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Archive for April, 2011

I love the vivid imagery used in scripture.

Here’s an example from Proverbs 14:11.

“The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.”

Three contrasts exist in the short verse.

  • House vs. tent
  • Wicked v. upright
  • Destroyed vs. flourish

What stirred me to comment briefly this morning were not the latter two contrasts, but instead the first.

“House” is generally associated with something more enduring than a tent.

And yet, the “tent” is the one that flourishes.

What’s up with that?

Solomon used symbolism, of course, in crafting these words.

I don’t believe he was referring to a tangible, brick and mortar structure, even though he could have.

And I don’t believe he was referring to a literal tent made with fabric that never failed.

Instead, I believe he was speaking of legacy, of family line, of heritage, of enduring testimony.

If you live to please yourself and your worldly peers, you’re going down.

Literally and figuratively.

The fact is that you can’t stand up to the world unless God holds you up.

Even the evil have their day when other worldly people turn on them.

But God never turns against those who have turned their hearts toward His eternal promises.

If somebody knows that he or she is a short-timer on this earth and lives as if his or her life here is just a temporary, portable tent, their minds and hearts will be focused on pleasing his or her Father in heaven.

After all, that’s where they are storing up treasure that God will use to build for them a mansion over the hilltop.

Our primary reward of faith is not in things of this world, but in the blessing of God’s presence in the next life.

Be content with a tent of a life, my friend.

It’s not as fancy as that belonging to so many others, but it will more than do, considering what is awaiting you on the other side.

As you live for God and love others, some of them will want to join you inside your tent of faith.

Won’t that be great, knowing that your tent helped others to experience a flourishing faith?

As always, I love you
Martin

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He who thinks he stands should take heed, lest he fall.

This rendition of a King James Version teaching in I Corinthians 10:12 warns us against becoming prideful.

If we think we’re too socially or emotionally or physically strong to be knocked down, then we are ripe for being knocked down.

As long as the Devil has any freedom to act and influence people against us, there will always be somebody stronger or tougher than us and who will be led our way to knock us down.

This is why we need to stand in the strength of our faith, not the strength of our flesh.

Actually, we need to constantly remind ourselves of this need.

Why? Because we so easily are lured into thinking we’re on our feet because nobody can knock us down.

Wrong.

It just hasn’t happened yet.

If we’re not holding onto the Lord, we’re going down when the pushin’ and shovin’ starts.

Even when the pushin’ and shovin’ is emotional or spiritual rather than physical.

Gideon offers a perfect example of this in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

In Judges 8:22-27, Gideon makes a terrible mistake just days after the glorious victory over the Midianites where he and 300 Israelites saw the Lord defeat a huge army in their behalf. In the verses preceding the above passage, Gideon and Israelite soldiers had scored additional victories with their swords.

It was a great time of success.

Then Gideon blew it.

He got cocky.

He thought he could change the rules of worship and not face consequences.

He told every victorious, Israelite soldier to donate a bit of gold from the plunder each took from dead Midianite soldiers.

And then he had a worship ephod (breastplate/vest) crafted and placed in a city of his own choosing.

God already had commanded that only Israel’s high priest should wear the official, prayer ephod made during Israel’s time in the wilderness and which was to be used at the tabernacle.

But Gideon, apparently full of himself, thought the rules didn’t apply to him.

Though he had refused to become Israel’s king, he apparently was tempted into setting himself up as a priest, even though he was not of the priestly line of Aaron.

It was a terrible example of presumption and disobedience.

It’s no wonder that Israel’s obedience to God vaporized the instant Gideon died. Terrible things for Gideon’s family and for Israel resulted.

Let’s learn from this sad lesson.

Let’s worship God’s way.

Let’s serve according to how God has gifted us, not according to how we want to be praised publicly.

Let’s follow scripture in its teachings regarding involvement with a church family, rather than freelancing in religion based on what we like.

