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Archive for December, 2009

I rarely sleep well.

As in through the night without awakening several times.

Many others resort to drugs in the face of such.

I haven’t.

Instead, I rub my eyes through the day, pour some coffee and count my blessings since I was able to at least get enough sleep to keep going another day.

My eyes are tired this morning since I tossed and turned through the night.

Yet, my heart and mind are settled because of the fact that four or five hours of sleep is much more than some people got last night.

You see, some people are on the verge of divorce and are in emotional disarray because of fears for how messed up 2010 will be for them.

Other people are close to losing their homes to foreclosure and are jobless, meaning they have no plausible way to stop the financial tragedy.

And then there are those with recently diagnosed stage 3 cancer and without health insurance. We can only imagine what goes through their minds at 3 a.m..

Because of the Lord’s favor, I am not facing these three stressors. Oh, I certainly have my own list, to be sure. But they are not as ominous.

I want to believe that I’d still have a settled heart and mind if I faced any or all of the above.

I want to believe that my faith in God’s love and provision would allow me to sleep most of the time I’m in bed.

As you enter 2010, I want to encourage you to remember what I try to remember — pray for wisdom to focus on serving God and other people and pray that God will intercede in those situations that you cannot resolve yourself.

It really is about Matthew 6:33, my friend.

We are to worship, not worry.

God is the One who can do what we cannot.

Worry in the night accomplishes nothing.

Worship in the day accomplishes much.

Not sure how your career will go next year? Focus on how to better demonstrate your faith and use your career as a vessel for serving people and blessing you.

You’ll sleep better if you do, perhaps not in quantity but definitely in quality.

Concerned about the survivability of your marriage? Focus on how to become more humble and patient and forgiving and more active at church.

You’ll not only enjoy more the sleep you’re able to get, but you’ll provide a model for others wondering how to strengthen their marriages.

Please understand that I am far from the perfect role model in how I live and in how I sleep. But I’m trying to live more like Jesus lived in hopes of sleeping more like Jesus slept.

His world was filled with stress and disruption. But when He did fall asleep, it was a sound sleep that not even a mini-hurricane could disturb.

That’s the kind of sleep I want.

Even if it lasts only four or five hours.

Let’s approach life as Jesus did.

We’ll all sleep better if we do.

And so will our loved ones.

As always, I love you
Martin

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On multiple occasions lately, I’ve been prompted to think more often about evangelism.

In sermons I’ve heard, in songs that have played, in conversations with Lori and other believers, in behaviors of people observed in the community — all of these have stirred me toward a greater awareness of the need for disciple-making.

And then, this morning, I read Revelation 20:15 in the One-Year Bible.

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Oh my.

There is little confusion about this verse — if you’re not saved, you will suffer forever.

It’s worth noting that this verse was not written by a hate-monger masquerading as a Christian.

Actually, this verse was written by “the apostle whom Jesus loved,” a really nice guy who loved writing about godly love and who wrote only as the Holy Spirit moved his heart into overflowing through his pen.

In fact, we know from 2 Peter 3:9 that God doesn’t want any soul to perish but instead for all people to find salvation through repentance of sin and dedication of their souls to the Son.

That being the case, why is Revelation 20:15 in the Bible?

There are a variety of reasons, but let me mention two.

First, it was an offer of escape.

For those hearing or reading these words and had not accepted Christ as Savior, the above verse offered a crystal clear path for gaining eternal life — make sure your name is in the book of life.

To do that, one needed to make sure that Jesus was on the throne of his or her heart.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:11-13).

There are many people in my community that need salvation. That means that they need to believe in Jesus.

I am praying for wisdom and boldness to tactfully begin connecting with them in order to point them toward the way of escape.

Now for a second reason that I believe Revelation 20:15 is in the Bible.

God will not be mocked.

God is loving and merciful, yes.

But that love has value only because God is holy and mighty.

Huh?

Listen, if God were not holy and mighty, then heaven would have been corrupted before the beginning of time when Satan tried to take over.

But God reigned then as Sovereign and still reigns now.

That’s why heaven is a place worth desiring eternally.

