Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2010

Because of what awaits me in heaven, I can wait through whatever comes my way on earth.

And sometimes, that “whatever” is not at all what I wanted to come my way.

Lori and I are in a tough season just now with all sorts of faith challenges placed at our doorstep. I thank God for the gift of faith that Lori possesses and that I possess. Without the faith, we’d be going downhill, I’m sure.

There are a variety of good things happening for us now and for those we are grateful.

But we are still burdened because of certain matters.

“They all just help our future testimony to bring that much more glory to God,” I tell people in an effort to maintain the proper perspective.

I am praying fervently for my lovely wife. And for myself. For we both need it.

God knew that I needed something else today and that’s why He placed before my eyes the words from 2 Corinthians 4:14…

We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself.”

That’s the hope that sustains.

For Lori.

For me.

And for you.

We’re going home one day.

Until that day comes, it’s important that we keep trying to encourage as many others as possible to make the decisions that will assure their hope of going home, too.

Our ministry of encouragment will sometimes have discouraging moments.

But because we know that our eternity is assured of blessing, we can receive courage from the Father of blessing and we can pass that courage onto others.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  God’s temporary grace

.

.

While I was reading in Job 33 this morning, I was moved by how consistent God’s gracious nature has been for nearly 4,000 years of scripture.

I was taught in seminary that the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, written at roughly the same time that the patriarchs were living in Palestine.

That means that more than 100 generations of mankind have come and gone, leaving billions of sins in its wake yet never prompting God to forfeit His desire to love and forgive.

Listen to these words from Job 33:26-30 and you’ll see how God’s loving grace toward one seeking peace with God is the same yesterday, today and forever:

He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state.

Then he (the seeker) comes to men and says, ‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved. He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.’

God does all these things to a man — twice, even three times – to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.”

We are told in 2 Peter 3:9 that God doesn’t want any soul to perish, but instead all people to find salvation.

I am grateful that God’s desire for restoration has thousands of years of history. I’m glad that the grace He showed in the days of Job is the same grace that He shows now to those who repent in order to not get with they deserve, whether in this life or the next.

I rejoice that I have the promise that my soul won’t anguish forever in the dark, fiery pit but instead will celebrate in the Light-filled halls of heaven.

When Jesus returns to take living and deceased Christians with Him to glory, the need for God’s grace will be no more.

For in heaven, there will be no sin. And that means that forgiveness will no longer be required.

I look forward to the day when I will no longer need God’s grace and will be blessed eternally by seeing God’s face.

Until that happens, I thank God that the offer made 4,000 years ago is still good for me today.

And I thank Him for the opportunities He places before me to tell others of God’s mercy in not giving me what I deserved, but instead redeeming my soul from the pit so that I might live to enjoy the Light.

I hope that you thank Him for the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Seeds of your own rescue

.

.

It’s true that there are cold-hearted people in this world who rob foreign tourists, lonely drunks and who steal candy from children.

Whenever I hear of dark moments imposed on the weaklings of this world by those who misuse their strength, I take comfort in the fact that God sees everything and will make things right on Judgment Day.

Even more satisfying than the certainty of God’s justice, however, is the certainty of God’s reward for those who live to help people, not harm them.

Whenever I see someone pouring kindness into the life of another, I am encouraged.

And when I learn that the desire to express godly faith is the motivation for such kindness, I am even more greatly encouraged.

It is a beautiful thing when a Christian puts hands and feet to his or her compassion, whether it be via an anonymous payment of a light bill, a midnight run through a blizzard to the pharmacy or a multi-day babysitting offer so that single mom can visit a gravely injured sibling.

If Christians won’t do things like these for people in their lives, particularly biological or church family members, then who will?

Ephesians 2:10 says that we are saved in order to serve others.

Is this happening in your life? Can you name three people — hurting people — that you’ve specifically helped in the past month?

Here’s what God thinks about this topic:

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.” Psalm 41:1

God loves it when you and I show regard for the “down and out” people around us. And He is honored when you and I spend some of our physical or financial or spiritual strength in order to help those struggling to simply put one foot in front of the other.

