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Archive for November, 2009

I’m sure glad that I didn’t forever forfeit the privilege of driving when I made my first big mistake behind the wheel so many years ago.

Almost a year earlier, I was in the driver’s seat of a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 station wagon after my mom had driven to Bloomington High School parking lot on a Sunday afternoon.

At 15 years old, this was a big deal for me. You remember how it was for you, I’m sure.

The last thing I wanted to do was to mess up and have my mom — or myself — think I wasn’t capable of driving.

I did fine steering through the empty parking lot and even backed into a couple of empty spots without error.

In fact, for the rest of my learner’s permit period and for six months after obtaining my regular driver’s license, I did just about everything right behind the wheel.

But then I messed up.

After school one day, I was stopped at the intersection of a side road and the main highway in front of the high school when a large truck wanted to pull onto the side street.

To accommodate the truck driver, I decided to back up. After all, I had checked the rear view mirror a few moments earlier and all was clear.

As soon as I backed up, I felt a bump.

All was not clear, as it turned out.

Just before my backing up, a VW van pulled from a driveway just behind my car and had stopped two feet from my rear bumper.

The driver shouldn’t have been that close to my car but that didn’t matter in the eyes of the law. And I knew it.

The van’s slightly concave front panel was my fault.

We exchanged insurance information and I drove home thinking about the double whammy of having to tell my parents that I messed up and that I’d have to arrange payments in order to compensate them for the insurance policy deductible that they’d have to pay.

It was not a happy drive.

Fortunately, my parents, the insurance company and the Indiana Division of Motor Vehicles did not permanently ban me from driving.

They realized that people make mistakes. Yes, errant drivers are to be accountable for their mistakes, but the privilege of driving can continue as long as people are attempting to be responsible drivers.
It’s all about grace shown toward those incapable of endless perfection.

I share this personal story because of a passage in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:7, 9)

I’ve messed up many more times behind the steering wheel of my life than I have behind the steering wheel of a vehicle. That’s why I’m so glad that God offers grace to me when I seek it.

I don’t want to stay in the ditch or wrapped around a tree after those moments of self-will. Hallelujah that my Lord promises to rescue me and restore me when I eat crow and seek Him.

Please, dear friend, don’t take the grace of God for granted.

Please treasure the fact that God allows you to continue down the road of life, enjoying its good moments and enduring its bad moments.

As long as you remember that your place on that road is a privilege that comes with a larger, Kingdom-building purpose, you’ll get to your destination.
And then you’ll be on golden streets where everybody is equipped with endless perfection, including you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Here is a five-point quiz for your recent conduct at home or at work. Please select the accurate true-false option.

Anybody watching my behavior over the past month would agree that I have consistently:

T   F   “acted in harmony with those around me.”

T   F   “shown sympathy toward others’ difficulties

T   F   “treated others as beloved siblings”

T   F   “shown compassion and humility to one who once ‘showed me the door'”

T   F   “responded to insults and mean treatment by giving blessing instead”

I’m grateful that the Lord inspired the Apostle Peter to include the above elements in the third chapter of his first letter. I need these reminders of how God wants me to treat others.

I also need the reminder from verse 9 of this chapter that the measure of blessing flowing into my life is a function of the blessings that I direct toward others.

It really doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.

You reap what you sow.

Do the above things and the likelihood of others doing them toward you will increase.

Do the opposite and you’ll reap the opposite.

I encourage you to think of five people over the next week toward whom you might demonstrate these actions.

Improve the measure of harmony that you have with someone who stresses you.

Increase the display of sympathy toward someone who is struggling but who offered little help to you in the past.

Intercede with family-style physical support for someone who sometimes treats you like a stranger.

Invite to your home or apartment for a meal that person who invited you to leave them alone.

Impart benevolent words and deeds to that “blood boiler” who seems to be named Dermis since he or she so easily gets under people’s skin.

Why does God want us to do that which is contrary to our prideful nature? Because He knows that our doing so will show His place in our life and the place of others on our priority list.

When we put God and others ahead of ourselves, then our Father knows that we have surrendered hearts.

