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Archive for September, 2009

It is clear from scripture that God allows obstacles into our paths on many occasions in order to prepare us for future victories.

This promised outcome a comforting truth.

I’m looking forward to those future victories, even though each will involve varying degrees of struggle, temporary pain, random failures and humbling realizations that other people are sometimes smarter, stronger, better equipped, more charming and more popular than me.

You have a history of overcoming obstacles in order to experience personal victories. Sure, you’d like to have failed less often during your life. But you have succeeded more than some people and that is a blessing for which you should be grateful.

The longer I live, the more grateful I am for my half-filled glass of water and the less fretful I am about the air filling the rest of the glass.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

The ungrateful soul complains that the glass is only half-filled with water.

The grateful soul rejoices that the glass is only half-filled with air.

Yes, God is good.

Even when times are bad.

Computer catastrophes? It’s just a season, my friend. I have gained great peace lately in knowing that there are no computers in heaven.

Physical woes? Even if they last until you graduate into eternity, remembering that the “no pain” heaven doesn’t have a calendar or clock can get you through the darkest nights that seem to drag on forever.

A wounded heart? Though many might abandon you as unwanted, some relatives and church friends will always love you, no matter what.

And behind that resolute love is the God who loved you into the womb and who will love you out of the tomb.

You’re facing some tough situations just now.

I am, too.

Please hold onto the truth that this life is temporary.

Rejoice whenever a particular struggle ends and blessing flows.

It’s God’s way of giving you a faint glimpse of how it will be when you graduate from this life into the next.

Hmmm…. I’m already starting to savor the future victory that will be mine because I live to serve the Savior who overcame the greatest obstacle of all — sin’s grip of eternal death.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When my girls were little, they were sometimes prone to saying what nearly every small child says at one point or another — “I can do it myself!”

To hear a waif of a child say this when a parent is trying to help with tying shoes or stirring cookie dough or some other adult-trying-to-help task is usually amusing.

Sometimes, though, it is disappointing because of the certain misfortune and feelings of failure that are to result.

If only this childish stubbornness ended with childhood.

I was reminded of the unchanging nature of man while I was reading my One-Year Bible this morning.

I read the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3 that described how the Old Testament law was never intended by God as a means to salvation. Instead, it was given to provide motivation for seeking God’s grace while living submissive, sanctified lives.

I read of Isaiah’s comforting words in chapter 26 that describe the hope offered to those pursuing holiness.

You (God) will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (v. 3)

“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us” (v. 12)

How wonderfully encouraging these verses are! Trusting in God yields perfect peace.

I like simple equations like this.

It makes the fruit of faith so much more tangible, more attainable.

This is a picture of the soul that does not cry out, “I can do it myself!”

When you and I conduct ourselves consistent with Isaiah 26:3, we’re much better off. And so are those who depend on us.

Problem is that we don’t do so often enough.

That fat bungee cord of our fallen nature keeps pulling us back into the cesspool of self-will.

Perhaps not as often as the pagans around us, but still more often than should be.

Of course, even once is too often.

Isaiah’s writing in today’s reading continues in chapter 28 and includes a terribly troubling sequence of verses. Thinking that they applied to the people then is sad. Knowing that they still apply today is tragic.

“Who is it He is trying to teach? To whom is He explaining His message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: ‘Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.’

“Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom He said, ‘This is the resting place, let the weary rest’; and, ‘This is the place of repose’— but they would not listen.

“So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: ‘Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there’— so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured” (28:9-13)

In Isaiah’s day, God kept calling for the people to stop trusting in their own strength or wealth or political connections or their own wisdom as vehicles for deliverance. He also called upon them to resist the lies of Devil-inspired clergy who concocted a religious checklist of actions that blindly promised eternal life apart from God’s grace.

But the cord of human pride and “I can do it myself” thinking was very thick, just as it is to this day. Billions of souls are suffering eternally even now because of this unhooked cord.

Please, my friend, NEVER think that you can “do and do” enough to earn salvation. NEVER think that you can keep enough “rules on rules” to make up for the rules of godly living that you have broken and will break.

You and I need the grace of God in order to be saved. It’s that simple. That grace comes to us through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That relationship comes by obeying the Gospel. And that Gospel is captured most succinctly in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38.

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'”

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I can’t do heaven-bound living by myself. I’ve tried and failed. You have, too.

Let’s entrust our souls and submit our lives to the One who didn’t fail — Jesus Christ.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I saw the United States in Isaiah 22:8-14 as I read it this morning.

I saw many people demonstrating the same sequence described there.

And I was reminded that I, too, have occasionally been trapped by the same lies, though to a less-tragic degree.

