Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2010

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click From glance to gaze

.

.

We all know the difference between a glance and a gaze.

Particularly when it comes to the topic of temptation and sin.

The momentary glance at the “hottie” who walks by your beach chair — and then you go back to reading your book — doesn’t corrupt.

The choice to gaze with the second look, or third or fourth — imagining certain things as the hottie moves down the beach — now that definitely corrupts.

The same principle applies with temptations involving greed or vindictiveness or the craving of public praise. We can be tempted in a brief glance with the opportunities to unscrupulously put ourselves ahead of others in terms of public esteem or job advancement.

But it is only when we gaze at such opportunities, giving them a dwelling place in our minds and hearts, that sin takes root.

Of course, you already know all this so why am I sharing it this morning?

It’s because we need to hear this warning over and over and over again.

For Satan keeps tempting us over and over and over again to turn glances into gazes.

He likely tried to lure you into gazing yesterday or the day before or perhaps even this morning.

He knows the potency of the gaze.

In fact, it’s one of his best tools.

At the core of SO many spiritual meltdowns in scripture have been glances becoming gazes.

Eve gazed at the forbidden fruit.

Ham gazed at Noah’s inebriated nakedness.

Lot’s wife gazed at her burning hometown.

Potiphar’s wife gazed at Joseph’s young, muscular body.

Moses gazed around him to see if he could get away with murder.

Achan gazed at the fine silver bars and fancy clothes in a yet-to-be-burned house in Jericho.

And then there was David’s midnight gaze when he couldn’t sleep.

Oh my…..

That was a really, really bad one.

David’s failure to stop at the glance stage regarding the bathing Bathsheba was a terrible choice of epic proportions.

It’s described in today’s I Samuel 11 reading from the One-Year Bible.

I encourage you to read it again. This time, though, reflect on how much better David’s life would have been had he simply said that night, “Oops! I’d better go back inside the house right now. Staying here on the patio is more than I can handle and I know it’s a trap.”

Isn’t it amazing how two seconds of innocence can degrade into 20 seconds of sin that ultimately unleash a world of hell into a person’s life and the life of his or her loved ones?

Though the details are likely different than David’s experience, you’ve tasted the bitter consequences somewhere along the way of allowing a glance to become a gaze.

For a brief moment, you perhaps saw a window of opportunity for revenge against a relative or co-worker or school acquaintance and, rather than glancing then ignoring the trap, you studied it and schemed at how you could get even.

Or perhaps you saw the shipping order and invoice that listed five laptop computers for your business but, when you opened the box, there were actually six. Rather than immediately pick up the phone, you gazed at the paperwork to see if the vendor would ever have a paper trail for tracking down the missing computer.

Please, my friend. Don’t allow Satan to coach you from glances to gazes.

Remember that his central goal is to damage and destroy souls — including yours — so that God receives less worship.

That’s why he tempts.

That’s why he loves it when our glances become gazes.

Don’t let the two seconds become 10 seconds, or 20 seconds or two minutes, or whatever.

The risk of reaping a life of heartache and an eternity of hell is just too great.

As always, I love you
Martin

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Giving perfectly

.

.

It is a temptation that we all experience from time to time.

We give something valuable to a person as a sign of our appreciation for them, but the gift is seemingly taken for granted or perhaps barely acknowledged. Our human nature starts flexing its “I’m wounded/offended” muscles and, the next thing you know, we start wishing we could take the gift back.

Why? Because WE didn’t get the response from the recipient that we were anticipating.

Whether we ever get the gift back or not doesn’t matter at that point. We’ve already demonstrated to ourselves, to God and perhaps subtly even to the recipient that the gift really wasn’t a gift at all.

It was an advance payment on a deal that was supposed to bring us something we wanted.

And since we didn’t get what we wanted — whether affection or increased workplace status or an inside track with the in-laws or whatever — we regret giving somebody what we thought they wanted.

Our imperfect-motives deal went sour.

This sort of thing happens SO many times in dating and family relationships. It’s common in the workplace, too.

The fact is that the world’s gifts often come with hidden agendas.

Should we expect anything less from a world that doesn’t live to please the Lord?

The question for us this morning is are we living to please the Lord?

One way of demonstrating a desire to please the Lord is to give as He gave.

You see, Jesus gave you and me the greatest gift He could ever give — His life — because He knew that we could never find salvation without it.

He didn’t say that He’d go to the cross once all the people of the world finally proclaimed Him as the atoning Messiah.

Instead, He gave His life in advance because mankind had no hope of salvation without His sacrificial death.

Jesus gave His life because people needed Him to, not because they deserved it and not because He got some compensation out of the deal.

It was a flat-out gift based on merciful love, not some spiritual bartering deal.

