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Archive for August, 2009

Diluting the pain

What the hurting need

What the hurting need

We’ve all had those midnight miseries when we jammed our toe on the bedpost or doorframe and, instantly, our entire body recoiled and started hopping.

Interesting thing is that the leg didn’t have to have a meeting with the other leg to decide if there was merit in the idea of jumping up and down for a bit.

Also, the arms and hands didn’t have to send e-mails to one another to decide if they were inclined to even care that the big toe was hurting and needed support. They just reached and held as soon as they could.

And the eyes? Did they have to review their record of looking at that ugly, sometimes smelly toe and then decide if they should look again at the bruised, throbbing toe once the bathroom light was switched on?

Nope.

The fact is that the members of our body immediately, instinctively react when the toe gets jammed and the message goes out, “I’m hurt! Help!”

It’s just how God wired our physical bodies.

“Ouch!” of one => help from many.

It’s the natural order of things.

It’s also the biblical order of things for how church members are to support one another.

In my reading this morning from the One-Year Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote these words:

“There should be no division in the body… its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (I Cor. 12: 25-26)

Lori and I visited a congregation Sunday that has a number of hurting members.

There is a lot of “Ouch!” happening in the flock.

Some of the flock members are reaching out to help those hurting more than they. May God bless them richly for doing so.

Real recovery will begin, however, when the mutual comforting of members becomes the rule rather than the exception.

This is what Lori and I are praying for regarding this group of wounded believers.

They know that there should be no division in the body.

But there is.

Fifty pastors and mental health counselors could go into the place and do the Monday morning quarterback thing until Jesus comes back and it wouldn’t come close to having the restorative impact of the members CHOOSING to comfort one another in the midst of their own discomfort with how things were.

Scripture says that because some are suffering, all are suffering.

Just as when your whole body recoils when you really jam your big toe in the darkness.

To comfort others though I am feeling discomfort is not easy.

It is contrary to my human nature.

That’s why I need an infusion of Christ’s nature.

That’s why I need Jesus.

They more that I imitate Christ, the more that I can imitate His concern for others in the midst of His sorrow.

Dear friend, somebody in your congregation is really hurting right now. Whether their pain is because of a careless step in the darkness or because of another’s deed, you are called to care. And you are called to comfort.

In fact, that’s how God wired the body we know as the church.

Help your hurting church friend. Please.

You don’t need to conduct a survey among your church friends as to if you should care and if you should offer some form of help.

As a fellow believer, God wired you to hear the Holy Spirit’s call to help as soon as you can, not after you think the hurting soul has felt enough pain to learn his or her lesson.

If you don’t know a church friend who is hurting, then ask your pastor who you might encourage. He’ll certainly know somebody who could use some comforting.

That way, once the pain subsides, the joy of a strengthened relationship will spill over into a strengthened congregation. That will bring honor to your faithfulness and ultimately to the power of the gospel.

I love how God’s system really does work.

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 in doubt, DIG!

When in doubt, DIG!

(OK, this is a bit longer than normal but I pray that you’ll be blessed by this vital teaching laid on my heart this morning.)

Even highly motivated pastors can fall into the trap of a sour-grapes attitude when congregations don’t believe their biblically sound teaching is true to God’s will.

Instead of carrying on with humble, loving ministry during this season of congregational dispute, some pastors sometimes became withdrawn or choose to go on the offensive, as in being offensive to anybody who doesn’t agree with them.

“They don’t agree with me, even though I’m teaching the Word accurately? What’s the use for me to share this stuff about Jesus? If my own church won’t embrace the truth as I teach it, then why should I share it with anybody else?” some pastors/preachers/ministers might think.

Pastors are human and encountering such frustrations is to be expected.

Embracing the Enemy’s whispered suggestions to gripe is another matter, though.

Regardless of the resistance to the Truth that we might find in our closest circles, particularly at church, we are to ALWAYS look for simple, humble ways to share the love of Christ and His gospel with people we encounter, even the strangers that we might never see again.

I share this idea today because of the inspiration I gleaned last night from Acts 15:3. In our home Bible study on that chapter, we examined how the Apostle Paul and fellow preacher Barnabas had been involved with an intense theological debate within the Christian church at Antioch of Syria.

The topic was whether male converts to Christianity also had to be circumcised in keeping with the Jewish/Mosaic law. A number of converted Jews said, “Yes!” Paul and Barnabas said “No!”