The prophet, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is speaking to man’s prideful belief that he can solve his own problems, even those clearly greater than his ability to resist.

Though man’s history of success in the face of overwhelming enemies has more holes than window screen, we blindly continue to trust Satan’s lie that we don’t “really” need God’s help.

What we need, Satan whispers, is a big party to celebrate our decision to destroy our homes in order to protect our way of life.

It’s not a pretty passage that prosperity preachers would use, that’s for sure.

But it’s a passage that can rouse the apathetic soul from the slumber of unattainable, unsanctified self-deliverance of the soul.

Isaiah describes a vision of how the rebellious people of Jerusalem would go to great extents to resist — by relying on themselves — the armies of pagans unknowingly sent by God to chastise the Hebrew rebelliousness to faith.

“But you did not look to the One who made it (Jerusalem), or have regard for the One who planned it long ago,” Isaiah wrote.

What follows is an amazing passage that would accurately describe the direction our nation and many of the Americans around us are heading.

“The Lord, the Lord Almighty called you on that day (of looming attack and destruction) to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughter of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine!

“Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”

“The Lord Almighty has revealed this to my hearing: ‘Til your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.”

You’re quite aware that God’s idea of family is under attack.

The principles of integrity and kindness and humility are under attack.

The freedom to express Christian faith without persecution is eroding.

Even though the germinating animosity toward Christians has not sprouted into full-grown persecution of biblical form, the seeds are clearly sprouting as Christians are marginalized by others and compromised by their own choices.

Rather than repent individually or nationally for the wrong-headed steps of the past and present, we are tearing down our “houses” in order to hold off the external threats we perceive from outsiders, be it financial or political or cultural or otherwise.

It’s sad, actually, this sacrificing of our families and values in order to reject God and enjoy the carnal lifestyle that is SO cool in the eyes of the media and the lemming majority joining the race to the cliffs.

God has been sending many voices to our nation in the form of faithful believers calling for godly living at their jobs, their homes, their schools or wherever.

Yet, our nation keeps trusting itself for deliverance rather than God.

The call to repentance is falling on far too many deaf ears.

That’s why we must pray for wisdom to do more than we have with turning people from darkness to Light.

God has called us to stop tearing down our homes in an effort to find security in the walls we build ourselves to keep the Enemy away.

God has sent you and me into our corners of the world to call people to stop tearing down their homes in an effort to secure the godless lifestyle they practice.

Listen, the “Let’s go out with a bang! Where’s the bar?” lie swallowed by the lost people in your circle of influence is a recipe for eternal disaster.

Please start planting seeds of example and encouragement toward repentance into the lives of others.

The unrepentant world needs to see Christians who know how to repent. How often is this happening, though?

Be transparent. Be willing to repent to family members and friends and co-workers in order to build up your house rather than tear it down.

Let the unsaved around see the strength that follows repentance.

Then they’ll see that repentance builds up rather than tears down.

Then they’ll see that our nation grows stronger through national repentance rather than through national denial.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Even those who say they aren’t vulnerable actually are.

Everybody can be swayed by negative peer pressure.

Everybody.

That’s why it is so important that Christians constantly measure themselves according to the standards of Christ’s Word and example rather than the slippery, subjective standards of man.

The longtime believer with a struggling business and a lifelong aversion to booze can, in tough economic times, think a few drinks won’t undercut his faith and actually might help him to boost his sales among country club members.

The Sunday School teacher lady hammered by divorce when a husband leaves to “find himself” might start cruising the nightspots with the girls.

She doesn’t drink the whiskey, but she does drink in the hollow whispers of hunters seeking prey.

She said she’d never be so shallow, but loneliness is given control by many check-the-box Christians and she starts looking for love in all the wrong places.

If you’re in a good and strong season of your faith, praise God!

Negative peer pressure might have the force of a feather upon your direction in life just now.

If, however, your self-confidence level is being rocked by personal failure, you just might accept compromises that the world says will make your life better.

You’ve done so in the past, just as I have.

These were not “Book of Life” moments.

You know, it’s always SO much better when we’re a tool for God by exerting positive peer pressure in our workplace or home or church or school.

I’m sure that the Apostle Peter knew this before he messed up in a huge way. And I’m sure that he never forgot this fact after his mess-up recorded in Galatians 2.

This is the famous account where the Apostle Paul chastised the Apostle Peter in front of the entire Galatian congregation. Peter had succumbed to peer pressure of legalistic Jews who claimed that one had to be a Jew in order to be a Christian.

This meant, of course, that Peter had backpedaled on his earlier teachings about salvation by grace.

