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Archive for January, 2010

Becoming spiritually mature means learning how to let certain things go.

Our bad habits need to go away.

Our stuff-based view of self-worth needs to go away.

Our willingness to worship extra gods or belief systems needs to go away.

And clearly, our dark moments of selfish untruthfulness need to go away.

When we make these choices, we become more like Jesus.

And we provide to God the Father more of what He desires from us.

Today’s readings in the One-Year Bible were quite interesting. I was reminded through multiple texts in different books of how prone we humans are to associating confidence with our measure of control over life and our measure of material possessions.

The Bible is clear in its teaching that our efforts as controllers and consumers might generate personal satisfaction for a season — if we’re really sharp — but it will never generate eternal blessing.

And that’s what really counts, isn’t it?

Today’s Old Testament reading recounted the plagues against Pharaoh. He was repeatedly told to let the people of Israel go so that they could worship in the wilderness.

He repeatedly refused to let them go because he was unwilling to let go of his control over their lives.

He eventually did let go, however, but only after he suffered the devastating death of his first son and witnessed the deaths of all Egyptian firstborn sons.

If Pharaoh would have let go of control, he and the nation wouldn’t have suffered as they did.

God’s will was ultimately done, despite Pharaoh’s foolish self-confidence that cost him far more than it needed to.

He didn’t let go and it cost him terribly.

In Matthew 19, I read of the rich, young ruler who felt very good about his lifestyle fidelity to scripture and came to Jesus with a desire for advice on what to do to earn eternal life.

What this wealthy man didn’t plan, on though, was Christ’s instruction to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor.

And then the young man was to leave his neatly constructed world and follow Jesus.

As you know, the young man was not willing to let go of his stuff and his life situation.

If he had, he would not have suffered the deep, haunting disappointment of knowing that his passion for possessions was greater than his relationship with God.

Not only was this young man asked to let go of a “stuff” mentality, but also Christ’s apostles.

Did they embrace the teaching? Far from it.

It’s clear from this chapter that the apostles associated wealth with God’s favor. If this wealthy guy couldn’t make it because of his wealth, they asked, then who could?

Jesus, fortunately, told them that the reward for genuinely letting go in this life would be a hundredfold blessing in the next life.

All but Judas did reach the point of letting go and were used mightily by God as a result.

The reading for the day also contained Psalm 24, a marvelous message about letting go.

The foundation for letting go is laid in verse 1.

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

Wow.

Nothing we hold in our hands is really ours.

It’s His.

He created it.

He provided it.

He planted it.

And He harvests it.

All the fruit is His property anyway, right?

This being the case, our focus should not be on what is in our hands but instead what is in our hearts.

This is the opposite of how the world thinks and lives.

But so was the life of Jesus.

Jesus is seated at the right hand of God because of what was in His heart while on earth, not what was in His hands.

I want to close with the four signs of a heart whose hope is based on faith, not stuff.

These signs are characteristic of faith that has learned to let go.

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”

Clean hands? Pure heart? Not worshiping earthly items? Always telling the truth?

I am so glad that it doesn’t take wealthy hands to do these things, but instead a wealthy heart.

Please, join me in letting stuff go. There will be more room in our hearts for God as we do.

There will be more of a harvest for God.

And there will also be more room in our heavenly mansions.

Cool, huh?

As always, I love you
Martin

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It has been more than 24 hours since I read this passage from the One-Year Bible, yet the impact of the words in Psalm 22:29 didn’t overflow onto the keyboard until this morning.

I’m reminded by these words that earthly prominence counts for nothing when it comes to status in the afterlife.

These are important words for believers who are tempted to think they are inferior because they aren’t rich or popular or attractive or powerful.

The fact is that every soul is equally inferior to God and will acknowledge such on Judgment day.

All who go down to the dust will kneel before Him — those who cannot keep themselves alive”

I’ve never met a person who doesn’t age.

Oh, I’ve met people who fight aging with great intensity.

But they still get older and less able than in the years preceding.

Despite their best efforts, they cannot keep themselves from the inevitability of death.

Just as I can’t.

We will all face God.