Not only are the needy receiving help from an ambassador of God, but we are also storing up favor with God who will send help our way when we’re in a bad spot.

Listen, whenever we plant seeds of kindness into other lives, we prepare for a later harvest of kindness for ourselves. We might not need to use it but it’s quite reassuring to know that God will offer to deliver us if troubles come our way.

It took two years for the chief cupbearer to remember that his release from an Egyptian dungeon followed Joseph’s prophetic intercession. But when he finally did remember, the cupbearer wasted no time in trying to get Joseph out of prison and into Pharoah’s service.

Through that service, Jacob’s family found deliverance and the nation of Israel had its real beginnings.

If Joseph had not had regard for the dejected cupbearer, the son of Jacob wouldn’t have helped him.

And through that same cupbearer, the Lord delivered Joseph in his time of trouble.

Please, dear friend, go to the family member or friend who is in a difficult, “weak” time in his or her life. Help them in a meaningful way.

God will see your compassion and will see to it that you reap the fruit of intercession into your life should such a need arise.

He promised so in Psalm 41:1.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Comforting thoughts

.

.

I am so grateful for the times that God has poured comforting love into my life.

Sometimes He has poured it from the pitcher of godly friends who saw my need for social refreshment.

Sometimes He has poured it from the pitcher of spontaneous intercession with a serious medical need or with the provision of just the right words to share with a married couple on the verge of divorce.

And sometimes He has poured that comforting love into my spirit when He saw that my typically solid backbone of faith was on the verge of cracking because of Satan’s “piling on” efforts.

Yes, it is a tremendous blessing to know that God comforts me.

There is more to that gift of comfort, however, than simply my sense of well-being.

As with all blessings, God’s comfort planted into my life should always be seen as a seed in the garden of my world.

Simply put, God comforts me so that I will pass that kindness onto others.

I am to be a pipeline, not a pot.

A vehicle to be used in everyday life, not a vase to be admired as it sits on the shelf.

When God restores my strength after a bout with sickness, I am to use that strength to help others in the name of the Lord.

When God sends a “just in time” financial blessing that allows me to stop scratching my head and start writing checks, He helps me to keep my promises to vendors who need the money to support their families.

And when God graces me with forgiveness toward a recently committed sin, spiritual comfort results in my soul and spirit. That experience is to remind me of how important it is for me to be just as gracious toward those who offend me.

Never forget that God’s heart beats for every soul, since He is the One who created their hearts and souls.

Though most have turned away from Him, there remains hope for their souls because of the willingness of Christians to share how God has mercifuilly comforted them during times of sin and during times of innocent suffering.

Perhaps you are one who started seeking the Lord after a believer sought you out in order to share a testimony about God’s comforting love.

I share this topic today because of a wonderful passage in today’s One-Year Bible.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

The message in this verse is unmistakable — God comforts us so that we’ll comfort others.

We are ordained to be ambassadors of compassion.

Please reflect on a recent blessing from God that brought you emotional or physical or financial or spiritual comfort. And then honestly assess if you have multiplied that blessing into the life of someone at your workplace or at your congregation or at your school, perhaps even in your home.

Remember the parable of the talents? God doesn’t look favorably upon people who receive a blessing and then do nothing with it to benefit others.

Pass on the comfort, my friend.

God will see and send more comfort your way, I’m sure.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

Imagine that you’ve just invested your life savings into a car dealership and you’ve finished with all the preparations.

You have the town dignitaries show up for a ribbon-cutting and business goes very well for a week or so as cars leave the lot.

But then, you begin to notice fewer people coming in for test drives.

And among those who are coming in, there is an increasing number of requests to have non-dealer mechanics check out the engines.

A month later, sales are down 50 percent and you’re forced to call a meeting of all employees.

That’s when you learn the problem.

A couple of disgruntled mechanics have been complaining to their card game buddies at the lodge about how they’ve had to repair some engine defects that weren’t discovered at the factory.

“Thank God that they’ve paid us overtime to get these things fixed before we put the cars on the lot. I’m just glad that we’ve caught these glitches that seem to keep coming,” one frustrated mechanic had said to his lodge buddies.

