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Archive for June, 2010

This guest Morning Devotion is provided by a dear friend and longtime missionary to Mexico, Susan Calderon. A native of Knoxville, TN and graduate of Johnson Bible College, Susan has dedicated her life to serving people through ministry and as a nurse. Susan has returned to her hometown where she teaches at Johnson Bible College, loves on her extended family and enjoys the time with her children and grandchildren. She’s a wonderful servant with a sharp mind as you’ll see from her devotional thoughts about God’s desire for collective faith, not just personal faith.
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In our adult Sunday School class we have been studying the topic of “Community.” I substitute taught the class recently on the topic “A Chosen Community.” As I prepared the Sunday School lesson taken from Colossians 3 (I suggest you read that passage), I was using my Spanish Bible. How differently the passage reads using “you” in the plural instead of in the singular! That’s the way it reads in Spanish (and in Greek): plural “you.”

Now, have you stopped to consider that many languages, not including English, have different words or word forms to express singular and plural “you?” Old English used “thee” and “thou” for singular and “ye” and “you” for plural. Most English-speakers now must often add a clarifying word or use a colloquial or regional expression (how about “you all” or “you-uns?”) to indicate whether we are speaking to one person or more than one.

Helping me with my Bible study preparation was Dr. Carl Bridges’ article, “By Their Plurals You Shall Know Them,” published in Johnson Bible College’s e-zine the week before: www.jbc.edu/churchlink, Volume 3, Issue 1.

Even though I know passages are written in the plural, many times I “read” them in the singular form. And most times we can read them and apply them either way without really altering the writer”s intention. But knowing which form is used can make a difference in the meaning and application of the passage. Let’s consider a couple of passages where the meaning depends a lot on the form of “you” used.

Paul refers many times in his writings to the body, sometimes as the church and sometimes as an actual physical body. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 he writes, “Do you [all] not know that you [all] are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you [all]? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you [all] are” (NASV).

He’s comparing the church here to a temple with each member a stone in it (see 1 Peter 2:5) and warning against any one “stone” destroying the “temple” (His body/church).

Now, I’ve heard sermons using these verses as a warning against a person’s destroying his own body through misuse (drugs, alcohol, gluttony, etc.). In a sense, they’re right as destroying one’s own body is destructive to the church as a whole. But Paul’s emphasis in this passage is on building up the church with each “stone” fulfilling his/her part. Edifying the body/church/”temple” is a corporate effort which includes dealing with destructive members/”stones” (see 1 Cor. 5:1-5) and with each “stone” working with the others for God’s glory.

In 1 Cor. 6:12-20 Paul deals with the individual’s body, especially in the realm of sexual immorality. Although he uses spiritual comparisons, he emphasizes maintaining the purity of one’s own physical body before God and also refers to it as “the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (v. 19). Here is a case where we are being taught as individuals, each body as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, the Holy Spirit resides in the corporate body, too, and as such the church must keep herself pure before God and the world. “For you [individually] have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your [individual] body” (v. 20).

So, do we read passages as “you” or “you ALL” from now on? Look for the author’s intended audience. I understand Colossians 3 much differently when I read it as directed to the congregation at Colossae; it’s a community-directed passage. Reading it that way helped me re-direct my focus to how our congregation should act and interact, not just how I act and interact.

“Whatever you [all] do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, NASV).

Susan Calderon

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I will be posting today’s Devotion later in the day since a number of matters surfaced this morning that demanded immediate attention. Blessings to you and you’ll be hearing from me later.

As always, I love you

Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Silver linings

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We Christians should be experts at looking for silver linings.

Every dark cloud that God allows to come over our lives — even those we bring on ourselves because of evaporating integrity — comes with the potential for a redemptive lesson.

Sometimes it is a lesson in divine mercy as in God’s last-minute rescue and restoration when we’re right on the edge of losing our minds because of guilt or grief… or both.

