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Archive for February, 2011

It’s interesting, this idea of a glorious Messiah who doubles as the second person in the majestic Trinity and as the perfect role model for humility.

Jesus was the greatest and most powerful person ever to take human form and yet, concurrently, the most humble.

The wind and the waves and the demons of hell obeyed His voice, yet even the smallest children sensed that Jesus would put them ahead of Himself when it came to making time for them.

Wow.

We’ll do well in pleasing God and others if we practice this depth of humility.

We’ll also save ourselves a lot of embarrassment and weakened testimony.

I was reminded of this vital principle this morning while reading from Mark 9:30-37. In the passage, the apostles argued as to who was the greatest among them. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous to us.

But imagine how it sounded to Jesus who wasn’t physically with them but who knew everything they had said.

Rather than tear into them as ridiculous, ego-centric hypocrites, Jesus showed humility of His character, thinking of their learning need rather than His ego need.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’” (vv. 35-37).

This passage is just one of many that emphasizes humility, both in Christ’s example and in how we are called to conduct ourselves.

Listen, just because Jesus isn’t standing next to us during our conversations that slip into self-promotion — even in the subtle ways — that doesn’t mean He’s deaf to what we’re doing.

He knows.

We are NEVER called to seek elevation of our standing above others.

We ARE called to put others ahead of ourselves — constantly.

Little kids don’t play mind games.

Little kids don’t estimate net worth of others before deciding with whom they will talk.

Little kids don’t judge others’ worth based on things they can’t control, such as the color of skin or the income of families or shapes of noses or hips.

We shouldn’t do these things, either.

When we’re truly humble, everybody around us is truly important.

Jesus saw people this way and died on the cross for them.

Let’s join together to see people this way and put our selfishness to death in their behalf.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I won’t have access to my computer for a couple of days because of termite treatment for my rental house.
Please be looking for the devotions to resume Monday.

As always, I love you
Martin

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A Latin term I learned in graduate seminary was ex nihilo. It means “from nothing” and is used by theologians to describe God’s creation of the universe.

In essence, using the phrase shows a recognition of God’s omnipotence in that He made something out of nothing, simply by willing it into existence.

He spoke the intent and His Son, the one known as The Word, crafted creation into existence over a six “days” (i.e., periods of time).

That’s quite special in my view and, I imagine, yours, too.

So when I read this morning from Mark 6 about Jesus feeding thousands of people from one kid’s lunchbox, I was impressed but I was not surprised.

Compared to the creation of the world out of nothing, coming up with tons of food out of a little bag did not stretch the limits of Jesus’ creative power.

Five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 men and who knows how many women and children.

Wow.

So if God created, via Jesus, the universe out of nothing and if Jesus fed perhaps 12,000 people out of one lunchbox, then should we doubt God’s ability to replace the tithe portion of our total income that belongs to Him?

Of course not.

As a matter of fact, God promises to do more than replace the tithe (10 percent of ALL income) if we’ll give it in our offerings at church.

We just have to trust Him.

At the core of it all, tithing is a matter of trusting.

Trusting that God is, in fact, the same Creator who made the universe and who can create more blessing to replace the blessing we’re passing through our hands back into His Kingdom.

If you’re not tithing, you’re not trusting God as you should.

Please trust God.

Please trust Jesus.

If you’re trusting them to save your soul, then shouldn’t you trust them to more than replace your tithe?

They’ve never given us reasons to doubt their creative power.

Let’s give them no reason to doubt our faith in them.

Let’s tithe.

As always, I love you
Martin

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According to the gospels, Jesus wasn’t amazed very much.

According to my quick research, there were two times that scripture says Jesus was amazed.

One time involved a person whom Jesus didn’t expect to have a correct understanding of faith — a Roman centurion. That account is in Luke 7.

The other time involved people whom Jesus DID expect to have a correct understanding of faith — the people of His hometown synagogue. That account is in Mark 6.

Interesting contrast, huh?

Surprised by a foreigner with an atypical faith and surprised by hometown peers with an absent faith.

It seems that Jesus was amazed by those things that He didn’t expect.

I pray that you and I don’t amaze Jesus in these ways.

It is good if Jesus expects us to show a correct understanding of faith and then we actually do so.

Simply stated, let’s not give Jesus any surprises.

If we call Him Lord, our lives should show that He is Lord.

When it comes to an obedient life, let’s live such in a way that amazes those around us and not our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes, the most potent lessons learned while reading a book are not printed on the pages but instead planted into our minds by the Holy Spirit.

That’s what happened this morning as I started re-reading Pivotal Praying, a book by John Hull and Tim Elmore.

One of the chapters dealt with the Christian’s heart cry to make a difference in a fallen world so gripped with pessimism. In the chapter, the authors discussed the idea of God’s leading for certain ministries.

Hull and Elmore recited the biblical accounts of Nehemiah’s leadership and how the walls were rebuilt because of faithfulness — God’s faithfulness to Himself and to His favorite city, Nehemiah’s faithfulness to God and to the place of a restored Jerusalem and the revived faithfulness of people who later felt their own sense of spiritual calling.

What occurred to me as I read their words and as I reflected on the entire book of Nehemiah was a phrase that came to my mind, communicating a principle that permeates the Bible and should permeate our lives.

“God will never place a burden in our hearts without placing resources in our hands.”

A massive rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls was needed. For some 70 years, the walls had sat in ruins despite the return of countless thousands of Hebrews from Babylonian exile.

