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Archive for September, 2010

To hear this Morning Devotion, please click God is a front-row Daddy

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Most every parent, grandparent or god-parent knows the joy of seeing his or her beloved child excel as part of a play or awards program at school or church.

It’s a time for cameras, a time for excited moms, a time for dads applauding other kids they don’t know and a time for your children to realize just how glad you are to have them in your family.

Yes, the certificates handed out by the principal will be lost over the years and the pictures of the kids singing or reciting or receiving a ribbon will be consigned to a box somewhere. But the foundation-deepening satisfaction of those moments will yield stronger relationships with the child for decades to follow.

This is how it was for my children. And this is how it was, or is, for any of you with children.

We LOVE it when our children say the right things at the right time when the spotlight is on them.

God feels the same way about us, of course.

When we say the right things at the right time when the spotlight is on us, it thrills His heart.

And when we “do Him proud” in the face of torment from those who want to see us fail, His joy is even greater.

Why? Because He sees that our desire to honor Him is greater than our desire to avoid hassles.

Please remember always that God is the perfect Daddy.

He always wants what is best for us.

He’s always on the front row with His “sees all” camera, His big smile and His Spirit’s whispering lips that repeat, “You can do it!”

And when you do honor Him by how you speak and how you act, He looks forward to the moment after you step from the stage of life and into His arms as He says, “Well done, thou good and faithful child of mine.”

Here is what triggered these thoughts this morning as I read from the One-Year Bible:

“My child, if your heart is wise, my own heart will rejoice!

“Everything in me will celebrate when you speak what is right” (Proverbs 23:15-16).

Even though Solomon was addressing his children when he wrote these words, I’m convinced that God used him to convey how the heavenly Father feels when His kids display wisdom in thought and speech.

I pray that you will hunger for wisdom so that your heart and soul might be filled with that which brings joy to God.

And I pray that your growth in wisdom will overflow into speech that not only comforts the hurting and guides the wandering, but also pleases the Father who created you and redeemed you.

Read the Bible daily with humility, my friend. There really is no better way to gain the wisdom that will bring joy and celebration to God and to yourself.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  God’s breakfast

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Some people can’t make it through the morning without breakfast.

Well, actually they can, but it’s just not as pleasing for them because of the void they feel in their guts.

The day goes so much better, though, when there is a warm, tasty and generous portion placed before them that is consumed with a contented smile.

As I read from the One-Year Bible this morning, I came to the conclusion that God is a breakfast lover.

His breakfast doesn’t involve eggs, biscuits, gravy, bacon, pastries, coffee, juice, sliced fruit or some other kind of food so dear to earthly breakfast disciples.

What God has an appetite for in the morning is the breakfast of champions, a breakfast of warm, tasty and generous praise.

Here’s the passage that opened my eyes in this regard:

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God” (Psalm 59:16-17)

If you and I were God, we’d much rather hear people praising us in the morning rather than ignoring us, or even complaining to us.

Remember, He is a Father who loves His children.

Imagine that you’re a loving father who cares and provides for your kids and you head to the breakfast table, grab a cup of coffee and then prepare a healthy breakfast for your kids to eat before they head out the door to school.

You watch them come to the table and sit down. You hope to hear a “Good morning, Dad. Thanks for the breakfast. It looks really good!”

But you hear nothing from them except the sound of silverware on the plate and complaints about each other and about kids at school.

You speak to them but they ignore you and keep eating.

As they head to the door, you tell them of your love for them and you hear an obligatory “Yeah, I love you, too” spoken without their turning to look at you.

You wanted so much more from them that morning. You wanted fellowship. You wanted intimacy. You wanted your blessing of breakfast to build your bonds with them.

Because it didn’t happen, your heart aches.

Dear friend, God wants fellowship with us. He wants intimacy between His heart and ours.

He wants the blessing of hearing us thank Him for our provision each morning as we give Him the the breakfast of praise and fellowship that He desires.

Please give God the breakfast of champions. Because believers have overcome the grip of death through the grace of God, we are to serve up songs of worship as we sing along with Christian songs on the radio or car CD player or iPod or with others riding in our car.