By joining the legalists who insisted on circumcision for males in order to satisfy the law — they believed the obeying the Gospel wasn’t enough to gain salvation — Peter contradicted all that he’d taught for years.

This was a theological crisis that threatened to rip Christianity apart.

It should have never happened.

Peter was worried about his popularity among people who had rejected Christ as the all-sufficient Savior.

And so he compromised in order to be accepted.

It was tragic, yes, but thank God that it wasn’t terminal.

Peter repented, I’m sure, since he got back on track theologically and later wrote the marvelous books, I and II Peter.

Listen, if Peter can fall prey to peer pressure, you and I can, too.

Satan knows our buttons. He knows our insecurities. He knows how to arrange circumstances that seek to lure us into compensating compromise so that we’ll feel more accepted by those we incorrectly admire.

It might be with booze-based business success or with praise of our looks or with the possession of cool stuff. Or it might be with a gossip gang who bashes the person we envy.

Remember, everybody can be swayed by negative peer pressure.

Especially when it comes to theological discussions with people who are more charming, more educated, more wealthy, more popular or simply more pushy.

Because so much is at stake in terms of spiritual fidelity for church doctrine and for soul security, NEVER drop your guard. Ever.

If Satan can find a way to hook the Apostle Peter into such a huge mess, don’t think he can’t find a way to hook your pride into compensating compromise.

Always compare yourself to Christ and test every choice by whether He would approve.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Handsaw jpeg 9-14-09

It’s important to remember that we are the clay, not the potter.

We are the tool, not the toolmaker.

Applying this principle, of course, tugs hard the prideful thread woven by sin into our lives to one extent or another.

Even the strongest of believers must be vigilant to resist the trap of puffed-up opinions of self.

Yes, we have all sorts of reminders through the weeks that we’re not perfect.

We might lose our status with some people because we don’t speak flawlessly about this or that.

We might lose our self-confidence for a bit because we can’t remember where we placed that important file folder or even where we put the car keys.

We might even lose our dignity when we act out of covetous anger toward a co-worker or relative who is being praised by others because of new, exciting job or a new, cutting-edge vehicle.

Even with these shots to one’s pride, so many people still cling to an inflated view of self.

“I’m SO cool, even if nobody else thinks so,” sounds foolish alright, except to the one who feels this way about himself or herself.

If you are pursuing a closer walk with the Lord, you’ll realize how dumb the above quote sounds.

Yet, we Christians must never think that we’re immune to “self” inflation.

Even the Apostle Paul realized that pride threatens everybody. That’s why he learned to appreciate the thorn in the flesh allowed by God for the purpose of tormenting him.

God didn’t desire Paul’s suffering, but He also knew that without allowing that “buffeting by Satan,” Paul might have become prideful and ineffective for the Gospel.

It’s heady stuff when your preaching leads big shot politicians, business leaders and military types to renounce paganism and proclaim Christ.

And what about all those times when Paul took the worst physical abuse possible and still didn’t cave into demands that he bow to Caesar?

Talk about Christian chest-thumpin’ stuff…..l

Paul remembered that he was once a scummy enemy of Christ and that he periodically still sinned against Christ is wretched ways (Romans 7:14-8:2).

That’s why Paul rejoiced in his sufferings — they kept him humble.

They prodded him toward the sustaining grace of God.

The sufferings reminded Paul that his hope for deliverance rested on the power and place of God, not himself.

That’s why Paul consistently gave credit to God for whatever good was done in ministry.

That’s why Paul constantly prayed for strength and wisdom to precisely pursue the work of the Gospel.

And so should we.
Saturday’s reading in the One-Year Bible contained a vivid reminder of why we Christians should never think too highly of ourselves.

“Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it?”

“As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up, or a club brandish him who is not wood!” (Isaiah 10:15)

You and I are the clay, not the potter.

The tools, not the toolmaker.

Rejoice when God chooses to use you as a tool for ministry at your workplace or home or church or school.

Rejoice, too, when He places you on the potter’s wheel of trials in order to shape you into a better vessel of love or into the toolmaker’s furnace to remove the dross of strength-weakening selfishness.

It’s about serving Him and serving “them.”

It’s not about us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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One of the fun songs I remember from church camp days was “Give Me Oil In My Lamp.”

Some of you know the song. The idea, I believe, is a take-off from Jesus’ parable about the virgins who made sure they had oil for their lamps whenever the bridegroom showed up late at night and called them to follow him to a wedding celebration.

Some girls were apathetic, however, and didn’t prepare. They ran out of oil for their lamps and couldn’t join the procession to blessing.

It is SO much better when we know the source of spiritual oil and we take care to learn how to tap into it. You’ve seen people wasting match after match, in effect, as they tried to light a lamp filled with theological emptiness or tainted water of carnal teaching.

