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Archive for November, 2010

I took the Metrorail train the other day from south Miami to the city’s downtown medical complex of several hospitals.

Being the first time for me, there was a learning curve.

There are no live attendants at the parking garage. You don’t pay for your parking until you buy your train ticket.

And you don’t buy your train ticket until you buy tokens from another machine.

Once you’ve bought the tokens, then you can buy the train ticket.

And once you’ve bought the train ticket, you can pay for your parking.

A bit complex, yes.

But it is far more complicated when there are no posted instructions telling you this.

I was somehow just supposed to know this.

By the way, the ticketing system used by the Miami-Dade Transit Authority is called “Easy Ticket.”

Yeah, right.

The security guards all gathered in a nearby gatehouse were of no help.

I finally figured it out after asking several people who ride the Metrorail daily.

Just before I bought the tokens to buy the ticket and to pay for the parking, a man walked up to me and offered to sell me his one-day Easy Ticket pass for half–price.

I wanted to make sure it still was good so rather than just handing him the money, I said we needed to take it to the electronic gate to make sure it worked.

It didn’t.

I offered to pay half-price for the pass in his other hand which did work.

“No, I need that one to get home,” he said.

Some people….geez.

Rather than accuse him of trying to scam me, I simply wished him a good day and headed back to the token machine.

I got on the train eventually and made the hospital visit that I had planned.

This experience reminded me of why we need to be wise, patient, persistent, purpose-minded and quick to let go of frustrating moments.

Some people don’t explain things well to us, forcing us to do more work than we should in order to understand them.

Some people don’t consider how their ideas might appear to others. If they’d put themselves in your place, they’d see the need for improved communication.

Some people think we’re stupid and can be ripped off.

Some people would encounter various obstacles and just give up rather than pursuing their purpose, despite the obstacles.

We live in a fallen world with flawed systems and flawed people. Yet we’re still called to serve others with humility and love.

I pray that you’ll display the wisdom, patience, persistence and purpose-mindedness needed to get to where God wants you so that you’ll do what God created and called you to do.

As always, I love you

Martin

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Since childhood, I’ve known the worship chorus “Thy Word.”

I’ve enjoyed singing it hundreds of times over the years, I’m sure.

And I’ve sought to put the chorus into practice:

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

The verse, as many of you know, is a direct quote from Psalm 119:105.

It’s a great guide for living.

Some of you are even singing it in your mind just now.

It IS a wonderful thing to be on the right path, the “Light” path.

Life is so much easier when we’re not offending people, not sinning against God or doing harm to our bodies because of unsanctified lifestyle choices.

But is this verse telling me to carry a Bible around so that I’ll walk where I should?

There’s nothing wrong with that idea, but the point of the verse is to apply what has been learned. The Christian who doesn’t study and absorb the Word is no different than a motorist carrying around a road atlas but never looks at it to avoid becoming lost.

In my daily Bible reading for Satuday, I read again the verse that precedes Psalm 119:105 and I was reminded of how we can turn on the Light of God’s Word in order to avoid turning off onto some sinful detour.

I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.”

The psalmist is saying here that avoiding spiritual detours — “wrong paths” — is the fruit of understanding God’s Word.

In order to consistently stay on the right path, we need to discern and distance ourselves from the wrong paths. And that occurs as we understand God’s precepts, i.e., His Word.

This is a core reason for why I prepare a Morning Devotion each weekday — to help you better understand God’s Word in a practical sense. This is why I read of Christian wisdom from other writers in addition to what I read from the Bible.

To go the right way, we need to be aware of the wrong ways.

Without the Word, we’re left relying on our own wisdom or the wisdom of others who don’t listen to God.

We all know where that will lead us — to a place where the only light is from hungry flames.

Please seek the better way. The brighter Way.

Learn the Word. Love the Word. Live the Word.

There IS Light at the end of faith’s tunnel.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you’re blessed with children, you probably have no problem finding words to share with others about how much you love your kids and about some of the reasons why.

Hopefully, you have the same ease of explaining to others about why you love your spouse so much.

Some of you certainly have no problem explaining why you support your favorite sports team or why your favorite movie is so important to you.