You and I know, of course, that requiring circumcision as an additional condition of salvation is terribly false teaching that presumes that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was insufficient for the saving of man’s soul.

Surprisingly, the church leaders in Antioch didn’t put their foot down here.

They punted.

They said that they wanted the church leaders in Jerusalem to make the decision about what to tell the Christians.

Paul and Barnabas had to have known that this was a cop-out. They went along with the plan anyway, knowing that a final ruling from the Jerusalem leaders might put an end to the internal squabbling among Christians regarding the circumcision issue.

Here’s where the inspiration for me came this morning.

“The church sent them (Paul and Barnabas) on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad.”

The theological confusion afflicting their home church because of weak leadership had to have been SO disconcerting to Paul and Barnabas.

And to have to travel for weeks by foot to get official answers from Christianity’s mother church in Jerusalem might have seemed like a lot of hassle.

Remember, Paul and Barnabas had just returned from a long, exhausting missionary journey.

Rather than moan and groan about a trip that would end up with the answers Paul had already stated, the two preachers redeemed the time.

In fact, they allowed the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their hearts to celebrate the magnetic power and victories of the gospel.

Wherever and whenever they encounted believers enroute to Jerusalem, they shared how God had saved Gentile souls through the preaching and teaching of the Word.

Of course, every believer with a soft heart and a willing mind had to have praised the Lord.

I suppose that some Phoenician and Samarian Gentiles who heard the words of Paul and Barnabas might have responded to the gospel message. If this happened on the spot or as a later result of more excited Christians in those towns, then Romans 8:28 was clearly confirmed.

All things did work together for the good of those who loved the Lord and were called according to His purposes.

The Jerusalem trip that Satan intended as a frustrating distraction actually turned out to be an opportunity for vital ministry.

All because Paul and Barnabas looked for every opportunity to glorify God and to share testimony on the hope and blessings found in choosing Christ as Savior.

The application to your life?

Sometimes people will try to manipulate scripture in order to keep certain types of “undesirable” people out of the church.

We know that rotten attitudes and rotten theology is behind the scheme but we haven’t succeeded in changing their minds.

It’s easy to grow quite frustrated in such circumstances, particularly when the church leaders we counted on to defend the unbigoted truths of the gospel are instead caving into peer pressure from those who know which buttons to push.

We might have to wait for an opportunity to have other Christian leaders to get involved in order to mediate the theological conflict.

While we wait on the Lord to speak to the confused hearts, we cannot allow our frustration to steal our joy and our songs of testimony.

We are to keep sharing news of how God has been using us individually and changing lives, regardless of the garbage we face in our church lives.

Some of you are in churches where conflict is present. Some of you are in the midst of congregational firestorms because of flawed theology or because of the desire to drive certain people away.

Keep praying for God’s Word to have free reign in the hearts of church leaders.

Keep praying, too, for His Spirit to have free reign in your unhindered heart so that you’ll vibrantly share how you’ve seen God change lives in the past and how He continues offering to change lives in the present.

The Devil will hate it.

But God will love it.

And that’s what we want, right?

As always, I love you
Martin

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Race to the X button

You see the image below every time that you’re working on your PC computer.

It is a key management tool for your use of software, for the Internet or for looking at database files such as photos or text files, etc.
windows minimize button

With it you can control what is seen on the screen and even what it active but hidden from sight.

Of course, the most important component of the three-element icon below is the X pictured on the far right.

That closes the program or the image or the particular text file.

During the 30 years that I’ve been working with computers in one form or another, I’ve probably clicked the X button a million times.

I would be foolish to claim that I’ve always clicked the button just the way that I should have.

Sometimes, I’m sure, I’ve clicked it too early because I didn’t want to read a website article or e-mail that prodded my conscience about an unhealthy attitude or behavior.

Sometimes, I’m also sure, I haven’t clicked it soon enough because I did want to read an article or e-mail or look at an image that shouldn’t have gotten that “second look.”

The button icon above is so relevant to our spiritual lives, my friends.

Particularly in the realm of sin.

Most often, Satan sends those sin files onto the screen of our consciousness and we immediately X them out.

That’s good. We’re honoring the Lord, our loved ones, our testimony and ourselves when we see His scheme as a virus for the soul and send our cursor racing to the X button.

