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Archive for October, 2010

It is my view that Christianity’s declining influence upon the world is not because the world has become more carnal, more gripped by darkness.

Yes, we see immorality occupying a higher percentage of the world’s attention as compared to a generation ago.

I don’t believe this fact is related, however, to Satan’s lies becoming more dastardly.

He’s always been a liar, a thief, a murderer, a destroyer and the ultimate scam artist.

At the core of eroding influence of Christianity is the eroding lifestyle of too many Christians.

It used to be that unsaved people could look at most any believer and see the absence of profanity and coarse joking. The unsaved person would see the Christian refuse to gossip about co-workers or classmates. And the unsaved person would never see the Christian hanging out at a nightclub with those who had no intention of being in church on Sunday morning.

I could go down the list of unsanctified lifestyle choices that Christians used to reject on an almost universal scale.

But what about now?

But what about you?

Do the unsaved people in your life view you as a lighthouse of wholesomeness and faith shining in the dark place of your job, your school or your extended family?

Or do they see you acting just like everybody else except that you go to church for an hour or two on Sunday morning?

We Christians don’t gain influence with the unsaved by berating them about their darkened lifestyle. How does that offer them any hope of adopting a better life?

It is SO much better to show them a brighter lifestyle that can reduce their frequency of heartache and, more importantly, produce the confidence of eternal joy.

They need to see that the Christian faith really does yield the fruit of a more satisfying, more wholesome, less regret-filled life that many unsaved people will respect rather than view as phony.

I share this information because of a powerful verse in today’s reading of the One-Year Bible.

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” (Psalm 101:3)

Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that we are to think and live in a way that is characterized by truthfulness, nobility, righteousness, purity, loveliness, admiribility, excellence and praiseworthiness. This lifestyle not only provides confidence that the God of peace will be with us, but it also helps us to communicate to unsaved people that the God of peace is blessing them through us.

Don’t endorse anything vile while at your work or school or in your home or wherever.

And ABSOLUTELY don’t embrace anything vile.

Have nothing to do with unfaithful behavior whether done with your lips, your hands, your eyes or your mind.

Then your influence will shine more brightly as the unsaved see you celebrating the Light, not the night.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I received a good reminder this morning of why our giving to God should not be seen as a tormented ordeal but instead as the best deal we’ll ever find.

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” (Romans 11:35).

The specific context of this verse involves the Apostle Paul’s explanation of God’s saving grace shown toward Gentiles so that the Hebrews might reconsider their incomplete devotion to God. There is far more, of course, to this topic than what I just described but for the sake of time, I’ll leave my explanation as it is.

The larger principle of the above verse applies, however, with a far broader reach.

Paul’s point is clear: we can never outgive God to the point that He owes us.

The truth is that everything good that has ever come into our lives has been directly or indirectly given to us by God.

If we have abilities and skills that help us to find work, from whom did those abilities and skills flow into your life, whether at conception or in your awakening aptitudes as an adult?

If we have blessings come into our lives through no merit or effort of our own, why did they flow to us and not to somebody else who is nicer or better connected with affluent, generous people?

And most importantly, do you and I have any say on if God gets saved?

We all know that God is perfect, has never been “lost” and doesn’t need saved.

He is sovereign and we are not.

He is holy and we are not.

He is the author of all blessings and we are not.

He gives to us first in the loving hope that we will give to Him in response.

We are not God’s banker of blessing or emotions-boosting approval.

We are the debtors, not Him.

The only thing God owes us is a ticket to eternal suffering, i.e., hell.

That’s what we purchased with our past choices to sin.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s Romans 5:8, by the way.

The next time you pull out the checkbook to write out your offering check, please remember first what God has given you — EVERYTHING good that you have.

And then remember that, with respect to tangible offering, He only asks for 1/10th of it back in order to support the work of His Kingdom.

Like I said, it’s the best financial deal you’ll ever find.

I’m sure that if you had a friend who offered to give you $500 a week to hold for him or her while you lived your everyday life doing other things, and you’d give him/her just $50 back at the end of the week, you’d jump at the deal.

And that friend can’t even give you eternal life.

