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Archive for December, 2009

It is a frustrating realization, that’s for sure.

I’m talking about the realization that someone with whom you are speaking has an incorrect perception of who you really are.

Because we humans are prone to seeking shortcuts, we occasionally make inaccurate perceptions about others in terms of their character or values.

Others do the same toward us.

It’s not right, of course.

It is so much better when we take the time to lay aside any biases that we might have toward people of certain cultural or economic types and when others do the same toward us.

I’m sure that you’ve had occasions when you’ve realized that your stereotyping of another because of perceptions or rumors was way off.

The person was actually much more like you in terms of values and determination than you expected.

The framework for a social bridge was already there and you didn’t see it initially because of your presumptuousness.

You and I have both experienced the humbling of such a realization, I’m sure — on both sides of this bridge.

Until you and I die, we will periodically encounter people who misunderstand and diminish us. It’s just how life is.

Hopefully, you and I will grow less likely over time to do the same toward others.

It’s not right when we take such shortcuts and that’s why it is so important that we become more like Christ.

Jesus never dealt with people based on presumptuous shortcuts.

He dealt with them according to what He knew about them.

He actually listened to them and accurately observed their conduct toward others.

That’s how we should deal with people.

He dealt with people based on what He knew, not what He had heard.

For His whole life, He’d been told that Samaritans were scum to be avoided by faithful Jews because of this reason or that.

Jesus set His path, however, based on the facts of human need and receptiveness of the unsaved person’s heart, not rumors from from the judgmental.

Jesus had also been told that tax collectors and prostitutes and other “low lifes” were trash to be avoided.

He knew that some wanted a better hope than what they had, however, and so He reached out to them in hopes that they would reach out to Him.

I’m very glad that Jesus knows me and still loves me.

I’ve done things that have wounded His heart, I’m sure.

And yet, He knows that I love Him and want to serve Him and want to become more like Him.

That’s why His Spirit reassures my heart that I am His.

That’s why I have inner peace in the midst of earthly storms.

Why all this information today?

Yesterday’s reading in the One-Year Bible included Psalm 139:1-24. It is an amazing passage that I strongly encourage you to read.

You will derive an abundance of encouragement from the words recorded there.

Here are two excerpts that are so meaningful in these recessionary days when so many are jobless, family fractures are seen as “Ho-hum” and church after church is struggling terribly to stay afloat financially.

“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; Your perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord” (vv. 1-4).

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” (vv. 7-10).

Jesus knows that you’re not perfect. He knows your list of various mess-ups, just like He knows mine.

But He still loves you just like He loves me.

That’s why His Spirit never stops calling us to become more like Him, leaving behind our offensive ways and walking confidently “in the way everlasting” (verse 24).

Please do something today to help others better know that you know Jesus and that you want to know them better.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you were given two wishes by God and could ask for anything you wanted, what would you ask for?

Great health until you died in your sleep one week after your 100th birthday party?

A marriage without any hurtful words or actions?

A work career with no terminations but instead promotions to higher pay and peer esteem?

A singing voice that would make Josh Groban or Celine Dion envious?

There are so many directions our wishes could go.

But what would please God?

I’m glad that the Bible gives me guidance in this regard.

And, not surprisingly, what scripture affirms has nothing to do with those things that boost social status but instead spiritual health.

Here are the words from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible:

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:

“Keep falsehood and lies from me;

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Psalm 30:7-9).

Here is my take on why these two simple, humble requests were at the top of King David’s list of requests to God.

Job #1 is to protect the mind.

Job #2 is to protect the soul.

Let’s look at Job #1.

If I receive God’s supernatural help to recognize falsehood when it comes my way, I will only allow healthy and godly thoughts to take up residence in my mind. My decisions will follow His principles in connection with His purposes and power and the glory for progress will flow to Him rather than me.

Just as it is supposed to.

This would be a very good thing that would allow me to have inner peace that surpasses all understanding.

I want that and so I pray that God’s Holy Spirit alert me to falsehood and lies before I take them into my mind.

Now for Job #2.

Many Christians might struggle with the idea of wanting only enough to eat for today. There is unbelievable pressure to entrust our sense of peace to our amount of provisions for a rainy day. If we flourish, it’s because we’re faithful, right?