We’re used to telling others about why certain people or things are important to us, of how our life is better because those people or things are in our lives.

So we all should have no problem explaining to others about why we love Christ, right? It should be as natural as explaining why we support our Super Bowl-winning favorite football team, correct?

Hmmmm……

I Peter 3:15 says that if someone asks about our Christian hope, we should always be ready to explain it to them.

But how ready are we?

I want to encourage you to shift your thinking about evangelism away from a script mentality geared toward making a faith pitch. I believe you’ll be more likely to talk about your faith if it becomes a more natural event during the everyday conversations with those around you.

Think about your conversations with co-workers. You would never say, “OK, today I’m going to give you a 15-minute presentation about how wonderful my spouse is.”

Instead, you build up your spouse in the eyes of others, one brief comment to others at a time.

It might be a momentary word of praise for how your spouse did a long-needed, undesirable household chore without being asked. Such words of praise show the character and humility of your spouse and builds up his or her standing in the eyes of those around you.

The same principle applies with how you describe your children to co-workers, neighbors or other relatives. Brief, sincere, everyday-life affirmations are SO much more likely to be seen as valid rather than contrived.

And so it is with laying the foundation for our testimony of faith. A sentence or two about the following situations can lay solid blocks on the pathway of influence:

· A phone call blessing out of the blue from a haven’t-seen-forever friend who called when you needed a boost.

· A precious feeling of peace after a wayward child has come home and asked to be part of the family again.

· A soul-stirring worship service and sermon that helped to lift you out of a deep, emotional valley.

It is the random yet recurring tidbits of God’s intercessory love that often provide the stepping stones of influence across which we can later carry redemptive Truth as you share your faith.

Remember, explaining to others our hope for future requires explaining God’s help in our past.

Sharing faith can be SO much easier, more natural and more effective this way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There is a more important sign of spiritual maturity than simply avoiding sin.

It’s when one has already sinned and he or she admits it, renounces it and starts walking the biblical path.

It’s not easy to do this, but the ones who do so are the ones genuinely wanting to please the Lord.

I was prompted to consider the above when I read Psalm 119:59 this morning. Here’s what the psalmist says:

“I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.”

This is a verse that Christians should reflect upon daily.

Actually, constantly.

As you review your words and actions with family members over the past few days, have there been choices made by you that Jesus would have NEVER said or done?

If so, it’s time to turn your relationship-style steps toward the biblical pattern of “in all things, love.”

And it’s time to do the harder part — ask forgiveness for what you said or did.

You’ll very likely receive forgiveness from that family member AND from the Lord who was saddened by what was said or done.

Here’s a wonderfully encouraging promise from Proverbs that speaks to the value of admitting error and seeking forgiveness:

“Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

The verse specifically is addressing the idea of sin against God, yet the principle applies to all offenses against another.

You and I become more pleasing to God not simply by avoiding sin — which we should — but also by confessing and renouncing sin — which we should.

Yes, it’s always preferred to keep our feet on the stepping stones of God’s statutes. The consequences of taking our eyes off the path are too high, a fact we all know quite well.

But on those occasions when we’ve pointed our feet the wrong way and big problems result, let’s be mature enough in our faith to confess the mess, renounce the poor decisions and ask for God’s help to get our feet back on solid ground.

Once we’re there, Psalm 119:59 will help to keep us there.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I attended a memorial service last night for a godly lady named Camelia.

It was one of the most beautiful services of its type that I’ve ever experienced.

The auditorium at SouthWinds Christian Church was packed beyond capacity and people were standing in the foyer and the hallways trying to listen to what was being shared.

The overwhelming outpouring of interest in attending the service was a clear reflection of the overwhelming outpouring of interest that Camelia had in blessing others.

Person after person spoke of Camelia’s gentle yet playful nature that permeated her family, church and workplace relationships.

More than anything, though, Camelia’s godly nature was recognized and appreciated.

I wish that I had known her better than was possible in only two brief meetings. For that’s all that I had with her before she graduated Saturday into glory.

I’ve had more opportunity to meet people whom she loved and influenced, though.

And through them, I continue to “meet” her.

Though this world has lost an incredible servant of God and people, the next world has gained a fountain of light and love that will bubble over forever and ever.

