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Archive for June, 2010

We’ve all heard of Fool’s Gold, that stuff that prompted so many unwarranted celebrations during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s.

Nearly identical in appearance to real gold, the stuff’s true identity as worthless metal sometimes could not be confirmed until it was chemically analyzed by trained assayers.

Countless miners thought they had struck it rich when they first discovered a vein of what was actually pyrite. There were all the emotions of celebration, anticipation, and dejection through that cycle of discovery and later disclosure of worthlessness.

The desire to find gold was so strong that it overwhelmed some miners with the delusion that geological garbage was actually the ticket to fortune and fame.

These miners had invested too much time, money and emotion into their search and didn’t want to hear that their investment was wasted.

I was reminded of pyrite this morning while reading from 2 Kings 17 in the One-Year Bible. It’s a tragic account of the zeal shown by the post-David Israelites (both the Northern and Southern kingdoms) toward false worship involving idolatry, immorality and even child sacrifice.

The fervor shown by the Israelites toward false religions was stubborn and sickening.

Particularly to God.

“So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; He afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until He thrust them from His presence” (vv. 18-20).

It is difficult reading in an emotional sense because of the countless amount of suffering and irreverence that resulted. Even so, I encourage you to read the chapter in order to get a sense of why God was so upset and why He did what He did in exiling the Israelites from both kingdoms.

I share this topic today because of our human tendency toward rebellion against God.

We want the “gold” of a valued religious life since we’re hard-wired by God at birth to worship something.

But we too often don’t want to put in the hard work, the time and investment of money that goes along with discovering an enduring, priceless vein of spiritual riches.

That was too often the case with Old Testament Israel and look what it got them.

God called them to seek genuine riches in His way but the shortcuts were too alluring.

Dear friend, I pray that you don’t settle for fool’s gold when it comes to your faith.

Put in the hard work of digging for truth, tossing aside large amounts of theological garbage in order to find that which truly is timeless, inspired and precious.

Test everything you consider believing against the assaying Word of God.

On Judgment Day, it won’t matter if your beliefs and practices are shiny. It will only matter if they are true and faithful to God.

I Corinthians 3:15 says that the “gold” in our lives will pass through the fires of judgment when we stand before God.

Please make sure that your heart and your faith and your hopes are as good as gold, real gold possessing value because God’s purposes, God’s Spirit and God’s Son have filled them up.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click here  Endless stream of lies

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It’s amazing, actually, at how predictable the schemes of the Enemy really are.

So why don’t we all avoid sin like the plague?

Because of pride, that’s why.

Others who dance with the Devil get their toes stomped, but that won’t happen to us, we sometimes believe.

We’re so easily hustled into believing we’re really good dancers who can stay one step ahead of the Enemy’s pointy-toed, snakeskin boots.

Yeah, right.

Listen, there is no asterisk on Romans 3:23 regarding our name.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

If we’re not continually careful and humble and immersed in the Word and prayer, we will embrace the lie that God can be bumped to second place and yet He will still deliver us to heaven as if He were first-place in our hearts.

Please remind those around you, and perhaps even yourself, that nothing good comes from believing Satan’s lies.

Particularly the lies that masquerade as being faithful.

Lies such as the one represented in today’s One-Year Bible reading. 2 Kings 16 describes how King Ahaz of Judah feared destruction by the Assyrian army and so a huge payoff of gold and silver from the Jerusalem temple treasury was made to the Assyrian king.

The looming attack was averted and then Ahaz paid a visit to the pagan king, Tiglath-Pileser. While there, Ahaz saw a pagan altar worshiped by the Assyrians. Ahaz was infatuated with the altar’s appearance and ordered Uriah the Jerusalem temple priest to make a copy and put it in the Jerusalem temple.

That was terrible enough.

But then Ahaz directed that the pagan altar be placed where the bronze altar — long before ordained by God as the primary place of sacrifice — had been located. The bronze altar was moved off to the side, no longer used for sacrifices to Jehovah but instead for “seeking guidance” (2 Kings 16:15).

Other changes were made to the Jerusalem temple’s main worship area as a result of Ahaz’s infatuation with Assyrian worship practices.

Devaluing the place of Jehovah in temple worship led only to problems for Ahaz, though. Rather than repent and remove the false worship icons and altars, Ahaz made things worse.

2 Chronicles 28:24 describes how Ahaz took even the furnishings of the temple, “sent them away” and closed the doors of the temple, instructing the now-corrupted priests to “set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem.”

It got even worse.

“In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoke the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger” (v. 25).

Satan loved all this, of course.

Remember, his greatest desire is to anger God.

He hates God.

That’s why it is SO important that we make no choices that serve Satan’s agenda. For once we start down that road, we can very easily drive off the cliff.

Please remember these two absolute truths:

  • Satan is a liar who wants to destroy you and deny praise to God
  • God is Truth and wants to deliver you into an eternal life of praise to God
  • Test every thought and offer from others, my friend. If it doesn’t point in some way toward biblically honoring God (Colossians 3:17), don’t embrace it.