Even if you’re doing the a capella thing, serve it up, my friend. God won’t care if your voice sounds more like Jimmy Durante than it does Josh Groban. Your song is the overflow of the heart and that’s what God really wants to hear — the song of praise in your heart given to Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Whose box gets checked first_

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It’s a question that every person has to answer multiple times every day, it seems.

Whenever we are at the intersection of choices, we sometimes must decide between God’s will and the world’s will.

Not every decision, of course, is a spiritual statement. Whether I buy gas at the Shell station or at the Chevron station isn’t a matter of faith, you know.

But who I decide to hang out with at work can very clearly be a matter of faith. If I keep silent about faith because I don’t want to rock the boat with my best buddies who routinely disrespect others and laugh at off-color jokes, then my choice of association does make a statement about my view of God’s sovereignty over my life.

There are all sorts of other life examples of how believers sometimes fall onto the slippery slope of caring more about the approval of people than about the approval of God.

The fact is that — just like Peter and other Bible heroes — we’ve all had those moments or seasons of flawed motives.

Thank God for the mercy that forgave our craving of human blessing in place of God’s.

I share this today because of a verse in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible. True to form, the Apostle Paul equips us with a powerful, precise teaching about the place where our loyalties should lie.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” Galatians 1:10

These are not questions only for people at the jobsite. These questions apply in the school hallway, the country club, the family room at home and even in the pulpit at church.

Do you want your pastor to be more concerned about having your approval than about having God’s approval? If you’re a control freak who wants things to go your way, you will want a preacher who checks the box with you before he checks the scriptures. But, of course, you know that the Kingdom of God is not best served in such an arrangement.

I’ve had several times in ministry when I was more concerned about not rocking the boat than I was about stepping out of the boat in faith that Christ would hold me up, whatever the horizontal pressure that came my way. I’ve learned that such compromises only caused more problems all around and that Matthew 6:33 really is the key to success for God, for others and for myself.

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (life needs) will be given to you.”

To the worldly mind, it doesn’t make sense to think that serving Christ first is actually the best way to serve men. But that’s exactly the promise of God.

With every choice you make today, please think about which option would best help you to honor God, to serve others, to bless others, to forgive others, to demonstrate your commitment to personal morality, etc.

After all, we won’t be standing before men on Judgment Day, will we?

As always, I love you
Martin

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

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Sometimes I find myself facing challenges for which I don’t have clear answers.

Occasionally, I realize that not only am I unsure as to the answers, but that I’m not even sure of the questions that I need to ask.

If only my inadequacies stopped there.

There are even times when I don’t know the right answers, don’t ask the right questions and don’t have the mental/spiritual stamina to handle myself in just the right manner.

No, these are not comfortable moments.

Actually, they’re quite stressful.

In the big picture of my faith development, though, these moments are also quite useful.

For as I’m reminded that I am not my own deliverer through life’s woes, I am more likely to turn to the One who is able to deliver me, to strengthen me, to guide me, to teach me.

When I am weak, then — through Christ — I can become strong.

I was reminded of this truth this morning while reading from 2 Corinthians 13 in the One-Year Bible. It was intriguing to see how the Apostle Paul taught about the need for spiritual humility in order to gain spiritual strength.

In fact, his approach was powerfully engaging as he used the imagery of the cross.

For to be sure, He (Christ) was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in Him, yet by God’s power will live with Him to serve you” (verse 4).

Wow. Even in His choice to suffer horribly and innocently in weakness, Christ knew that God would give Him the strength to endure before His death and give Him a new, empowered life after His death.

At the core of Christ’s confidence was the absolute conviction that God would restore Him and strengthen Him to serve the Father forever.

That same confidence can be mine. And as I learn to rely more on God and less on myself, the room for God’s power to dwell and work in my life grows and grows.

And so does my effectiveness for serving the people God places into my life.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells me to trust in the Lord with all my heart rather than trusting in my own wisdom. As I surrender to Him in all my ways, He will direct my paths.