Think going to church is inconvenient and annoying because you hear teaching there that gigs you? Gideon might have felt the same way and allowed that feeling to keep him away from tabernacle worship.

Look where it got him.

Don’t make the same mistake.

Get plugged in at church in the way that God is calling.

If you don’t, you just might fall for a lie that leads you — and your loved ones — into falling off a spiritual cliff.

As always, I love you
Martin

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While He was suffering on the cross, Jesus was told three times that He should save Himself.

First by the religious leaders who hated Him.

Then by Roman soldiers who mocked Him.

And then by the crucified criminal who insulted Him.

Selfish people wanted Jesus to do the selfish thing.

But the crucified criminal who honored Jesus had a different request.

He asked Jesus to save his soul when Jesus’ Kingdom was established.

The criminal with a changed heart knew that Jesus was on the cross by choice and that it was only a painful precursor to blessings far greater.

That’s why He knew Jesus couldn’t save Himself and then save others.

Jesus had to lose His life if He were to save others.

Selfish people don’t understand this.

They certainly don’t practice it.

Please, my friend, sacrifice any selfishness in your home life, work life, school life or church life.

The world will mock your efforts to live differently than the unsaved, egocentric people around you.

But unless you and I live unselfishly, we won’t lead people to the cross of Christ.

Instead, we’ll be leading people to the cross of their own, eternal suffering.

They’ll have to try to save themselves.

And that’s not happening.

Choose the better way.

Choose unselfishness.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Whatever hassles and hurts you face as a result are just precursors to blessings far greater.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No professing Christian would endorse the idea of hiding one’s faith.

And certainly no Christian would justify lying about his or her belief in Jesus Christ.

But that’s just what Peter did on the night of Christ’s arrest.

And that’s what we’ve likely done more times than we can remember.

What? The three denials of Peter are recorded in Luke 22:54-62 for all to see, as is his intense shame and guilt that followed.

But what about us?

We’ve never told a Roman slave girl or any other Romans servants that we didn’t know Jesus, so how are we guilty like Peter?

When people at work have bad-mouthed Christians and we’ve said nothing in defense of faith because we feared peer pressure, have we not denied our faith in a sense?

When kids at school invited us to a party and activities occurred there that no Christian should embrace, yet you partied hardy, did you not deny your relationship with Christ?

If I have ever kept my mouth shut about faith in Christ because I didn’t want to upset the non-Christian supervisor who decided on raises, haven’t I done essentially the same thing as Peter?

The fact is that hiding our faith when we think it will lead to our harm is no different than what Peter did.

His moments of denial were simply far more dramatic.

Please, my friend, wear your faith on your sleeve. At ALL times.

It’s never good to hide it.

Instead, trust it.

No matter what you face, God will lift your spirits and, ultimately, your soul.

And you’ll have the clear conscience that is SO incredibly valuable in an increasingly conscience-challenged world.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s a very interesting verse in today’s Bible reading.

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.” (Proverbs 14:4)

Hmmmmm………..

I’ve seen a lot of cute babies over the years.

The smiles are adorable.

The giggles are infectious.

The hug-prompting power is immense.

But I’ve never seen a baby that didn’t need his or her diaper changed multiple times a day.

If we love the baby, we don’t drop it off at the fire station just because it has a dirty diaper.

The unenviable task of cleaning messy diapers is just part of having a relationship with that child.

If you want the good but aren’t willing to help clean up the bad, then you’re not a fit parent.

It’s that simple.

I wish that more people understood this with respect to God’s family.

We love to be part of churches where the smiles are adorable, the giggles infectious and the hug-prompting power is immense. But some of us are looking for the exits when things sometimes get messy and start stinking emotionally or spiritually.

This isn’t right.

We’re not living as fit Christians if we maintain this “Let’s go where people don’t make messes” attitude.

God has not called us to surf from non-messy church to non-messy church.

Instead, He’s called us to love and support one other and even — in humility — do whatever it takes to help another to be rid of his or her “dirty diaper” and grow into spiritual, serving maturity.