God will allow nobody in unless he or she has already embraced a life of surrendered worship and service.

Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if people got in who wanted to do things their way.

We don’t like being around whining co-workers or family members for more than a few hours. Can you imagine how heaven would seem like hell if we had to hear griping and endure sniping forever?

Thank you, God, for promising to protect the value of heaven by allowing in those who correctly value the life and sacrifice of Christ.

Dear friend, make sure that your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Confess Christ as Savior with your words and with your baptism as was the instructed requirement for all the 1st Century Christians.

And then make sure to make every effort to make disciples, the Great Commission we were given when Jesus departed the earth after His resurrection.

Start loving unsaved people more. Start looking for opportunities to demonstrate your faith so that the opportunity presents itself to explain your faith with the prayer that another will embrace your faith.

As always, I love you
Martin

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God hard-wired little kids to like it when they put smiles on their parents’ faces.

It is a beautiful thing to see the little kid come home from school or from church with an artwork project or class paper that he or she believes will make Daddy or Mommy proud.

And when that paper goes on the refrigerator door, everybody is happy.

I loved these moments when my kids brought the papers home with the certain hope that they’d be appreciated.

I’m convinced that God loves the moments and smiles when His kids display a certain hope in Him.

After all, we are made in His image and if seeing the hopes of children fulfilled brings smiles to us, it certainly does the same for God.

I thought of the above while reading from Psalm 147 this morning in the One-Year Bible. Specifically, when I read verse 11.

The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

I love my Abba Father, my Daddy God.

Even more significantly, I fear Him as in the sense of admiring and respecting His holy and sovereign nature.

You see, He is not God because I have given Him my love.

He was God before I was conceived. Before my parents were conceived. Before Adam was conceived.

He is God because in part because He is the Almighty Creator of everything made, including the heavens and the angels and the universe and all that is in it.

No, we cannot grasp the fulness of a God without limits in time or space.

We can reach for and grasp, however, the love of a God who put His unfailing love on public display in the life and death of His only Son given as the payment for our sins.

We can show our faith by holding to the promise of salvation made by the One who promised before Creation that He would send a Savior into the world.

God doesn’t ask us to put paper pictures of faith on the refrigerator door, but He does ask us to paint pictures of faith with our lifestyles because of our absolute trust in His promises of love.

In your carnality-tainted workplace or school, please live in a way that shows your admiration and respect toward God.

In your church or in your home, show via your personal conduct and attitude that your hope is based on a deep trust in His Word.

As you do the above, you’ll put a smile on your Daddy God’s face.

And you’ll love it.

Trust me.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Christmas morning is largely a time of people opening presents that are intended to bring them joy.

That’s good.

Many of you reading this have experienced this very thing and have helped others — because of your generosity — to experience the same.

I want to encourage and equip you just now to make a decision that will bring joy to God in the days ahead.

It’s not going to cost you any money or extra time or anything tangible.

It will bring an outpouring of satisfaction to God, however.

I don’t claim to have an exclusive track to knowing the mind of God. I do, however, pay attention when I read from my One-Year Bible.

And here is what I read in today’s segment about the yearning of God:

“‘These are the things that you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord” (Zechariah 8:16-17).

It’s very clear what God wants from His people — an absolute commitment to truthfulness.

The context of the above verse involves God’s plan to restore the fallen Israel to blessing and peace after a long period of exile in pagan nations.

God said He would prompt the fields to produce generous amounts of rainfall, fields filled with bountiful harvests, the grape vines to flourish and physical safety from evil nations.

God clearly is desiring to show incredible favor to His children even though He knows they don’t deserve it.

The fact is that God was filled with so much love that He was compelled to bless Israel’s remnant if they would just show hearts given to good character.

They didn’t have to be perfect in order to receive these blessings.

They just had to have hearts that belonged to Him.

That’s why He established unmistakable integrity as the prerequisite for blessing.

If a believer was committed to telling the truth in all circumstances, regardless of the economic or social status outcome, then that believer was surrendered to a higher standard.

It was true then and it is true now.

You know how it is.

You are far more prone to helping people you can trust.