And the time will come in that meeting when we’ll kneel before Him in recognition of His sovereignty.

Whether we had careers in charge of hundreds or we quietly pushed a broom in the warehouse during the night shift, we’ll all kneel before God as sinful souls falling far short of the holiness God expected from us.

In a way, this verse does double duty.

It humbles those who are tempted to think they are better than others. After all, even the “special” people will have to kneel as inferior beings unworthy of parity with the perfect God.

The verse also encourages those who anguish with the lie that they are worth less than others. If the Bible says all will kneel before God, then that says there is no human — other than Jesus — who is superior to another in God’s sight.

So how does this verse and this Morning Devotion apply to your life and mine today?

God values every soul the same.

How do I know this?

Because God paid the same price for every soul.

He paid for your soul and mine with the blood of Christ.

Why? Because every soul has the same need.

Some of those kneeling in heaven will stand in glory forever.

Many of those kneeling will writhe in agony forever.

Why? Because they refused to bow their knee to Christ in this life.

Please resist the lie of Satan that you are more valuable to God than others.

Please resist, also, the lie that others are more valuable to God than are you.

Everybody sins and will answer for it if they don’t have Jesus speaking up for them.

Everybody is inferior to God in this life and will acknowledge such by kneeling before Him in the next life.

And everybody is offered — through faith in Christ — the opportunity to choose the gift of salvation by bowing the knee to God before death rather than after.

Please make sure that you have obeyed the Gospel so that your kneeling will be the precursor to your standing forever in glory.

That is SO much better than writhing in pain forever in hell.

Finally, the next time you feel the urge to act superior toward another — or to feel inferior to another — remember that all will kneel before God. That way, you’ll be more likely to share God’s love with another as a fellow sinner rather than as “big dog” or as a “whipped puppy.”

As always, I love you
Martin

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When I have been at my greatest moments of fear, that’s when I have experienced my greatest blessing of Christ’s faith.

That’s when my phobias, my wounds and the actual threats against me evaporated emotionally because I choose to see Jesus.

Thank God.

And such will happen in the future as I continue to trust and look for Christ.

I write this today because of the vivid word picture in Matthew 16:5-8.

You and I have read this passage many times, yet the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a meaning in the passage that extends beyond the specific, historical context of Christ’s mountaintop transfiguration.

“While he (Peter) was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!

“When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.

“But Jesus came and touched them.

“Get up,” He said. “Don’t be afraid.”

“When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”

When Peter, James and John heard the voice of God, they thought that they were as good as dead. Traditional Jewish teaching held that if somebody physically heard or saw a divine messenger as in an angel or literal presence of God, one’s departure into the afterlife was moments away.

The three disciples knew they were sinners and that they deserved judgment for their past offenses. Simply put, they felt incredibly unrighteous when in the immediate presence of God and were scared that payday might be imminent.

I can understand their being terrified.

I would have felt the same way, I’m sure.

After all, I am fully aware of the fact that I’ve made choices that have earned me the back corner of the dumpster floor rather than the top shelf on God’s trophy case of Great Moments in Godly Faith.

But it wasn’t Christ’s will for these believers to remain gripped by fear of what they deserved.

Instead, it was Christ’s will for these believers to be freed from the chains of merit-based religion and released into the confident joy of a faith that sees Him first in all things.

In this very brief passage, we see the amazing love and discernment of Christ that most certainly had a life-changing impact on these three apostles who comprised His inner circle.

Yes, it’s true that they should have trusted Jesus no matter what and not been terrified on that mountaintop.

But they were flawed, i.e., works in progress.

Just like us.

In that moment of frozen faith, Jesus poured out His grace.

He went to them.

He touched them.

He directed them.

He encouraged them.

He abided with them.

Despite their doubts, Jesus showed His love.

And when the fog cleared and the emotions settled, all the apostles saw was Jesus.

Hmmmmm…..

The power of this lesson is real.

You and I will face times in our lives when we are fearful of this or that.

We might be terrified that the “hammer is about to fall” because of our failures of faith in one way or another.

Remember this story, though, dear friend.