Claim Christ, drive a fancy car, live in a fancy house and attend a “cool” church you’ll be seen as in God’s favor while the one in much more humble circumstances might be seen as less favored. It’s not right but these stereotypes are rampant in our nation. You’ve seen them and I’ve seen them.

Could you imagine the effect on Christian broadcasting revenues if the second request above became the core message “partner” monetary solicitations?

Sometimes God intercedes to prompt the above even when we are not adequately seeking them ourselves.

He knows what we need and what we can handle.

I rejoice that God has protected me from countless attacks of falsehood and lies that He knew that I could not discern or resist.

I rejoice that this provision — promised in I Corinthians 10:13 — will continue to protect me in the future as Satan’s schemes grow more sophisticated and potent.

I also rejoice that God is providing for my temporal needs now even in this recession-slammed season in my vocational life.

It is quite humbling to have seen how the changing economy has dismantled each of the four career sectors that provided income for me since my college days.

But He gives me breath and nourishment to continue worshiping Him, loving His people, learning His Word and serving the people in the community around me.

I don’t live life perfectly, I know.

I mess up sometimes.

I periodically miss the messages that God sends my way, at times even when they’re in large, boldfaced type.

And I spend more moments than I should thinking of how nice life would be with this gadget or that address.

Hmmmm…… Come to think of it, David had really good ideas when he listed the two top things he wanted from God.

Let’s join together in adopting his list, OK?

As always, I love you
Martin

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The more time passes, the more that some things stay the same.

The first lie on earth — that our future is better without God on the throne of our hearts — is still going strong, despite the untold thousands of years that have passed since Eve and Adam bit into the forbidden fruit.

I read this week a variant of the lie that actually started in heaven before the creation of the universe.

We all understand that Satan believed that he could be more powerful than God and that he persuaded a third of all the angels to swallow the lie that God really isn’t the Almighty God.

Simply stated, Satan deceived the fallen angels into believing they didn’t need God in order to have the lives they wanted.

Like I said, the more time passes, the more that some things stay the same.

Here is the lie that I read. It is a segment from a blog article about long-term unemployment. I am working on a master plan for forming a support group to help those gripped by this economic calamity. Such people need reasons for hope that are greater than themselves.

But what follows will not provide a lasting remedy, as you well know. It sounds so spiritual, of course. But, ever so subtly, it is poison.

Living a spiritual life requires supreme trust and faith that things are unfolding exactly as they should. You can increase your trust by simply “being” instead of “doing.”

“Being” means that you have accepted the reality of your situation and you believe that Life has your best interests in mind. “Doing,” on the other hand, means that you’re busy trying to control what happens.

When you trust, you are tapping into the Change Guarantee™, which is that from every change, something good will eventually come. The gift that comes from change may not happen when you want it to and may not even be connected to the change at all, but it will add something positive to your life and your spirituality.

The next time you’re faced with an uncomfortable or challenging situation, remember what being spiritual means: take a moment to check in with your Higher self, to recall that even though you may feel pain or unhappiness right now, Life always has your best interests in mind and you’re headed to a brighter future.

It won’t be easy, but as you face each challenge, you have to continue to work at trusting that Life has a plan for you.

The above information was written by Ariane de Bonvoisin, founder and CEO of The First Thirty Days, Inc.. This enterprise started as a journal and personal planning strategy after de Bonvoisin saw hundreds of people struggling with job loss in the Boston area. As I’ve read through some of her writing, though, it has become clear to me that she embraces humanistic and New Age ideas.

That’s why it is so important that we Christians read secular writings with our feet grounded in scripture.

If we don’t, we’ll end up eating rotten intellectual food because we weren’t equipped to smell the stink.

The first paragraph’s “things are unfolding exactly as they should” is baloney. This presumes that Satan doesn’t exist and that he doesn’t work to destroy us through bad actions of others or lure us down detours roads through bad choices of ourselves.

Yet de Bonvoisin’s words sound so socially acceptable, don’t they?

The second paragraph includes the capitalized word “Life.” Since when did a title for the time vessel for our activities, i.e. “life,” gain a promotion to formal noun status, deserving a personification as if a deity? It is clear from observing the events of the world that “Life” does not have your or my best interests in mind.

God does, but not “Life.”

And since when does “Life” have a mind?

