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Archive for December, 2011

We’ve all experienced prisons of one sort or another.

Perhaps it was the prison of physical incapacity because of a serious injury or illness that left us wondering if we’d ever recoup the mobility we desired.

Perhaps it was the prison of grief after the death of an immediate family member.

Perhaps it was the prison of financial bankruptcy that left us feeling humiliated and economically crippled and afraid to share anything with others.

Perhaps it was the prison of intense guilt for having made immoral choices that cost us dearly and wounded deeply those dear to us.

Or perhaps our prison was the all-too-common one of thinking that prayer and God’s power are only incidental to our being restored to happier lives.

Listen, only God can set us free from the prisons of the heart and soul.

Sometimes, according to His purposes and for our best, He sets us free from earthly, tangible prisons such as physical incapacity or economic chaos or emotional tragedy.

But, always, He offers to set us free from that which chains the spirit.

And really, that is the freedom that counts because that is the freedom that is eternal.

The Apostle Paul understood this and described it in 2 Corinthians 12 when he wrote of begging the Lord — three times — to remove his thorn in the flesh. But the Lord said “No.”

And here’s why. Because the Lord did not prevent the affliction, whatever it was, Paul was able to learn that his inner peace was not based on his physical health, but instead on his spiritual health.

And, in view of all the afflictions and persecution faced during his ministry, that knowledge was crucial to his sense of inner peace.

The principle applies to us as well, even though we’re not facing the persecution experienced by Paul.

Please, whenever you experience an awakening of spiritual insight that strengthens your spiritual backbone and comforts your spiritual heart, celebrate it with other believers as a blessed testimony that might help them.

This is what we’re called to do.

I like the words of Psalm 142:7 in this regard.

“Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” Psalm 142:7

You’ve been freed my friend in more ways than you can count. Please share the Good News of that freedom with somebody today. I’ll look for opportunities to do the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

NOTE: I’ll be travelling to see family during the next week and will resume the Morning Devotion on Jan. 2. Merry Christmas!

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Most of us are eating more delicacies this Christmas season than we should.

But they’re SO tasty!

I’m sure that we’ll all walk or jog or cycle extra miles to burn the extra calories, right?

Hmmmm…..

We all know the consequences of continuing to eat when we know we should stop.

If we’re going to have optimal health, it’s going to be due in large part to knowing the boundaries of eating.

Even at Christmas time.

What we’re doing with food delicacies during this season of parties and reunions and fellowship gatherings at church came to my mind this morning when I read from Psalm 141:4…

Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat of their delicacies.”

Satan knows he can’t lure us onto the gourmet pastry bus to hell by serving date-expired Little Debbie brownies in the parking lot.

What he uses to get our attention IS going to taste great and look great and promise to make us feel great.

His idea is to use our physical and emotional desires to overpower our spiritual sensibilities.

Listen, we’ve got to remember that every offer of physical or emotional or social pleasure that doesn’t portray or promote faith IS, in fact, a trap designed to harm us and God’s Kingdom.

Yes, those delicacies such as gossip, described by Solomon as the tastiest of morsels, can feed our carnal sides to the point of unsanctified satisfaction.

But gossip about co-workers or immoral fantasies about neighbors’ spouses or crooked math on expense reports are age-old traps for drawing believers toward what is evil.

Don’t eat them, my friend, no matter how tasty.

The daily Bread of God is so much better for you. And for me.

Let’s make sure that we’re in the food line that leads to heaven.

As always, I love you
Martin

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How precious to me are your thoughts, God!” Psalm 139:17

With all the mental demands upon us this Christmas season because of gift shopping, cards-sending, party attending and calorie counting, it’s very easy to evict devotional time from our to-do list for thinking and church participation.

We know better, of course.

For without His grace, we wouldn’t even have a life to clog up with worldly concerns.

I pray that you will join me in the pursuit of more sanctified thinking and acting during these busy days.

I’m not as focused as I need to be but I’m more focused than I used to be.

I’m glad for the progress, but keep pressing on toward a better imitation of Christ.

Please, my friend, take time to learn God’s Word. Make time to listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice.

What we’ll read and what we’ll hear can deepen our understanding of God and dynamize our passion for serving Him.

And won’t that be a great Christmas gift to the One who gave us the greatest gift of all?

As always, I love you
Martin

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We’ll all have some moments during this Christmas season when we’re feeling good about the love — and perhaps even gifts — that we’ve received from others.

We’ll feel our spirits lifted and our steps less heavy.

As we savor these blessings, let’s remember to share a bit of those blessings with others who aren’t experiencing the same favor.

In doing so, we’ll be more like our Lord.

Though the LORD is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly, but He takes notice of the proud from afar.” (Psalm 138:6)

This verse from today’s Bible reading stirred my heart to consider how I might show kindness to the lowly. I’ve got some ideas that I’ll discuss with my wife Lori and just might implement on Christmas day for several homeless people that linger at road intersections between home and church.

I pray that you’ll do something this season to look kindly on the lowly.

As you do so, you’ll be serving as the Lord’s hands to look kindly on the lowly.

The world already has enough prideful, can’t-be-bothered people who drive the long away around intersections where homeless people abide.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s refreshing when we meet somebody who’s not looking to score a payday from us or a moral compromise by us or some contrived comment to massage his or her ego.

Yes, when somebody just wants to nurture or establish a friendship with no ulterior motive, that’s a very good thing.

At His core, it seems, that’s how God feels toward us.

Yes, He desires that we serve Him, that we honor Him with our values and actions — but only because of how such things represent our attitude and affinity toward Him.

When we think of all He’s done for us before we had a clue about His grace toward us, we should be humbled and actually overwhelmed with appreciation.

There’s a passage in the Old Testament book of Micah that illustrates the relationship-focused heart of God.

It verifies that God’s not a control freak but instead a loving Abba Father who simply wants to know that His children love Him, love others and love doing good things.

This status can’t be purchased as an appeasing substitute for intimacy.

Check it out:

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:6-8)

Listen, this is not a free pass to evade God’s call to generous tithes and offerings to support the work of ministry. Jesus told people in His day that believers should be tithing (Matthew 23:23).

What God was emphasizing through the prophet was the more important form of blessing God — a surrendered heart that demonstrates faith in a fruitful manner.

Please, my friend, act justly today. Pour out mercy toward others. And walk with humility as you recall that God is perfect and you’re not.

I will pledge to do the same.

I already imagine the corners of God’s mouth beginning to form a smile….

As always, I love you
Martin

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