Sometimes it is a lesson in divine provision when we’re at the precipice of financial collapse, such as the blessing of an unexpected “check in the mail” or a job offer after extended, painful unemployment.

The life-changing lesson from God can even arise from the emotional fog of a tormented, twisted marital relationship when we stop dwelling on what we want from marriage and start dwelling on what our marriage needs from us.

A preacher friend of mine is to share a message this Sunday that will focus on the role of broken hearts in building one’s character and capability for serving God. I’m looking forward to the message. I’m a better person now because my heart has been broken and restored on a number of occasions.

I hope that you can say the same for your life.

Because God has shown me silver linings in the past, I know that silver linings await me in the future, no matter how many dark clouds are gathered over me in the present.

I share this today because of today’s reading in the One-Year Bible available on the sidebar in the right column. Acts 8:1 describes a terrible wave of persecution that came against Jerusalem Christians after the stoning death of Stephen. It was so bad that all the believers except for the apostles had to flee the city.

It wasn’t fair, of course. The Christians were loving others and sharing generously and acting like poster children for good citizenship, I’m sure. Yet, Satan hated their Lord, their faith, their souls and rounded up God-haters to oppress them out of the city.

Thousands lost their homes, their jobs, their unhindered friendships and countless hours of sleep.

Many lost their freedom when they were thrown into prison because of their faith.

It was a dirty deal, a major-league dark cloud.

But here is the silver lining.

And it’s a big one.

“But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went” (verse 4).

My goodness.

Lose stuff. Win souls.

Betcha Satan didn’t like how that turned out.

Listen, broken dreams and broken hearts due to broken plans or broken promises aren’t going to make us happy. But with faith and an understanding of God’s Word, they can help us to become stronger and more engaged in sharing the faith that saves and sustains us.

Don’t shake your fist at the dark cloud, my friend. Instead, reach up in prayer toward God through that dark cloud and — at the right time — God will place into your hands an opportunity to do something special for His Kingdom.

And He just might put an earthly blessing into your hands along the way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I have introduced an easy-to-use link box on the sidebar at right that allows you to instantly call up each day’s reading in the One-Year Bible. I believe this will be a very helpful tool for you and I encourage you to start reading the Morning Devotion at that site after you’ve read your daily installment from God’s Word. Adding the site to your Internet favorites/bookmarks will make recalling the site very easy.

Also, I apologize for the absence of Morning Devotion articles for the past two days. I’ve had a number of duties and electronic mishaps that greatly disrupted my schedule. I am glad to be back in the flow of sharing with you God’s inspirations to me.

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click The power of patience

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Movie theaters would likely go bankrupt if they had to rely on movies that followed the theme of Proverbs 16:32.

“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Hollywood makes a fortune each year from action movies filled with tough guys, blazing guns, swinging fists, special effects and blood-dripping carnage.

The fact is that millions spend billions in order to watch good-guy warriors put a serious hurtin’ on the bad guy warriors.

And video games? Talk about a warrior mentality….

King Solomon wrote Proverbs 16:32. He was not known as a mighty warrior like his dad, but instead as the ultimate whiz kid. Solomon was inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to write what he did so he knew its words were true.

He also knew that he failed in his own life to abide by the teaching on every occasion.

The fact that he had 900 wives and concubines points to the fact that he was lacking in patience — in a variety of ways.

And he had way too many big-boy toys to have been adequately patient in seeking first the Kingdom of God in all things.

Ecclesiastes describes Solomon’s impatient journey through the swamp of selfishness that finally left him with the lesson that was available to him from the very beginning: the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments.

Solomon eventually realized that the blending of patience and character and truth is what generates meaningful, godly influence upon the lives of others, not big biceps and large-caliber guns.

Yes, my fist can change the shape of somebody’s nose but it is my patient character and message that can influence somebody’s heart.

So when your jilted pride is calling you to morph into some self-seeking superhero in order to “make somebody pay,” remember Solomon’s counsel, my friend.

Patiently look within yourself and within God’s Word for the wisest response that will defend truth, define your character and display to observers that flawed attitude of the person causing you the problems.

With so many people around us watching how we handle criticism and personal attacks, it’s valuable to be known as a patient person with a strong measure of self-control rather than as “Vendetta Vinnie” who has to get even with somebody in order to feel good about himself or herself.

Remember this during your parenting conflicts. Patiently hold fast to biblical parenting principles, deflect the emotional cost of adolescent verbal indiscretions while, at the same time, calmly enforcing appropriate consequences for disobedience.

The alternative of yelling hurtful things at your kids might win a skirmish over control of the moment. The “win at all costs” mentality in a parent, unfortunately, can also build a thick wall that chokes off any chance for the long-term goal of a lifelong relationship with that child.

The same principle applies in marriage, in the workplace, in church and every other relationship setting.

Patiently trust in God’s Word, imitate Christ’s patience-filled behavior and trust God to “take care of business” with the attacker. That way, God can work through your patient example to change the world, starting in your little corner.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Our never-ending ‘to-do’ list

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Those of us who have been Christians for many years have faced the frustration of Romans 7:14-25 so passionately described by the Apostle Paul.

Simply put, Paul was quite frustrated by his failure to be perfect as Christ was perfect.

At times, he even felt like a wretched man destined for the furnace.

But then he remembered that he was covered by the atoning blood of Jesus and, with that, he had eternal hope.

I was reminded of this hope this morning while reading of King Solomon’s early reign.

Solomon, we all know, was the smartest, non-Jesus person who ever lived.

The richest, too.

Solomon’s wealth made Bill Gates and Warren Buffet look like wannabes with pocketfuls of pennies.

Yet Solomon was far short of perfect.

Yes, he wrote brilliant, often eloquent proverbs and psalms and a love letter and the amazing Ecclesiastes.

But he was way too hit and miss when it came to his personal sanctification.

He ignored God’s Word regarding foreign wives.

He ignored God’s Word regarding the accumulation of horses and chariots.

He ignored God’s Word regarding animal sacrifices conducted only by priests.

He ignored God’s Word regarding sex outside of marriage.

He even randomly ignored God’s Word regarding the false worship of other Gods.

Yes, Solomon was an impressive person with an incredible intellect.

But he was also a big-time sinner who failed to press ahead daily toward the lifestyle that God had ordained.

The fact is that pleasing God is not a function of brainpower but instead of sanctified willpower.

You know, it’s very easy for us to point fingers at Bible characters whose spiritual flaws are chronicled.

But are we willing to point fingers at OUR spiritual flaws and commit ourselves to remove them?

In the winter of his life, Solomon finally acknowledged that he had messed up terribly by not understanding that a close, surrendered relationship with God and His Word is the only concern that really counts in this life.

I want to better understand and practice this truth.

That’s why I appreciate when the Holy Spirit pricks my heart about attitudes or actions that hinder my personal sanctification.

Daily, I need to examine myself to see if I’m ignoring any of God’s lifestyle commands.

And when I take communion every Sunday according to the pattern of apostles, I need to examine myself to see where I’ve fallen short and where I need to become more like Christ.

I pray that you will do the same.

You and I are Savior-needing sinners who mess up from a lack of obedience, not from a lack of brain power.

Please start living today as if you believe that there is nothing better in life than to fear God and keep His commandments.

It’s the right thing to do.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click The only place to find true peace
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So many people lack inner peace.

They’ve tried to find it but they’ve been looking in the wrong place.

It’s not in the bar.

It’s not in the rented bedroom.

It’s not in the “glad I knew somebody” job.

It’s not at the poker table.

It’s not in the cyber gutter of computer porn.

And it’s certainly not in the driver’s seat of the “really can’t afford this” car or boat.

There is only one place to find the peace that surpasses understanding.

That place is at the cross.

That is the place where our failures and our filth and our flaws can be washed away by the blood of the Messiah who never failed, who had no filth and had no flaws.

That is the place where our repentance of sin sets the stage for our restoration by the Son.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible contains a powerful and crystal-clear pathway to inner peace. The Apostle Peter is preaching in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the crucifixion and 10 days after Christ’s ascension. Thousands of Jews from around the Roman Empire have gathered to hear this first public sermon about Jesus and how He was the promised Messiah foretold in the Old Testament.

So many were there looking for inner peace because they knew that their traditional beliefs and political biases had left their souls feeling empty and guilty of murder. Remember, many of those gathered before Peter had likely screamed “Crucify!” just before Jesus’ death.

After a powerful sermon filled with Old Testament confirmations of Christ’s Messianic status, here is what happened:

“Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

“Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles — all who have been called by the Lord our God.’

Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation!’

“Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

“A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:37-47).

On the “before” side of their repentance and baptism, Peter’s listeners were stuck with relying on a placebo peace that ignored obedience to Christ.

On the “after” side of their repentance and baptism into Christ, however, they were cleansed, transformed and the sealed by the Holy Spirit with a peace from God that is eternal.

It is undeniable that the believers described in the latter part of the passage above were experiencing great inner peace. They didn’t need stuff in order to be happy. They didn’t need their egos stroked. They didn’t need to be part of a “cool” clique.

They had Jesus.

They had cleansed, transformed souls.

They had the Holy Spirit guiding them and empowering them.

They had like-minded believers with whom they shared life.

And they had the growing respect of people around them who saw the sincere changes in their lives.

Do you have these five things?

If not, I encourage you to follow their example in repentance and baptism if you have not already done so. The promised forgiveness of sins and gift of the Holy Spirit that will result are crucial to your gaining that peace that surpasses all understanding.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click

Never give up on a relative’s spiritual awakening
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One of the toughest challenges a Christian can face is a family member’s rejection of Christ as Lord.

It pains the believer in a variety of ways, as many of you know firsthand.

Yet, if the believer’s faith in God is authentic, there is an unending flow of prayer to God that — someday — that loved one will come to Jesus or perhaps return to Jesus.

There has to be more than prayer, though.

I was reminded this morning during my reading from Acts 1 that Jesus faced the same challenge of family members rejecting His Lordship.

You’ll recall that Jesus’ siblings caved in to peer pressure during His time of ministry and refused to follow Him as Messiah.

Some of them even acted resentfully and spoke to Him with sarcasm.

Yet, after His trial, crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus’ brothers had a change of heart.

After Jesus’ ascension, the 11 apostles returned to Jerusalem and joined a group of women including Jesus’ mother, Mary, and, according to Acts 1:14, the brothers of Jesus.

Forty days earlier, these brothers had believed that Jesus was a misguided, Messianic wannabe.

Now they realized that they were the ones who had been wrong.

And they were convinced that being with the apostles, despite the certain backlash from the religious establishment, was the right thing for them.

It is SO comforting to me to see that Jesus’ family finally acknowledged His identity and His Lordship over their lives.

Their change of heart didn’t happen just because of Jesus’ earlier words or just because of His earlier prayers. It wasn’t even just because of Jesus’ humble actions on behalf of others that they chose to convert.

I’m convinced that it took the combination of Christ’s words, prayers and actions and the passage of time before His unsaved brothers seriously considered embracing Him as Lord.

And I’m convinced that, for many of you, your family member’s change of heart toward Christ won’t happen just because of your Christian words or just because of your continuing prayers or just because of humble, others-focused actions they observe in your life.

I believe that for many of you, it will take the combination of your words, prayers, actions and the passage of time before your unsaved relatives embrace Christ.

It CAN happen, though.

It did for Jesus. And it can for you.

Just keep speaking as Jesus did, praying as Jesus did, serving others as Jesus did and patiently waiting as Jesus did.

As always, I love you
Martin

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