break down or for a more peaceful congregation or for a teen child to stop his/her defiance, TRUST the promise of Matthew 6:33.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (physical/emotional needs) will be given unto you.”

Please. Wait on God to carry out His will for your life.

After all, think of all the times He’s had to wait on you to carry out His will for His Kingdom.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Help a hurting person, for Christ's sake

Help a hurting person, for Christ's sake

Here we go again.

A twisted individual does disgusting, morally corrupt things while at the same time claiming to be a zealot for God.

Talk about gasoline on the fire of public skepticism toward the idea of faith!

I recognize that most people reading the bizarre story about the 18-year hostage in a California backyard will not blame Christianity for what happened.

Despite the confessed culprit’s declaration that he was an avid follower of God and talked to Him all the time, most people believe that whackos lack a true vertical connection.

Some people, though, will add another layer of “All Christians are phony fanatics” thinking to their wall of resistance to the true things of God.

It’s already difficult enough to connect with unsaved hearts now because of the carnal clutter resident within the lost person’s heart.

When extreme examples of religious people doing terrible things hit the news, however, the resistance to anything Christian sometimes grows even stronger.

The nearly unbelievable story unfolding in California will be exploited in books and movies, you can be sure.

The Enemy will certainly exploit it as well.

You know how Hollywood typically portrays religious people who do bad things.

The now-29-year-old woman and her two children by the perverted abductor are going to need a lot of ministry in the years ahead.

In fact, all those associated with this worse-than-Jerry-Springer-Show situation need prayer.

Lots of prayer.

While you’re praying for the abductee and her family, please pray that servant-hearted Christians quickly come alongside those in this conundrum of corruption and confusion.

The sooner the world sees that real Christianity is a nurturing, encouraging and restoring enterprise, the sooner the public will be steered away from thinking all Christians are whackos who exploit others for selfish purposes.

Oh yeah, and don’t just pray for those in this mess in California. Look for somebody in your circle of influence who needs nurturing, encouraging and restoring.

Perhaps that person’s life situation is twisted.

Perhaps it is quite mainstream but just damaged by a bad break.

In either case, just care enough to minister to them. Please.

The more that everyday people see Christians doing this stuff, the less likely they’ll be to embrace Satan’s lies that all Christians have deep “issues” and should be avoided.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When God thunders

'God's Painting' by David Lee

'God's Painting' by David Lee

Job was a gifted writer.

I’m convinced his ability with words was the overflow of his humility before God.

I’ve been a published writer since my high school days and have assembled millions of words in my efforts to communicate ideas. Yet, my mind is still captured by inspired composition whenever it crosses my path.

This 4,000-year-old letter not only impressed me this morning with its visual imagery and literary artistry, it delivers profound truth that aids our feeble minds in the pursuit of knowing just how amazing God really is.

Read the following passage and you’ll see what I mean:

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.

He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it.

He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.

The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke.

By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.

By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!

Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

(Job 26:7-14)

In the face of ongoing criticism from three companions-turned-condemning-critics, Job exalted the God in whom he had placed his trust.

Yes, Job didn’t understand why God allowed all the terrible calamities to come upon him.

Yet, he knew that God was sovereign and holy and perfect and omnipotent.

Simply put, Job’s human mind continued trusting his loyalty and submission to the almighty God even though his own eyes and own flesh could sense only pain.

You see, Job seemed to reason that if God could create and direct the domain of physical creation without even breaking a sweat, then the spiritual safety of his soul was secure since nobody could destroy that held close to God’s breast.

The above passage is really an amazing affirmation of our faith, isn’t it?

God can control the heavens and the oceans and shaking of the earth and these are just the “outer fringe” of his works?

These are just the “faint whispers” of the authority His voice possesses?

If you and I — as were the 12 apostles — are blown away by the fact that Jesus could simply speak three words to instantly stop a massive storm, then can you imagine the power wrapped up when God chooses to “thunder” with power?

Omagosh.

I believe that Satan heard that thunder. I believe that it was before Creation when God’s holy voice roared against the rebellious in heaven.

The divine rebuke and interim retribution against Satan and a third of the angels must have been one doozy of a thunderstorm, to use Job’s metaphor.

With the fourth most powerful voice in heaven screaming hatred — along with countless millions of fallen angels — I’m sure that heaven was anything but quiet at that moment. A voice above all voices had to be heard.

And it was.

Thank God.

The next time you hear the winds roaring like lion, think about Job’s words that the power represented in that wind is but the outer fringe of God’s capacity.

You can then take great comfort in knowing that the blasphemous, soul-hungry voice of Satan was shouted down in heaven by the same Jehovah that spoke your soul-rescuing Savior out of the grave.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Law of Attraction in original form

Law of Attraction in original form

As the most godly man on earth during his day, I’m sure that Job encountered people who thought his piety was a pile of baloney.

You know how it is.