    Satan won’t like your choice. But God will.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Room for improvement

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    It almost seems like a contradiction.

    I’m talking about how the wisest of people are the first ones to concede that they don’t know everything.

    It is that humility, however, that makes them so valuable as guides toward the advice we so often need.

    For when we hear a wise person say, “There are many things I don’t know, but here are some things I DO know…” we gain confidence that we’re hearing solid, tested truth that could make a real difference in our lives.

    Like you, I’ve experienced the spiritual, relational and material blessings that came from listening to wise people who shared tested truth with me.

    And like you, I’ve experienced the unwanted burdens that sometimes came because I didn’t listen to the advice from wise people who were trying to save me from dead-end roads.

    It’s always SO much better to acknowledge our life-long need for learning. The more we do so, the wiser we become.

    We all — even the most charming and most eloquent among us — need to remain in a learning mode.

    I share this principle this morning because of what I read in Acts 18 regarding a man named Apollos.

    He was a brilliant orator who was skilled in debate and who loved God.

    Acts 18:24-25 describe Apollos as a “learned man with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures who spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately” while in Ephesus, likely on repeated occasions.

    On one occasion of “speaking boldly” in the Ephesian synagogue, a mature Christian couple with the names Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos’ message and then invited him to their home. Why? They “explained the way of God more accurately” to him regarding baptism into Christ (v. 26).

    If Apollos had been unwise, he would have been offended by the couple’s efforts to help him better understand the Gospel message and to better serve the Savior who gave it.

    If pride had been given free reign, Apollos would have looked for flaws in Aquila and Priscilla in order to shift the focus away from his knowledge deficits.

    Or he might have been socially tactful in saying “Thanks, but no thanks,” while at the same time rejecting the call to be spiritually truthful.

    It is SO good that Apollos didn’t do what too many Christians today do — put up a wall of pride to hide the void in learning. He listened to the Holy Spirit, speaking through the couple, and — by implication — was baptized into Christ

    Every longtime Christian faces this learning intersection of pride and humility from time to time. We are sharing our understanding of faith and then somebody comes along and asks us to consider biblical information we had not earlier understood or embraced.

    If we’re wise, we’ll give serious evaluation to what the person is sharing, comparing it with the scriptures and modifying our message appropriately.

    If we’re unwise, we’ll blow the person off as ill-informed and trying to skew our beliefs to imitate theirs.

    I have no idea what facets of your faith are in need of sharpening to display “the way of God more accurately.” But you can be sure that God does and that He’ll eventually send somebody to humbly point you toward a greater understanding of the Gospel.

    When that happens, please reject the lure of prideful self-contentment with what you know. Instead, display the pattern of Apollos and allow the Holy Spirit to sharpen your faith as you sharpen the Sword of Truth, your knowledge of scripture.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  When faith and fairness clash

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    “Let me get this straight.

    “You explained to a demon-possessed woman how she could be set free from her spiritual bondage and return to a normal life.

    “You did so because you love to help people.

    “Yet you were arrested, stripped and beaten by an angry mob.

    “Then you were flogged with whips that tore the flesh on your back.

    “After that, you were thrown into a prison cell where your feet were placed into wooden stocks to keep you from moving around.

    “And then you started singing hymns of praise to God? Are you kidding me?

    “What? You actually focused on praying up to God rather than focusing on paying back those who caused your suffering?

    “You must be some faith freak or something. A lot of good your faith did for you — causing you all sorts of hassles.”

    “Yeah, you ended up teaching and baptizing the jailer and his family. But what you went through wasn’t fair!”

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    The above hypothetical statements occurred to me this morning while reading from Acts 16 in the One-Year Bible. I imagined myself talking with the Apostle Paul after he and Silas had left Philippi and shared their experiences with me.

    I strongly encourage you to read Acts 16 in the daily reading segment posted on the right side of this page.

    The words in that passage will help you, as they did me, to place faith-related struggles in the proper context.

    Whatever hassles we face because we are helping others spiritually is less than what has been faced by those who went before us.

    That means that we can make it through tough times just as they made it through tough times.

    No amount of prospective or actual hassle should prevent us from trying to help people toward life in Christ.

    Please ask God to reveal those in your circle of influence who are still gripped by sin’s tentacles.

    And please ask God for the boldness and endurance to overcome the hassles from relatives, co-workers, disgruntled customers or even public officials who don’t like your efforts to turn people from darkness to the Light.

    It won’t be fair that you are mistreated for doing the faith thing.

    But, of course, it wasn’t fair that Jesus was mistreated because of my sins and yours.

    Because He was treated unfairly for our sake, we are to accept unfair treatment for others’ sake.

    It’s the faithful thing to do.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Lose the blinders

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    How many times have you cried out, perhaps even audibly, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”

    I’ve lost count as to how many times I have been uncertain as to the best path through a difficult situation.

    I do know specifically, however, the number of times that God has let me down by leaving me with no strength or wisdom to help me get through the tough spot involving family or ministry or secular work or health.