Sometimes, however, we click the maximize button on the foul file because our minds believe “There’s pleasure in them thar hills.”

Perhaps it is the pleasure of learning how to unscrupulously get rich quick or the pleasure of hearing juicy gossip about somebody at work or school or the pleasure in seeing body parts that we have no business seeing.

We should have raced for the X button.

Instead — with hearts and minds racing — we moused over to the maximize button.

Satan, of course, smiled and giggled while nudging his demon buddies watching the whole thing.

Even more troubling to the Lord, I believe, were those times when — after we’ve already opened the foul file — we trie to hide it from others who approached us.

We didn’t want to be discovered, so we minimized the visibility of what should never have been opened.

We knew it’s there, ready for our resumed pleasure as soon as the temporary disruption of a family member or co-worker ends and we were again alone.

Problem was, though, that we were NOT alone.

Satan was watching.

He knew what we’d hidden.

And so did God.

The Lord knew that He provided an X button for us regarding temptation, yet we chose to gaze rather than get away as fast as we could.

It pains His heart to know that corruption comes into man’s heart whenever temptation finds a welcome mat, even if only temporarily.

Yet, despite this pattern of rebellion found in all of our hearts in one way or another, God still loves.

He still forgives.

He still restores.

And His Holy Spirit still calls us to hit the X button whenever temptation comes our way.

I love the hope found in God’s promise recorded in I Corinthians 10:13.

“And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Dear friend, use this Windows icon as a ministry tool to help you toward becoming more holy.

Don’t maximize Satan’s temptations in order to gain pleasure.

And don’t minimize the visibility of the temptation that is still displayed and operating behind the scenes in your heart and mind.

RACE to the X button.

And when you don’t act quickly enough, and you fall into sin, that’s when you need to race to the Cross with a repentent heart.

God promises in I John 1:9 that He WILL reboot our lives with the proper files if we confess our sins and sincerely ask Him to restore our spiritual operating system.

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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Revising your arsenal

JoyServefiller

Alexander the Great demonstrates the truth of Psalm 33:16.

So do countless other temporary conquerors from history.

Just as does the ultimate earthly despot Hitler.

“No king is saved by the size of his army,” the psalmist says.

No matter how sharp the swords or powerful the explosives, there will always come a battle that is won by a stronger foe if conducted only in the physical realm.

It might be because the king’s enemy has better weapons.

Or, as usually is the case, the king’s army develops weaknesses from the lack of discipline or commitment.

This undeniable pattern of history is not comforting to those who aspire to hold power by human effort alone.

Hitler thought bullets and bombs could build a nation of superior people who would rule the world for 1,000 years.

His bogus idea lasted just a few years before he and his Satanic scheme flamed out in round 1 of his endless fight with flames.

I’m glad that I learned along the way that my success in life is more a matter of trusting God’s leading and provision than it is a matter of my physical or social or intellectual accomplishment.

But here is the sometimes-hard part of this teaching from Psalm 33.

We don’t like the bitter taste of defeat and we’re prone to doing all that we can to arrange earthly things so that we conquer foes rather than feel their boots on our necks.

Who likes the multiple burdens of unemployment or divorce?

Who likes being the workplace “whipping boy” or “catfight scratching post?”

We don’t like being on the losing end of things and we’re prone to go shopping for emotional, social or financial guns.

We’re tempted to think a bigger arsenal will produce greater happiness.

Wrong.

The key to all this, of course, is to trust God’s love, mercy, purposes, provision and timing.

Not easy to do sometimes, I admit.

But faith and “always easy life” are contradictory.

Never forget that our deliverance comes not from what we hold in our hands but instead who we have in our hearts.

God is our refuge and our everpresent help in times of trouble.

Read and re-read the words below from Psalm 33:19.

And then read them again — aloud.

Do whatever it takes to start carving these words into your mind and absorbing them into your heart.


“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”

Wow.

The eyes that saw the universe before it was made and saw the ark on the flooded world and saw the despair of the Hebrews in Egypt and saw David kill Goliath is the same God who sees my life and what I face.

His unfailing love promises to save my surrendered soul from hell and to make sure that I have food to eat in this life.

It’s all about having the right expectations for faith, isn’t it?

God offers to save souls and provide physical provision for people until He calls them home.

Dear friend, don’t resort to earthly power plays in order to get stuff that others want to take from you and that won’t do anything to boost your faith.