You are profoundly grateful for the blessings in your life, realizing that many other people are just as nice and hard-working as you but don’t have the family you have, the health you have, the stuff you have and the hope you have.

You know that you are enjoying the fruits of God’s grace.

But every now and then, someone comes along who disputes the idea of God’s grace and claims that you’re just lucky or that you have good Karma.

If such a person has a bunch of stuff, he or she will sometimes act as if they are better than others and that wealth and popularity gravitated toward them because they deserved it.

Increasingly, the vanity minded are citing the so-called Law of Attraction as the catalyst for their creature comfort existence.

You’ve seen the infomercial advertising. Perhaps you even thought about buying one of the books or DVDs.

Yes, having stuff is nice.

But at what price?

Amazing, isn’t it? Those who dispute the existence of a Creator God — despite the the lack of a logical alternative for the origin of order before the Big Bang — are the same people who attribute their enrichment to inner chants of “I deserve for myself. I want. Others will serve me. I deserve for myself. I want. Others will serve me….”

The inner chants of one heart changing the flow of wealth and adoration in the world around them? Boy, that sure sounds like presumption of divine power.

No surprise there, of course. The Law of Attraction is a form of self-deification.

It’s much better to trust the Law of the Harvest.

Whereas the Law of Attraction says, “I deserve for myself. I want. Others will serve me,” the Law of the Harvest says, “I serve others. I wait. God will sustain me.”

The Law of Attraction focuses on self.

The Law of the Harvest focuses on God.

Yes, Job had been incredibly wealthy.

But’s that not why he served God.

Instead, Job served God because he understood who He was — the sovereign, holy Creator and Ruler of the universe.

“Though He slay me, still I will serve Him,” Job said.

Wow.

Job knew that his identity and true comfort was not rooted in the flesh but in his faith.

Faith in that which would never fail — his heavenly Father.

SO many people see the divine call to faith as checking a box so that they can get stuff from God.

Even loads of Christians live as if they believe this. Far too many media preachers rely on this magic wand in order to reach market share goals.

How sad.

Faith that truly honors God is that which loves Him and serves Him in the absence of stuff from God.

This kind of faith adores Jehovah because of who He is, not because of stuff received.

This is the kind of faith to which I aspire.

I pray that it is the kind of faith to which you also also aspire.

Why this topic today?

In Job 21:15, Job cites a rhetorical question I’m sure that he had heard many times during his faith-sharing efforts over the years. It’s a rhetorical question that you and I have likewise heard many times.

“Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?”

These two questions so often turn workplace Christians into spiritual jello because they are unprepared to answer them.

I’m sure that Job had good answers.

I’m also glad that Job understood, according to the balance of this book, that blindness to the source of blessing represented a blindness to the only path for deliverance from eternal destruction.

Dear friend, you’d do a wonderful thing for the Kingdom, for yourself and for the spiritually blind people around you if you prepared biblical, brief and personalized answers to the two questions above.

As you do so, you’re evangelistic influence with unsaved people will grow.

God will smile.

And that will be very good.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Everybody needs an oasis

Jessica - three years after swim lessons

Jessica - three years after swim lessons

When my daughters were learning how to swim years ago, it was important for me to stretch their measure of courage without placing them in danger of drowning.

First with Jessica and a couple of years later with Melissa, I’d stand in part of a pool that was deeper than they could touch with their feet. I’d then ask them to jump in and swim (actually splash and kick) to me, reassuring them that I would grab them and let them relax for a moment before they made their way to the other side.

You see, as small children uncertain of their ability to make it across the pool without help, I was a vital oasis of hope and strength.

They did make it to me every time and then, after a few moments of recharge, they’d make it to the other side.

The day came, of course, when they didn’t need me in the middle of the pool.

When it comes to Jessica’s and Melissa’s spiritual lives, however, they will always need their Abba Father in the middle of the pool we call life.

You see, every believer needs that oasis of hope and strength in dangerous places too deep for us stand on our own. (more…)

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The Gospel in a bag

Jesus with Lord's Supper cup

You’re quite familiar with the fact that Job suffered terribly as an indirect result of his faith.

Satan told God — in effect — that Job’s faith was simply an appeasement of God in order to keep getting more wealth and good times.

God disagreed and had so much confidence in Job that he allowed Satan to destroy everything in Job’s life except the fact of his being alive.

In a single day, his children were killed, all his possessions stolen or destroyed, his many servants were murdered and his own physical health decimated to the point just short of death.

Oh yeah, this was after his wife told him that he should just curse God and die.

Some kind of wife, huh?

In the days that followed, Satan sent along three “friends” who lectured Job on how his misfortune was God’s punishment for some sin that surely had to exist in his life.

The judgmental trio offered a few relevant insights about God that should not be ignored, yet their prevalent remarks were based on ignorance of Job’s context and pride of self.

Rather than comfort as friends are supposed to do, and which they did for the first seven days with Job, they resorted to condemnation.