It doesn’t work, of course. And they wander in darkness.

Sometimes they see a believer with a bright light and they join him or her until they can see how they, too, can be filled by God.

But sometimes, their frustration with trying to light “fool’s fuel” stirs their pride to attempt the snuffing out of the Christian’s flame.

What kind of lamp are you just now in the eyes of those around you? Are you burning clear and consistent as God’s Spirit fills you from the inside? Or is your flame flickering and shrinking as the flow dries up?

This idea of a burning lamp occurred to me this morning when I read Isaiah 8:19-20.

“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, they have no light of dawn.”

I appreciate the logic of what Isaiah wrote. It makes no sense to claim that contacting dead souls can provide hope for living people. Even if one could make a phone call to the dead, only what has been could be discussed.

There would be no insight for what is ahead. That means that the dead could offer no message of hope for the future.

There is a way to find hope for the future. There is a Spirit that can speak about what will happen as time passes, a Spirit that can show us the pathway to certain eternal life and even certain blessings along the way.

That Spirit is God’s Holy Spirit. And that Spirit speaks through scripture, the Living Word, the Light of Dawn that provides hope against the backdrop of deepest darkness.

Listen, there is only one perfect hope. He is the Morning Star that calls people out of the darkness and into God’s wonderful Light.

Jesus is the Light of the World, the dawn of deliverance.

My friend, ask God to fill you with the light of dawn. That way, you’ll have a fountain of hope flowing from you, shining as a lamp with a ceaseless supply of oil.

Any other effort to light up this world will waste a lot of matches, a lot of breath and a lot of time.

And I’m sure you don’t want that.

As always, I love you

Martin

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The day comes in every Christian’s life journey when he or she hears Satan’s whispered, “It’s not worth it. Why do you keep accepting the inevitable disappointment because of faith-related hassles?”

For some believers, it happens right after conversion when Satan orchestrates attacks from unsaved loved ones or jealous co-workers.

For other believers, the really powerful assaults happen later when Satan launches physical attacks on the health or financial attacks on the bank account or emotional attacks on marriages.

There is no denying that going along with Satan’s agenda in order to cease the near-term hassles can seem like an attractive idea if only viewed from a sensory perspective.

Yes, it is a good thing when earthly pain stops.

But in view of Satan’s 100 percent record as a liar, thinking that the pain will always be stopped is not wise.

The fact is that caving into Satan’s scheme in one setting — just to avoid discomfort — only invites him to torment you in other ways.

It’s just like negotiating with terrorists or taking illegal drugs. Give in once and you’ll have to give in forever… or else.

I’m glad that the Apostle Paul never negotiated with Satan.

Paul knew that Satan hated it when the bloodthirsty bounty hunter became the blood-cleansed soul seeker.

Paul had to have heard countless whispers that life would be SO much easier if he would go back to teaching the works-based religion that he had embraced for years before the Damascus Road experience.

And countless times, Paul showed Satan that concession to oppression — just to avoid the “or else” — was not a faithful option.

In my One-Year Bible reading today from 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote about resisting Satan’s invitations to give up on faith.

This list is amazing so please pay close attention. When one form of suffering comes your way that you believe is an attack upon your faith, remember what Paul faced as Satan pressured to give up on God.

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one

Three times I was beaten with rods

Once I was stoned

three times I was shipwrecked

I spent a night and a day in the open sea

I have been constantly on the move

I have been in danger from rivers

in danger from bandits

in danger from my own countrymen

in danger from Gentiles

in danger in the city

in danger in the country

in danger at sea

and in danger from false brothers

I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep

I have known hunger and thirst

have often gone without food

I have been cold and naked

Compared to Paul, I have faced kittens rather than lions.

I have suffered in a few ways while Paul suffered in many, many ways.

No matter how much difficulty that I might yet face in life because of my faith, I will not encounter the abuse faced by Paul simply because he wanted to spread the Gospel.

What is so amazing is that Paul’s torment was incomprehensibly less than the persecution and pain faced by Jesus Christ so that Paul and I could gain eternity with God.

I’m not sure if you’re facing any hassles just now because of your choice to shine the light of Christ. If you’re getting no attention from Satan, perhaps you should ask yourself if you’re doing anything to oppose him.

One thing is clear about the scripture.

Satan attacks those he sees as threats to his grip on unsaved souls.

When attacks come, see them as proof that your faith is accomplishing something.

Make sure, however, to also see them as occasions for running to your Abba Father for strength and understanding and protection against attacks greater than your ability to bear.

As always, I love you
Martin

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