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Archive for December, 2010

One of the greatest temptations faced by Christians is stealing from God.

None of us likes to hear this, even if we are giving to God with the amount and attitude that He expects.

You see, we’d much rather hear about His goodness, His grace, His majesty and how He is empowering His people.

But God is sovereign over all and that includes believers’ attitudes toward offerings.

I was reminded of this fact this morning while reading from Malachi 1:6-14. The Spirit of God, speaking through the prophet Malachi, chastized the Jerusalem priests because of their decision to offer lame, blind, diseased or otherwise imperfect animal sacrifices to God instead of the flawless animals required by the Law.

God’s clear message was this — the priests kept the best for their own stomachs or for the market, and gave the unwanted animals to God.

Simply put, they put themselves first and stuck God with the leftovers.

To make matters worse, God said, the priests complained about the burden of sacrificing defective animals to God.

Here’s how God responded to those complaints.

Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord” (verse 14).

Wow. That’s strong language.

But God was facing a strong spirit of rebellion that overflowed from a deep root of selfishness.

The priests needed a serious wake-up call.

What about you?

Are you giving generously to God as called for in His Old Testament AND New Testament Word?

Are you tithing with a smile of appreciation for all His blessings of infinitely greater value than what you provide to Him?

Please don’t give God your leftover dollars.

It SO wounds His heart.

Make sure that His expected offering from you is item #1 on your weekly payments list.

To give Him anything less is hypocrisy on our part.

God gave His perfect Son as a sacrifice needed for you and me to have eternal life.

Let’s not cheat God of the tithes and offerings that show our appreciation for who He is and for what He did — and does — for us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I have been doing more travelling lately because of Lori’s work-related residency in rural north Georgia.

Fortunately, there have been no ticketing and boarding glitches for the airline flights that I’ve purchased in order to see her for a couple of days every now and then.

Such things have happened to me in past years, however, and perhaps to you.

Thankfully, a suitable resolution was found in each case and I was able to reach my destination.

The possibility of being left off a list of approved travellers is why I ALWAYS print out a ticket purchase receipt AND boarding pass, keeping both with me when I travel. For without confirmation of the purchase, I just might be prevented from making the trip to see my beloved Lori.

I was reminded during my Bible reading today that Christians will require a similar confirmation if they want to spend eternity in heaven.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…. All whose names were not found written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12-13, 15)

I don’t plan on missing my flight to heaven and that’s why I’ve made sure to do that which results in my name being written in the Book of Life.

What’s that? Surrender my heart and soul to the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing my faith in Him with my words, my baptism and my committed service to His Kingdom.

I seek to live as His bondservant and rejoice that He is my Master.

The confirmation that He purchased my soul from eternal death is imprinted on my heart and typically demonstrated in my conduct.

I don’t know when my soul will be called to the boarding gate as with my physical death.

What I DO know is that when that announcement comes, I want to be standing at the right gate, have my name is on the passenger manifest and that I have the right spiritual identity in my heart. That way, I won’t be prevented from seeing my beloved Lord.

I pray that you have that same assurance.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Just about every active church member I know would love to see more people attending his or her congregation.

The challenge, of course, is be the type of believer that influences others to do just that.

I’ve been wanting more people to attend church since I was a kid. Whenever I’ve been successful in my efforts to bring them to church with me, I’ve been grateful to God for His grace in giving me the right words and right timing to plant the right seeds of influence.

Ultimately, of course, people came to church with me not because they were seeking to learn more about me, but instead about God and about how they might find a caring place to belong.

This desire for more people to experience the peace and joy and purpose that I have in Christ is what triggered my spirit this morning while reading from Zechariah 8 in the Old Testament.

The prophet is recalling what the Lord revealed to him in a vision regarding a time of peace for Israel, something greatly desired by the nation so filled with turmoil in previous centuries because of spiritual rebellion.

As the nation conformed to a pattern of truthfulness and concern for each other, periodic religious festivals would become times of gladness rather than times of sadness.

I want to share a longer passage with you just now and I hope you’ll read it:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Many peoples and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’

“And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat Him.”

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days 10 men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'” (vv. 20-23)

I want to ask you to join with me in praying for God’s leading so that the communities around our congregations will see us as people with lives saved, guided and blessed by God.