And we think we have problems?

As I read chapters 12-15 this morning in the One-Year Bible, however, I was profoundly encouraged by vv. 13-18 of chapter 15.

Remember what Job was enduring when he recorded these words. Perhaps then you’ll understand a bit more as to why God was SO proud of him and later poured out blessings on him that exceeded those which he had lost.

If a man dies, will he live again?

All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.

You will call and I will answer You;

You will long for the creature Your hands have made.

Surely then You will count my steps but not keep track of my sin.

My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;

You will cover my sin.


Wow.

This is an amazing Old Testament glimpse of the Gospel that Jesus Christ would bring to the world.

Job and Jesus overcame incredible amounts of physical pain, but both knew that people weren’t saved spiritually because they could take pain better than everybody else.

Instead, they knew that eternal hope only comes through God’s choice to not hold a person’s sins against them.

The fact is that salvation only comes by grace.

If I want to go to heaven, God has to seal my offenses up in a bag and throw them into the furnace of hell.

If I want to live forever, my sins have to be covered.

In Jesus, God did both.

God took the punishment for all my sins — past, present and future — and poured it into the flesh of Jesus when He hung on the cross.

He was the bag that was tossed into the torment of hell in order to satisfy the justice due my sins and your sins, too.

And His blood was the covering that I needed so that God would see a soul robed in righteousness and graciously qualified to enjoy a spiritual relationship with God forever.

Dear friend, in the midst of your worst nightmares of pain and heartache, keep praying that God not only sustains you but that He speaks through you into the lives of others.

Pray that your words of praise in the times of pain will honor Him and equip others to see your confidence in Christ.

Perhaps those observing your faith will draw strength from your words just as you and I have drawn strength and evangelistic insight from the words of Job.


As always, I love you
Martin

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The most important ministry

You're not alone

You're not alone

How important is a prevailing attitude of Christlike love to the health of a congregation?

It is everything, that’s how important.

I was reminded of this today while reading from I Corinthians 13 in the One-Year Bible. The Apostle Paul’s words in this 13-verse 13th chapter are unmistakable in meaning.

Paul lists five dramatic demonstrations of religious belief that many believers would cite as “slam-dunk” proof of Christian faithfulness, yet apparently do not indicate the core nature of the heart.

I have to tell you that this is a very potent revelation.

Consider the troubling fact that Paul said one can have the following five abilities and still not have the love of Christ in his or her heart:

  • “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels”
  • “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge”
  • “If I have a faith that can move mountains”
  • “If I give all I possess to the poor”
  • “(If I) surrender my body to the flames”

Without a humble, serving love in one’s heart for other people, people who can do the above are — according to Paul — resounding gongs, clanging cymbols who amount to nothing of Kingdom value and gain nothing from their efforts.

Wow!

Like you, I’ve met people who seemingly feel very good about themselves because of their practicing one or more of the above abilities. Yet my inner being did not feel at peace about the measure of love that person felt toward me.

Actually, I had the sense that I was seen as less important, less blessed, less “favored” because I wasn’t doing what they were.

I certainly pray that others have not seen such an attitude in me.

It would be terribly unfaithful on my part for others to see abilities for ministry demonstrated by me and then wonder if I had love in my heart toward them. For such would not be a good testimony of Christ’s place in my heart.

Paul wrote the 13 verses of I Corinthians 13 to a congregation wracked by strife. Some thought they were better than others because they could do ministry stuff that others couldn’t. And that vanity was showing up in how they treated each other.

It must have been sickening to Paul and even more sickening to the Lord.

It’s no surprise that Paul, demonstrating amazing self-control and patience and love, pointed them toward the pattern that was godly — striving to show an attitude toward others that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (verse 7).

The most potent expression of worship at church is not the classy music or the polished sermon or the lovely platform arrangement or the nice carpet or the snazzy foyer or even the physical appearance of the worship team.

And it is certainly not the showy stuff up front that gets way too much attention from certain faith traditions tied to a worship-checklist mentality.

If there are wounded sheep in the flock and the leaders/members aren’t rushing to pour love into those who are hurting or confused, then it doesn’t matter how much emotionalism happens at the altar or how much profound oratory occurs at the pulpit or how much personal wealth is placed into the offering plate.

The congregation is still spiritually bankrupt at the core.

If you are a congregational leader, please focus on first things first.

Show love to all your members. Real love. Patient love. Forgiving love. Disrupt-your-evening-until-10:30 p.m. love.

And then guide your members into doing the same for others.

Considering the following two scenarios:

  • a “plain Jane” worship service where members truly and graciously love each other, or…
  • an elaborate worship service where members watch polished, spiritual performers but then don’t take the time to minister to one another

Which service do you think God would rather attend?

You get the point.

Please set your heart to share your love more actively, patiently, graciously and consistently with those in your congregation.

They need you to be as Christ to them.

And you need them to do the same for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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