It didn’t take long, of course, for the mechanics’ frustrations to become a cancer on the dealership’s viability.

Even though only a small percentage of cars needed that extra attention, the damage was done.

From among the card players at the lodge, the report was spread to other friends of lodge members and soon, the townspeople believed that cars purchased from your dealership were nothing more than shiny, patched-up “lemons” destined to become money pits.

Words can kill.

You know it. And I know it.

Particularly when it comes to the godly influence of a congregation.

My heart has ached over the years as I’ve periodically heard people complaining about their churches. For I knew that such complaints were probably shared at other times with non-believers.

And Satan smiled.

David wrote of how the wrong words can destroy our ministry effectiveness or the receptiveness of others to the Word of God.

I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence'”
Psalm 39:1

When it comes to protecting the influence of God’s Word and our testimony of faith, it is absolutely essential that we remain hyper-cautious with our conversation when around non-Christians.

People who have rejected God are typically ready to pounce upon any careless or mean-spiritted words from Christians, overtly pointing them out as evidence for why Christians are hypocrites and why Christianity is nothing more than a “manipulative, mind-control strategy.”

You’ve seen this attitude over and over among your co-workers or classmates or among some of your relatives.

Skeptics of Christianity savor those moments when Christians don’t muzzle their mouths and garbage starts spewing from their lips.

Whenever we Christians err in such fashion, we’re handing a new bag of rocks to the skeptic which will be used against our beliefs and testimony and the growth of the church.

We’ve got to do better, my friends. Let’s practice Colossians 3:17 and we will. That verse tells us that in whatever we do, whether in word or in deed, we are to do it for the glory of God.

Think before you speak. Imagine that your words have to pass in front of God’s throne before they reach those around you. As you and I do this, what skeptics hear will bring glory to God and strength to our testimony rather than weakness.

Always remember that talk travels. Make sure that your words head down the right road, not the wrong one.

If your conversation is always filled with grace (Colossians 4:6) and you’ll build the Kingdom rather than tear it down.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Finding gold in the garbage

.

.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Even a broken watch is right twice a day.”

That phrase came to mind this morning while I was reading Job 11 in the One-Year Bible. You’ll recall that Job had three friends who, for seven days, comforted him in silence just after he had lost everything except his life and his cynical wife.

Then the three friends, using the term loosely, began an extended, tag-team criticism of Job, dumping streams of judgmentalism upon the shoulders of one called by God as the most faithful of men.

No, it was not fair. Yet, on that conveyor belt of criticism garbage were random nuggets of gold.

It’s surprising, actually, that people bent on breaking down Job could still come up with words that so accurately describe God’s desires for man.

What Zophar the Naamathite said in Job 11:13-19 is so good, I don’t want to edit any of the words. So the complete text is below:

“Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to Him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear.

“You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.

“You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.” (NIV)

These are the sort of words that one would expect from the pen of David or from the lips of Jesus. But they are instead from a person seemingly given to a judgmental spirit.

Wow.

Beyond the fact that these words should become part of our evangelistic toolbox, these words should also stir us toward a greater appreciation for the loving grace of God offered to us.

These truths are good but that’s not the objective of my devotion today.

Rather, learning how to listen closely for truth regardless of the setting and regardless of the speaker is what I want to promote.

It would have been quite easy for Job to tune out Zophar’s words since Zophar and his friends had served up criticism after criticism in previous statements.

But Job listened. Well enough, in fact, that he could record those words later when he wrote the book bearing his name.

Job did live out these words, I’m sure, by keeping his heart devoted to God and by stretching out his hands to heaven for the rest of his life.

What Zophar said would happen to the faithful person is what happened to Job when God later exonerated him and blessed him even more greatly than he was blessed before.

My charge to you is this: always listen for truth, for those words that accurately describe God and the attitudes/actions that He desires from us.

Even if the words come from one who isn’t like God and who might not even like us, we can appreciate whatever amount of “God” is in the words.

After all, we’re not to exalt the messenger but instead receive whatever truth is in the message.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

We humans love checklists.