The unsaved people around us will be more likely to seek God through prayer if they see us seeking God through prayer and then we remember to tell others of how God has blessed us.

The world is really good at talking trash and trusting lies, but sooner or later, just about everybody outside of Christ will periodically ask a sincere Christian to pray for him or her.

Perhaps that unsaved person will even subtly probe about how he or she might have inner peace.

Please make sure that when that random, divinely crafted moment occurs, you’ll be able and willing to simply explain why and how God is with you.

That person just might want to go with you to the place where you meet God with other believers, a place called church.

Then you can pour on the prayers that the person will ask God to be with him or her through a personal relationship with Immanuel, the “God with us” named Jesus.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Every Christian encounters times when it seems that God isn’t listening to his or her prayers.

We know that this is not technically accurate since God hears every word that spills from our lips, even the ones that should never have been in our hearts in the first place.

But I’m talking about listening in the sense of responding in the way we desire.

It could be for a job promotion or a certain relationship or for a physical healing or for financial assistance in some way. We all have such requests at various times in our lives and a few of them actually do qualify as needs rather than wants.

God is gracious despite our imperfections and He does answer prayers for many things though we don’t deserve His favor.

Yet, there are times when repeated prayers are not met with the desired outcome. Even after months or years of waiting.

At such times, even more prayer is in order, along with study of the Word and perhaps even consultation with a trusted, mature Christian friend.

You see, the deferral of answering your prayer might be because God is still in his blessings workshop, arranging circumstances and influencing people so that the deliverance of the prayer request is complete for the need you face. And, with humans involved, sometimes it takes a long time for them to “get in line” with God’s will.

The deferral of the answer might also be due to your unprepared status for receiving the blessing. God, the Ultimate Steward, is not going to throw away a divinely crafted blessing by means of giving — to use an analogy — a fine sports car to somebody who hasn’t shown careful driving skills.

And then there are delays in delivering of your desire because God is trying to send you a message — your heart is not right toward Him.

It is this last condition that I read of this morning in my daily Bible reading:

This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

“When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty . (Zechariah 7:9-13)

How we treat people shows how we think about God.

If we ignore God’s command to always treat people with kindness and integrity as our standard pattern of behavior, then it’s clear to God that we don’t care about what’s important to Him.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the implications of such an attitude.

When we call to Him, He won’t “listen” because we’ve not been listening as He called to us.

Please approach your times of petition to God with humility and compassion for others. If His delay in answering your prayers is related to His still being in the workshop of your blessings, He’ll reveal that to your spirit by sending small indicators that He’s still pleased with you.

If His delay is due to your needing to become better prepared to receive the answered prayer, be watching for the Holy Spirit’s nudging you in that direction.

Don’t neglect, though, to examine your life closely for selfishness. For that is the killer for your prayer requests.

Listen to Him when He stirs you to listen to others. It’s the best way to await the choice of God to listen to you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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How do you make it through seasons of discouragment?

Do you wear that discouragement on your sleeve in an effort to gain sympathy?

Do you hide the discouragement in an effort to deny your human vulnerability?

Do you attribute that discouragement to the unjust misdeeds of others?

Do you plan how you’re going to settle your heart and mind by punishing the one or ones who disrupted your corner of the world?

I pray that you have no seasons of discouragement in the year ahead. But I also know that you and I are in a spiritual world within which forces of darkness are trying to extinguish the Light within us.

Bad things sometimes happen to us as Satan is allowed by God to harrass us. It’s important to remember, though, that such allowances are made because of God’s desire to see us demonstrate our trust in Him and our ability to live in the pattern of Christ.

Satan sees our discouragement as fertile soil for thorny vines that can creep here and there and strangle all sense of fruitful living.

God sees our discouragement as fertile soil for prayer seeds and vines of Christian service that send faith roots deep into the ground in search of Living Water that shallow believers never tap.

Here is a passage that I read this morning in the One-Year Bible that stirred and strengthened my faith.

When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” (Psalm 142:3-5 NLT)

If a relationship with God is all we really want in life, then there is no reason for us to fall into depression. Yes, even the strongest of Christians have times of discouragement. But those are to be times of reflection, redirection and connection with God.

He will never forsake us.

That’s a really good thing to know since He is the One who always knows the way to a better life and showed us the way through the life of Jesus Christ.

