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Archive for July, 2010

If you’ve ever been involved with a church building program, you know that the journey from concept to concrete to consecration service is not an overnight affair.

It often takes a couple of years and sometimes bucketfuls of blood, sweat and tears.

Oh yeah, and a bunch of money.

It’s hard to imagine a church construction project lasting 20 years, involving many thousands of men and costing more money than the annual gross national product of many nations. I guess that’s why God took the imagining part away and simply showed us in Scripture the fact that it happened.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible from 2 Chronicles 6-8 describe the dedication services for the Jerusalem temple after it was completed by King Solomon’s construction crew. I can’t comprehend actually just how magnificent the temple was, even though the Bible tells me — in effect — that $180 billion was spent on its construction during the 20-year project.

The temple itself was no larger than a very small, six-story apartment building. Yet it took that long and that much money to build, along with the temple grounds, walls, etc.

More than 150,000 men were involved in various phases of its construction.

Over 23 tons of pure gold were hammered into sheets and used to overlay the interior of the small building. We’re talking $736 million just for what was essentially gold paneling on the inside of the building.

Amazing.

It’s a good thing that the construction money was already in the bank before the project began, I’ll tell you that.

So how does the temple-construction cost and timeline relate to your life and mine?

Simply this — your soul and mine are worth more to God than any earthly building, whether it be the Jerusalem temple or the church building you sit in each Sunday.

How can I say that? Because Jesus didn’t hang on the cross so that any building can have eternal life, that’s how.

He did hang on the cross for your soul and mine, however.

It’s hard to fathom the idea that my soul is worth more to God than a $180 billion church building that took 150,000 men and 20 years to complete.

But it is.

That’s why Jesus endured all sorts of hardships without sinning, even on the cross — to provide the opportunity for my salvation through trust in His atoning blood.

That blood is worth a whole lot more than the $180 billion spent on the Jerusalem temple. For you can’t put a monetary price on the only thing that can take away the sins of the world.

It’s good that we understand how incredible Solomon’s temple really was. For this helps us to appreciate even more the unfathomable value of the human soul belonging to our unsaved family member or neighbor or co-worker or person visiting our congregation.

If building another, $180 billion temple would have provided the ultimate remedy for man’s sin, then God would have done that in the 1st Century rather than sending Jesus.

It wouldn’t then. And it doesn’t now.

There’s only one way for your sin problem to be solved.

A way that cost the Father a whole lot more than $180 billion.

It cost Him His only Son.

And He willingly paid it for the rescue of my sinful, sometimes rebellious soul and for yours.

Let’s panel our lives with Golden Rule living so that God sees a good return on His priceless investment into our salvation.

For the more people who see our gleaming lives sanctified and dedicated for His sake, the more people will realize how much God gave for their souls and that they, too, can have a remade life headed for glory.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Satan’s miscalculation
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Talk about a contrast.

So many times, God has sent blessings into our lives to influence us toward a more faithful life.

Yet, we’ve misread those blessings and misused them for purposes contrary to the purposes of God.

And so many times, Satan has tossed wrenches of affliction or attack into our lives to influence us toward a less faithful life.

Yet, we’ve seen clearly his schemes and we’ve used them against him as we held tightly to the purposes of God.

It really is amazing when you think of the measure of authority that God has given us for determining the direction of our faith.

It’s all about our choices.

As powerful as Satan is, he cannot force you or me to choose his scheme. Instead, the choice rests with us.

This must be terribly frustrating to Satan, this fact that humble, little humans with faith can resist his temptations and torments.

On the flip side, God is even more powerful than Satan and yet He created you and me with the ability to tell Him “No.”

Sadly, we do just that on too many occasions.

This is terribly disappointing to Him, this fact that humble, little humans lacking faith can quite readily resist His Truth, His Spirit and His grace.

And sadly, as demonstrated by countless millions in scripture, we also do that on too many occasions.

Life is so much better all around when we say “No” to Satan and “Yes” to God.

Our life as a Christian is to be a journey of learning how to more regularly do both of the above.

That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote what he did in Romans 7, today’s reading in the One-Year Bible. Here is an excerpt that captures the essence of what stirred my heart, soul and mind today to write about the idea of choice.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God” (v. 4).

Paul wrote the above with the knowledge that a change of the soul’s address does not change Satan’s objective of taking person’s soul with him to hell.

In fact, choosing Jesus puts that person square in the sights of Satan’s attacks.

