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Archive for August, 2010

The last person Nehemiah should have expected would betray the Hebrew people in the Southern Kingdom was the high priest Eliashib.

But that’s just what happened, according to Nehemiah 13.

I’m not going to recount the record of Eliashib’s terrible choices. You can read more about them in the second part of this excerpt from the One-Year Bible. Click here to read passage

The wrap-up of Eliashib’s grave errors, however, is this: in direct rebellion to Nehemiah’s leadership and prior actions regarding a divisive troublemaker from the Northern Kingdom, Tobiah, Eliashib had allowed Tobiah to have living quarters in the Jerusalem temple.

Eliashib did this for Tobiah, a relative, by emptying a large storage room that had been used for storing temple sacrifice items such as grain and oil and also priestly worship items.

This would be like throwing all the books out of the church library and choir materials rooms in order to let the biggest troublemaker in your church’s history to move into the building belonging to the congregation he or she was trying to destroy.

In view of this terrible lapse of judgment and absence of faith, it’s not surprising to read later that Eliashib’s son, Joiada, approved the almost-certainly arranged marriage of his son to the idol-worshiping daughter of Samaritan bigshot Sanballat who also happened to be a close associate of Tobiah.

The fact that the high priest of the Southern Kingdom couldn’t influence his children and grandchildren against marrying idol worshipers is tragic and sad.

It’s no wonder that Nehemiah was so upset with Eliashib and never felt right about being gone from Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt and dedicated to the Lord.

Beyond the fact that Eliashib shows how NOT to lead people spiritually, it’s also a reminder of how anybody in spiritual leadership is vulnerable to social influences by people who don’t have the Kingdom’s best interests at heart.

Whether you are the pastor of a congregation or the shepherd of your own family, you are leading somebody.

Just as I am to do, please make sure that your affiliations aren’t undercutting your faith and testimony and support for ministry at church or at home.

And, PLEASE, do all you can to guide younger lives into seeking marital relationships with people who seek a closer walk with God, not a path that leads away from God.

As always, I love you
Martin

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August 16, 2010

I am amazed at the precision of God’s promises.

Even more, though, I am amazed at the foreknowledge and power demonstrated by God in protecting those promises.

Here is the promise that deeply stirred me this morning:

“For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!” Psalm 34:20.

To think that this was written 1,000 years before Christ was crucified is mind-blowing to me. Rome didn’t even exist as a political power at the time and the practice of crucifixion was reportedly unknown at the time of David, according to historical records.

David’s words here could not be directed at believers because bone-breaking accidents happened then just like bone-breaking accidents happen now.

So what was David describing? I believe that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was providing a Messianic prophecy and he likely didn’t even know it.

You see, if Jesus were to later serve as the perfect, sacrificial, atoning lamb of God, He could not have the flaw of a broken bone while on the Roman cross. The Old Testament is filled with verses that stipulate that lambs used for atoning sacrifices HAD to be without defect in order to be acceptable to God.

Even the original sacrificial lamb each Hebrew family used on Passover night had to be without broken bones (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12).

And, I believe, that’s the reason that Jesus said, “It is finished” and then gave up His life on the cross before the soldiers came to hasten His death by breaking His legs.

I’m glad that God protected the bones of the righteous Redeemer during all those beatings Jesus received before the crucifixion, some of them even with rods. Ribs could have easily been broken during those beatings, but God prevented that, protecting Jesus’ place as our Sacrificial Lamb.

In protecting Jesus’ bones, God protected our hope.

In giving that promise to David 1,000 years before it played out on Calvary, God also provided an incredible reminder to me of His providence, His purpose, His love and His power to get the atoning job done for me and for you.

Thanks, Abba Father. You are amazing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  When goals trump gripes

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Some of the griping that we face in life is not related to what we’re doing wrong, but instead what we’re doing right.

Yes, it’s true that our choices and actions are sometimes deserving of chastisement because we didn’t prepare well or we didn’t perform with passion.