The reason for the failed rebuilding was not the lack of materials, the book of Nehemiah showed.

What was lacking was the resolve to honor the Lord through the restoring of God’s favorite city and their national sense of dignity.

God called Nehemiah first with this mission. It was a profound sense of being called that can be studied in chapters 1 and 2 of the book. And then He reassured Nehemiah that all the material and people and inspiration and wisdom needed to complete the rebuilding task would be provided.

It was just a matter of learning and trusting and testing and inspiring and, most importantly, praying.

God clearly placed a burden on the heart of Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding effort.

And as Nehemiah moved forward in faith, in his sense of calling planted in his heart, he found that God provided all the material and people and wisdom and divine intercession resources needed for success.

Listen, if God is calling your heart to an area of greater layperson ministry in your congregation, don’t neglect your need to respond to this leading and provision.

Just remember to pray first. That’s what Nehemiah did. He fasted, too. You’ll be far more likely to walk in His power instead of your own. Others will see that and be more inclined to walk with you.

There’s much to be done for the Kingdom, my friend. Right within your own corner of the world.

Trust God’s call, purposes and provision.
Spiritual victories are on the other side of your decision.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Every time I read Mark 3:21, I imagine a pained look on Jesus’ face.

This is the place in the Gospels where His family is saying that Jesus has lost His mind and needs to be taken to back to the family compound.

The preceding verse describes how Jesus and His apostles are so caught up one day in ministry to large crowds that they haven’t been able to eat. That was the trigger that convinced Jesus’ mother and siblings that He was out of control and a threat to Himself.

I know it sounds crazy to us, this idea that the Carpenter of all creation is seen by His family as a “nut case” simply because He misses dinner in order to preach to a crowd.

His family was already sick of His religious activism, though, and tired of hearing all the peer complaints about the eldest son’s whacky religious beliefs and teachings.

They had already felt a lot of pressure, I’m sure, from local Jewish bigshots who didn’t like how Jesus was undercutting the tradtional Jewish power structure.

But Jesus was having a huge, positive impact on countless lives. Many were being physically healed. Even more were being delivered from inner angst and were walking in the peace of God’s forgiveness.

This is what Jesus wanted His family to see and celebrate, I’m sure.

Yet, they came with an agenda to keep Him from doing God’s work.

Oh, how that must have pained His heart.

It’s no wonder that He said in another gospel that His true family is whoever does the will of God.

I’m glad that Jesus didn’t harbor hard feelings toward His mom and His siblings.

Yes, they terribly embarrassed Him by allowing themselves to become pawns in the schemes of the Enemy.

But, if He showed them grace as Hie rejected this scheme with no residual malice, His call later for their support of His ministry might be well-received.

And it was.

They did become believers. In fact, His brother James became a key leader in the Jerusalem church.

I encourage you to be patient and focused on God’s calling if and when a relative starts giving you grief because of your overt faith.

Yes, it stings when a relative thinks you’re not thinking clearly as you pursue your practice of faith.

But you know what’s best.

Stick with it. Lay your wounded feelings on the altar of sacrifice.

God will strengthen you if you press into Him without faltering.

Perhaps some of those relatives will eventually come to believe as did Jesus’ relatives.

Now that would be a wonderful thing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When you go to the movies, the price you pay for admission doesn’t change based on your income.

If you don’t pay the going rate, you don’t get in.

The same principle applies to most everything in life.

We live basically in a flat-rate world.

I’m glad that the level of financial giving that God sets for believer faithfulness is not a flat rate.

There is no way that I could match the actual dollar amount of tithing by a millionaire Christian whose church offerings by themselves might exceed my gross annual income.

And yet, in God’s sight, my tithe offering is just as sweet to God and as obedient to His command, even though the actual amount of the gift might be one-tenth as much.

That’s the beauty of God’s call for proportional giving.

Equal sacrifice doesn’t typically mean equal amounts.

I should clarify that our access to heaven actually does involve a flat-rate payment, but not by us.

Instead, the price was something we couldn’t pay and still have any hope for eternal life.

I’m talking about Christ’s suffering on the cross as payment for your sins and mine.

Every soul has the same value before God and required the same sacrifice if there was to be a provision made for the soul’s salvation.

Yet, every saved soul is to demonstrate that commitment to God based on the measure of financial blessing that exists in the person’s life.

I pray that you’re tithing, meaning that you’re giving 10 percent of your gross income — before taxes — to the work of God’s Kingdom.

And I pray that you thank God for His grace in calling you to give according to your income, not according to somebody else’s.

Why this topic today? The daily Bible reading describes in Leviticus 5 of how God called the Hebrews to make atonement sacrifices based on their level of income, regardless of the sin type.

God’s grace via proportional giving even extended to the poorest of the poor who couldn’t afford to buy two doves to offer as sin sacrifices. If such a person brought an ephah (i.e., a quart) of quality flour to the priest, it would be spread on the top of other food offerings on the altar and burned as an acceptable sacrifice.

It is a wonderful testimony of God’s grace that the poor person could have just as much inner peace because of obeying God as did the wealthy person who could have afforded to give 10 unblemished, female lambs to the priest for sacrifice.

I’m so glad that I serve a gracious God who asks for proportional sacrifice to show an equal percentage of love for the God who sent His Son to pay the flat rate, ultimate sacrifice on the cross for my sins.

Please give your tithe offering with a profound sense of gratitude. It’s the least you can do for the God who gave the most for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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