Instead, seek and savor those blessings that help you to worship God more fully and to serve others more frequently.

Please revise your expectations from life. God will see your change of perspective and He’ll revise upward the flow of power and provision into your life as you do more for Him.

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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Three seconds is enough

Eight words reminded me this morning of why I should worship and serve God.

A sentence that takes three seconds to speak.

These same words reinforced my confidence that I will walk in streets of gold in the presence of perfection …. forever.

These weren’t my words, of course.

I’m far from being worthy of worship.

These came from the pen of King David.

David knew a thing or two about worship.

Actually, a whole bunch of things or two about worship.

Here is what musician/warrior/ruler David said in Psalm 33:

“For He spoke, and it came to be” (v. 9)

Wow.

Talk about profound.

This verse drips with authority.

And with power.

Even more, it speaks to purposeful sovereignty.

I was swept away in awe of our Creator and Redeemer when my mind started to grasp the implications of these eight words.

Here’s why.

God spoke and the angels came to be before the beginning of time.

God spoke and Satan’s banishment from heaven and eternal happiness came to be.

God spoke and the plans for man’s creation and eventual redemption came to be — before the first star was born.

God spoke — some call it the “big bang” — and the universe came to be.

God spoke and the earth came into being.

God spoke and man was formed.

God spoke and the means of forgiveness for the first sin came into being.

God spoke and the ark was built by Noah.

God spoke and the flood followed.

And so the voice of God would call into being the division of the languages, the commissioning of Abraham, the dreams of Joseph, the Mosaic deliverance into the Promised Land, the anointing of David, the announcing to Mary of the Messiah’s birth through her, the baptismal ordaining of Jesus at the Jordan, the calling of the Apostle Paul and messages to the seven churches of Revelation.

When God spoke, things happened.

For most of you, God’s voice has called to you to embrace Christ as Lord.

And it came to be.

Hallelujah!

God’s voice is still calling to you, however.

He is calling you to be His vessel of encouragement, of evangelistic testimony, of morality in the face of rampant carnality.

He has the power He always has.

In you, does He have the servant through which His power might flow so that the hope others need might come into being?

He tells us to “Go” and to “Forgive others” and “Purify” ourselves.

Will these come into being?

The more God’s purposeful sovereignty flows through us, the more saved souls will come into being.

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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God looks under the hood

What is under your hood?

What is under your hood?

You know, it would be foolish to buy a car simply because it looks good, goes fast and the up-front price is right.

Wisdom says to check under the hood and underneath the body.

You want to know if the car is going to be solid and reliable or if its going to be a sometimes-rolling hole in the ground into which you throw money.

To be successful in life and in faith, we have to pay attention to those things beneath the surface in every facet of our lives.

For without a solid condition of that which is unseen, the attractive externals will eventually become unattractive testimonies to failure.

I’m glad that God doesn’t focus on the externals when it comes to leading believers in their choices for close friendships, for marriage, for church leadership roles or even for secular partnerships.

God always looks first on the heart, I Samuel 16:7 says, and so should we.

In a roundabout way, I was reminded of this truth this morning while reading the One-Year Bible.

The passage from Nehemiah 3-5 was actually quite liberating.

I was reminded that God’s choice as to where I am to be used in His Kingdom is based on the character of my heart and my measure of surrender to His will.

God’s appointed places of service for me will NOT be according to the typical criteria of the world such as how many influential people I know or how tall I am or how charming my words or how impressive a resume that I might possess.

You see, God knows that the real power for securing success in Kingdom service is not latent within the man or woman, but within the freedom God’s Spirit has to work through the man or woman.

If I had to choose between an always-open, two-lane road and an eight-lane superhighway constantly blocked by egotists waxing their broken-down sports cars, the choice would be simple.

You get the point.

As I read this morning of the ongoing, outstanding leadership of Nehemiah in the face of incredible difficulty, I was not only inspired and instructed, but I was also reminded that many of God’s perfect choices would not have been made by man.

You see, if the people of Jerusalem and those returning from exile had conducted typical job interviews for the role ultimately filled by Nehemiah, he likely wouldn’t have been the one picked.

Remember, Nehemiah was the Babylonian king’s personal beverage director.

He wasn’t a general or a governor or a high priest.

He wasn’t even a thriving businessman.