You get the point. Please make sure that God receives your gifts. Remember, we owe Him, not the other way around.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes, the smallest of statements provide the largest of lessons.

Psalm 99:5 offers such a lesson in a very potent form.

Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; He is holy.”

In my mind’s eye, I see myself in heaven, bowing down before the throne with my face inches from the golden floor of God’s throneroom. I am about to embrace the feet of God and bathe them with kisses.

But then I hold back because, even in this future perfected state of eternal existence, I know that God is infinitely superior to me and that I don’t want to presume the authorization to grab His feet simply because I want to.

For He is holy and I am not.

He is the Lord and I am the blood-washed former sinner.

And so, I savor in rich fashion the privilege of simply bowing before Him, so close to Him that I absorb His radiance and rejoice that amongst all the zillions of souls in heaven, God is still able to see my heart for Him, even through the back of my head.

We Americans have a thing about not bowing down before others. It’s the Revolutionary War thing, you know.

The fact is, though, most Americans bow down before all sorts of things that aren’t sitting on the throne of heaven.

In fact, they bow down every month when they make that loan payment or every week when they head to the club or every night when they head to the lust-fueling websites or every few hours when they satisfy their bodies’ cravings for certain food types that shorten lifespans and heighten health problems.

You are an intelligent person and you are quite capable of evaluating your life to assess what habits or obsessions are hindering your calling to worship the Lord first in all things.

Please, dear friend, don’t let ANYTHING hinder your active worship at God’s footstool with your Sunday worship or with your devotional time each day or with the tithing He commanded or with how you place all your grudges and woundings at the cross.

He is holy.

We are not.

We NEED His mercy.

He WANTS our hearts.

Let’s exalt Him.

Always.

As always, I love you
Martin

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A dear friend told me a troubling story yesterday about a longtime church member in another town who reportedly has done the Romans 1:25 thing by exchanging the truth of God for a lie.

The account given me by my ministry friend is this: A longtime leader in a north Florida church has abandoned and divorced his wife of many years so that he could chase after the excitement of an affair that has progressed into a new marriage.

How did this moral collapse reportedly start?

The man did not protect his soul from the lure of lustful thoughts when he was by himself at the computer.

His dabbling in Internet porn led to diving into Internet porn which was then followed by growing dissatisfaction with his spouse in unwholesome ways and you can finish the rest of the story.

The rejected wife, of course, is crushed.

Her church leader, longtime Christian husband was the last person in the world from whom she expected this behavior.

What is most troubling to me from this account is that it is just one in an ongoing series of victories for Satan’s lies.

This is not simply a case of “Men are jerks.”

Remember, he didn’t have an affair with another man.

There is plenty of “jerk” sauce being consumed by both genders.

Instead, this is a case of a believer turning off the flow of Living Water pouring into his heart and replacing it with stagnant, filth-filled water from the gutter.

It’s no wonder that the result of drinking gutter water is a sin-sick person who seems oblivious to full consequences of his or her choices.

I thought of the above situation this morning while reading this morning from the One-Year Bible. In 2 Chronicles 17, we read of King Jehoshaphat’s wonderful commitment to obeying the scriptures and of how he sent teams of teachers throughout the Southern Kingdom of Judah in order to train the people in knowing and obeying God’s Word.

It was a beautiful season in Judah’s history and God poured out untold blessings in King Jehoshaphat’s life. Why? Because God was thrilled with how His selected leader was guiding the Hebrews in Judah.

But then, Jehoshaphat messed up.

He ignored God’s Word.

He apparently married a daughter of the evil King Ahab of the rebellious Northern Kingdom — for political reasons, I’m sure — and in doing so, started down the path of trading pure, Living Water for the tainted, idol-worshipping water of false teachers surrounding King Ahab.

Chronicles 18 describes a tragedy that followed Jehoshaphat’s alignment with Ahab. I hope you’ll read it in order to be reminded of why close, influencing associations with people who embrace false teaching should be avoided at all costs.

The Bible says in I Corinthians 15:33 that bad company corrupts good character.

We all know that this is absolutely true.

We’ve seen it far to many times in the lives of people we know.

And we’ve even seen it in our own lives.