Your congregation very likely has a few people struggling with messes they’ve made. They’re looking for help from the ones willing to carry the diaper bag of God’s Truth, God’s gracious promises of forgiveness and collective congregational affirmation of love for imperfect people.

Look, we’ve all had dirty diaper moments in our faith. We’ve been blessed with gracious believers who loved us and helped us to change out of our filthy garments as we returned to obedient living for the sake of Christ.

Faithful membership in a congregation involves a regular display of grace toward those who have failed. We MUST come alongside of them who fall or we are not fit Christians.

When we do, we show the pattern of Christ. We encourage people to pass onto others that grace that they’ve received. And the church functions more like the family that God desires.

If, however, we foolishly establish a minimum standard of only attending churches where nobody fails, we’re going to be surrounded by people wearing dirty diapers of pride and who have lost all sense of smell.

And no congregation should conduct itself in a way that has God holding His nose.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Wow.

Rich reading was mine in the One-Year Bible this morning.

Here are just a few examples.

  • “Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:48)

This verse reminds me of why I’m so glad for the promise of eternal life that became mine when I confessed Christ as Savior with my words and my baptism.

My hope is in Christ alone. I hope yours is, too.

  • Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 22:19)

This verse reminds me that my convictions regarding the truths of God’s Word are Rock solid and that I don’t have to defeat Satan on my strength. I simply have to remain in the Lord’s presence and watch the Lord conquer the Enemy in my behalf.

Remember that Moses and the Israelites didn’t defeat Pharaoh’s army or the city of Jericho. God did. They were just called to stand and watch.

The battle is the Lord’s. Never forget that and make sure your trust is in the Lord.

  • Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

Smart people didn’t invent truth or successful principles. They learned them from other smart people.

Correspondingly, dumb people didn’t invent stupidity. They instead repeated the stupid decisions of others because they didn’t pay attention to the true costs of bad decisions.

Find people who are successful in how they live for God and love like Christ. Then learn from them.

It’s the wise thing to do.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When the aged Joshua gave his final warnings to the Israelites just before his death, the children of God were surrounded by polytheistic nations who resented them.

And even within the newly established boundaries of the Promised Land there were pockets of polytheism because the Israelites had not pushed and prayed hard enough to overcome the stubborn resistance.

Joshua knew the Israelites had not obeyed God fully and that they were at risk of losing what God had given them.

He told them in Joshua 23 that their future would be determined by their choices, not the choices of their enemies.

If they were faithful to God and trusting of His promises, they would dwell and enjoy blessing in Palestine for generation after generation.

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.” Joshua 23:6-8

If they didn’t stay on the straight and narrow, he said in verse 13, bad things would happen.

“…then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.”

Is turning to the right or to the left ever a problem for us? Do we ever fall into the trap of trusting the “gods” of material things or earthly strategies in order to find inner peace and outer prosperity?

Here’s one way to check yourself with these questions. If your self-improvement strategy for relationships, for career, for personal financial/physical health is relying more on books, CDs, DVDs and infomercials than it is on reading the Bible, then you are on the road to getting off-track spiritually.

There are countless advice sources today that promise a better life with no reference to God and His Word. And there are thousands of people, sometimes millions, who embrace the non-theistic approach to life.

Please be salt to a decaying world, displaying not only the flavoring nature of God’s Word but also the purifying nature of God’s Word that protects you from corrupting influences.

When you and I hold fast to the Word and walk in its ways, we are empowered and protected from the worst of Satan’s snares and traps. The blessings that He’s already prepared for us will be sent into our lives at the time and in the way that best serves His Kingdom and our corner of this world.

And if we ever need reminding that this is true, we simply have to observe the troubled lives of church people who stopped living according to the Word and started trusting the lies of the world as the way to get what the world defines as success.

So often their lives become SO conflicted and it is SO sad.

Hold fast to the Lord your God, my friend.

You’ll be glad you did.

Forever.

As always, I love you
Martin

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