It is also true, however, that we are randomly bombarded with baloney from people who really don’t like the progress we’re making for the Lord.

If you are a young adult having success in leading a “wild thing” young adult away from the party scene, you’re probably not going to be popular with that young person’s drinkin’ buddies. In fact, it would be a surprise if you didn’t have criticism leveled at you for being a hypocrite because of your past sins.

If you are an older adult having success in helping to lead a workplace — or even a congregation — away from mediocrity and into productivity, you just might face criticism from current or former employees/members who tried to do the same but weren’t successful.

Sadly, there are a number of times in our lives when we encounter people who don’t want us to succeed and who use words and actions to undercut us.

At such times, keeping our eyes and hearts on the mission is the only way to reach the goal.

That’s why prayer is SO important.

For prayer opens the door to our hearts and minds through which God can impart direction and resolve and power.

Prayer also provides for the infusion of discernment that is sorely needed when others are talking trash to us and about us.

I was reminded of all this while reading Nehemiah 5-7 this morning in my One-Year Bible. Nehemiah faced repeated schemes from people who didn’t want to see Jerusalem rebuilt after the exiles returned from Babylonian slavery.

It’s a compelling account that points to the depths of human scheming possible when people choose to serve themselves rather than the Lord.

The team of naysayers were focused on undercutting the re-establishment of Jerusalem as a worship/ministry/cultural/economic center. And I’m sure that the Devil was coaching the men such as Tobiah, Sanballat and Shemaiah, each of whom were committed to preventing the city’s return to the role ordained and desired by God.

The chapters offer an impressive example of leadership principles needed to overcome such poison. I encourage you to read Nehemiah 5-7 in order to be a better leader at your work, your congregation or your home.

Nehemiah and those joining with him in the rebuilding mission did succeed, but only because they understood the real agenda of their critics and did not take their eyes off the goal.

Be discerning, my friend. If others only crank up the complaining when you start chalking up successes toward worthy goals, then that should tell you something, shouldn’t it?

Pray that your critics will be persuaded by the Holy Spirit toward seeing your mission as a blessing to them rather than as a threat.

Oh, and one other thing…. don’t gripe back at them. Nehemiah and his team of thousands didn’t and look how God empowered their mission — the city’s entire wall was rebuilt in 52 days!

Listen, when people throw stones at you, remember to say “Thank you very much for the building block” and then use the stones to humbly build your city of faith.

Who knows that one of those critics might one day run to your “city” to find hope when he or she has lost all of his or hers?

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Whose robe are you wearing?
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If I found myself wandering on a frozen, snow-covered land filled with hungry wolves, the last thing that I’d want to be wearing is a long, neon-orange coat.

My long-term survival prospects would be much better if all my garments — the hat, the mask, the long coat, the pants, gloves and boots — were white.

You see, when there is a mortal threat looming, it’s best when your weakness doesn’t even show up on the radar.

I thought this morning of the lost, orange-wearing hunter being chased through the snowdrifts by a pack of wolves. You see, I had just finished reading Psalm 32:1 and was taking great comfort in the fact that Jesus washed away my sins when I declared Him as Lord with my verbal and baptismal confessions.

I rejoiced that God placed on me the robe of righteousness promised to those who “put on” Christ.

And as long as I live a surrendered life to Christ and to the heavenly Father, I will continue being seen as a friend of God’s Kingdom, rather than a foe.

Here are the words of Psalm 32:1 —

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (NIV).

I pray that you aren’t trusting your goodness or charm or family ties or past deeds to get you into heaven.

For no amount of human effort can “unstain” you.

You know the sins you’ve committed. And God has complete notes about the ones you’ve forgotten.

Obeying the gospel (Acts 2:38) is your only hope.

When you stand before God without the covering of Christ’s robe, without having been washed white by the blood He shed on the cross, then you’ll look like a blood-spattered murderer standing against a perfectly white background.

Trust me when I tell you that is NOT what you want to happen. For the misery of hell will be far worse even than being an everlasting chew toy for wild wolves.