Is “Life” a higher power? Is de Bonvoisin simply redefining and renaming God in order to turn Him into a genie?

The third paragraph refers to the “Change Guarantee.” Sure sounds like a reworking of Romans 8:28 if you ask me.

Why doesn’t de Bonvoisin just quote that verse that says God works through all circumstances to eventually bless His children if they will love Him and live according to His Word.

The fourth paragraph is clearly plagiarizing from the biblical pattern that says we should check in with God when we’re stressed and that we should recall that struggles now can serve to refine our faith as we trust that God always has our best interests in mind.

The thievery of principles is SO obvious.

I don’t even need to comment on the brief, fifth paragraph. I’m sure you see what’s happening.

Dear friend, don’t swallow sugary, socially polished and popular lies that steal ideas from God in order to ultimately steal souls from His family.

Be watchful.

I pray that this Morning Devotion will help you in that regard.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Things were really bad spiritually for the Hebrew people just before God sent the pagan armies to conquer the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

Though the conquests occurred at different times because of varying rates of rebellion in the divided Hebrew nations, the core reason for the disasters — rejection of God’s authority and purposes — was the same.

Millions died as a result of permeated sin when the Assyrian and Babylonian armies pillaged the Hebrew nations and countless others were dragged off as exiled slaves in Damascus and Babylon.

And this suffering doesn’t even count the spiritual death that awaited the millions in eternity because of stubborn, self-will.

It didn’t have to happen, of course.

But in giving man free will, God knew that most people would choose the path of living for themselves rather than living for their Creator.

A pathetic glimpse into the prevailing mindset in pre-exile days is revealed in today’s One-Year Bible reading.

The passage from Micah 2:11 almost sounds like a line from a Saturday Night Live skit mocking Christians.

If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people!”

What is so sad is that irreverent, anti-Christian script writers didn’t craft this statement in order to prompt laughs.

Instead, it was written by a prophet inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Can you imagine how it must have broken God’s heart to see the calloused carnality of His people who were to the point of shouting “Amen!” if a priest prayed for free booze for temple tithers’ social events?

Flesh had not only eclipsed faith. It had squashed it.

Wow.

I’ve never heard a preacher praying for congregation members to get plenty of free booze at the liquor store.

But there are plenty of religious types on the TV, radio and Internet who prophesy that all sorts of earthly desires can be theirs if the listeners will just send in “love gifts.”

Gimme a break.

Actually, this same sort of thing happens via print media and in countless churches around the world.

Tickling ears.

That’s what it is.

Micah 2:11 shows that it makes God sick.

It makes me sick, too.

Will you pray with me that God reveal to us both if there are any yearnings of our souls that place flesh ahead of faith?

Will you pray with me that we reject any whispered suggestions to pray for God’s power to satisfy our earthly cravings?

Remember that the principle of Micah 2:11 applies to any fleshly yearning that shoves itself to the top the of prayer list.

If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of __________,’ he would be just the prophet for this people!”

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, my friend.

That’s the main lesson from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7.

Do this and you’ll never be drawn to churches teaching religion as a tool for satisfying desires of the flesh.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Occasionally I am convicted by the Holy Spirit because I’ve been neglectful of adequately worshiping God during the day.

It is only proper that the Spirit prod my inner being into setting aside time at that moment for honoring God in a more fitting manner.

Sometimes I’ll stop to pray.

Sometimes I put worship music on the stereo.

Other times, I’ll pull out the Bible and start reading.

In every case of my Spiritual conviction, though, I move closer to being the person God wants me to be.

I need to better remember this fact, particularly in this day when there are so many tugs on my attention.

I was reminded of this need yesterday while reading in the One-Year Bible. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 132:3-5 the following words that gripped me tightly and wouldn’t let go.

I will not enter my house or go to my bed — I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Were these the words of King David as he desperately yearned to build a temple for the Lord his God?

Perhaps. We know that David was a man after God’s own heart and, despite his grievous sin with Bathsheba, David’s greatest joy was worship.

Making sure that God was first in his daily priorities was central to David’s sense of well-being.

And so it should be with us.

We’re not going to build a temple in Jerusalem. Or any other town, for that matter.

We can and should build a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob in our daily schedule, however.

The fact that you are reading this Morning Devotion is part of your efforts to do so for the God who gave you life and purpose and hope for living eternally.