Please, dear friend, avoid bad company that would rather drink in gutter water than they would the Living Water of God’s Word.

Even if that “bad company” is a computer image of a fantasy girl or guy, view it like the plague.

Because that’s exactly what Satan hopes to launch into your life.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It wasn’t easy but I checked one more box last night — as in very late last night — regarding the transition into this Miami rental house.

I installed our over-the-range microwave that had been setting in a box in the garage.

It took the place of a simple range hood that was essentially useless.

This is typically a 15-minute job but my efforts took more than three hours, counting the trip to Home Depot.

I won’t go into all the details but I will say that I was reminded once again of the cost of sloppy work levied upon others when common sense and good electrical wiring practices are ignored.

The electrical configuration for the microwave is now safe and convenient.

The microwave is mounted securely and is functioning well.

Hallelujah!

Life without a microwave is less convenient and I’m so glad that quick heating is now back as an option.

The experience last night that ended after 1 a.m. was not pleasant, but it was important.

It reminded me of the importance for doing things right the first time rather than slopping through it with no regard for those following after you.

Whoever installed the electrical service over the stove wasn’t thinking about the probability of a future microwave installation, something almost standard in houses now. It appears that someone just wanted to quickly throw up a few wires and hook up a cheap range hood and go home.

Listen, my friend. Do you work or your parenting or your home repairs or your church volunteerism as if many, many others will see and rely upon the quality of your efforts.

If you and I slop through our efforts, somebody following after us will have to take a load of time to undo what we’ve done and then start over.

It’s not fair to our kids for us to be sloppy with parenting and then watch other kids or adults have to deal with the crippled patterns of interaction that our kids bring into their world.

The same is true at work, at church or in the neighborhood.

Do it right the first time.

Just like Colossians 3:17 says.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s an objection to Christianity that every believer has heard many times in one form or another.

The Bible is too hard to understand and trying to keep all those rules in order to make God happy is just too much to ask.”

Wise Christians will, in fact, acknowledge briefly that some verses in the Bible are cryptic and that even the most mature of believers aren’t sure what God’s plan is for certain events in the future.

The vast majority of the Bible, though, is relatively easy to understand and apply to life with even a minimum amount of thought.

I’m amazed at how people who reject Christianity because of its small percentage of abstract teachings will have no problem swallowing all sorts of odd-named pills prescribed by a doctor, even though they have no idea how the pill actually works and are clueless to the research documentation behind the pill’s creation.

It’s all about bias, actually.

It’s about the idea of surrendering authority over one’s life, not about the percentage of comprehension.

To the sincere, open-minded non-believer who approaches scripture without bias, there is an abundance of easily comprehended truth.

A verse in today’s One-Year Bible reading provides an excellent example.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (Galatians 6:11).

Hmmmm…… if I want to be a man of God, I don’t have to be a genius, but instead a good person whose life is characterized by the above qualities.

Notice that it doesn’t say that I have to achieve perfection in these qualities, but instead to in genuine pursuit of these qualities.

I’m so glad that the Holy Spirit instructed Paul to write this verse in the way that he did.

Because I am a sinner who sometimes resembles a cracked pot rather than a fine, porcelain vase, I fall short of perfection in my level of righteousness and godliness and so down the list.

Yet, because I have the Savior, I can tap into the grace and wisdom and strength and authority of God as I pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

For when my life is permeated with these qualities, I am imitating Christ.

That means that people see more of Him in my life and less of me. That’s what serves to make my faith more influential with others. I’m not good enough on my own to impress anybody to seek God. But as I act more like Christ, more of His influence flows through me.

It’s that simple.

I don’t have to impress people with sophisticated speeches about mysterious principles that drip with eloquence but that are clouded by obscurity.

I simply have to act like Jesus, talk like Jesus, love like Jesus and pray like Jesus.

I simply have to be righteous in my actions, godly in my attitude, faithful in my direction, loving in my interactions, enduring in the face of my fatigue and gentle in my moments of frustration with others.

Please, my friend and fellow servant of God, flee from the corruptible things of life. Make sure, instead, to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

God will smile.

And that will be more than enough reward for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Today ends the longest break ever from my Morning Devotion ministry.