Those are hearts that God loves.

And so, those are lives that God blesses.

Your quiz awaits.

And so do your blessings.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s a beautiful thing, this process of Christian influence.

It is amazing to see how a person’s life can be transformed as he or she spends time with the Word and in prayer.

You’ve seen “fast lane” people who heard about Jesus and who chose to step off the bus to spiritual destruction, choosing instead to step onto the narrow path to spiritual humility and eternal life.

You’ve also seen “hardened heart” people who felt the love of Christ and had their hearts melted by His mercy shown on the cross for them.

Perhaps you are one of these people with transformed lives.

I was reminded this morning of the transformational power of God’s love, Word and Spirit as I read today’s New Testament portion of the One-Year Bible.

The Apostle Peter wrote a general letter to be circulated among Christians at a number of churches. Among the instructions that he shared were the following:

It is God’s will that by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (I Peter 2:15)

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (I Peter 2:16)

Show proper respect to everyone” (I Peter 2:17)

It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God… To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an an example that you should follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:19, 21)

When they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23)

Peter also wrote in the third chapter of his letter that Christian wives married to unbelieving husbands should show deep-rooted patience toward their spouses, demonstrating humility and a Christlike nature in all ways.

Peter said that the unsaved husbands just might be won to Christ “without words” if the wives let shine “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

He also said that wives who put their hope in God were the ones who “made themselves beautiful.”

I find it so intriguing that the man who wrote these exhortations toward humility, patience and grace was once a certified hothead who took no guff from anybody and even started swinging a sword to defend Jesus though he was surrounded by countless opposing soldiers.

Wow.

Like I said, it’s amazing to see what God’s Word, love and Holy Spirit can do when given time and a heart surrendered to being renewed.

Peter was by no means perfect in this life, even with the transformation from an apostolic Mr. T into a wise, patient Mr. Rogers of faith.

He was, however, aware of how the perfecting process had molded him more into the pattern of Christ. And that’s why his writings — inspired by the Holy Spirit — called believers then and now to live the way that Christ lived.

For as Christians live more like Christ, they will have more influence with those of the world who are tired of living according to bogus promises that momentarily satisfy earthly cravings but don’t satisfy the soul.

Listen, your Christian example and mine will do little to impress those we know who are gleeful with sinful living. The “fun” such people are having has not come yet with the itemized bill of physical, emotional, financial and spiritual pain they are certain to pay some day.

When that bill does arrive in such a person’s life, though, he or she just might recognize that comfort for the soul and purpose for living must be sought from another place.

That’s why your Christian example today is so important for having influence later.

Dear friends, ask God to transform your life through His Word, His Spirit, His love and His people.

Do all that you can to fill your lifestyle with the pattern of Christ.

As you do, God will start bringing people into your life who need to see the transformational nature of the Gospel.

Some will do as you did — they’ll choose Jesus.

And the cycle of one transformed life influencing another will start anew.

Like I said, it’s a beautiful thing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Hard times are never fun.

I mean, who enjoys grief?

Especially when we’re doing the things God wants us to do?

The Bible tells us that when hassles come that are related to our demonstration of faith, we should be thankful.

Huh?

That’s right. The heaviness of our hearts when we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (I Peter 1:6) is to actually prompt us to rejoice.

Some of you face hard times at work or school because you won’t compromise your Bible-based values.

Some of you face hard times at home because you won’t stop giving the 10 percent offering taught in scripture.

Some of you face hard times at church because you insist on receiving or giving instruction based on what the Bible says, not what denominational doctrine says.

The fact is that heavy moments come into each of our lives because of our faith.

I share this topic today because of a fascinating passage in I Peter 1 found in Sunday’s portion of the One-Year Bible.

There’s a phrase in verse 7 that powerfully intrigued me and I couldn’t stop looking at it.

These (trials) have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

You’re aware, I’m sure, of the new gold rush being fueled by the worldwide lack of confidence in national currencies. Countless people are buying gold however they can from whomever they can. Why? Because there is the widespread perception that gold is the best way to protect one’s future.