I’m looking forward to the endless day when I can drink deeply from the fountain of Camelia’s character, personality and smiling insights.

I’m praying that the attendees at the service last night will go beyond the point of appreciating Camelia’s life, choosing instead to imitate Camelia’s love for others and embrace the God whom she so passionately served.

Her legacy will become greater as the roster of Christ-serving people in her circle of influence grows larger.

There is a verse in today’s One-Year Bible reading that jumped off the page this morning when I read it. Camelia’s face popped into my mind the instant I read this verse:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22).

Camelia was by nature a very good person.

But when her nature was transformed to a higher level by the redemptive, sanctifying nature of God and His Word, she became even more loving and influential.

Last night’s service proved who she had become.

I pray that you’ll allow the redemptive, sanctifying nature of God and His Word to transform you to a higher level of love for others. That way, their hearts will be touched and influenced toward the Lord as were so many of those at Camelia’s memorial service last night.

A legacy of love. Start building one today.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There was an interesting and somewhat frequent social phenomenon in the 19th Century regarding life in the Old West.

Many men wanted to be married and start raising families in order to establish a legacy on land they had settled in territories from from Canada to Mexico, yet there were very few unmarried women to be found.

At least the ones with whom you could start a respectable life away from the saloons.

That’s when the forerunner of modern Internet dating was established. The process was known as seeking a mail-order bride.

A man would make his interest in a relationship known to matrimonial matching services who then solicited young women willing to leave their world in the eastern U.S. — sometimes even in Europe — in order to find husbands and a financial stake in remote lands about which they had only read.

The months of correspondence that followed sometimes included no exchange of photos, but instead only of sentiments, hopes and dreams.

Did any of these matched couples grow to the point of loving each other before they met in person? Knowing how carefully chosen words from caring hearts can stitch souls together in enduring ways, I have to imagine that a number of couples were in love before they saw each other’s faces in person.

The above historical vignette came to mind this morning while reading my One-Year Bible. Here are the Apostle Peter’s words that stirred my thinking:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (I Peter 1:8-9)

I won’t see Jesus until I die, yet I love Him more than life itself.

My love is based on my belief in the words He has shared with me in scripture and from the Holy Spirit and that love overflows in inexpressible and glorious joy.

Though my earthly life has many elements I wish were different, the certain promise of my eternal life keeps me going toward the day when my soul changes from “saved” to “arrived.”

Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

Here are wonderful fruits of faith in Jesus that helps me to know Him better. Inner peace. A wonderful family and friends. A priceless life purpose. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

I’ve not seen Him yet these blessings are just as real as the keyboard with which I am typing these words.

Though you haven’t seen Him, I pray that you will love Him, believe in Him and be filled with inexpressible and glorious joy as you wait for the day your faith will become sight.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you were to establish a list of characteristics that you’d want in a spouse or a child or a Christian friend — perhaps even your pastor — what listings would make the top eight?

Not sure?

The Bible helps us to know what God values most in Christian character.

That means that we have a character template that can help us to become more like Him and more of what this world needs.

The daily Bible reading contains the following:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

I love simply explained teachings.

I don’t always succeed in explaining things as simply as I’d like, but I can sure recognize “simple” when I see it.

And James’ words here are impossible to misunderstand.

My pattern for living — i.e., my emotional/spiritual operating software — should clearly demonstrate the list above handed down from heaven above.

My thoughts and actions should be untainted by any form of selfishness, instead pursuing only the purposes of God and goodness for others.

My heart should enjoy and promote harmony among those around me rather than hassles and pot-stirring.

My agenda should always have others ranked higher than myself.

My attitude should not be the arms-crossed, “Why should I listen to you?” variety when circumstances or supervisors seek compliance.

My patient commitment to relationship when others fail should not be measured in seconds but in seasons.

My list of deeds done for the good of others should take more than one breath to explain if others were to describe them.

My roster of people whom I treat as better than others should be empty.

And any practice of saying one thing but doing another should be consigned to the trash pile for that’s exactly what that is.

James has given us very useful information here.

Let’s give God the loyalty He desires from us in living out these characteristics.

As always, I love you
Martin

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