As we mark off each item while we’re shopping or building or detailing a car or, for some, searching for a mate, we gain a greater sense of progress toward an important goal.

As I read today’s segment in the One-Year Bible, I felt compelled to take a different approach to the Morning Devotion preparation.

In reading I Corinthians 13, I saw the perfection of Christ in vv. 4-8. He demonstrated all of these in a perfect manner. The more that I thought about the details of His life, the more I realized that we Christians — including me — have work to do in how we conduct ourselves.

So here is what I pray will be a helpful tool for you this morning. I have provided a brief instructive statement and blank line(s) for each of the 15 measures of love listed by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13. Please try to complete the list below as fully as possible and then print it out to serve as a guide and an accountability reminder in the days ahead.

I’m confident that your resulting faith in the weeks and months ahead with be stronger and more Christlike. I certainly anticipate that mine will be.

As always, I love you
Martin

Love is patient — “Lord, I haven’t been as patient as I should have been with this specific situation (detail it here) _________________. Please forgive me and strengthen me to wait on your help, not give up on it.

Love is kind “Lord, I wasn’t as kind recently to __________________ as I should have been. Please guide me as I go to him/her and apologize.”

Love does not envy — “Lord, I’ve spent too much time lately thinking about how ________________ has something that I really wish that I could have, too. Please help me to think about what I have that can be shared with others, rather than what I wish I could have instead of others.”

Love does not boast — “Lord, I’ve messed up in the past by basing my self-esteem too much on my ______________ instead of on my surrendered relationship with your Son. Please convict my heart so that I’ll correct my path if I’m still displaying any sense of boasting in myself.”

Love is not proud “Lord, I listen to Your Spirit and Word on almost everything for my life, but You know that I struggle with submitting to You with this part of my life _________________. Please help me to see Satan smiling whenever I am tempted to say, ‘Nobody is going to tell me what to do.'”

Love does not dishonor others — “Lord, I know that I’ve disagreed with others on certain issues lately. But I might have dishonored _______________ lately during that difficult conversation. If so, Lord, stir me to go make it right in Your sight, O Lord.”

Love is not self-seeking — “This is one is simple, Lord. In a family or workplace or friendship decision, I’ve thought of myself first and not ______________. Please show me, Lord, how best to repair the damage to my testimony and relationship with that person.”

Love is not easily angered“Some people get mad a whole lot faster than do I. Yet, ______________ might have the belief that I was mad about ________________ and that is weakening my Christian influence with him/her. Help me to resist getting upset since it rarely helps and show me if I did or said anything for which I should apologize.”

Love keeps no record of wrongs — “Everybody has scars caused by others, Lord. Help me, Lord, to stop disobeying Your command to forgive which is what I am doing when I harbor hard feelings toward ____________. Help me to remember that if Jesus kept a record of His scars caused by my wrongs, I would NEVER have hope for eternal life.”

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth “Lord, I know that I’ve gossiped in the past, either directly or by condoning it. That was sinful. Thank you for guiding me to do this less often and strengthen me to tell _______________ that I won’t take part in anymore gossip, even if it prompts _____________ to gossip about me.”

Love always protects “Lord, give me strength to show _______________ that I will stand up for him/her, even if it costs me time or money or social status or any combination of the above.

Love always trusts“Lord, __________________ is hurting now because of the broken trust of another. Please guide me in showing myself trustworthy so that I might be able to share Your perfect love with him/her.”

Love always hopes“Lord, ________________ seems to need more spiritual hope in his/her life. Please show me how to demonstrate that hope and how to communicate that hope.”

Love always perseveres — “Lord, my emotional ‘Love Bank’ toward ______________ is running on fumes right now and I’m afraid of what will happen when I run out of gas. Help me to remember that my sins against Jesus were worse than anything that others could do to me and that my love MUST persevere if I am to be Christlike.”

Love never fails — “OK, so _______________ failed me in a certain way. Help me to remember, Lord, that I have failed others many times. My task is to imitate the love of Christ, something that NEVER failed, despite the never-ending failures of people like me.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »