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Archive for January, 2011

It’s such a short fragment of a verse but it spoke loudly to me this morning.

He blesses the home of the righteous” (Proverbs 3:33)

As soon as I read this, my mind zoomed through memories of times past when my heart was thrilled by God’s blessings upon my home. Times when I wrestled with giggling kids on the family room floor. Times when I hugged and encouraged teary-eyed kids wounded by words of peers.

And times when I saw the Holy Spirit pour encouragement into dinner visitors who felt the unconditional love of my family.

The list of cherished, recalled blessings goes on and on and on, of course.

Just as your list does if you’ve sought to have a righteous home.

It has not been in the plan of God to pour out abundant wealth into my home. I assure you that I would have appreciated it if He had, but I’m content and grateful with the non-tangible blessings that actually have far greater worth and require far less maintenance.

The cost-benefit ratio of righteousness vs. blessing is clearly in my favor, as it is for every surrendered believer.

We pursue the righteous living that God desires and deserves and He provides the blessings that we desire but DON’T deserve.

Please, my friend, determine today to change one of your life patterns that could become more righteous in nature.

Perhaps you’ll stop watching unrighteous TV programs tthat corrupt your mind with sarcasm, sexual innuendo and rude language. God certainly isn’t happy with such choices and won’t bless them.

Perhaps you’ll stop trying to influence family members in hurtful ways so that you can get your way.

Perhaps you’ll start praying consistently with your spouse or children before you part ways for the day and before you go to sleep at night.

The possibilities are endless for bringing more righteousness into your home.

And as you do, the endless supply of blessings from the infinite God won’t be far behind.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I am so grateful that the vast majority of matters involving faithful living are not complicated.

With very few exceptions, how we demonstrate our faith is more often about “Will I do what’s right?” than it is about “What is the right thing to do?”

We’ve all stumbled on many occasions in how we’ve lived as Christians, but it rarely has been from a lack of intelligence or lack of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Translated, that meant that we just weren’t trying hard enough to live in the right way at the moment of our failure.

There is a better way, of course, and as we integrate this better way into our lives, we’ll stumble less and serve God more.

It’s very simple, actually.

That’s the design of God for His Word given to imperfect people who need a simple, perfect pathway to pleasing the Lord and protecting themselves.

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit…. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in them.” (Matthew 12:33, 35)

Listen, if I want to have a life with fruit that is always good and is recognized as such by others, then I am to always be making the tree good.

I need to store up good words and good deeds from God and other believers and share an overflow through my life as often as I have opportunity.

I cannot share good from within me if I do not make sure that only good is flowing into me.

That’s why it is SO important that my roots of faith are sunk deep into an abundant flow of Living Water, that my limbs are protected from various forms of sinful pestilence and that I willingly accept the pruning of the Master Gardener that will prepare me for bearing more fruit and fewer purposeless leaves.

The more that I seek and accept the process of becoming a good tree, the more fruit I’ll bear for the Master.

That’s why you and I gain when we read the Bible more.

When we pray more.

When we learn more of faith from those who know more. On Sunday in worship and Sunday School. At your small group Bible study. From one-on-one studies with other believers. From books, radio or music.

Prune more those parts of life that haven’t borne fruit.

Good spiritual fruit is the result of these good decisions.

Let’s both commit to doing the right we know so that we always show the right answer to the question, “Will I do the right thing?”

Your corner of the world needs more good fruit.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes, I am befuddled as to why other Christians cling to certain theological beliefs.

I try to think logically and yet I find these others possessing and promoting teachings that don’t seem logical — at least to me.

Yes, I know that some facets of faith are mysterious and abstract and will be fully known when we’re in a perfected state in God’s throneroom.

But there are other extremely simple concepts that I believe can be understood and accepted just as they are presented in scripture.

A passage in today’s Bible reading provides an example.

“…those who stand firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

My intention this morning is not to open a can of worms, but instead to encourage you to embrace the simple truth in this passage rather than place asterisks in it that imply theological permutations that I believe simply aren’t there.

Huh?

I’ve talked on several occasions with people who describe beliefs that essentially make this verse unnecessary.

Their thinking is that if somebody is saved, then they’re going to be saved, no matter what and it will never even cross their mind to not stand firm.

But then I ask, “What about the person who thought and taught this way for years and then falls off the faith wagon and intentionally, persistently turns to defying and ultimately denying God? In essence, what about the believer who turns blasphemer?”

I’m told that person was never saved in the first place.

Hmmmm…..

For years, that person thought he or she was saved and might have even been so faithful that he or she would volunteer to turn off the church lights and lock the doors.

But then something happened and he or she turned away from God, first slowly and then seemingly permanently. Pleas from the faithful had no influence.

The apostate didn’t stand firm, turned away from God and …. well, you can finish the sentence regarding his or her destiny in the absence of repentance and rededication.

Listen, salvation is always by a choice to be in a relationship with God. It is a free will decision to enter salvation and a free will decision to remain in it.