I like that promise.

For it tells me that God will lead me to where I need to be. I don’t have to worry about having everything already figured out and stored up in my backpack before I head down the path of life.

There’s no need for me to know all the right answers or even all the right questions and I certainly don’t need to think that I’ve got to have all the strength now that I’ll need years from now.

The fact is that God lifts and guides and sustains those who have chosen Christ as Savior. For when they come to Christ with confessed weakness, they are sent out with God’s power to those in need.

This is my desire as a believer. I pray that this will be your desire, too.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s useful from time to time to recall Satan’s objectives when he sends temptation our way.

Jesus said in John 10 that Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

And Jesus described Satan in John 8 as a murderer and the “father of lies” whose native language is lying.

So with Satan’s resume so clearly disclosed by God’s Son, believers never fall into believing sin’s lies, right?

Wrong.

It’s mind-boggling, actually, to think of how often Christians, including ourselves, fall into sin. We all know that even once is too much.

Yet, despite our best efforts (at least that’s how we paint them), we still fall for the trap of gossip or pride or greed or peeking at things we shouldn’t be seeing or some other sort of sin seed that should never have found soil in our minds and hearts.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that Satan wants us to join him forever in hell, not because he likes us but instead because he hates God.

And any soul not in heaven is Satan’s way of denying God an increment of eternal worship that Satan so desperately wanted for himself when he tried to take over God’s throne before the creation of the universe.

I was reminded of Satan’s modus operendi when I read this morning from the One-Year Bible. The Apostle Paul was exhorting the Corinthian believers to recognize and reject the schemes of Satan designed to trap them in corrupted religion that seemed legitimate but actually was tainted by flesh-satisfying falsehood.

At the core of Paul’s concerns was the blending of carnality with spirituality as it spewed from teachers who claimed to be serving God but more likely were seeking to serve their own social and financial interests by entangling believers in schemes that took their independence, their money and their sense of spiritual freedom.

Here’s what Paul wrote:

“You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.” 2 Corinthians 11:20

I pray that you are not in congregational setting where the leadership has left you feeling enslaved, robbed, coerced and wounded.

Even if you’re blessed with godly church leaders, you can be certain that Satan wants to enslave you, to take everything you have, to control your life and then to harm you.

And so, that’s why he sends temptation after temptation into your life and mine. He wants us to sin. And sin again. And again until we feel chained to the behavior that we know isn’t good for our souls, for our service to God or for our example to others.

Satan’s wants to get us so tangled up in sin that we think we can’t stop. That’s when he’ll really start slapping us around emotionally and mentally.

Listen, it is vital to understand that every sin is a step toward slavery, toward robbery of our inner peace, our possessions, our sense of purpose for God and perhaps even our peaceful relationships with family and friends.

Please, dear friend, remember Paul’s warning above that speaks to the agenda of temptations that come your way.

Remember that Satan is a murderer and a liar who seeks to steal from you, kill you and destroy your hope for eternal life.

Anybody who tells you something different is telling you a lie.

Just like it is a lie from hell that says you and I can’t break the chains of sin.

We can, thank God, by sincerely repenting of the sin and asking God to forgive us (I John 1:9).

And that’s the truth.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When Jesus told Peter that he should be willing to forgive people 490 times, the apostle was probably flabbergasted.

Moments before, Peter thought he’d be acting super-faithful if he gave somebody seven strikes before calling him or her out.

But Jesus’ teaching showed that even the most gracious of human standards for forgiveness were sadly lacking in God’s sight.

Perhaps when Jesus cited the “seventy times seven” standard, He had in mind the countless thousands of times that God had to have forgiven His children’s defiant rebellion against Him.

Yes, the Bible is a book about God’s holiness and expectations for mankind. But it is primarily a testament to the loving grace of God.

Simply stated, if not for God’s desire to rescue the sinful souls of mankind, there would not be a Bible.

A key verse is one that just about everybody has heard:

And God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

I was reminded of God’s core passion of grace as I read from today’s segment in the One-Year Bible. Before and after Isaiah 4, the prophet tells his readers of the sins committed by Israel in the years before its destruction that would later come in two phases — first by the Assyrians and subsequently by the Babylonians.