Please maintain your relationship with Christ, no matter what.

In your moment of frozen faith, Jesus will pour out His grace.

He will come to you.

He will touch you through the intercessions of others.

He will direct you through the voice of His Spirit, His Word or through the counsel of loving believers.

He will encourage you through the above.

He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Despite your doubts, Jesus will show His love.

And when the fog clears, when the emotions settle, there He will be, hoping that you see Him first in all things.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There are some passages that I come across as part of my daily Bible reading that flood my mind with imagery.

I am SO glad that the Lord wired my mind and heart to get excited about word pictures.

It makes it so much easier to understand His principles and to explain them to others.

I believe that God has created most people as visual learners. That’s part of the reason, I believe, that Jesus typically spoke with such simple language fashioned into parables.

Simply put, we simple-minded people sometimes need a stick-figure explanations.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching us with Word pictures.

Saturday’s reading in the One-Year Bible reminded me of this truth. The verse was not only crystal clear in its meaning, but it also stirred me toward a renewed dedication toward imitating Christ.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble” (Proverbs 4:19)

As I observe the world around me, I am reminded of how alluring the lies of Satan are. So many people dwell in the shadows and seem to have their noses pointed toward darkness, despite their perpetually skinned knees.

My place is not to condemn them, however. To do so would be hypocritical since I’ve had a few moments in life when I thought the blessing of God’s Spirit would follow me into the shadows.

My place, instead, is to love shadow-dwellers and connect with them so that they might turn toward the love of God and light of Christ.

Why would somebody want to listen to my shepherding words about a better path, though?

It will only happen if those watching my path see that it leads to brighter days with lighter burdens and tighter relationships with people who love unconditionally.

You and I know that personal righteousness is the better way, illuminating the path toward faith and blessing until we graduate to glory.

The more righteous we are, the more light we have for seeing where to go and how to love.

This is what I want. You want it, too.

The above passage reminds us that this increasingly righteous path not only helps us, but it also shows the unsaved just how unwise it is to head for the shadows.

Think of the strongest Christians that you know. Are they clueless as to how they should live their lives?

Do they struggle at the various intersections of their lives because they don’t know the will of God?

Rarely.

Why? It’s because they know that personal righteousness invites the presence of Christ into their lives.

And the more of Christ’s presence they have, the more Light they have to shine on the proper path through the myriad of life choices one faces.

Those strong Christians not only have more confidence and peace because of good, Spirit-led choices, but they also show the way for others who have grown tired of skinned knees from stumbling in the shadows.

Dear friend, commit yourself today to a greater degree of personal righteousness. Examine your life for unsanctified zones and choose to lay aside the sins that so easily entangle you.

Become more like Jesus in rejecting temptations and the path toward Him in heaven will shine more clearly in the fog for you and for those around you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There are many lessons to be drawn from the Old Testament story of Joseph, the son of Jacob.

Integrity. Diligence. Forgiveness. Morality. These traits and more are demonstrated by Joseph during his time in the biblical spotlight of Genesis 37-45.

There is another lesson that you might have missed in past readings of this story, however.

It is a lesson that is SO important .

The excellence of our efforts for an employer or somebody else in authority over us can produce not just a needed paycheck but also an outpouring of blessing at some point for our loved ones.

Joseph was an outstanding worker for Pharaoh who knew the kingdom was blessed financially because of Joseph’s diligence and insights.

Because Joseph accomplished so much good for Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler desired to do good for Joseph’s family.

The choicest grazing lands were given to Joseph’s family in the northern segment of the Nile River basin.

An entire caravan of riches were given to Joseph’s father by Pharaoh.

All because Joseph was so good and loyal with what he did.

That refocused blessing was crucial for allowing Jacob’s family to become established in Egypt in the months following the patriarch’s relocation to the Nile delta.

Yes, it’s true that your time on the job helps your family via a paycheck.

That’s good.

But when your time on the job transcends adequacy and becomes characterized by excellence, additional blessing sometimes comes your family’s way.

Your employer might provide a bonus that allows for an unexpected blessing for one or more family members.