The absence of words poured from my heart into your computer has not been due to complacency, I assure you.

In fact, I’ve worked 18-to 19-hour days nearly every day for the past three weeks.

What have I been doing?

Oh my.

There’s so much that could be packed into answering that question that it literally would take hours to explain. I have just a few minutes of your time, though, so I’ll keep it brief.

First, the factual stuff….

I am now the English congregation pastor for SouthWinds Christian Church in south Miami, Florida. I am incredibly blessed to be in this role as pastor/preacher/shepherd for a wonderful group of people who genuinely love the Lord and want to see His Kingdom grow. It has been a wonderful courtship between a lovely, humble congregation and myself and our recent union has already proved to be a rich blessing to me and, I pray, to the congregation.

In order to serve SouthWinds full-time, Lori and I moved to a community just north of Cutler Bay called Kendall. We were able to lease just the right place that will allow us to easily host fellowship gatherings of church members, dinner gatherings for family and friends, and “Come on over. We’d like to meet you” coffee nights with neighbors.

It’s a single-family house 12 minutes from the church that has a typical yard, a two-car garage and screened patio. After more than four years in crowded, too-small condo residences, Lori and I are thrilled to be back in the type of residence that best suits us.

I could go on and on about how God intervened to place us in this house, but I’ll simply say “Hallelujah!” for His provision of the setting and features and “Remember me” regarding His provision for the $1,800 a month rent.

Remember that we’re talking about a 1,900+-square-foot house in a nice, quiet family neighborhood in one of Miami’s better neighborhoods, complete with a huge garage that allows me to avoid renting storage space for business equipment we have to sell. Oh yeah, and the landlord takes care of the yard work.

This move three hours down the road from Sebastian, Florida was made far more challenging because of two factors.

First, Lori was unable to help me with any aspect of the move because she temporarily relocated two months ago to rural north Georgia to be with her terminally ill mom. Joyce had inoperable cancer and was awaiting her appointment with glory and we decided that Lori should accept a clinical dietitian job near Joyce’s home so that they could be together as much as possible.

In fact, Lori provided a big portion of the nursing care that her mom required before her passing last week. I’m so proud of how Lori served in that way and I’m pleased that Lori was able to spend big chunks of time with her brothers Mark, Scott and Keith as they — and Lori’s diligent sister-in-law Pattie — all cared for Joyce with respect and compassion.

It has been very difficult for Lori and me to be apart but we’re both convinced that it was the right thing to do. It might be several months before she is back with me full-time because she now has to find a suitable job in south Miami.

Lori desperately wanted to help me pack and to move, but she was doing what she needed to do and I am thankful for that.

God was with me in the process of packing 75-80 boxes and bins. Nothing was broken during the move, a personal record for me. Wow!

Thank you, Lord. Thank you, also, for the furniture-loading/unloading assistance of dear friends in Sebastian and new friends at SouthWinds Christian Church. I’m now making progress with unpacking boxes. I just have to be patient and settle for getting the house situated one room at a time.

Now for some spiritual stuff….

It has been more than two years since I was serving as a pastor and I’m now sure more than ever that this is my calling. From the first time I preached on a guest speaker basis to the folk at SouthWinds, I’ve felt a peace that was clearly beyond human origin. Multiple occasions followed with the same sentiment.

At every point in the dialogue and deliberation, I’ve been relaxed because I felt the hand of God leading me through the journey. The past couple of years have been a difficult time of shaping by the Lord’s hand, not so much in terms of squeezing filth from my life but instead in terms of stretching my understanding of who I am at the core and what struggles others are facing with economic stress, vocational uncertainty and the lack of feeling “settled” in a church home.

It almost seems now as if the Lord has called me from the wilderness and placed me in His temple so that I can minister to/through/with people who want His Kingdom to grow, first within themselves and then within their corners of the world.

It’s going to be an even greater journey in the days ahead. I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you so that you can experience vicariously the joy of serving the Lord who has set my feet on solid ministry ground.

It’s time to wrap it up for today. But please keep reading the Morning Devotions as they get back on track. For sharing them with you is the whole reason I do this.

As always, I love you
Martin

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