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Archive for August, 2011

Avoiding lame excuses is a key life skill that we manage with varying degrees of success.

Most of us typically reject the temptation to hide our laziness or selfishness behind the facade of some external threat or circumstantial fluke.

But none of us are perfect at this.

Even the strongest Christian has moments when someone asks him or her about why this or that hasn’t been done and then, rather than acknowledge a temporarily selfish moment, the believer points the finger at a quickly concocted excuse.

Our responsibility as believers is to do our best for others — including God — at all times. Our reality is that we don’t meet that test at times with volunteer tasks at church or in a neighbor’s overgrown yard or with a single mom relative who needs a day-long break from watching her kids.

“I’ll help you some other time,” we say to soothe our consciences, but then we don’t.

We must realize that integrity is a prerequisite for influence.

If you and I are to have the influence for Christ that God desires and the unsaved world needs, we must resist the temptation to be like the person King Solomon described in Proverbs 22:13.

“The sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the public square!'”

It’s a dishonorable thing to be known as a sluggard, a King James-style word for lazy bum.

Solomon is not advising that we step outside to fight a lion over a bag of groceries. Rather, Solomon is mocking the attitude that rejects the call to work because of a statistically unlikely event that might happen.

The term “public square” is key in discerning Solomon’s message.

This wasn’t about a man refusing to go into a mountain forest in search of mushrooms for a wife who wanted a gourmet salad. Such a solo trek would have been risky in Bible days.

This instead was about a guy who wouldn’t even go out his front door to the public market in search of work where all sorts of people would be milling around and a mountain lion would be the LAST thing one would expect to see.

And that doesn’t even consider the fact that with so many people in the square to choose from, the lion’s chomping on the sluggard would be even more unlikely to occur.

Please pray for any sluggards that you know. They’re in need of spiritual transformation in order to be set free from bondage to excuses.

And please join me in praying for revelation in how we slip periodically into being sluggard-like.

There’s too much to do for the Kingdom to spend our time cooking up excuses as to why we can’t.

As always, I love you
Martin

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A preacher friend of mine, Steve Jones, sends out ultra brief daily devotions and it’s not uncommon for Steve’s devotion to consist of one or two verses of scripture and one or two sentences of comments.

My style is to write devotions that are more like a slice of pie rather than a single bite. But in honor of my friend Steve, today’s devotion is shorter than normal.

Everybody likes high-value friendships.

If I lived in England, it would be to my social and economic advantage to be buddy-buddy with the royal family.

I live in south Miami, though, so my only hope of friendship with royalty is to get as tight as possible with King Jesus.

Here’s a passage from today’s Bible reading that will help me to do just that.

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” (Proverbs 22:11).

Solomon was likely instructing his readers as to how they could be on his good side. Remember, he was the king of Israel when he wrote these words.

Solomon had his spiritual ups and downs, but he never stopped appreciating goodness in a person.

Neither should we.

Jesus certainly appreciates it. And expects it from His sheep.

Desire a pure heart. Speak with kindness and patience and mercy toward others.

Then you’ll be the kind of person Jesus loves hanging out with.

Others will want to hang out with you, too.

As always, I love you

Martin

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It’s the elephant in the room that too many try to ignore.

I’m talking about something that church people don’t want to talk about.

Sometimes, we assess our spiritual lives with a flashlight mentality, looking at things we want to see.

But when we throw the “Light” switch by asking God’s Spirit to reveal every corner of our hearts and minds, for some believers there stands the elephant with an “I’m bigger and stronger than you” smirk on its face.

I’m talking about the elephant of lust.

Yes, God equipped men and women with the tools and inclination for sexual expression.

But He also provided men and women with the ability to define boundaries that honor Him and reserve the gift for spouses.

The problem is that people — including Christians — sometimes ignore God’s boundaries and blindly think that God won’t notice that they’ve let an elephant take up residence in the room of their lives.

You’ve heard that a surprisingly high percentage of Christians struggle with pornography, and not just men.

And you’ve heard that the percentage of Christians caught up in adultery, even in a fantasy sense, is not much different from the unsaved world.

Listen, Satan will use any trap he can to prompt a sinful choice. And since he’s got such a high success rate over the centuries when he uses sexual temptation, he’s not going to stop any time soon.

Job was not a young man when he wrote the words below, yet he knew then — even in the midst of rampant attacks by Satan on his health — that he had to resist any temptation involving sexuality since they somehow can squeeze the elephant through the eyes and into the heart.

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a virgin. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” (Job 31:1-4).

It’s true that Job’s wife was not the model spouse. I’m sure glad the Lori isn’t like her.

And there’s no doubt that an unhappy marriage increases vulnerability to lustful temptation.

But that’s no excuse.

In fact, there’s never an excuse for letting an elephant move into your house.

Promise your eyes, my friend, that you’ll protect them from becoming partners in moral crime.

As Paul wrote to Timothy regarding lust, “Flee!”

It’s something I have to do as a soul maintenance strategy since I KNOW God is counting my every step.

If I’m going to protect my family, my friends and my ministry from the disaster that my moral failure would cause, I’ve got to keep my promise to my eyes.

I pray that you’ll do the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Tight schedule today…. so here goes.