The clear message of Jesus’ words above is that choosing to be faithful is a daily responsibility until one’s days on earth are no more.

Yes, I believe that I cannot lose my salvation IF I choose to stand firmly with Christ, holding His hand and holding to His promises (Pslam 37:23-24).

Satan cannot rip my hand from Christ’s. But he can persuade me to let go… and let go…. and let go…. to the point of giving up reaching for Christ.

Stand firm, my friend. Stand with Jesus.

And keep choosing each day to do so until your days are done. The blessing on the other side of “the end” is something you don’t want to miss.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To the Christian, those rare, “mountain-top moments” with God are hugely significant.

Some believers experience such moments that are fit for the movies in terms of dramatic settings.

Other believers encounter God in deeply moving ways that are less dramatic yet just as deeply significant to their faith.

Regardless of the details, the result of such encounters is likely a deeper commitment to seeking and serving the will of God.

No matter how long it’s been since you had such a faith-confirming encounter in one way or another, its influence upon your life is to be perpetual.

Why? Because God wants your loyalty and ministry for Him to be eternal.

This sort of defining moment was described in dramatic fashion during my Bible reading this morning.

In Genesis 28, Jacob travelled to his ancestral homeland in order to find a wife with comparable religious beliefs and values. Along the way, he stopped to sleep for the night and, during a dream, encounters God.

It was an amazing experience that left a huge imprint on his life and purpose for living. You can read about it by clicking here.

Though Jacob was carrying fears of never being able to return his home and relatives in Canaan — remember he tricked his brother Esau and was in mortal danger — God reassured him that he WOULD return and would also have many children who would occupy the land and ultimately bless the entire world.

And then God gave an incredibly sticky promise that Jacob would never forget.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:16).

This promise overwhelmed Jacob, even in his sleep.

He awoke and described where he was as an awesome place. “This is the gate of heaven,” he said.

Physically speaking, it was probably just a little ravine or cave out of the weather and which could easily accommodate his pack animals in a semi-secured setting.

But because God was there, it was holy.

It really was the gate of heaven, just as Jacob described in verse 17.

Jacob was a changed man after that dream within which he saw a stairway to heaven.

It was that promise that kept him going in years to follow even when the years kept passing without his being back home.

Listen, dear friend, think back to a moment when God’s Spirit was SO clearly in your presence. Perhaps people were around. Perhaps you were the only human around.

Reclaim the awe of that moment. Recognize that you were at the gate of heaven.

Recommit to the promise and the mission that God revealed to you, whether it be for projecting your faith into a difficult family setting or providing an undying devotion to a key volunteer role in the church or persisting in showing a wholesome, godly example of kind faith in a workplace filled with envy, scheming and gossip.

It won’t be easy, just as it wasn’t easy for Jacob. If it were, then you wouldn’t need the confidence poured into you by God’s presence and promise.

You CAN do it, though, with the knowledge that God will be with you wherever you go and that He will bring you to your heavenly home with Him.

Remember, He promised.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17)

As Christians mature in life, they have the wonderful opportunity to grow in wisdom, helping many others along the way.

With that aging process, though, comes the threat of embracing the lie that the specific manner of how they express faith is the official way to express faith.

Particularly in the realm of worship.

More specifically with worship music.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of churches splitting over music style in worship.

If there’s not a split, there are at least many who look for a more traditional church because they don’t like the style of music or the dress of who is playing and singing.

Though this happens thousands of times annually across the country, this is not God’s desire, I’m convinced.

This sort of situation reminds me of a family driving down the road in the days before portable music devices and headphones. Dad would want to listen to twangy Country music, Mom would want to listen to some breezy romantic stuff and the kids would want to hear to slam-beat rock and roll.

Perhaps there would be compromises, but there would never a time when everybody got what they wanted.

They simply made the decision that hearing the music they liked some of the time was OK if it meant being with the people they loved ALL of the time.

It really is a matter which do we love more.

Our mutual interests of being together?

Or my personal interest of getting exactly what I want?

In the church, preferences should never trump God’s mandate for unity, regardless of who happens to be planning the worship service.

Remember, love always protects, according to I Corinthians 13.

That means, because I love the Church, I will protect her by not projecting my worship tastes as the official definition of worship. And I will also encourage those in worship leadership to recognize and integrate various music formats within the worship plan.

After all, what is the purpose of worship? To have everybody listen to our playlist? Of course not. We are to be focused first and foremost on offering prayer lyrics to God that are set to music that enhances the impartation of our hearts’ songs.

It is WAY more important that we focus on if the worship songs acknowledge who God is and why we appreciate Him so.

Simply stated, does HE like the words He’s hearing?

Remember, worship is to be a mission, not a diversion.

If this is not our primary concern during worship, then we have work to do in better understanding Matthew 6:33.

This topic is not new on the discussion list, of course. I recall these conversations occurring 40 years ago in churches I attended.

The idea of new wineskins vs. old wineskins has been around since the days of Jesus.

