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Archive for October, 2011

Some verses in scripture will always have direct application to our lives, no matter what circumstances we’re facing at a particular moment.

Proverbs 25:21-22 is such a verse.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”

You might not be at war with another person just now but there is almost certainly somebody in your life who views you in a less than friendly manner. It might not make sense to you, but whoever said life has to always make sense?

Some people dislike us simply because of the life we have and not because of how we’ve treated them.

They’re angry at life, in effect, and are taking it out on those they envy or who remind them of past culprits they can’t now punish.

Whatever the case, the biblical response to unfair treatment is to show mercy.

For in showing mercy, we show faith.

We show that pleasing God is more important than pleasing our “payback” cravings rooted in pride.

There’s not just spiritual wisdom in King Solomon’s advice, but also practical.

The reality is that we’re not going to persuade the heart of an enemy through retaliation, but instead through kindness.

For it is through our kindness that the influence and authority of THE Higher Power can begin to permeate the mind and heart of the antagonist.

That’s why Solomon used the phrase “heap burning coals on his head.”

Our kindness in response to meanness serves as a seed that can’t easily be brushed out of the antagonist’s mind.

Of course, it’s not easy to be nice to one who is being mean or cold or disrespectful to us.

That’s why our doing so is such a blessing to God.

He knows that our behavior is rooted in the desire to please Him and set a good example for the antagonist.

Praise God today, my friend, by being intentionally nice to someone who is the opposite toward you.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s very difficult for a Christian leader to guide people to a level of spiritual maturity or Christian service that he has not reached in the past.

It’s almost like the idea of a 19th Century wagonmaster hired to lead a wagon train to Oregon. If he’s never made the trip, the discount consulting fee might be the most expensive waste of money they families ever make.

We don’t want to be “practice” people for newbie leaders who don’t know what they’re doing.

There is too much at stake.

That’s why we Christians feel so much more at ease when we have a leader who understands our lives because he’s like us in some respects. And when we’re convinced that the leader is tight with God, it’s even better.

I strive to become an increasingly effective, godly leader. I know that making progress toward that goal requires a dedication toward learning more about and showing more love to the people in my congregation.

I need to develop stronger relationships with them if I want to have stronger influence with them.

But more is required.

I need to continually pursue a more intimate relationship with God, His Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.

I was reminded of these needs while reading from today’s segment in my devotional Bible.

“Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them. I will bring him near and he will come close to me” (Jeremiah 30:21)

This prophecy was referring to the restoration that would occur many decades later after the punishment and refinement of the Israelite remnant was completed in Babylon.

The prophecy came true, of course. Among the leaders God used — leaders who were close to Him — were Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubabbel.

Restoration did occur for the Jews. At least for a couple of centuries.

And through the remnant of that restoration, the seed of the future Messiah was protected. The promise to Abraham — “All nations will be blessed through you” — did come true when Jesus was born in the manger and then born from the tomb.

Listen, you might never lead a congregation but you will lead somebody, even if only one co-worker or neighbor or child. Come close to God so that you might be the leader that he or she needs you to be so that a person in spiritual need sees the path to take and follows in your steps toward glory.

As always, I love you
Martin

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You can provide finely crafted jewelry to several people today.

I’m talking about precious gifts that will provide lasting, cherished value to recipients.

In fact, God promises that your gifts will have great worth.

You’ll just need to make sure that you’re trying your best to craft your gifts in a way that reflects His goodness and infinite value.

A verse from today’s Bible reading in the One-Year Bible explains:

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

This is quite a statement, of course. Some might claim that Solomon was over-reaching in his attribution of value to spoken wisdom.

But was he?

Are there times when just the right words can do more for the heart and soul than can the gift of a beautiful ring?

Of course there are.

When Solomon’s wisely spoken words resolved a child-custody dispute that nobody else could resolve, there’s no doubt that what he said was far more valuable to the actual mother than would have been a compensatory diamond ring.

And when a husband chooses to sincerely apologize and promise a new life of dedication to loving his family, are not those words far more valuable to a wife and children than are a new necklace and trip to Disneyworld?

Since we know that words can permeate into places of the soul that tangible things cannot, it’s no surprise that God associates great value with good words that reflect wisdom and kindness and loyalty.

There are plenty of people who spend money in an effort to speak to the heart of another. It’s so much better when we use words. It’s not that gifts are bad. In fact, we all like receiving them.

But never are tangible gifts to take the place of words aptly spoken.

For such words can nurture and strengthen the heart in ways that physical items cannot.

Pray for the Lord to stir and steer your heart today in the provision of aptly spoken words to people who need them.

If you need to apologize, please do so, making sure to promise a better way of making choices.

If your friend needs an abundance of encouragement, please offer it with a healthy dose of scripture.

If your co-worker is feeling insecure about his or her job, offer to pray with him or her for an infusion of patience and increased vocational aptitude.

You’ll perhaps help them in ways that they will treasure more than just another piece of jewelry.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Three is an important number to God, based on what we read in the Bible.

— The Father, Son and Holy Spirit

— Noah had three sons to help him build the ark

— Three angelic messengers (Were they Christ, Gabriel, Michael?) who announced to Abraham the coming birth of Isaac

— Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

— Three kings of the Orient, a/k/a Three wise men

— Peter, James and John

— Jesus’ ministry lasted three years

— He raised three people from the dead

— Jesus arose from the tomb on the third day

— Paul, Barnabas and Mark; later, Paul, Silas and Timothy

There are many other examples of how three of this or that was significant in scripture, but I’m sure you see a pattern.