Terribly selfish and sinful, the vast majority of Hebrew adults had clearly demonstrated that living for pleasure was job #1. God had warned and warned through prophet after prophet. But those voices from God were either ignored, or killed or both.

So God sent Isaiah to announce another round of warnings and promised consequences.

In the midst of the ominous indictments and warnings, though, Isaiah tells the people that God will restore the land by means of a leader who inspires the faithful remnant still left in Jerusalem.

“But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel. All who remain in Zion will be a holy people — those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living.

“The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment.

“Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.” (Isaiah 4:2-6).

Clearly, the desire of God’s heart is for faithful people to fill His city. He wanted fellowship with people who would love Him and serve Him and persisted in His grace through man’s recurring failures. The people just had to come to Him, to His mountain, to His canopy, to His shelter and hiding place.

The same persistent grace that God showed Israel is the persistent grace that we are to show others.

As in forgiving 490 times — and that’s just the beginning.

Dear friend, if there is somebody in your life whom you still haven’t forgiven for causing you pain or loss or offense, you know what you need to do.

You know what God did for Israel even when she deserved NO mercy.

And you know what God has done for you when you’ve deserved NO mercy.

Hmmmm….. do you want God’s forgiveness toward you to stop when you reach 490 sins?

I certainly don’t. If that limit were applied to me, I’d have been burnt toast a LONG time ago.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When you’re hassled at work, do you respond like those around you typically do in such circumstances?

And what about when people on the highway behave inappropriately toward you? Does your neck stiffen, the words fly out the window and then the gas pedal go down?

Oh yeah, what about those times when a relative has been making it clear to you that your religious beliefs are of no interest to them since the Bible is just a bunch of man-made rules designed to control the behavior of others? Do you sheepishly walk away, never speaking again about morality or ethical integrity because your confidence in scripture is shattered?

Of course, we’ve all been tempted to do the above on multiple occasions.

And, sadly, we’ve all caved in to the pressures of the world at times.

We’ve regretted such failures but we’ve also repented and been restored from such failures.

Thank God for His mercy!

I was reminded by my daily Bible reading that God has much better ways for dealing with the above situations. Here is what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, part of today’s segment in the One-Year Bible.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

What are the weapons of choice for mature Christians? Scripture. Prayer. Sacrificial, merciful love. Humble boldness not afraid of personal loss when it leads to Kingdom gain.

How these weapons actually function in your specific life situation needs to be guided by the Holy Spirit as He leads your mind, your heart, your hands and, often most importantly, your lips.

We will never beat Satan at his own game. And so we shouldn’t try. If we step onto his playing field, we’ve got to follow his rules and he will always find somebody with smarter comebacks than ours, a sharper tongue than ours or deeper pockets than ours.

We have just one hope for winning the war against our souls. And that is to fight in Jesus’ name with Jesus’ weapons in the way that Jesus fought the Devil.

How did Jesus overcome the Devil at the end of the wilderness temptations? By knowing and quoting scripture in response to the lies He heard.

How did Jesus overcome the oppressive weight of the schemes against Him in the garden of Gethsemane? By praying transparently, passionately and humbly.

How did Jesus persuade a murderous bounty hunter named Saul to convert to life of Christian ministry? By loving him in advance through the sacrifice of self and telling him why the grace was shown — to prompt loyalty to God.

And how did Jesus influence so many priests and His own skeptical siblings to convert to Christianity after His death? It was because they all saw His humble boldness that placed their souls ahead of His flesh or earthly status.

Dear friend, don’t play on Satan’s home turf. When you sense a spiritual conflict is brewing or has already been launched, remember that victory will only come your way with the weapons of faith.

Take your thoughts captive and equip them with scripture, with prayer, with sacrificial, merciful love and with humble boldness not afraid of personal loss when it leads to Kingdom gain.

You’ll be a winner forever if you make that choice.

As always, I love you
Martin

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