Your eternal outcome will be much better if God sees that you are covered with the white robe of faith in Christ and invites you to join the gazillion smiling saints on His right wearing white robes given them because of their confession/conversion to Christ.

Choose the blessed life. Choose the covering of your sins. Choose Christ. Declare such with your lips, your baptism and your holy living.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click It’s the contents that really count

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It is a bit frustrating to purchase a product that promises a certain benefit but then, when used, fails to deliver.

Thank God for those random times we kept the receipt.

We learn from such experiences that what is on the label is no guarantee of an effective product within the container.

High-end packaging simply cannot compensate for dumpster-worthy quality.

And so it is with our spiritual lives.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible included a verse that really drilled home this point:

“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (I Corinthians 7:19).

The Apostle Paul wanted the believers in Corinth to know that it was not one’s life situation or social status that determined the value of one’s faith in God’s sight. Instead, it was the measure of commitment toward living as God wanted.

Believers who had come from a Jewish background often were tempted toward spiritual pride because of their Hebrew heritage, thinking that being among the chosen people made them better than those around them who weren’t.

Paul wanted them to know that it wasn’t a physical change that determined their spiritual value, but instead a spiritual attitude of surrender.

Likewise, Paul wanted the Gentile believers in the church to understand that the New Covenant’s exclusion of circumcision as a legal requirement for males didn’t mean that uncircumcision was the official physical status for faith. Living to please God was the mandate.

It’s clear that the physical label of cultural/ethnic origin, whether circumcised or non-circumcised, was a label that didn’t matter in the New Covenant.

It was, instead, the contents that really counted.

I pray that your life and mine appear to God and others as having value because of the contents, because of what we accomplish for God and for others.

Yes, we might have value to some people if we look impressive while in the worship service or Sunday school class or in a social gathering or in the work lunchroom.

But if our lives leave God distressed over dumpster-quality attitudes toward Him, they are deserving of being treated like salt that has lost its flavor — tossed out on the street to be trampled upon.

Please pray for wisdom to lead a life of obedience to God. That way, God and everybody else will know His top-shelf place in your heart.

As you and I do this, we prepare ourselves for sharing that top-shelf existence with Him in glory when our container of years is used up.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Apathy toward apathy 

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I’ve felt a heaviness in my heart since yesterday morning.

The reason? The moral decay of our nation is accelerating and too few of us Christians are trying to put our feet on the brakes.

I know that I can’t wag fingers at the apathy of other Christians who obsess over chasing the “good life” while terribly bad things are happening around them.

You see, even though I haven’t joined the Conga line of living for earthly success, I also haven’t done as much as I could have to call believers to proactivity in their faith.

Yesterday, I read again an article about the increasing influence of the homosexual community with Disneyworld in Orlando. Gay Day has become a signature event for the park with countless thousands of gays parading and pirouetting on streets and in attractions that have been the domain of traditional families for decades.

I read of how multiple meeting spaces and exhibit halls through the park are used for hedonistic purposes such as pornography sales and sexual liason planning for offsite locations.

As bad as that was, what really wounded me was the statement from a Disney spokesman that fewer and fewer parents are expressing concern about the Gay Day activities, and even fewer are asking for refunds because of what their kids see happening during the course of the day.

Traditional family parents just don’t care as much about what the homosexuals do in at DisneyWorld, it appears.

That’s bad enough.

But then I read last night another story that showed the erosion of godly values, not among the carnal-minded who are only doing what they’ve always done, but instead among those who should be digging in their heels — traditional family parents.

You can read the story yourself at this link, but the gist is this: fewer and fewer parents even care what filth is put on TV. As societal values decline, so does the impartation of godliness to children.

To think of where we are now regarding national moral standards as compared to 50 years ago is absolutely mind-boggling.

It’s a bad thing when the gatekeepers of social influence are increasingly characterized by the absence of godly character.

With Disneyworld being more concerned about embracing gay attendees than they are about offending godly attendees, it is obvious that the Disney Corporation has decided which worldview is increasing in power and which one is declining.