Many of us know this from personal experience.

What Paul seemed to be saying was that our choice to say “No” to Satan should be easier than ever for every inch we move closer to Jesus.

For that “old person” in our lives who used to sometimes crave and swallow Satan’s poison pills was buried with Christ in the watery grave of baptism.

This great promise woven throughout the New Testament has brought great comfort to me and to millions of Christians.

Listen, Satan makes us do nothing.

We CAN make him do something, however, whenever we demonstrate that Jesus is the Lord of our lives.

We can make him remember that God is more powerful than he will ever be.

And in doing so, we show God that we’ve correctly understood His blessings and are choosing to serve Him.

After all, that’s what chosen people do, right?

He chose us.

We choose Him.

It’s a beautiful thing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’ve had a number of productivity challenges today. Rather than ignore my early morning pledge to send out a devotion, I am sharing a devotion from last year. It’s ironic that this was the one selected out of all that have been prepared. Why? Because of what our Tuesday men’s Bible study group shared this morning regarding the Assyrian empire around 600 B.C.

Ezekial 31:10-11 records that God ordained the destruction of the Assyrian empire, including these words: “because it was proud of its height, I handed it over to the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness.”

There is never a suitable time for lacking humility. We are ALWAYS far short of God’s glory and in great need for His grace. That’s why circumstances compelling us to run toward God are not our enemies, but actually our servants.———————

It’s important to remember that we are the clay, not the potter.

We are the tool, not the toolmaker.

Applying this principle, of course, tugs hard at the prideful thread woven by sin into our lives to one extent or another.

Even the strongest of believers must be vigilant to resist the trap of puffed-up opinions of self.

Yes, we have all sorts of reminders through the weeks that we’re not perfect.

We might lose our status with some people because we don’t speak flawlessly about this or that.

We might lose our self-confidence for a bit because we can’t remember where we placed that important file folder or even where we put the car keys.

We might even lose our dignity when we act out of covetous anger toward a co-worker or relative who is being praised by others because of a new, exciting job or a new, cutting-edge vehicle.

Even with these shots to one’s pride, so many people still cling to an inflated view of self.

“I’m SO cool, even if nobody else thinks so,” sounds foolish alright, except to the one who feels this way about himself or herself.

Yet, we Christians must never think that we’re immune to “self” inflation.

Even the Apostle Paul realized that pride threatens everybody. That’s why he learned to appreciate the thorn in the flesh allowed by God for the purpose of tormenting him.

God didn’t desire Paul’s suffering, but He also knew that without that “buffeting by Satan,” Paul might become prideful and ineffective for the Gospel.

It’s heady stuff when your preaching leads big shot politicians, business leaders and military types to renounce paganism and proclaim Christ.

And what about all those times when Paul took the worst physical abuse possible and still didn’t cave into demands that he bow to Caesar?

Talk about Christian chest-thumpin’ stuff…..

Paul remembered that he was once a scummy enemy of Christ and that he periodically still sinned against Christ in wretched ways (Romans 7:14-8:2).

That’s why Paul rejoiced in his sufferings — they kept him humble.

They prodded him toward the sustaining grace of God.

The sufferings reminded Paul that his hope for deliverance rested on the power and place of God, not himself.

That’s why Paul consistently gave credit to God for whatever good was done in ministry.

That’s why Paul constantly prayed for strength and wisdom to precisely pursue the work of the Gospel.

And so should we.

The One-Year Bible contains a vivid reminder of why we Christians should never think too highly of ourselves.

“Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it?”

“As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up, or a club brandish him who is not wood!” (Isaiah 10:15)

You and I are the clay, not the potter.

The tools, not the toolmaker.

Rejoice when God chooses to use you as a tool for ministry at your workplace or home or church or school.

Rejoice, too, when He places you on the potter’s wheel of trials in order to shape you into a better vessel of love or into the toolmaker’s furnace to remove the dross of strength-weakening selfishness.

It’s about serving Him and serving “them.”

It’s not about us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Who doesn’t want more love?

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It is great to read of how God has arranged to pour more love into my life.

I certainly need more of His love filling me and spilling out of me.

You see, I have learned over the years that I am not capable on my own of being a fountain of godliness.

I am never going to be good enough to keep my soul, or the souls of others, refreshed in a meaningful way.

If I am not being filled by Him, I become a small pond that relies on the random rain clouds of good circumstances and my random good deeds in order to have any “Living water” within me.