Yes, we are in the worst economic times since the Great Depression. And, yes, Christians are to responsibly manage finances and prepare as best they can for economic ups and downs.

But thinking that gold is going to be one’s wall of protection and means of self-esteem is a recipe for eternal disaster.

Trusting gold to protect us from Satan’s targeted attacks in this life and the next is like a firefighter wearing only a paper bathrobe as he enters a building engulfed by flames.

A genuine faith is our only hope for dodging flames of despair in this life and flames of judgment in the next.

When Jesus returns and the world becomes a raging inferno of judgment for those who rejected the gospel, all of man’s golden suits of armor will vaporize along with the lies that tricked billions of people into believing the physical was more powerful than the spiritual.

When that day comes, faith’s supremacy over gold will be made clear to all.

For faith will become sight.

And gold will become charcoal.

We’ll see Jesus as He lifts us up to be with Him in heaven forever, walking on streets of what? Gold!

Hmmmm….. that’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? The choices of believers to stop chasing tiny bits of gold are replaced in glory with the gift of walking forever on streets completely paved with the stuff.

Dear friend, please lay aside any sense of emotional or spiritual confidence that is based on how much earthly wealth you have. Your gold, whether actual bullion or the U.S. currency backed by gold, can’t do a thing to qualify you for heaven.

Actually, it is more likely to become an anchor upon your soul.

Here’s the mission: the more that you and I imitate Christ’s life with our everyday actions and attitudes, even in the face of trials, the more that others will see our hope in what is awaiting us on “the other side.”

Pray that I demonstrate this to somebody today. I’ll do the same for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I love the directional contrast described in James 4:7-8 found in today’s One-Year Bible segment.

We’re told in verse 7 that the Devil will flee from us when we resist his temptations.

And we’re told in verse 8 that God will come to us when we come to Him.

What a vivid picture these verses describe!

Many people in the world embrace the lies of Satan and move closer to his nature.

Some people recognize and reject the lies, choosing to seek God instead. As they do, Satan knows God is going to show up and so he runs away rather than await a stinging rebuke from the Almighty.

Few Christians will openly concede that Satan is gaining influence in their lives. But are their perspectives accurate?

Is the Devil consistently fleeing from them rather than influencing them?

Is he consistently fleeing from you? Or is he influencing you with a particularly sticky temptation just now?

You know your life. You know if you’re resisting temptation or if you are caving into it.

God knows, too.

I’m very glad that God designed our free will to have more authority over our lives than does Satan’s persuasiveness.

It is incredibly comforting to know that I can overcome the schemes fostered by the Devil’s incredible array of lies, strategies and manipulation of of some people around me.

He can send his most powerful temptations my way and I still have the spiritual authority — via my relationship with Christ — to not only resist Satan but to send him running.

It is even more comforting to know that, after telling the Devil to hit the road, we can run to Daddy God for strength and fellowship and Daddy God will run to us.

This is the glorious picture of a loving Father depicted in the parable of the Prodigal Son..

That wayward son finally woke up to the fact that embracing Satan’s temptations was ruining his life. He determined that he wasn’t going to accept those lies anymore. He decided to resist the lies by returning to the truth found in his father’s household.

The closer the son moved toward home, the farther Satan moved away from him.

As the son drew near to the father, the father ran to the son.

Many of us have experienced this same sequence in our own lives, both at conversion and in seasons of repentance in the years since.

Perhaps you feel trapped just now in a fountain of guilty feelings because you think you’re enslaved by a particular temptation.

Please know that you don’t have to continue drowning in the fountain of moral and spiritual failure.

Realize that Satan can only influence you. He can’t control you if you choose to stand up to him.

He won’t go away easily, that’s for sure.

But if you reject the life pattern you’ve been following, embrace Christ and tell Satan to get out of the driver’s seat, he will flee.

He not only has to because of the James 4:7 promise, but he’ll want to because he doesn’t want to be around when your Daddy shows up.

Life will still have its challenges in terms of practical challenges such as earning a living, managing your health, being a good family member, etc..