Feeling overwhelmed lately? Run to Jesus.

He’ll get you to God for the help you need.

Remember, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and nobody gets to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

There isn’t anything more important to want in this life than to be in relationship with God.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Zechariah 3 describes the account of the high priest Joshua who had sinned in some way and, in an ethereal sense, was standing before The Angel of the Lord, who was the pre-incarnate Christ.

The fascinating story depicts Satan standing next Joshua as the ultimate tattle-tale. The scriptures don’t detail what Joshua did that was wrong, but it clearly was a big-time offense if Satan thought it worthwhile to ridicule the priest in front of the Ultimate Angel.

How did the second Person of the Trinity respond?

Did He bash the priest for messing up so terribly?

No, He chose to overlook the accusations against the silent, humble priest and then He rebuked Satan.

“This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire,” the Angel of the Lord said in verse 2.

Satan was not bringing any news flash to Christ. For the future Messiah knew the priest had messed up.

Unlike Satan, though, Christ saw into the future regarding what a forgiven high priest could mean to the ministry of God’s Kingdom in that day.

Satan could only see failure and rejoiced at the idea of others falling terribly just as he had.

And unlike Satan, though, Joshua was humble and didn’t rationalize or cop an attitude toward Christ.

So as Joshua stood there with “filthy clothes” of sin, Christ told other angels to give the priest a different set of spiritual clothes. And these were not just any clothes. They were new clothes. And then he was given a new priestly turban, too.

Complete and new garments. That’s what Joshua received because of grace shown him by Christ.

Hmmm….. Instead of burning in fire, Joshua was given new garments of service.

Like I said….Hmmm…..

And then Joshua was given instructions on the care and use of those new clothes.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: If you follow my ways and carefully serve me, then you will be given authority over my Temple and its courtyards. I will let you walk among these others standing here.” (verse 7).

Wow. In return for forgiveness and a restored commission to serve, Joshua simply had to do what he was supposed to be doing all along — obey and serve Christ.

If the high priest did that, he’d eventually stand eternally among the angels of glory.

I love the encouraging nature of this story.

Why? Because I fail from time to time and I need to know that humble acknowledgement of that fact to my Lord will not only lead to Christ rebuking Satan’s taunts but will also lead to my restoration of proper standing with the Lord and with serving the Church.

Please go to Christ when you’ve sinned. You can be sure that Satan is already there tattling.

If you’ll go with a humble heart, you’ll find a loving attitude wanting to pour grace and restoring power into your life.

That’s SO much better than thinking God didn’t see your sin and acting like you did nothing wrong.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I admire people who successfully resist the efforts of others to destroy their character or testimony.

I’ve seen this occur at jobs I’ve held over the years.

I’ve seen this occur in a few church settings.

I’ve even seen this occur in extended family settings among people that I knew.

It’s very sad when jealousy rages and goodness is sacrificed in a thirst for personal dominance.

Yet, it’s even more significant when one’s depth of godliness and desire for serving others is greater than the decay of values displayed by an accuser or attacker.

What’s behind this obvious strength of character?

Many times, it is infusion of strength from on high.

It is the recognition that the same strength that sustained Christ in the face of attacks against Him is still available to Christians who will turn to the promises of scripture and the examples of biblical characters in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other in godly ways.

Here is the passage that prompted these words this morning:

They triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11)

Though the verse specifically addresses the eternal reward that is promised to those who do not forfeit faith in the face of martyrdom, the principle of how believers overcome any attack is clear to every Christian.

We can triumph over attacks upon us by recalling the fact that we’ve been covered by the blood of the Lamb (via verbal and baptismal confession) and by proclaiming our trust in the Word of God’s testimony (the Bible).

These two facts are essential for every person who desires to not love his or her life so much as to shrink from faith.

I am certain that you want to be strong enough emotionally and spiritually so that you don’t cave into attacks from others that are designed to tear you down.

Please be certain, my friend, that you have made the same decisions that strengthened believers in ages past when Satan was persecuting them.

Make sure that you are covered by the blood of the Lamb — (Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27).

And make sure that you are guided/strengthened by the Word of God’s testimony.

Then your toolbox for triumph will be equipped.

And your hope forever will be secured.

As always, I love you
Martin

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