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Archive for September, 2011

If you want to know how much God desires intimacy with those He loves, make sure to read Isaiah 62:1-5.

It’s SO deeply moving.

The passage is filled with passion.

God is, in effect, a pair of open arms yearning to embrace and restore and celebrate a reunion with the love of His life.

Please read the passage now by clicking here.

I expect your heart will be moved as was mine.

What impressed me even more about this passage was that it points to the heart that God has for all who are lost, not just for ancient Jerusalem.

God’s desire is for everyone to celebrate with Him the joy of complete love and acceptance and joy that is typically found on a person’s wedding day.

God wants us to feel like a crown of splendor in His hands.

He wants us to experience the joy of knowing that He rejoices over our redeemed state, that His heart beats for us just as the bridegroom’s heart beats for his beautiful bride on their wedding day.

Listen, when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we began our lifelong wedding day.

Let’s yearn for and honor and celebrate our Bridegroom and His Father daily as if we were still on our “wedding day.”

We’ll put a smile on their faces. It’s the least we can do for the One who put Himself on the cross for our sake.

As always, I love you
Martin

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God clearly has a heart given to encouragement.

As the prophet Isaiah recorded the latter portions of God’s prophetic inspiration to him, the evidence of God’s nurturing nature was unmistakable.

You can read about it within Isaiah 54-57 available by clicking here.

I’m not going to recite the encouraging words spoken indirectly through Isaiah to barren women, to widows, to eunuchs, to non-Jews. Yes, it’s true that the particular context of these chapters dealt with the prophesied return of unfaithful Israel back to the Promised Land after her season of bondage.

Yet, the heart of God toward actual barren women and widows — even those who fail spiritually — was clear to me.

And the love of God for people rejected by religious insiders — people such as “damaged” eunuchs or “not one of us” foreigners — was obvious to me.

God wants everybody to choose a relationship with Him and He reached out through scripture to say so.

Yes, most people rejected Him then and most people still do.

But His timeless message of love is clear.

Please be an encourager to the barren woman who perhaps feels devalued a bit by society.

Please do what you can to encourage a widow by demonstrating — enen tangibly — that she’s not alone.

Please remind the man burdened by childlessness that God will give him a spiritual legacy of great value as he touches lives in a way that yields lasting spiritual influence upon the children around him.

And remember that God desires all people to be saved, not just those who can trace their bloodline back to Abraham.

Always recall that John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world…” and not “God so loved the Jews….”

Be a vessel of encouragement to all around you.

You’ll be more like God if you do.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Providing or preserving a heritage of holy living is often at the core of faith-filled parents striving to provide for their children.

The same goal is to be in view of those in other positions of spiritual influence such as church leaders, Christian grandparents, Christians aunts and uncles and on down the line.

I’m thankful for parents and a grandmother who were in church every Sunday and who set good examples of not living like the worldly people around them.

And I’m thankful for Sunday school teachers and preachers and other church leaders who visibly nurtured their relationships with God.

As a husband, as a father, as a pastor and as a Christian friend, I’ve tried to be the role model that God called me to be. I’m sure that I’ve stumbled along the way, but at least my nose has generally been pointed in the right direction.

This is important, not only for me but for those influenced by my life.

I pray that you’ll reflect on who has influenced your walk of faith. And I pray that you’ll reflect upon your measure of influence toward others.

This devotion was prompted by Isaiah 51:1, a passage in today’s Bible reading.

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn”

God referred to Abraham and Sarah in the verse following this one, reminding the Hebrews of their spiritual connection to the first patriarch (i.e., earthly founder) of the Hebrew faith. They knew the story of the famous couple, the good times and the bad times.

They knew that through all the trials and trip-ups, Abraham and Sarah ultimately trusted God and did the right things.

They knew that God was faithful to His promises made to imperfect people who sinned, yet continued aspiring to serve God.

And they knew that Abraham was willing to sacrifice the earthly thing that he loved the most — his beloved son Isaac — in order to obey God.

That’s the quarry of faith from which they were cut.

I want to demonstrate a quarry of faith that provides a heritage of holy living, prompting rock-solid faith among those I influence.

This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for my congregation members. This is what I want for any that see and learn from my faith example.

I pray that this is your desire, too.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We’ve all done the re-gifting thing.

Perhaps it was after a bridal shower or baby shower.

Perhaps it was after an office Christmas party.

Hopefully it wasn’t after receiving an anniversary gift from a spouse.

Why do we re-gift? Ultimately, it’s about saving money.

God calls us to another form of re-gifting. Not for saving money, but ultimately for saving souls.

It’s called using the spiritual gifts He provides to us for the purpose of caring for and ministering to others.

I was reminded of this truth this morning while reading from the One-Year Bible. Though the message seems specifically relevant to those who verbally proclaim God’s Word, the principle applies to every believer.

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50:4).

This verse spoke clearly to me about the reality of my dependency upon the Lord. Knowing what to say and how to say it in a way that actually sustains the weary are gifts from God that flow from an instructed tongue.

I cannot be effective as a pastor unless I have an instructed tongue

I must remember, though, that having an instructed tongue equipped with the right words from God’s Word is a divine gift.