Please join me in resisting the innate human tendency to become an inflexible old wineskin who doesn’t like change because it requires stretching.

Understand that the best way to become flexible and to remain flexible is to welcome “new wine” into our lives as long as the new ministry methods or new music selections or new style of presentation are each true to the timeless, unchanging Word of God.
As always, I love you Martin

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I had a long conversation yesterday with a Christian lady whose husband refuses to attend church with her.

As she described the situation — and how the intimacy gap in her marriage is increasing as she grows closer to Christ — I sensed a bit of her emotional pain.

It’s not just the slowly eroding common ground with her husband that bothers her but also the increasingly evident discomfort that her husband’s weekend activity buddies sense when she declines offers to drink beer with them.

They haven’t reached the point yet of verbally telling her to go away, but she can already feel the uneasiness that others feel when she repeatedly rejects the offer of a beer.

It’s a trend that I’ve seen a number of Christians experience. Some believers keep living the set-apart lifestyle in what they consume, recognizing that such choices are clear, yet non-confrontational ways to declare faith in the Lord.

Other believers waver in their determination, though, to live differently than the world.

Why? Because they don’t want to be told to “Go away.”

I was reminded of this topic today while reading from Matthew 8:28-34. Jesus and His disciples had arrived on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee via boat and were walking along the shore near a cemetery. Two demon-possessed men who violently terrorized anybody that passed that way ran up to Jesus and, rather than trying to attack Him, chose to ask Him two questions:

“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Jesus saw the desperate need of these men and healed them by ordering the demons within them to enter a herd of pigs that then ran off a cliff. It should have been a great time of celebration for the nearby people who no longer worried about having to be attacked when visiting loved ones’ graves.

That’s not what resulted, though.

Instead, the people told Jesus to go away.

Wow.

Apparently, they focused on what they had lost rather than what they had gained.

It’s my view that many non-Christians don’t like feeling Christian lifestyle influence because it subtly calls upon them to give up practices that they know aren’t good for them spiritually and frequently are physically unhealthy.

Many of us have felt what the lady above feels when she doesn’t accept offers to consume beer or mixed drinks at weekend social events with her husband.

Many of us have felt quite clearly the desire of others that we would just go away just as the people in Matthew 8 told Jesus.

Please, dear friend, don’t allow the discomfort of othes with your godly lifestyle to determine your direction and dimensions of Kingdom service.

Ask God to strengthen you and guide you so that, even in the midst of the unwelcome attitudes and actions, you might still help those who need freedom from the Enemy’s grip.

Just as the two demon-possessed men and their families were thrilled and forever changed by Christ’s ministry to them, despite the public opposition, so will the lives of unsaved, hurting co-workers you will influence toward the Cross.

The people at work might not like losing a drinking/dirty joke buddy, but that saved soul will sure like gaining an eternity-promised/earthly peace life. And so will his or her family.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We all like to receive gifts IF what is being offered is in our best interests rather than the giver’s.

The challenge of being wise is to discern the motives of the giver.

If somebody is sincerely trying to help us — with no agenda of self-seeking on his or her part — a gift is such a blessing.

But if the gift is perhaps intended to create a sense of indebtedness to the giver, is it really a gift to you?

Or is it a self-directed investment by the one offering it to you?

It’s all about motive, it sometimes seems.

I share this topic today because of a passage in Genesis 23 where Abraham offers to buy a cave from a Hittite landowner so that Sarah could be buried with dignity and on land owned by her family.

The landowner, Ephron the Hittite, twice insisted on giving the land to Abraham and twice Abraham refused.

We know that Abraham didn’t get wealthy by spending money when he didn’t have to, so why did he reject repeated offers of donated land?

The Bible doesn’t say, but logic suggested a couple of reasons to me.

Abraham didn’t want to be indebted in any way to a non-believer, particularly when the burial place of his wife was involved. What if Ephron or his descendants decided later that they didn’t like Abraham or his descendents? Would access to the burial cave be blocked? How bad would that be?

Also, what if Ephron’s descendants decided they wanted to sell the land including the cave? Would they force Abraham’s descendents into a bidding war in order to protect the burial place of Sarah?

Sometimes, it’s just better to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” and then buy a thing or invest in a certain situation with your own money.

Girls learn this early in life with respect to somebody “giving” her an expensive date or gift and later having certain expectations that are better off avoided.

And everybody learns eventually that — like drug dealers handing out free samples — Satan offers all sorts of “free” things early in the temptation cycle.

Soon after the appetite for “free” is formed, though, the price tag becomes increasingly clear with stipulated moral compromises, financial consequences and even physical costs.

Listen, if somebody offers a gift to you and you’re not crystal clear about his or her motive, then I encourage you to pray about it and ask for wisdom in how to respond.

That way, you can wait on the Lord to reveal to you if accepting the gift will help or hinder your faith, your testimony and your peace of mind.

Borrowing from another, more common phrase, I’m convinced that we’re known by the gifts we keep.

As always, I love you
Martin

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