And if someone lies to you or about somebody else, do you want to send blessings their way?

I certainly hope you’re not one given to lying.

Even the “little white lies” of exaggerated time sheets or rationalized, on-the-edge immorality.

For God hates lying.

His love, though, will bring blessing to the lives of those who walk in Truth and who speak only the truth.

You see, God is truth (Psalm 31:5).

He is the complete opposite of Satan who is a liar (John 8:44).

This Christmas, when handing out gifts to bring smiles to other faces, give God the gift that will bring a smile to His face every time He hears your voice — the promise to be truthful with every word you say or write.

For with every temptation to lie that you reject, you will demonstrate your love for God in a way that brings Him a dose of joy and Satan a taste of defeat.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m glad that I don’t own the business that prints Triptik forms for the AAA Motor Club.

For the use of those highlighter-marked mini-maps has to have plummeted in recent years as more people purchased dashboard-mounted global positioning units.

You’ve seen them.

Perhaps you own one.

With these GPS (global positioning system) devices, paper maps aren’t necessary. You just plug in the address of where you’re headed and the small, electronic screen displays a digital map that you follow to your destination.

Some of the devices even talk to you about upcoming turns, time to arrival and offer restaurant listings along the way if desired.

I don’t have one.

And I haven’t needed one thus far.

Among my few really strong abilities is my knack for looking at a map one time on paper or on the computer monitor and having it photographically memorized.

If I were to get into some sort of delivery driving role, though, I’d benefit from one, I’m sure. There are times when a paper or Internet map just aren’t available and yet I still have to go to a certain address.

So why this topic today for a Morning Devotion?

The reading today in the One-Year Bible includes Psalm 143. In that psalm is my theme verse for the Morning Devotion ministry:

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul” (verse 8).

I am continually asking God to show me the way I should go.

You know how it is.

The world offers so many paths that it claims are good and fruitful and enjoyable and popular and lucrative and ego-satisfying and control-freak-satisfying and etc., etc., etc..

When the endpoint of each path is not clearly visible — of course, Satan wouldn’t allow the truth to be shown to human senses — it’s easy to choose the path that seems the smoothest and swankiest now.

But the path God blesses is not the path that Satan embellishes.

I cannot know the path God wants me to take unless I’m placing my trust in the Word of God.

Hundreds of Bible characters trusted God’s leading as they lifted up their souls to Him and God DID show them the way that they should go.

Even when those paths were contrary to the paths of the worldly people around them.

They relied on the ultimate GPS — God’s positioning system.

I’m realizing with increasing measure how much more that I need to rely on this GPS.

So many key elements in my life are in transition now because of the economy and changing spiritual climate of our nation. There are SO many paths that lead from where I am standing.

I want to take the path that addresses my economic needs and social needs, yes. But even more importantly, I want to take the path that allows me to apply my call to ministry in one setting or another.

We live in a crazy time, that’s for sure.

If recent years have found you living in the same town, having the same job, attending the same church and living with the same people, please consider yourself very blessed. Your array of paths is much smaller than mine.

Even so, you still need the leading of the Word, the ultimate GPS, to choose the path of faith that most honors God and best prepares you for receiving His blessings.

Please read a meaningful portion of the Word each day, even if not in the morning.

Please be a faithful reader of the Morning Devotion in order to get a jumpstart on walking down that path.

No, I don’t have a highlighted Triptik map of faith that shows my every turn before I arrive in heaven. But I do have the Word to open each morning and, based on what I read, I can have confidence in knowing which turn to make at the decision intersections I encounter throughout the day.

You can have that confidence, too.

Just trust the ultimate GPS.

As always, I love you
Martin

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More than 400 years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Zechariah quoted the pre-incarnate Christ in an amazing statement that really stirred my heart this morning.

Zechariah 3:9 says all the sins of God’s people would be atoned for in one day.

Wow.

The one making this statement was the Angel of the Lord, a term used to describe Christ in His Old Testament form.

What is even more interesting is that this Old Testament Christ was actually quoting something His heavenly Father had told Him earlier. An excerpt of that quote is below:

“I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (3:8-9).