It is so much better to be spring-fed than to be dependent on such clouds that are too erratic in their appearing.

Spring-fed as in the springs of Living Water that Jesus described to the Samaritan woman in John 4:13-14.

Which water supply do you think would be of more interest to the people who watch my life? A flowing spring? Or a sometimes-murky pond?

You get the point.

I was stirred to write the above after reading from Romans 5:1-5 yesterday morning in the One-Year Bible. After reminding us that we have access to God’s peace through faith, the Apostle Paul wrote that we are to rejoice in all situations because of the hope for heaven that we have as believers.

Rejoice in sufferings because they produce perseverance.

Rejoice in perseverance because it produces character.

Rejoice in character because it produces hope.

And rejoice in hope because it DOES NOT disappoint.

Why? “Because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (verse 5).

I don’t believe Paul was referring to a one-shot dispensation whereby someone is baptized into Christ, receives a Holy Spirit “download” and then goes through the rest of his or her time on earth rationing out the use of the Holy Spirit’s quota in his or her life.

Instead, I believe the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives — as a personal, empowering gift from God — provides an ONGOING, tangible fountain in our minds, hearts and souls that reassure us the God exists, loves, oversees, empowers, forgives, restores and that He does all these things and more for His faithful.

Notice something significant about verse 5.

Paul wrote “poured,” not dripped or sprinkled.

There is nothing chintzy about this promise of God.

It is the offer of abundance.

Given with generosity so that the Person and love and purposes of God might flow through us into other lives.

The only way that I can receive an increasing measure of refreshing inspiration and empowerment from God is to pour what I’ve already received into the lives of others.

This is an assessment that I need to make daily. Am I passing onto others what the Holy Spirit is pouring into me from the Father above?

If I’m not passing on the “pouring in,” what am I becoming?

A pond.

This is not His plan.

Whatever has dammed up your stream of personal ministry to others, break apart the logjam.

Forgive others if that’s what is blocking the flow. Repent of materialistic selfishness if that is blocking the flow. Move the computer into the family room if that’s what is needed to keep the screen clear of Spirit-quenching filth.

And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all for the glory of God” (Colossians 3:17).

Pull out the logs. And then pray that God pours on the love.

That way, as others see how God’s love helps you convert suffering into hope, they will see in a tangible form of how God can pour the love into their lives.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click   Who will show them?

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On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten lost while driving through unfamiliar cities.

It rarely happens now, thanks to computer printout maps and cell phones, but it used to happen every few years when I’d take the family on vacation.

At such times, I was SO glad to find somebody willing to give me directions to our destination.

You know the emotional relief when you know you’re finally headed in the right direction.

Even before you arrive, you feel a sense of peace because of the progress being made.

And you hopefully have prayed that God would send a blessing into the life of the person who helped you.

Some of you found Christ after wandering around like a lost puppy for years of your adulthood.

Oh, you’d find a chow bowl of satisfaction every now and then for your flesh or for your mind.

But a chow bowl and “home” are totally different things.

Then along came a person who decided to help you get home, to get back to the God who created you and who longs for a “loving Master” relationship with you.

That person was a vessel of God to not only serve as a connection to your spirit but also to give you direction toward God.

You eventually came to Jesus, learning of His life, receiving His love and rejoicing in your salvation through His blood.

Thank God for the person who pointed you in the right direction.

I was reminded of this evangelistic reality while reading from the One-Year Bible this morning.

“They don’t know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all” (Romans 3:17-18 – NLT).

You and I are surrounded by people who don’t know where to find inner peace. A number of those people, rather than humbly admit their cluelessness, will attempt to deny that they even have a spiritual or eternal problem.

When you think about it a bit, you can understand such a twisted rationale.

If I am continually frustrated and angered by my appearance when I look in a mirror, then I guess I should just get rid of the mirror, shouldn’t I?

That will solve my problem, won’t it?

If I can’t see it, then my problem doesn’t exist, right?

That’s what Satan wants the unrepentant sinner to believe regarding his or her soul.

Even though Satan himself knows better and has the non-heaven address to prove it.

Please pray for God to lead someone into your path who is looking for the road to inner peace but who doesn’t know how to find it.

If God already has sent such a person into your life, then start showing them the Way home.

When they get on the right road, the Jesus road, they’ll experience emotional relief in heading the right direction and spiritual joy in knowing of what awaits them.

And that will be a huge blessing for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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