So when I read I Thessalonians 5:16-18 this morning, it didn’t surprise me that three exhortations were listed. Practicing these directives resulted in greater faithfulness in apostolic days and continue to display faithfulness in our day.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

It is only with a maturing faith that one will rejoice always. For we won’t always experience good times. To rejoice during bad times requires a “short-timer’s” perspective.

You perhaps have had jobs at which you’ve already turned in your two weeks’ notice and then some co-worker starts giving you grief. It’s like water on a duck’s back, though, because your heart and focus are already checked out and it makes little difference to you what that crabby co-worker thinks.

Christians know they have something better waiting for them in glory and can quietly, inwardly celebrate that fact whenever hassles remind them that their bodily address still says “Earth.”

Praying continually and giving thanks in all circumstances are also possible only because a growing faith.

Listen, there is only good that comes from living a I Thessalonians 5:16-18 life. And it is certainly much easier for others to live with us when we pursue a three-way faith.

Whatever happens in your life today, look for how it can prompt you to rejoice in faith and pray to Him for strength and wisdom. And make sure to thank God for the opportunity to grow in patience or relationships or in vocational competence or in wisdom for handling adversity.

It’s what faithful “short-timers” do.

As always, I love you

Martin

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As kids on the school playground during recess, we’d make sure that we were on our best behavior whenever a teacher walked nearby.

We didn’t want to get in trouble for doing things that might cost us our play time.

It was always better to follow the rules and enjoy the freedom.

The same principle applies in adulthood, of course.

When there is a cop car close to ours in a line of traffic, we make sure that we’re on our best behavior so that a goof doesn’t cost us.

It’s always better to follow the road rules and enjoy the freedom of not being pulled over and punished with a costly ticket and higher insurance costs.

I was reminded of these truths while reading my Bible this morning.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward everyone according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 16:10).

God is always watching our lives and, even more sobering, examining the inner spaces of our hearts.

Wow.

This being the case, we should all strive to rid ourselves of mental and emotional garbage that overflows into verbal and behavioral garbage.

Paul called upon us to renew our minds.

That can only happen as more of God’s Word and God’s purposes and godly plans flood our cranial crannies.

Pray for that to happen. Plan for that to happen. And praise Him when it does happen.

For your life will be better for Him, for others and for yourself when you do.

Oh yeah, the play time that will be ours in heaven after being on our best behavior on earth will be out of this world.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No matter how messed up we find ourselves because of spiritual mistakes, there’s reason for hope.

We simply have to make the decisions that allow God to refine the ore of our imperfect lives into something more valuable.

If God can transform a murderous Pharisee like Saul, then He can certainly transform stumbling believers who acknowledge their flaws and their need for spiritual restoration.

We’ve all had times when our behavior took the smile off of God’s face. Remember, He’s a Daddy and it affects Him when we disobey Him.

He’s a loving Redeemer, though, and He wants us to get back on the right track rather than be stuck in a ditch of disobedience.

A potent reminder of God’s desire and His ability to do so was given me this morning when I read Proverbs 25:4.

“Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel.”

Yes, I had to extrapolate the earlier reminder from the verse above. But it’s clearly there, in my opinion.

Because God has given every human a free will, God will not force spiritual transformation onto anybody.

It has to be desired and choices have to be made to repent of that which is opposed to God.

When we admit that we’ve allowed tainted choices to corrupt our lives and we segregate those choices into a “repent” pile, God’s grace — paid for with Christ’s blood — will wash them away.

A refined life results and the perfect “silversmith” — God — produces a vessel that brings glory to the Creator.

Please join me in looking for the dross and repenting of whatever we find.

We’ll become better silver for the Lord to shape and use for His glory.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s a verse Dave Ramsey would love.

Dave, of course, is the well-known promoter of faith-based frugal living that resists debt and restricts splurging.

His books and videos have been read and seen by millions.

Some of you are better off now financially because you’ve applied the Bible-based principles he’s shared.

Here’s the verse from today’s One-Year Bible that speaks to godly thinking.

Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” Proverbs 24:27

The principle is quite simple, actually. Focus on developing your long-term income source — your career — before you focus on having a nicer place to live.

In a practical sense, this was essential in Bible days. It wouldn’t do any good to have a nice house while at the same time have nothing to eat while living in it.

It was much better to clear and plant and harvest in the fields while living in a tent or in a shack. Bodies don’t need “cushy” but they do NEED food.

As incomes grew in size and reliability, then the budget for housing could grow.

That’s why for generations, American adults would be content to have a small, starter home in a so-so neighborhood for the first few years of their marriages while their careers were established and incomes gradually began to grow.

It wasn’t uncommon for couples to have been married 10 years before buying a “nice” home.

This pattern has become rare as younger couples wanted the “nice” house right away, a house they really couldn’t afford because they had not become established a solid, reliably long-term income source.

Millions of foreclosure lawsuits testify to the truth of this observation.

There are a myriad of other applications to the verse above, but I want to wrap this Morning Devotion up by encouraging you to review your priority list in life.

Are there any “want to have” items that are listed ahead of “must have” items?

Ask God to show you and then ask God to strengthen you to make the changes that will put things in the proper priority.

Instead of spending $1,200 on a large-screen, LED TV, why not spend they money on a couple of career-development courses at the community college?

Instead of spending $1,032 on a week-long hunting trip with the guys, why not spend the money on taking your kids or grandkids on a series of day trips to national parks and museums?

You get the point.

Here’s an even more important application of the verse as it relates to ministry. Focus on impacting the community with the Gospel before any focus is made on having a cushy church building. I’ll just leave that one with you to soak.

We’ve all got priority adjustments to make so let’s all get at it.

As always, I love you
Martin

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