    That number, of course, is O.

    I continue to encounter difficult situations.

    And God continues to be faithful.

    Because of His faithfulness to His promise to never leave me or forsake me, I am inspired toward faithful living for Him.

    I was reminded this morning of God’s perfect resume while reading from 2 Kings 6 in the One-Year Bible. The prophet Elisha had been warning the king of Israel whenever enemy armies would plan large-scale attacks. The king of Aram grew tired of Elisha divulging his army’s plans and sent a small army to capture him.

    On the morning of the planned capture, Elisha’s servant Gehazi awoke and went for a walk outside the city of Dothan where the prophet was living. On all the ridges surrounding the city were Aramean chariots, horses and soldiers.

    Gehazi was gripped by fear and ran to Elisha as fast as he could.

    “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” he cried.

    When I read these words this morning, I thought of all those times that I’ve counseled people who were facing the Goliath of a terrible disease or a substance-abusing family member or a disintegrating career or a betrayal of their marriage.

    I thought about those times when I saw the threats that were greater than my strength.

    And then I thought about those times when I saw the strength from above that was greater than the threats.

    Listen, we all have occasions when the enemy threats, and perhaps even the enemy attacks, are greater than we can overcome on our own.

    That’s why we need to remember the words Elisha spoke to Gehazi.

    “Don’t be afraid,the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

    Elisha then prayed that God would open Gehazi’s eyes so that the servant could see that he was far from being alone.

    “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17).

    It’s interesting to note that the armies of the Lord did not destroy the Aramean army. The divine forces were perhaps there, instead, to make sure that the Satan-prompted efforts of the enemy didn’t go beyond the limits of God’s will.

    Not only were Elisha and Gehazi not harmed by the enemy army, but a great ministry of grace occurred toward that army that led to peace between Aramea and Israel for years. You can read the details of how that played out by clicking on the daily Bible-reading link on the right of this page.

    Listen, my friends. There is no threat that can come against you that is greater than the God who loves you and the Holy Spirit who desires to live within you.

    Yes, some of the threats or attacks you face are or will be very tough.

    But please remember that you are not alone.

    Wherever there is an evil scheme or evil effort — and thus, an evil influence — there will ALWAYS be a contrasting angel watching to make sure that the enemy doesn’t put more upon you than you can bear (I Cor. 10:13).

    There will always be a way through the storm, that verse promises.

    Elisha trusted God’s presence, God’s power and God’s purposes and deliverance not only came to him and Gehazi but also to the entire nation as the ultimate weapon — grace — changed the enemy’s hearts.

    I pray that you will trust God’s presence, power and purposes as you await not only your deliverance but also the deliverance of those close to you and perhaps even those threatening you.

    Never forget that His grace is sufficient.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    It wasn’t a lengthy phrase.

    But, boy, did it leave a lingering image in my mind.

    I’m talking about Acts 10:4.

    An angel had been sent from God to a godly Roman military commander named Cornelius. What would happen subsequently set the stage for the launch of Christian ministry to the Gentiles.

    But a triggering event was first needed to dramatically change the attitude of the born-and-bred Jew named Peter who — although a sold-out believer of Jesus — was still cold to the idea of non-Jews becoming Christians.

    Peter’s transformation through Acts 10 and all that God did to prompt him toward ethnic inclusiveness is another story, of course, And I encourage you to make sure you read that chapter in your own Bible or by clicking Tuesday’s installment of the online Bible available by clicking on the One-Year Bible link box to the right of this devotion.

    My focus today is on something the angel said to Cornelius, a short statement that provides a powerful lesson on Christian generosity.

    Here is what the angel said to Cornelius :

    “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”

    Hmmmm………….

    We can understand the prayers floating up to God part. After all, they are the utterances of our spirits, via the Holy Spirit, to the throneroom of God.
    But our gifts to the poor? Those are considered in the same breath as our prayers?

    Wow.

    Everybody who claims to have a relationship with God is engaged in prayer to some extent. Or they should be.

    Some even pray abundantly, particularly when times are tough in their lives.

    But does everybody “give generously to those in need” as did Cornelius?

    Do you?

    Aren’t we more prone to pray generously because of our needs than we are to give generously because of others’ needs?

    God used Cornelius in an amazing way to help lay the foundation for ministry to the Gentiles. That wouldn’t have happened had God not seen Cornelius’ generosity toward those in need.

    God wants to use us in wonderful ways to lay the foundation for ministry to those around us. Please allow God to see your generosity toward those in need who are in your circle of influence.

    You’ll not only be helping people but you’ll also be giving God a form of worship that is SO endearing to His heart.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    Lori and I are on a multi-stop trip to visit relatives and to take part in our youngest daughter’s wedding in Nashville, TN this Saturday. Until then, the postings to the Morning Devotion site will be random, if any. God has blessed us with a great roster of relatives and we are profoundly grateful.

    I encourage you to thank Him today for the family members He has placed into your life. And then share words of love with them. You’ll all be glad that you did. And so will the Abba Father who gave life and love to you all.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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