And I’m to remember that the gift doesn’t come by accident, but instead as the result of daily decisions to listen and learn.

Morning by morning I am to listen to God’s Word.

Sure, I could run my mouth in the name of Jesus and I just might feel pretty good about myself for being so “faithful.”

I’m sure that I’ve failed in this way. Perhaps you have, too.

If our words don’t reflect the teaching and leading of the Lord, they’ll have limited benefit to the weary soul.

I’m going to pray for more instructed tongue. Why? Because my heart desires to help emotionally and spiritually weary people find strength to cope with life, perhaps opening a door of influence by which I can speak to them about salvation.

This is why a morning encounter with the Lord is so important. Please allow the Lord to teach you morning by morning.

There just might be fewer weary people in this world as a result.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Somewhere along the way, after a person becomes a Christian, he or she begins to hear the phone ringing.

I’m talking about the phone that is embedded into the soul of every human, a phone wired to connect with God.

It’s true that most people in this world perpetually ignore the ringing and have done so since adolescence.

But for the new believer — one who realized that ignoring the ringing is an eternally bad choice — the spiritual phone’s audibility continues being used by God for another very important reason.

In the daily Bible reading for today, Ephesians 2 describes how we are saved by God’s grace so that we will do godly acts of service that honor God and help others.

One of the most important ways that we can serve God is to answer the ringing phone regarding the call to share our faith with others who need hope that only the Lord can provide.

This passage was also part of today’s Bible reading:

I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7).

Over the years, I’ve grown in the spiritual maturity with which I responded to this verse.

My early adult years found me appreciating the fact that God loves me and saved me, yet I hoped to live out this verse vicariously by helping the preacher fulfill it in whatever church I attended at the time.

Later, when convicted by God to leave my newspaper career and enter seminary, the promise of God’s nurture while answering the ringing phone was quite meaningful to me. I knew that He had placed a call on my life and I was pursuing it. But I was still learning to lean on Him for wisdom and strength as I weaned myself of relying too much on me.

I’m better now than I was in terms of “leaning not on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6), but I also know that I need constant reminders of His call, His leading, His protection, His ministering through me in order to shine His love and His Word to people who need His hope of salvation.

This is the beauty of this amazing passage.

God calls us.

He guides us.

He protects us.

He transforms us.

So that He can work through us.

It’s because He wants others to join us.

Forever.

When you hear the Spirit’s phone ringing, dear friend, please don’t ignore it.

There’s an eternal abundance of good awaiting you and others on the back side of answering it.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I am so grateful that the Word sometimes pokes me.

You know what I’m talking about — those occasions when we read a passage and we are reminded by the Holy Spirit that we haven’t been doing all that we’re called to do.

I’m not talking about those times when we flat out need to repent of sin.

Instead, I’m talking about those times when we’ve been neglectful of doing those things that would strengthen the Kingdom via strengthening other believers.

A passage in today’s daily Bible reading convicted me of the need to become more intercessory in my prayers for others.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17).

The Apostle Paul knew that spiritual growth toward Christian maturity didn’t happen accidentally, but instead intentionally.

The better that other believers knew Jehovah in a personal sense, the more that they’d appreciate Him and want to honor Him and serve Him.

That’s why Paul persistently prayed for an outpouring of inspiration and instruction from the Holy Spirit into believers among the churches of the 1st Century such as the church at Ephesus.

Without the assistance of the Holy Spirit to be a communication mediator between God and man, the people might have information about God but they could not have an authentic relationship with God.

I need to pray Paul’s prayer more often for the people in my congregation. If the prayer above was something that Paul needed to do — and it obviously was since it was included in God’s divinely directed scriptures — then it is something that every Christian needs to do for his or her circle of fellow believers.

Like me, I’m sure that you have plenty of people in your circle of influence that you’d like to see in a closer relationship with God.

Please join me in asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give our family members and Christian friends the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know Him better.

Will you pray this prayer for me, too?

The better I know Him, the more I will be able to do for Him, I’m sure.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We all know the words of the Golden Rule, even through the Bible never uses that term to describe it.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We like it, of course, when people do nice things for us.

The challenge for us is to overcome that residual tendency to not return the favor when stirred by the Lord to do so.

I believe that we’d be more effective in living out the Golden Rule if we expanded our definition for what “do unto others” means.

As in including prayer for others as a means of “doing” for them.

I share this today because of a verse in my daily Bible reading.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2).

It’s far more likely that we’ll help another far more often if we carry another’s burdens to the Lord in prayer.

This is something that can happen every day, even when we’re nowhere near the person physically.

Yes, it’s good to help a person move. And, yes, it’s good to help a jobless person with a surprise box of food.

But those don’t happen that often.

Yet, that person always has a need for intercessory prayer.

Just as you do.

Please start thinking about the people in your circle of influence and the prayer needs they have. Make sure that those needs are included in your morning or evening prayers or whenever you choose to enter your prayer closet.

Ultimately, praying sincerely and consistently for someone else’s burdens will accomplish much more for them long-term than will one-shot efforts at moving boxes or providing food.

Yes, those incidental efforts are useful and honor God.

But it’s the prayers that change futures.

Thank you for caring about others. And thank you for carrying their burdens to the Lord in prayer.

As always, I love you
Martin

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