Please look for other ways to expand the “dwelling” in your day.

Please make sure that you never close your eyes for the day until you’ve opened your heart to the One who opened the doors of physical birth and spiritual re-birth to you.

Show Him your love and adoration with dedicated time for honoring Him via prayer, worship, service, forgiveness of others or whatever else the Lord lays on your heart to do for Him.

When I’ve done this during the day, I sleep better during the night.

And so will you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m glad that my parents didn’t keep of list of my childhood mistakes posted on the refrigerator door.
To know that everybody read every day about every bad choice that I made would be a horrible burden — until I grew sick of it and either stopped caring or stopped living at home, or both.
You know people who seemingly still carry their notepads around with them, waiting to record others’ errors in order to post the news that so and so messed up.
It’s very sad.
Thank God that my family isn’t like this.
And I strive to resist Satan’s whispers to do the same.
The fact is that our responsibility to be a forgiving people will not come true in our lives if we cherish and instantly update the record of sins by someone we know.
We’ll eventually become a bitter, anal person who walks around with a “white glove” mentality, ready to pounce on the first evidence of dust on a person’s life choices.
Boy, what a sad reality.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that God isn’t like this.
It’s not that He closes His eyes to the wrong we do.
It’s just that He doesn’t savor the opportunity to bash us because we’ve messed up.
Yes, we need to repent and confess our sins against Him and against others. That’s how we will find forgiveness, according to I John 1:9.
When we do, the sins are forgiven and the dirty laundry list is washed clean in the blood of Christ.
This fact was refreshed in my mind this morning when I read Psalm 130:3-4 in the One-Year Bible.

“If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You, there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared.”

When we repent and seek forgiveness for our sins, God forgives and wipes the slate clean.
Please rejoice over this fact.
Please grow closer to Him because He does so.
Please strive to do the same for others when they sin against you.
Remember what God has forgiven from your stained past.
And remember to forgive those who have sinned against you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes, when it comes to reading the Bible, we have to remember the concept of the oasis.

I’m talking about the tiny spot in a desert where a weary traveler can find refreshing shade and water to keep him or her going toward their final destination.

The oasis is not to be a home, but it sure is a help.

Amos 5:14 is such an oasis.

Today’s One-Year Bible reading includes Amos 1-3:14, a sobering sequence of promised punishments handed down from the Ultimate Judge against nation after nation that rejected God’s Word and sovereignty.

The litany of destruction promises is shocking. I reviewed the passage several times today to see if I had missed seeing some sections containing words of encouraging grace.

I saw none that stood out as obvious.

This doesn’t often happen in the Bible. With few exceptions, most books of the Bible will liberally sprinkle words of hope and grace even in the midst of passages pointing to approaching judgment.

Thankfully, I knew that God would not leave me for long in my daily Bible reading without a witness to His mercy.

That’s why I peeked ahead to tomorrow’s reading and saw the oasis that God embedded into Amos’ “The hammer is gonna fall!” book.

And what an oasis it is.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is” (Amos 5:14).

This might not seem like a theologically earth-shaking revelation to you, but instead as a simple principle for living.

But to God-rejecting people in God-forsaken lands, receiving this simple truth was as receiving a simple map to the oasis of water in a seemingly endless sea of sand.

I’m glad that I trusted the nature of God and that He wouldn’t only promise punishment.

You see, God doesn’t want people to perish.

His heart’s desire is to everybody saved.

He has given mankind free will, though, and knows that most will reject His identity and authority.

Even so, He still makes sure that those willing to drink from His fountain of truth are able to do so, even if they come to the oasis parched because of personal sins.

Whether your times in the desert are as minor as a few Bible chapters without warm, loving words or as major as a lengthy season of sinful rebellion against the Word of God, just remember that your Father in heaven will always lead you to an oasis where you can drink in the Truth — if you choose to.

Because some Hebrews in the prophet Amos’ day did drink in the above truth, there were people who changed their paths and were used by God to pass on the ancient faith to those who followed.

You and I are blessed now as a result.

When you are parched, dear friend, whether in your Bible reading or in your rebellious living, look for the oasis.

God has placed it into your path so that you might find refreshment in Him.

If you’re in a desert now, please remember this.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live.

Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you.

Wow.

As always, I love you
Martin

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