He poured the king’s wine into a cup, tasted it to make sure it wasn’t poisoned and then handed it to him.

Not a job anything like what would be required in Jerusalem.

No engineering, no psychological counseling, not political science, no military strategy. None of that stuff.

He was a cupbearer.

But in God’s sight, he was also the right person for the nation-changing task that nobody else could do.

Thank God that He saw the heart of Nehemiah and arranged circumstances to allow this great restoration of Jerusalem and later Israel to come about.

Thank God that He earlier saw the heart of David when others saw only the runt of Jesse’s litter.

God knew that His power flowed through surrendered hearts who trusted Him for success rather than their looks, connections, charm, muscles or whatever.

King Saul was the poster child for this truth.

Dear friend, don’t become smitten by the worldly trap of judging primarily by externals rather than praying for wisdom to discern the more important internals.

When it comes to selecting friends, spouses, church leaders or even business partners, pray for greater insights on the inner person rather than trusting too fully the externals.

You’ll increase the ratio of joy compared to aggravation.

And you’ll increase the ratio of ministry compared to misery.

Oh, and while you’re at it, work to become more like Christ. That way, when He looks under the hood of your life, He’ll see more of Himself there and He’ll pour more of His power through your life into the lives of others.

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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There is never just one hero

There is no question that Nehemiah was a great leader for the season of Jerusalem’s rebuilding after the Babylonian exile ended.

His passion for his God, his beloved Jerusalem and for his people was obvious in how he conducted himself and sought to persuade others.

It wasn’t Nehemiah’s leadership, however, that got the city walls built again, however.

What accomplished that task, instead, was the humble, hard work of countless families who rejected the blame game for past problems and willlingly bent their backs and scraped their knuckles in order to restore the dignity and defensibility of their city.

I’ve heard and I’ve preached repeatedly on Nehemiah’s outstanding vision and divinely inspired ability to stir his people’s hearts.

What moved my heart this morning, however, when I read Nehemiah 1-3 in the One-Year Bible was the abundance of initiative demonstrated by family after family toward rebuilding the walls.

In fact, other than one group of men who thought they were too good to get their hands dirty, the prevailing attitude was disciplined and directed.

Both men and women were involved in the work.

Jerusalem wouldn’t be restored just because the leader eloquently laid out the reasons for doing so.

It was restored because the rank and file understood that each had a vital role in the process.  If one family didn’t do their part, then the enemy could still have a way into the city despite the good efforts of everybody else.

I encourage you to read the book of Nehemiah in your Bible.  It’s easy, inspiring stuff that you’ll be able to readily apply to a number of situations in your life.

I also want to encourage you to see the significance of the above truths as they relate to your congregational life.

When it comes to work getting done, it ultimately doesn’t matter how effective your pastor/preacher/minister is with the scriptures and with motivational methodology.  If you aren’t willing to help to “build the walls” of your congregation’s spiritual identity and resistance to spiritual falsehood, then you actually become the weak spot in the wall.

The Enemy we know as Satan is no fool.  He’ll examine closely each family’s work in building up the wall and he’ll soon see the weak spots.

And that’s where he’ll attack.

Many of us with years of church experience have seen this happen again and again.

The attacks might be through direct frontal assault such as collapsing health or marriages, or it might be through more subtle means such as showering a family “wall” with corrosive, concocted lies that sadly are embraced as truth and infectiously passed through the congregation in the form of divisive gossip.

You’re smart.  You can see how this line of thought goes.  You are perhaps seeing this garbage in your congregation now.

I thank God that countless families worked hard to boost the defenses and dignity of Jerusalem during the days of Nehemiah.

I thank God that countless families are doing the same thing today in their congregations.

For the Enemy is still active in trying to destroy the work and the people of God.
If you know a church family that is not succeeding in their responsibility to help build the walls of the congregation, please pray for God’s leading in how you might encourage them or even show them how they might succeed in doing what God has called them to do.

Pray that God will open a door for you to have that family help you sometime to build up your section of the wall, whether it be in starting a home fellowship group or planning a community outreach event or handling all the set-up and clean-up work for a Women of faith weekend at your church building.

Don’t look for a cop-out on this one, my friend.

You were saved to do good works, Ephesians 2:10 tells us.

And helping to strengthen your congregation’s spiritual walls is a core mission in God’s purpose for your life.

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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