But at least the lingering spiritual anchors that you’ve been carrying around for too long will be gone and you can move forward in faith focused on what you can be doing right rather than on what you shouldn’t be doing wrong.

I want to close with a verse that you simply must memorize in order to succeed in your struggle with Satan.

“If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9)

As always, I love you
Martin

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The sun is shining through the French doors behind the antique chair in which I am sitting.

The Christian music is playing on the stereo.

I’ve just finished a delightful phone conversation about various topics with my daughter Melissa.

And I don’t have any painful ailments calling for attention just now.

Yes, life is good and I’m smiling.

And when I think of the incredible mercies that God pours out upon me day after day as He forgives my sins and provides for my needs, I realize that life is actually very good.

Of course, just like you, there are a number of everyday life circumstances that I wish were quite different.

I resist the temptation, though, to whine about income struggles or physical hindrances.

I have food to eat, people to love, a place to live and the physical/technological ability to help others.

I’m clearly favored by God, I know.

This is why I love verses like Psalm 34:1, a verse that describes how I know I should be.

I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.”

When I hear people fret because their “wants” are not being realized according to their timetable, two verses often come to mind.

First, I think of Matthew 6:33 that calls me to seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and then God will provide for my life needs.

Second, I think of 2 Cor. 9:8 that assures me that God will supply all my needs so that I can provide all the praise He wants.

I am praying that this national recession will prod Christians toward a clearer understanding of God’s will regarding material things and the need for dependency upon God.

When life is easy and affluent, it’s easy to lean on our own understanding. After all, WE got the good job and WE got the good deal and WE got the good family and WE caused our good health because WE are smart and WE are cool and WE have the X factor that people want around.

When tough times come, though, WE realize that obstacles are greater than WE are.

If WE are really smart, however, we’ll internalize Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Walk in His path and you will have a good life.

It might not be the “good life” as defined by the world, but it will be very good because we’ll appreciate things like the gracious blessing of the sunshine, of worshipful Christian music, of delightful conversations with loved ones and the blessing of knowing that all physical ailments will be replaced with eternal absence of pain.

Now that’s good news worth smiling about, huh?

As always, I love you
Martin

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A week from now, our minds will be savoring the next day’s Thanksgiving events filled with family, friends and good food.

Well, at least most of us.

Some of you might be wondering where you’ll spend Thanksgiving and if you’ll have anyone giving thanks that you are there with them.

Some are afraid that it might just be another day.

If you’re thinking that the above might describe you next week, I want to encourage you to start checking around to see if any community organization is sponsoring a Thanksgiving meal for the needy. Even though you don’t fit that definition, you can still attend as a volunteer, showing your Christian character to people who would appreciate your demonstration of concern.

If your congregation is offering such a Thanksgiving Day ministry, hallelujah! You’ll be far more likely to get involved with serving others.

Even if you don’t find a community group effort or church ministry to feed the needy on Thanksgiving Day, you can invite some people to your house or apartment for a special meal celebrating the goodness and generosity of God.

I’ve done this before when I was single. Sure, it would have been great to be with a bunch of family and simply show up to laugh and eat. But that wasn’t an option at the time and so I invited several church friends, cooked up a storm and we had a great time of fun and rejoicing in God’s love.

It was very good.

There are all sorts of ways to celebrate Thanksgiving next week whether you’re in charge at your place, or in volunteering at a communal event or simply along for the ride.

The key is to find some place to join with others in giving thanks to God in a memorable way.

Why this message today?

The One-Year Bible reading for today includes a famous passage from James 2:15-17 that applies here:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if is is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

You and I recognize that it is important to show active compassion for the needy more often than only Thanksgiving Day. I hope you will join me in praying for wisdom and greater desire in this respect.

Yes, some of us have much less to share than we did several years ago. But we still have something. And so, we are called to share.

Until we become more like God wants us to be in this regard, let’s at least put forth a good effort to share with some who need kindness shown them this Thanksgiving.

It just might jump start us into becoming more active in helping people on a recurring basis.

And remember, if you invite people to your place, the objective is not to impress them with what you did for them, but instead to express appreciation for what God does over and over again.

As always, I love you
Martin

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