Your employer might provide the blessing of some additional, paid time off so that you can take part in a multi-day school trip with your kids.

Your employer might provide a job to your relative, even though the job market is extremely tight.

Your employer might provide large discounts on product or service prices quoted to your relatives.

Your employer might protect your job even when sales drops force elimination of other jobs.

These blessings don’t accrue to your family because you simply kept your nose out of trouble and did the minimum required in your role.

Instead, your family was blessed in these or other ways because you kept your shoulder pushing hard against the wheel and consistently looked for how you could provide more blessing to your employer.

It is intriguing that Pharaoh wasn’t a believer, yet his heart was stirred to pour out blessings upon believers.

We know who was behind that, don’t we?

Thanks, Holy Spirit.

When you and I are as diligent and service-focused as possible, it creates the soil within our employer’s heart within which the Holy Spirit can work. Not only will our testimony strengthen the credibility of Christianity, but it can also strengthen the Holy Spirit’s hand at prompting the employer toward that which will bless our families.

The Golden Rule applies here, doesn’t it? Go the extra mile for your employer as you would want your employer to go the extra mile for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Every Christian needs to memorize more scripture.

For if we don’t have Bible verses stored in our minds for ready recall when needed, then we’re stuck with relying on philosophies and experiences that are of human origin only.

And, oftentimes, those words aren’t potent enough to help us find victory in our circumstances.

I want to suggest to you a memory text that is brief, yet very applicable to your life and mine.

As you commit this passage to your mind’s top shelf, you’ll not only equip yourself for more faithful living, but you’ll also exalt God and provide a powerful testimony to the worth of Christianity.

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).

Seeking God.

Embracing God.

Trusting God.

This is great advice.

From a great passage worth memorizing.

“I have set the Lord…

“I have set the Lord always before me….

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand…”

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will never be shaken”

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).

Like me, you want a faith that will never be shaken.

Like me, you can move closer toward that faith by memorizing Psalm 16:8.

In doing so, you’ll make real progress toward setting the Lord always before you.

The fruit of that decision is a faith that will never be shaken.

Not only will you be blessed by such a faith, but the people in your life will be blessed as well as they see your solid example.

And God will be exalted.

I love how it all fits together.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s an old church hymn that starts with the line, “Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all.”

We Christians like to sing of such love for the Savior.

But we need to ask ourselves occasionally if our words align with our passions.

We’re told by the Apostle Paul to examine ourselves during our weekly worship time as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. Examine ourselves for what? We are to assess if we are living as if Jesus really is all the world to us.

I was reminded this morning of this topic after I finished reading from today’s portion of the One-Year Bible. Matthew 13:45-46 contains the following words:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Is your relationship with Christ the pearl of great value in your life?

Does your loyalty to earthly stuff or status ALWAYS stand in line behind your service to the Father and the Son?

It’s easy for Christians to sing that Jesus is all the world to them.

It’s not so easy sometimes for Christians to show that Jesus is all the world to them.

We occasionally struggle with the “sold everything” idea.

Perhaps not in a material sense, but instead in a lifestyle sense or in an attitude sense.

Perhaps we struggle with sacrificing our desire to hold a grudge.

Perhaps we struggle with sacrificing our tight grip on a certain valuable possession.

Perhaps we struggle with sacrificing our popularity with worldly minded co-workers or classmates.

Matthew 13:45-46 isn’t a command for Christians to sell every possession and put the proceeds in the church offering plate.

It is, however, a strong reminder that we should never allow our loyalty to earthly stuff or status to become more important than our loyalty to the God who offers us riches in the next life greater than we can even comprehend.

I want to close with a simple observation. When Jesus died on the cross for me, God traded a flawless Pearl for a fouled-up speck of dirt.

I obviously didn’t deserve the gracious offer of atonement.

But I’m sure glad that God provided it.

Now, the longer I live according to the pattern of Christ, the more I become like Him.

And the more I become like Him, the more that people see Him in my life.

Hmmmm….. like the oyster, faithfulness can turn micro-pebbles into pearls as layer after layer of Christ’s nature covers us.

Neat thought, huh?

As always, I love you
Martin

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