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Archive for February, 2011

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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I find it interesting that some congregations have church buildings in out-of-the-way places and yet the ministries are thriving.

And there are other congregations that have buildings in aesthetically challenged, industrial areas and yet the parking lots are packed on Sunday morning.

According to most church growth gurus, a choice location on a major road close to growing residential areas is the ideal setting for a growing church.

That’s good when it can happen, but that isn’t what builds a church’s ministry.

Huh?

Isn’t ministry all about “location, location, location?”

Nope.

It wasn’t that way for Jesus and it isn’t to be that way for us.

Ministry is about providing hope for the hurting.

It’s that simple.

If people know they’ll find hope at a certain church as they experience God’s love and understand their purpose for living, they’ll find their way there whether it’s in a swank subdivision or on a busy highway between storage warehouses.

This is the truth that I’m trusting as the pastor for the congregation I serve in south Miami and this is the truth that every member of a church in a “challenged” location should trust.

I share this message today because of a simple, yet profound lesson in Mark 1:45. The setting is this: Jesus had just healed a man with leprosy and had told him to not tell others of the miracle. Jesus knew that if word spread of the compassionate healing, then any effort to enter local towns in Galilee would be chaotic as the crowds would beseige Him in the streets and marketplaces.

The healed man told everybody he saw about the miracle, though, and so Jesus had to stay in “lonely places” in the countryside in order to not cause major disruptions in towns and villages.

Yet, the Bible says, “the people still came to Him from everywhere.”

Why did they leave their homes and their towns and walk long distances to reach Jesus?

Because they were hurting in their flesh or in their souls and they believed that they could find hope by finding Jesus.

Listen, I was humbled this morning when I read this passage from the One-Year Bible. I was stirred to pray more actively for wisdom on how to lead my congregation toward becoming a better lighthouse of love, a better fountain of Living Water, a better hospital of spiritual, emotional and — through prayer — physical healing.

The more hope like this that people find at my industrial-location congregation, the more filled the building will be even though our location is not what church growth gurus would recommend.

Provide hope from on high and people will find your church building, my friend.

They found Jesus out in the boondocks. They’ll find your church if your congregation offers what Jesus offered.

This is my assignment. I pray that it will become yours.

As always, I love you
Martiin

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When you and I gather at church to worship, it is important that we approach the Lord with clean hearts.

I was reminded of this fact this morning while reading from Exodus 40. In vv. 30-32, the following words are found:

He (Moses) placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses.”

We don’t have wash basins in the foyers of our churches so that we can wash our hands and feet before worship. But the idea of approaching the Lord in a cleansed state is still valid because of how it demonstrates the desire to honor the Lord as holy.

Imagine going on a date with a special someone and not apologizing first for a hurtful statement or action in the days preceding the date. There would be a huge cloud over the time together, a cloud that could have been swept away by the humble act of asking forgiveness.

With an apology, though, the date would be so much more enjoyable for both.

I believe that each of us will please the Lord more with our worship “date” if we take a few moments for prayer before the service. Ask God to cleanse you of your sins committed in the past week.

Ask Him to reveal to you any attitudes that need washed away and then give Him the freedom in your heart to do the sanctifying work that is humbling yet helpful.

If your congregation’s pre-service format isn’t conducive to this heart-prep time because of noise in the auditorium, then find an empty classroom for such or take a few moments to do so while still in your car in the parking lot.

You can imagine how pleasing it will be to the Father to see you preparing your heart for worship in this way.

You’ll be honoring Him.

You’ll be preparing yourself for more effective worship.

And you’ll be setting a good example for others who need to do the same.

Please do this whenever you enter the “tent of meeting” at your church.

If you’re already doing this, please drop me a line to share your experiences with me. I’d like to know how others are preparing themselves for worship.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m so glad to know that there is no struggle we face that is greater than our Lord’s strength to carry us through to the other side of trouble.

This has been true in my life and this has been true in yours.

Even in those times when our faith wavered and we toyed with the idea of trusting our own wisdom and strength, God’s mercy and protection continued.

He knew then that we were clay people still being refined and strengthened in the fire and Her patiently loved us, provided for us, put hedges of protection around us and waited for the light bulb of spiritual realization to come on in our hearts.

And it did.

Thank God.

A well-known verse that helps me many times is Proverbs 3:5-6. You know it. It says that we are to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways, we are to acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths.

When I do this, my life and ministry are better. When I don’t, they’re not.

It’s that simple.

I share this information today because of a passage in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

The righteous may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers them from them all” (Psalm 34:19)

The fact is that a saving relationship with Jesus Christ is not intended to save us from facing problems in this life, but instead to save our souls into an eternal life where there will be no more problems but instead eternal bliss.

In His mercy, God does deliver us from many of our earthly problems, whether they be physical, emotional or financial. But earlthy deliverance is not why Jesus died on the cross.

Our deliverance into eternal, holy fellowship with the Father and His children is why Jesus died on the cross.

Listen, we’d all like to have lives with no earthly troubles. And, in fact, we do have seasons when the troubles seem to be less prevalent.

But then Satan is given more freedom to test our faith and more problems appear.

At such times, our faith can shine and our God can be exalted.

We simply have to trust more than ever that our help comes from on high and that the Lord will deliver us from the problem, whether in the short term by guiding us into resolving the problem or in the long-term by strengthening and guiding us to live with the problem until we graduate to glory.

Either way, we’ll be delivered.

We’ll be refined.

God will be glorified.

And isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway?

As always, I love you
Martin

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