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Archive for December, 2010

The Christmas season is always a time for thinking about stuff.

We learn what things that others would like us to buy as gifts for them.

And others learn from us what we’d like to receive as gifts from them.

Christians know that “getting” should be less important than giving. Fortunately, many adult believers do understand this when it comes to gifts within the family.

The more our satisfaction comes from giving than from getting, the more we are like Christ.

But what if we received none of the gifts that we had desired?

And how would we respond to the complaints of loved ones and friends if they received no wish-list items from us?

Would our faith and theirs be shaken? Even just a bit? Would such times reveal the need for spiritual growth?

I’m not suggesting that you pull out the receipts, pull off the wrapping paper and head back to the store return lines.

There’s nothing unbiblical about giving Christmas gifts.

I’m simply suggesting that you recall the teachings of God that nothing material in this life — whether in your possession or in the “wanna have it” portion of your heart — should skew your thinking of how God provides for you.

Having your physical needs of food, water, clothing and shelter for life met, having the assurance of salvation through faith in Christ and having people to love in God’s name really is supposed to be enough to provide contentment.

Is this true for you? Are you thinking that you’ll be more content when you have the things or specific relationship that has consumed your mind and heart lately?

Here’s what God said in His Word as I read it this morning:

“…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-8)

I’ve never heard a Christian pray for poverty. But I have heard Christians — particularly some televangelists — tell people that they should pray for riches.

I’m going to pass on the idea of bashing TV ministries because of the pervasive images of opulence. And I’m not going to criticize you for any prayers you’ve raised that asked for financial blessings that extend beyond needs into the realm of wants.

My task instead is to examine my own life. Am I content with having enough provision for this day so that I might provide love, encouragement, prayers and even some financial assistance to others?

Am I OK with the idea of never owning a new car? Or never living in a dream home? Or never having a three-week fantasy vacation? Or never owning the latest, greatest electronic whatever?

Am I OK with the idea of knowing that I’ll likely have to work until I die because of pension fund failures?

To all of the above and other similar questions, the answer is “Yes.”

I trust that God will provide my daily needs so that I might serve His eternal purposes.

It’s the promise of 2 Cor. 9:8. That’s a promise to me that keeps me going.

Let the promise keep you going, too.

After all, God IS able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Most Christians, including you and I, spend many hours thinking about who is to receive a Christmas gift and about how much those gifts will cost.

It’s just part of the season to which we’ve become accustomed over many years.

How many hours do we spend, though, thinking about a Christmas gift for God and about how much that gift will cost us?

The season of life that I’m experiencing now is different than in the past. Christmases past were characterized by plenty of gifts to open with kids and other relatives. And I loved it.

I realize now, however, that I should have been more diligent with including God as a gift recipient on Christmas mornining. Both tangibly and intangibly.

It’s very easy to become horizontally focused on Christmas morning, with all attention as to who is getting what.

The fact is that we wouldn’t have the occasion for gift-giving if it were not for God and His great gift — the birth of Jesus — that led to the eternal gift of salvation via the gift of His sacrifice on the cross.

I’m praying that you’ll seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in how you will tangibly — and intangibly — give very meaningful gifts to God on Dec. 25th. There are thousands of ways for you to do so and I pray that your gift will show true sacrifice.

I write this today because of how my heart was stirred this morning while reading from the One-Year Bible:

“Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:7b-8)

People in Micah’s day were spiteful of Jehovah God yet still felt the oppressive guilt of their own sins, even to the point of sacrificing their children in pagan rituals in order to be relieved of that emotional baggage.

A firstborn child would die for their sins, all right. But it would be the holy Child of God named Jesus, not the children of sinners who murdered innocent children in order to appease their own consciences.

God sacrificed His firstborn and only Son to pay for my sins. The very least that I should do for Him this Christmas is to always do what is right, always to love mercy and always to walk humbly with my God.

I pray that you will do the same.

And let’s not forget to show mercy by putting a generous gift under the Christmas tree for somebody who needs a tangible sign of God’s mercy given into his or her life.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Hmmmm….. some things are worth hearing again from time to time.

Things like the idea of listening more and speaking less.

Two ears. One mouth.

There’s a message there, it seems.

Will we hear it?

Here’s what King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 29:20:

Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

This is quite a humbling verse to those of us who have found it easy over the years to open our mouths with comments. Sometimes we opened them too often and too widely.

I’ve found that such an approach is sometimes not in my best interests or the best interests of another.

The older I become, the more careful I am to listen.

Hopefully, I’ll still be improving whenever God believes it’s time for me to start listening directly to Him in heaven.

At least now, my ratio of considerate listening vs. waiting-for-somebody-to-stop-talking is a good bit north of 50 percent.

Thank God for progress. I’m not perfect in this regard but I am slowly being perfected by the Word and Spirit of God.

Please listen closely to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit while others are speaking. It’s not to be a race as to who will share their ideas more quickly, but instead a sincere dialog with important ideas and passions understood more fully.

That’s how Jesus approached His conversations with people. Let’s do the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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What troubles many Christians most about the decay of society is the loss of moral discretion.

I’m not talking about what people do behind closed doors. That’s bad enough if it is contrary to God’s pattern for chaste living.

Instead, I’m talking about the overtly displayed unchasteness and rampant rudeness that, as well as other public indiscretions, are not only tolerated in too many circles but even celebrated.

It’s like how the boys are in school hallway conversations when they move from grade school to middle school.

The foul language becomes more common, more cutting and more of a means for establishing pecking order.

Sadly, the same is true among increasing numbers of girls.

We’re used to observing unrestrained living by hormonally haywire young adults. But when kids start acting like Satan’s ambassadors, it’s clear that the sins of the fathers are being visited on the children by means of parental neglect.

It’s not just kids, though. You’ve probably heard the pathetic report that sexually transmitted disease is becoming all too common among single retirees. Hmmmm….. perhaps this news will make that little blue pill a bit tougher to swallow.

The media, the workplace, the schools, the TV room at home and sometimes even at church, the truth of the following verse is all too evident:

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed are those who heed wisdom’s instruction” (Proverbs 29:18).

This verse from the One-Year Bible should motivate us to heed wisdom’s instruction. You do want to be blessed, don’t you?

When the actions of somebody important to you clearly reflect the casting off of restraint, it is important that you understand how positive change will likely occur in his or her life.

There must be revelation of God’s Word brought into his or her life.

And since it’s unlikely that such a person is going to spontaneously pick up a Bible and start reading, YOU will have to be the Bible in person. You’ll have to demonstrate the goodness, the kindness, the morality, the patience and endurance that God desires in believers.

Be the role model, my friend. Be gracious, recognizing the grace that God showed you.

And be patient. Sometimes, it takes a long time for unsaved, unrestrained people to “turn their ship around.”

Not only will you begin the process of painting an alternative path for people who seemingly know no better, but you’ll also prepare yourself for receiving blessings from the Lord who appreciates those who heed His word.

As always, I love you
Martin

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The Big, Bad Wolf is always looking for houses to blow down.

After all, he’s got a long resume of successfully huffing and puffing, doesn’t he?

We all know of marriages or parent-child relationships or entire congregations that have collapsed after that gnarly rascal started blowing destructive winds upon them.

It didn’t have to be that way, though.

And it doesn’t have to be that way now.

Particularly for those of us who are Christians.

I want to encourage you to reinforce the strength of your marriage or your parent-child relationship or your congregational unity or your friendships or whatever. And I want to invite you to do so by integrating the principle of Psalm 127:1 into all your interactions and prayers in the days ahead.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

There’s no way to stand up to the Devil’s schemes to destroy what is important to you — and even your own soul — if you do not turn to the Lord for wisdom, strength and protection.

The winds of sin and evil will eventually knock down things that are important to you.

Yet if you and I follow the Word in how we love family, how we live at work, how we protect friendships and how we forgive people at church, then Satan will never be able to tear down that which is built on the solid rock of Truth rather than the sands of human wisdom.

Don’t labor in vain, my friend.

Labor for gain.

Follow God’s biblical blueprint.

Pray for God’s provision.

And make sure that every “room” of your house has a place for Him.

When Satan sees obvious evidence of God inside and outside your house of faith, he’ll look for some other house since blowing against yours would only waste his breath.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Christians with adult children who are active in church are richly blessed by God.

Lori and I find great joy in being among those maturing Christians with such kids.

My two biological children, Jessica and Melissa, are active in personal ministry, with Melissa serving in full-time ministry as a children’s minister. And I have a stepdaughter named Jennifer whose heart is active in and hungry for church life.

It’s good to know that these three understand the priority that God desires to have in their lives. We also have two sons-in-law who are actively serving congregations in music leadership roles.

I share this fact today because of the verse below that was part of today’s reading in the One-Year Bible.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

The specific context of this passage was the Apostle John writing to an elder in a particular congregation in order to encourage and instruct that body. The letter ended up being circulated among Christians in many places, though, because of its inspirational and educational nature.

For the aging apostle to send this letter, there must have been quite a relationship with this congregation.

Some of the members of the congregation were apparently led to Christ by John himself.

It’s a beautiful thing to read of his ongoing concern for their spiritual well-being and of his joy at their continuted faithfulness.

Anybody with years of experience in ministry can relate to John’s joy.

Some people that we led to Christ years ago are still serving Him.

Some of us are experiencing the same joy regarding our own children.

Let’s join to pray for those who have not continued to walk in the truth.

Just because they’ve let go of God’s hand, that doesn’t mean that they can’t reach for it again.

We just need to keep praying for them and walking in the truth ourselves so that they see an example of how and why doing so is vitally important.

One thing is nearly certain — if you and I don’t continue walking in the truth in a very visible, humble way, chances are slim that our wandering loved one will ever return to the flock in God’s pasture.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When you’re really upset over something, whether toward another or toward yourself, how is that displayed outwardly?

Do you yell?

Do you throw things? Hit things?

Do you resort to cutting sacrasm?

Do you pout?

Or do you dig into God’s Word and consult with a God-guided Christian for wisdom on how to face the situation?

It’s very frustrating, of course, to be around somebody whose anger is displayed as rage. This “swinging baseball bat” attitude is terribly costly, often causing far more damage than whatever circumstance prompted the rage.

Yet, we are inspired and instructed when we see a wise person display the horse-whisperer style of response toward somebody who is yelling or throwing things or cutting people down or throwing a contorted-face pout party.

Why this topic today?

Here was a passage in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible:

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” Proverbs 29:11

There is no question that if somebody in your circle of influence starts raging, it’s an ugly moment.

Our challenge as maturing Christians is to bring into that moment the truth of God’s Word, the gracious love previously poured into our hearts by a forgiving God, and the verbalized benefits of seeking lasting remedies rather than re-runs of “Who did this to me?” and “Somebody’s going to pay for this!”

It’s all about grace, actually.

Grace shown to us by a wise, patient God who wants us to find the better Way.

And wise, patient grace shown by us toward raging family, friends and co-workers who need to SEE the better Way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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