When we decide to ignore that odd sound in our car engine, we shouldn’t be surprised that if we end up with a hefty repair bill.

When we observe family or friends giving us the cold shoulder all of a sudden, we shouldn’t be surprised when we later learn that we’ve done something hurtful to them without even realizing it.

And what about our bodies? If our leg joints ache a bit when when jog a mile slowly, should we be surprised if they hurt like crazy if we jog three miles without first doing any stretching?

We all have opportunities to protect ourselves by noting the warning signs that come our way. But sometimes we don’t.

Particularly in the spiritual realm.

Listen, if the Holy Spirit’s voice is speaking to your conscience during a moment of temptation, don’t ignore Him.

He’s trying to help you, not cheat you.

Here’s Solomon’s view on the matter.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3)

God always provides an honorable way out of the temptations we face. Choosing that path might not puff up our ego and might even stress our relationships with worldly minded people. But it WILL honor Him and it WILL protect us.

Don’t be simple-minded, my friend.

It’s not God’s desire that you pay that penalty for sinning.

As always, I love you
Martin

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One of the surest signs of growing spiritual maturity is the evidence of faith in the storms.

Millions of Christians are suffering financially now alongside an even larger contingent of non-Christians who have lost jobs or homes or cars or all of the above.

Being out of work for many months or even for years is brutally hurtful to so many who have abilities to serve, but no suitable opportunity because of how millions of jobs have been sent overseas.

The national thirst for the “cheaper, cheaper, cheaper” has seemingly torpedoed the economic future for a huge slice of our population.

So how can a Christian, particularly one lacking a paycheck, preserve a godly attitude during such tough times?

By reading the Bible daily and praying about the lessons it contains, that’s how.

Here is a passage from today’s installment in the One-Year Bible:

My days have passed, my plans are shattered. Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near.”

Who said this? Job did (17:11-12).

We all know the hell he went through with incredibly difficult losses and then with multiple onslaughts of hurtful criticism by several self-righteous peers.

Though it was really, really bad, Job never lost sight of God’s promise.

In the darkest of his nights, in the most painful of his heart’s sufferings, he found strength that a morning of deliverance and blessing was coming.

He didn’t know when, but he knew it would.

Listen, when you are pullled down so hard by circumstances that you’re tempted to believe you’ll never be able to get up, remember Job.

If faith could turn his night into day, if he could hope for morning in the mourning, then you and I can do the same.

Light is near, my friend.

In fact, nurturing hope for a brighter day is just a prayer away.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No army general likes it when carelessness by a cargo plane crew airdrops ammunition on the wrong side of enemy lines.

Almost certainly, some of that ammo is going to injure or kill the people it was supposed to help protect.

It’s a very bad thing to give bullets and bombs to the enemy.

That’s why the teaching of Psalm 39:1 is SO important to Christian living.

I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.’

King David was often around people who didn’t respect and love God as he did.

Some of them were pagans who likely lacked any conscience when it came to godly values.

Hmmmm….. sounds like the circles that some of us have to operate within at work or school or among extended family.

People opposed to God’s authority over their lives are typically ready to pounce on any example of spiritual hypocrisy. That’s why it is so important that we conduct ourselves in a Christlike manner.

Our influence with people is most often determined by the amount of influence they see God’s values having in our lives.

If we blow it by blowing up or blowing the smoke of gossip at home or at work or at school or in the checkout line, the unsaved will cite such behavior as why Christianity is a “bunch of baloney” that doesn’t make any real difference with the core attitude of a Christian.

Please, dear friend, by hypercautious with your words, particularly when around non-believers.

Carelessness is like airdropping bullets and bombs on the wrong side of the battle line.

Almost certainly, somebody is going to pay the price for the prideful laziness of thought. And the one paying the price might not even be you, but instead a godly wife who has been praying for years to see the salvation of her unsaved husband who works with you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s not a whole lot in common between a sugary sweet pre-school teacher who wouldn’t kill a roach and a foul-mouthed thug who commits crimes with no remorse.

One thing they do share, however, is their final enemy.

Ironically, each one’s hope for conquering that enemy does not rest with being sugary sweet and kind or with being macho tough.

Instead, victory will come only by admitting failure and weakness and the need for a Deliverer.

Today’s devotional reading included the brief statement from I Corinthians 15:26 —

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

The larger context of this verse was the Apostle Paul’s teaching about the fact and relevance of Christ’s resurrection.

Paul said that if Christ had not been raised from the dead, then Christians are the ultimate losers who deserve to be pitied more than any other group of people.

But Christ was raised.

Death’s grip on Him in the tomb was broken.

It couldn’t hold Him because of His faith in God’s promises and power.

And it won’t hold us if we believe the same and demonstrate it by confessing as Savior the Firstborn among the dead.

I have faced a number of attacks and enemies during my life and I’m sure that more are in store.

I don’t like that fact but it is part of living in a fallen world as an uplifted person.

I’m eternally grateful that I have a guaranteed victory over the final enemy I’ll face — my physical death.

Because I’ve believed in the fact of Christ’s resurrection and because I’ve obeyed His commands for salvation — verbal and baptismal confession — death to me will be a comma, not a period.

Please, I plead with you, make sure that you have secured the promise of final victory.

The benefits will be out of this world.

As always, I love you
Martin

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