Consider what is happening here in this vision given the prophet.

The chapter’s first portion describes how the Old Testament Christ, appearing in angelic form, is speaking to Israel’s high priest of that day named Joshua. God is there. Satan is there making accusations of sin against Joshua. A bunch of angels are there.

This high priest had just been restored from a sinful status and given new priestly garments because of the amazing grace of God.

The Angel of the Lord then tells Joshua that salvation and a valued place of leadership for Israel can be restored to him if he’ll walk in God’s ways and keep God’s requirements.

For the recently sinful high priest, this offer and roadmap for ministry had to have been incredibly encouraging.

But Joshua was likely clueless about how all of Israel’s sins could be removed in one day.

A thousand years of sin by countless millions of people — literally billions of sins — gone in a matter of hours? How is such possible?

It was too abstract, too massive of a mission for God’s people to comprehend in advance of Calvary.

Even today, when we have the Bible, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and centuries of faithful role-modeling by believers, we still struggle to comprehend how the blood of one man on the cross can cleanse sin’s stains from souls who obey the Gospel with verbal and baptismal confession.

It certainly is comforting to know that God’s merciful nature is a lot older than I am.

It’s even more comforting to know that God saw my future need before I ever saw my first forbidden fruit.

The day that Jesus died on the cross, the tyrant of sin was conquered and all who chose to have a new King on their heart’s throne could walk with earthly and eternal peace.

As you celebrate Christmas in two days, remember not only the day of Christ’s birth in the manger but also the day of His death on the cross.

Remember that Christ who paid for all the sins of all mankind for all time in one day is the same Christ who longs to have you live for Him every day of this life so that you’ll live with Him when time is no more.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There is a lesson that most teenagers struggle to learn.

Sadly, even many adults stumble through life because they don’t get a handle on this crucial life principle.

I’m talking about knowing how to assign degrees of influence to the people in our lives.

Those who make good decisions in this regard will only allow trustworthy, good-values people to serve as advisors for the important matters of their lives.

When a good set of advisors is established in a person’s life, the quality of life that results is typically much better in terms of emotional, financial and spiritual stability.

When those on the influence list are determined instead by social popularity, physical appearance factors or wallet thickness, the stability factors above almost always decay at some point.

That’s because those playing these angles typically are looking out for themselves first, not for those they are advising.

Any parent of a young adult can think back to the days when that child was feeling the influence of another teen who had questionable values or motivations. If the parent is blessed now with a faithful, young adult child, the prayers for imparted wisdom worked.

Hallelujah!

So why am I writing about this topic today? In Zechariah 1:4-5, God is speaking to the exiled Hebrews through the prophet Zechariah. God is reminding the Hebrews in Babylonian captivity to avoid listening to prophets who don’t listen to God.

Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?”

Here is the line that really grabbed my attention — “And the prophets, do they live forever?”
God was using Zechariah to teach the exiled Hebrews to make better decisions about who they allowed to influence them spiritually.

Here was his main point: the authority that determines spiritual direction and devotion is not to be given to religious leaders who teach contrary to the scriptures, no matter how charismatic or forceful they might seem.

It was true 2,500 years ago. It is true now. For Christian teens walking the carnal hallways of a high school or Christian adults loitering in the work break room, the call to abide in scripture is unending.

Do this and a God-blessed life will follow.

That’s why it is SO important to be part of a faith group that emphasizes in-depth Bible study.

If I choose instead to join the crowd chasing worldly goals, a God-absent life will follow, both now and forever.

If you know anybody being strongly influenced by those who — based on their current paths — won’t live forever, will you please start praying for that special friend or relative?

Will you pray that their loyalty to the influence of non-Christian voices will cease?

If your friend or loved one listens to the Holy Spirit’s voice sooner rather than later, then he or she will not only tap into the rich storehouse of inner peace and eternal hope but will also give God what He wants more than anything else — the worship of a surrendered heart.

For eternity.

Here’s wrap-up: Be kind to all. But only give influence over your soul to those who will live forever because they chose to do the same earlier.

As always, I love you
Martin

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