Sadly, traditional Christians haven’t done enough to persuade them otherwise.

I share the above this morning because of what I read today in my One-Year Bible:

While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly” (Ezra 10:1).

After the return to Jerusalem of the Babylonian exiles, many of the Jewish men ignored God’s warning and command against marrying non-Jewish wives. As a result, the decay of faith among the Jews accelerated and all sorts of problems occurred for the semi-restored Israel.

The root of the woes was the marital binding with ungodly spouses.

Ezra was overcome with sadness when he arrived in Jerusalem and saw the mess the disobedient believers had made of their lives and of their wannabe nation.

He then led a national move of repentance and sending away of the ungodly, foreign wives. It was a terribly painful, disruptive time, but better in the long run.

The question you and I have to answer is this: do we care what is happening to our nation’s morality and, ultimately, to our national fabric?

Will we continue to let the people of the world play with matches while we share space in an increasingly dry forest?

Or will we allow our saddened hearts to compel us into demanding that they go somewhere else to play with matches?

Better yet, will we do all that we can to water the dried-out trees and saplings around us with the Living Water so that our circles of influence are less vulnerable to the flames?

As I said above, we can’t expect carnal people to stop being carnal people, particularly as fewer Christians even care about such.

What we can do, however, is encourage Christians to embrace personal holiness and to stand against the influence of unholy living through letter-writing campaigns, by economic boycotts, by pouring out the Living Water of God’s encouraging Word to everybody we meet AND by praying, praying, praying for more Americans to humble themselves.

As we all call on God, He will hear our prayers and heal the land.

II Chronicles 7:14 says so.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Better than expected

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It’s really a good thing when somebody says he or she is preparing a nice meal for you and that you should be at his or her place at a certain time.

Not having to cook is good.

Not having to clean up is even better.

Knowing that somebody wanted to bless you is better yet.

And then, when you show up and you find the meal to be WAY better than anything you’ve ever eaten, now that is the best!

You pinch yourself and than ask, “Is this really happening?” For you didn’t know that food could taste SO good.

Even if the above hasn’t happened to you, I know that you can conceive of its possibility.

To a far greater extent, this is the idea that I gleaned from a passage in my One-Year Bible reading today.

Here is what stirred me so:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — these things God has prepared for those who love Him” I Cor. 2:9

I have seen some incredibly beautiful settings and things and people during my life with some of them nearly taking my breath away.

I realize, though, that world travellers and super-model photographers have seen a whole lot more beauty than have I.

Yet, even the person who has seen the most beautiful that the world offers has seen nothing compared to what awaits believers in heaven.

Now that is saying a lot.

To see a majestic bald eagle soaring above a Smoky Mountain ridge with the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky and trees in fall colors is spellbinding.

To see a young set of parents joyfully cuddling their newborn on a picnic blanket at a lakeside park is even more compelling.

Compared to heaven, though, such pictures fall far short of the threshold established by the glorious perfection of God’s presence.

The fact is that nobody — other than the Apostle Paul — has seen anything close to the awesome glory and beauty of heaven.

And even Paul’s experience, recorded in 2 Corinthians 12, was only a faint glimpse from an extra-dimension distance.

If heaven is so amazing, then don’t you want to make sure you spend forever there?

I certainly do.

That’s why I obeyed the Gospel years ago with my verbal and baptismal confession of Christ and that’s why I strive to become more like Him as the years pass.

I want to see more people joining the ranks of those “who love Him” so that they will receive an eternity of blessing beyond what any eye has seen, any ear has heard or any mind has conceived.

Hmmmm…. I think I’ll start planning a meal that will hopefully far exceed the expectations of the invitees.

If they declare that the meal was beyond their expectations, that will provide a good trigger for my mentioning of I Cor. 2:9 and of how God yearns to bless forever those who live for Him.

This is my prayer.

Perhaps it will be yours, too.

As always, I love you
Martin

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