I share this message today because of what I read this morning in John 14:27.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When I read that Jesus doesn’t give as the world gives, my heart was deeply stirred.

For I knew that we humans are imperfect in giving on our good days and outright carnal on our bad days.

It’s true that we sometimes give with pure motives, but it’s not very often.

We too often hope that our gift will increase our relationship status or physical pleasure or sense of financial security via access to a new job or sales lead.

And not often enough are our gifts offered simply because of the need another person has, with no regard for ourselves.

When Jesus offered the gift of peace to His disciples, it was not a boomerang of blessing designed to boost His status or wealth or sense of security or land Him a job.

It was, very simply, given because the disciples needed it and He could give it.

They could choose later to abandon the gift by walking away from faith, but the gift would never be yanked from them by the One who gave it.

Please, my friend, be one who gives to others as Jesus gave.

Give because of the need another has, not because of a want you have for significance, or praise, or affection, or job security or whatever.

Pray for wisdom and humility to offer gifts in the name of Christ, not deals.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Grab your running shoes
.
.

It would be a terrible shame to chain a thoroughbred race horse to a grinder mill pole and have that stallion of speed walk in a small circle for the rest of its life.

It would be SO much better to climb on the back of that thoroughbred and thrill at the exhilaration of racing around a mile-long horse track.

You see, the stallion was born to run, not be tied to a pole and forced to walk in tiny circles.

When the horse runs, the horse and its master rejoices.

The above picture came to mind this morning when I read Psalm 119:32.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

It is clear from this verse that a sense of spiritual drudgery is the last thing that God wants to see in our lives.

It’s also clear that God knows the multiple and varied encumbrances that entangle themselves into our lives.

Man’s fallen human nature has tried since the Garden of Eden to find inner peace through personal charm or might or physical beauty or money or whatever.

Problem was that somebody else with more charm or more might or more beauty or more money always seemed to cut in front of us just when we thought we had found the fountain of happiness.

Or perhaps when we tasted the fountain, it didn’t satisfy our thirst for significance.

The fact is that we can’t rid ourselves of every hindrance by relying on the strength of our own efforts.

Simply stated, you and I cannot set our hearts free.

Only God can do that through the atoning blood of Christ and through the Holy Spirit who points us toward the Better Way for living.

Thank God that the power of the gospel IS strong enough to smash the chains and set the sinner free from the law of sin and death.

Listen, my friends. The Bible is not intended to restrict our sense of purpose and joy and blessing, but instead the opposite.

God wants us to learn the Word so that we’ll serve with joy and love without limits.

He wants us to run in our faith rather than to feel like race horses tied to grinder mill poles.

Read the Word daily, my friend.

Purchase a One-Year Bible or save this link — One-Year Bible — to your favorites and start investing the 10-12 minutes a day that are required to get through the Bible in a year.

I promise that you’ll find your faith invigorated and set free, rather than constricted “by a bunch more rules.”

You’ll read every day of God’s mercies toward those who love and honor Him.

As you see just how much God loves you, you’ll realize how much He wants to help you to share that love with others.

Grab your running shoes every morning.

Pick up your One-Year Bible.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click What good is a useless faith_

.

.

One of the Bible’s most beautiful pictures of worship is when Mary of Bethany poured anointing perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiped it off with her hair.

It was an absolute picture of devotion by one with a passionate faith in her Messiah.

This same Mary was also the one who chose to hang on every word that Jesus was speaking during an earlier dinner at the house she shared with her sister Martha.

Mary caught grief then for leaving her sister to do all the work in the kitchen, but Jesus defended Mary’s choice, saying she was focused on “the better things” of honoring God.

These pictures of devotion came to mind this morning when John 11 portrayed quite a different picture of Mary.

Actually, Mary was shown as one going through a spiritual crisis and who refused to go to Jesus.

“I trusted Him. I prayed to Him. Repeatedly. And then He let me down,” was the clear impression of her attitude based on her recorded behavior.

As I read the account involving the death of Mary’s brother, Lazarus, I thought of how most every believer at one time or another enters a season of spiritual crisis involving a profound feeling of being let down by God.

Mary had been Jesus’ biggest cheerleader in Bethany, I’m sure. A skilled socialite, Mary knew how to connect with people and to influence them.

It was a very good thing for Christ’s ministry to have Mary on the team.

But then Lazarus became deathly ill.

Mary and Martha and their friends started praying like crazy.

Mary said a message needed to get to Jesus so that He could do another one of Him healing miracles and poof! Lazarus back to good health.

After all, Mary reasoned, Jesus had the power to do so. He had even made blind people able to see again.

This was Lazarus, we’re talkin’ about. He was the brother of Mary and that should grant some special access, shouldn’t it?

No.

Jesus, of course, had a larger plan for this circumstance. One that would resolve Lazarus’ physical woes but which would also become a defining moment for how the Jews looked at Jesus, both those who loved Him and those who hated Him.

She was terribly distraught that Jesus didn’t provide a long-distance healing for Lazarus — or even come right away to pray over him.

“I’m one of His biggest supporters. Doesn’t that count for something?” she might have said to herself.

Jesus, of course, had a different agenda for this event. But Mary couldn’t see that and was simply reacting to her experiences and presumptions.

Mary’s profound disappointment was shown when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died.

She refused to meet Him, despite the likely urging of Martha.

Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would live again and then He asked about Mary.

When Mary heard that Jesus had asked for her, she jumped to her feet and left her home where she and friends had been mourning.

Mary found Jesus and fell at His feet, not to thank Him for coming but instead to complain that He didn’t show up earlier to prevent Lazarus’ death.

Fortunately, this story had a happy ending and Christ’s faith in God carried the entire crowd of weak-faith believers through the flood of despair.

For Mary, this was a painful, yet potent lesson about heartache and personal timetables and plans and the need for a mature faith.

It is a lesson that we need to re-learn over and over.

Christ’s delay in answering our prayers does NOT mean Christ doesn’t care. Instead, it often means that circumstances or perhaps our hearts are not ready yet for the display of His interceding power.

“Not now” does not always mean “Not ever!”

The wise believer trusts that God’s answer to his or her prayer will come at the time that it will accomplish the most for God’s Kingdom and for the believer.

Mary had to learn this lesson as recorded in John 11.

Paul had to learn this lesson and wrote about it in Romans 8:28-37.

James had to learn this lesson and wrote about it in James 1:2-8.

Some of us now are gaining spiritual maturity as Christ spends what seems to us as too much time in His intercession workshop. Our lesson from John 11 is to keep trusting through the heartache, knowing that He’s working on something significant and enduring that will be good to us and bring glory to Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click The acid test of spiritual integrity

.

.

Jesus was a master of bold statements that were both absolutely clear and absolutely true.

Particularly when it came to defining who He was.

Luke 10:37 is such a statement.

This verse was more than a simple identification, however.

It was an declaration of accountability for Himself.

Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.”

Wow.

Jesus was inviting the band of clergy-robed nitpickers known as the Pharisees and Saduccees to thoroughly check Him out as an imitator of God.

And then He told them — in effect — that they were off the hook in accepting Him if they could find any evidence that He had ever dropped the ball of faith.

That was incredibly gutsy.

It also demonstrated just how committed Christ was to imitating His Father.

Jesus, of course, did do those things that represented and imitated His Father.

You and I now have the opportunity for salvation because of Christ’s faithfulness.

I’m glad that Jesus was a flawless chip off the old block.

Make that a flawless, solid Rock off the eternal block.

As pleased as I was this morning with the knowledge that Jesus never failed to imitate His Father, I was also humbled by the knowledge that I haven’t been perfect.

The result? I can’t ask people to believe in Christianity just because I’ve always made the proper choices.

The fact is that I’ve messed up many times in one way or another.

So, then, how do I pursue the Great Commission of making disciples even though I sin now and then?

Here’s my idea — we do our best to imitate Christ in order to show our obvious need for a Savior.

As some people start noticing the increasing measure of godliness in our lives, we credit that change to the One who is our perfect role model, Jesus Christ.

For He never messed up.

That’s why we believe in Him and that’s why our unsaved family and friends need to believe in Him.

Listen, you and I will never be perfect on our own. We had that chance and blew it long ago in childhood.

We can still serve God in a powerful, perfected way, however, when we point people to Jesus.

We just have to apply the principle that Jesus applied to Himself and hope that people evaluating our lives will believe our testimony as we strive to love as Jesus did, pray as Jesus did, forgive as Jesus did, teach as Jesus did and so forth.

Hmmmm…..

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of reaching out to others and holding myself accountable with the following invitation to others — “Do not believe me unless you see me doing what Jesus did.”

Please let me know if you decide to use the same standard.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click The priceless value of loyalty

.

.

I find it interesting how God prepared my heart last night for the Morning Devotion I would prepare today.

Our Monday night Bible study group had postponed our study time for a week in order to have a fellowship meal with some relaxing icebreaker questions and activities. One of the questions was, “Why was your favorite pet your favorite pet?”

Nearly every answer could be traced to the word “loyalty.”

Each pet named as favorite had displayed loyalty in a way that left a deep impression.

And then I read this morning in I Samuel 23 of how David was targeted for murder by the jealous King Saul and his army.

David had been loyal to King Saul, but the jealous, prideful, insecure king had responded with hatred and a desire to destroy the one anointed by God to be the king’s successor.

It was a very difficult time for David. He had been run off from Saul’s palace earlier because of murder attempts on his life. He then was run off by a group of Philistines with whom he had been staying.

He then was advised by a preacher to leave the town of Keilah because its people would turn him over to Saul even though David and his fighting men rescued the city from a Philistine army.

Betrayal followed David wherever he went, it seemed.

Would this anointed, future ruler of Israel ever find ANYBODY who would be loyal to him?

Thankfully, the answer was yes.

David actually was blessed by a relationship with the poster child for loyalty.

His name was Jonathan.

And he was the king’s son.

In my mind, Jonathan is the epitome of loyalty. If I ever write a book on the topic of loyalty, Jonathan’s life will be the foundation for the principles shared.

In this chapter, starting in verse 15, we read of how Saul is craving the death of David. Yet, Jonathan goes to David to infuse hope into his life.

“And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (verse 16).

What Jonathan did was the epitome of loyalty.

Jonathan knew that his father had even tried to kill him when he spoke up previously in David’s behalf.

But God’s voice told him to seek out David and encourage him, no matter the obstacles.

And so Jonathan did.

Not only did he display deep loyalty to David, but Jonathan also displayed a rock-solid understanding of where the source of lasting power is found.

He helped David to find strength in God.

Wow. Jonathan was loyal to God and loyal to David.

Who among us does not want another Jonathan in our lives? Someone willing to come to us when were discouraged or under attack, even at the risk of hassles for himself or herself?

I pray that God raise up a Jonathan in your life if there isn’t one now. Your zeal for serving God in difficult circumstances will be refreshed as He sends one to help you to find strength in God.

I also pray that you’ll listen to God’s voice when He calls you to be a Jonathan. Perhaps He is prompting you now to go to somebody who is under attack directly or indirectly.

Jonathan’s efforts were huge in helping David through some painful, isolated times in his life.

Your efforts can do the same if you’ll ask God to use you where He and somebody else needs you.

Your display of loyalty will never be forgotten, either by the person you help or by the God who sent you.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To heart this Morning Devotion, please click Risky riches

.

.

The verse’s message was so clear: some much-adored measures for life success are actually the worst possible things that a person could gain.

It’s so ironic, but also so true.

Proverbs 15:17 says this, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.”

My goodness.

They sure don’t teach this principle in business schools or with most consumer advertisements pushing people to spend money.

“Get more, have more, BE more” is the mantra of marketing forces in our world.

Look where this philosophy has gotten our country, though.

We are a nation of credit-financed fattened calves that aren’t producing the happiness for which millions had hoped.

Divorce is at an all-time high, with arguments over money as the most common root conflict.

Adult sibling conflict over what happens with the parents’ estate — always an issue in all cultures — seems worse than ever.

I’ve met some affluent people who are fountains of generosity, but many people of economic standing seem less inclined toward sharing their possessions.

That doesn’t mean that these people are feeling secure in their tight grip on the stuff.

If you have a fattened calf in one form or another — or even are perceived to have one — all sorts of solicitors and identity thieves are out to get it from you.

I’ve met a number of people lately who are sick of the fattened calf lifestyle and who yearn for simpler times.

The big house with the big social expectations and the big bills and the big demand for upkeep is too big of a price tag, they’ve decided. The same applies to the big boat or the big car or the big club membership or the big whatever.

The problem is that many people now recognize the big headaches from chasing the fattened calf and that means that there are fewer people with an interest in paying to take it off the owners’ hands.

The Great Recession has slammed millions, but it has also succeeded in teaching lessons that people weren’t getting otherwise.

Lessons like Proverbs 15:17.

The wisdom of eating more vegetables and less beef is relevant not just to the realm of good nutrition in order to reduce the risk of physical health, but also to spiritual health.

If I am making any compromises that are hurtful to family or friends in order to have the fattened calf, then I am doing wrong.

Simply stated, if anything material is becoming a hindrance toward my showing love toward someone, I need to give it up.

It’s that simple.

I’m in a season of circumstances, it seems, that God is insulating me from this trap.

I’m simply not in the position to embrace the fattened-calf lifestyle just now.

I don’t know that I would since I haven’t done so in the past.

But through God’s choice for arranging my circumstances, I’m in a “vegetables” life zone just now.

And that’s OK.

For I am surely loved by the family and friends that I love.

That’s far more important to me than having a pasture filled with fattened calves.

Solomon was absolutely right when he wrote that it was better to be eating beans and rice with loving people than to be eating prime rib with those scheming to take your place.

Please, dear friend, keep first things first.

Always focus first on feeding your heart and soul when it comes to your life priorities. That way, you’ll have peace with those you love, something not available to those who focus first on feeding their insatiable appetites of pride and material craving.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »