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Archive for December, 2011

There’s much to admire about the life of King David.

Resourceful. Expressive. Good with people. A vibrant, heartfelt worshipper.

A fierce warrior when it came time to protect God’s people.

Yes, he had his bad moments. As in really bad.

But he accepted his punishment for those choices without shaking his fist at God.

I’m convinced that David knew he was always treated better by God than he deserved.

That’s why, I’m also convinced, David was SO prone to a proper perspective of faith as later described by the writer of Psalm 132:1.

LORD, remember David and all his self-denial.”

Wow, what a concise legacy the shepherd boy-turned-king left in the minds of Israelites who followed him.

To be known as a believer who embraced the holy call of self-denial…. that’s a powerful testimony.

For years, David lived a nomadic existence because of King Saul’s unjust, jealous desire to kill him. David had multiple oppotunities to kill Saul, but rejected the cry of his flesh and waited on the Lord to arrange an opportunity for David to assume the throne.

Many other times, David embraced self-denial and the kingdom was stronger as a result, as was his testimony.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. He should have had just one wife. He should have turned away from gazing upon Bathsheba. He shouldn’t have relied on the size of his army.

But like for you and like me, the plurality of our faithful actions and the pervasiveness of our faithful attitudes show God that we do understand the place of self-denial and generally embrace the idea of putting God and others ahead of ourselves.

When you pass from this life, will you be seen as one who too often lived to have things just so? Or will people recall you as one who demonstrated a deep understanding and application of self-denial and patience toward your reward in heaven?

I know which attitude that I should have — David’s attitude. I pray that you’ll have the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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You’ve probably heard some of the chatter about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

Most sports analysts used to say that he’d never succeed as a pro quarterback because he wasn’t like the idolized, typical passers who threw for 300 yards a game with regularity.

Tebow was a runner attempting to make it as a pass-sometimes quarterback and those guys didn’t last in the NFL, the sports establishment said.

Hmmm… Tebow is 7-1 as a starter since being given the job and has led his team to an unparalleled number of last-minute victories against all sorts of odds.

Many of his analyst critics have changed their tune, including people who have been involved with the NFL for decades.

It’s not because he’s become a flawless passer, although he has improved signficantly since assuming the starting role.

What has turned the opinions — and more importantly — the attitudes toward Tebow has been his genuine, enduring humility in the face of all the criticism and in the face of increasing praise for the string of six consecutive victories.

He gives credit for the success first to his Lord Jesus Christ. Critics expected that from the avowed Christian who goes on mission trips during the off-season.

Tebow then gives credit to the other players (“They make plays that make me look better than I am”) and he gives credit to the coaches for making the right play calls at the right time and for not giving up on him when portions of the game aren’t going well.

Essentially, Tebow deflects the credit for success to others on the team and says he’s just doing his job as best he can and needs to improve.

ESPN analyst and fomer Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer said his opinion of Tebow had changed, in part because of better throwing techniques now evident, but more importantly because of the deep-rooted humility that is so consistent and others-focused.

In fact, Dilfer said last night that every parent of a child involved with team sports should have that child watch Tebow’s post-game press conference from last night in order to see a “textbook” example of how to be humble and successful at the same time.

Wow. Remember that Tebow is only 24 years old and yet his play and perspective has left the sports analyst world speechless.

That’s the power of genuine humility, my friend.

The Bible encourages this very thing.

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

Whenever the Lord favors us and we find success at work or school or church or wherever, let’s give praise first to the Lord and then to those around us whose efforts made the success possible.

We’ll have plenty of time in the next life to enjoy the honor given us by God by simply being in His presence.

Until then, humility is the better way. Just ask Tim.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I believe that most Christians would like to be more effective for the Lord.

I also believe that most Christians struggle with becoming more effective, primarily because we tend to segregate our faith moments (such as going to church or having a time of personal prayer) from the rest of our daily living.

We can do better in this regard, I believe.

It’s not about having the Bible rote-memorized for ready pontification in the break room or school lunchroom.

Instead, it’s about sharing selected bedrock beliefs at spiritually strategic moments when we perceive an unchurched person’s thirstiness for enduring, refreshing truth.

It’s about being a fountain that waters the thirsty.

Check out the following verse from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible:

A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias” (Joel 3:18).

The specific context of this prophecy is Christ’s Second Coming, also known as the Day of the Lord. When the Lord sets up His new eternal kingdom, the perfect and endless fountain of Living Water will refresh all of the redeemed and bring life to the “valley of acacias.”

That valley was also known in Bible days as the valley of Shittim. It was part of a pagan land through which Israel passed just before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

The symbolism says much to me regarding our collective mission now.

As Christians, we have gained access to the endless fountain of God’s love, God’s grace and God’s Truth. And we are to water the “valley of acacias” in each of our lives while we await our entrance into the Promised Land of eternity.

I’m not talking about providing complicated speeches and intricate expositions on apocalyptic timetables. Instead, I’m talking about sharing simple “cups of cold water” with emotionally, socially thirsty people in spiritually dry lands at work or school or in the neighborhood.

Please don’t be a “check the box” Christian who quotes John 3:16 once to somebody and feels satisfied with faithfulness.

Keep the water flowing. Keep helping. Keep encouraging. Keep forgiving. Keep inviting. Keep speaking.

People in your valley of acacias will be a bit less thirsty as a result. Some might even choose to drink from the same fountain as you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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My devotional Bible reading lately has included the book of Hosea, a prophetic book that details the disappointment that God felt toward the disobedience of many Hebrews in the days before Jerusalem’s Old Testament destruction.

In the midst of God’s repeated calls for the people to return to faith rather than reap what they’ve sown, God sent through Hosea the following words that reflect the desire of the Father’s heart:

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)

Listen, God is not a wimp who can be ignored without awful consequences coming against us at some point. He is also not an ogre just waiting to zap us once He has enough evidence to justify tossing us into the eternal frying pan.

He is a Father who created us in love and wants to re-create us through a conversion to Christian belief. And after that, He wants to create us anew each day as He forgives our sins and transforms our hearts and minds.

Please, my friend, break up the spiritually unplowed ground in your life, whether it be in how you conduct your job life, your school life, your home life, your computer life or even in your go-to-church-to-check-the-box-just-to-make-my-wife-happy life.

Demonstrate unfailing love toward others — genuine, unselfish love — and you’ll experience more clearly the unfailing love of the Lord as His peace begins to increasingly permeate your soul.

This is SO much better than facing what Old Testament Hebrews experienced because they planted the wrong seeds.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I need to become more like Demetrius, not Diotrephes.

One builds up others and the Kingdom of God. The other only tears down others and, ultimately, himself.

We’re called to serve others and that means putting them ahead of ourselves.

Clearly, that’s what Demetrius did toward other Christians in the 1st Century church.

The Apostle John referred to Demetrius’ excellent pattern for living in 3 John vv. 11-12:

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”

What a compelling example of good living!

A good reputation. A godly example. Appreciated by the spiritually wise.

Great targets for behavior that we should all desire.

Diotrephes, by contrast, was a big-time troublemaker, John wrote.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” (vv. 9-10).

A divisive, gossiping control freak has no legitimate place in the Church. That’s why we must grow in our faith in order to resist Satan’s persuasion to live for ourselves a la Diotrephes.

Some Bible scholars saw these names as pseudonyms, used for referring to two extremes of behavior or to actual people whom John didn’t want to specifically name.

The larger lesson for us is the same, either way. Good attitudes and good actions toward others lead to good reputations that build godly influence and grand futures in glory.

The opposite in attitude and actions toward others leads, of course, to the opposite of the above. Such people are to be confronted in godly, yet assertive ways.

Let’s live in a way that people see the spirit of Demetrius in us. It will put a smile on God’s face and isn’t that what it’s really all about, anyway?

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s been one of those days when the agenda was set for me by circumstances, both forseen and unforseen.

You’ve had plenty of such days, I’m sure.

I’m glad, though, for the opportunity before bedtime to share a brief message from scripture.

As in the truth that a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:20)

Am I writing this because I’m trying not to be mad at somebody?

Not at all.

I mention it because it was mentioned in the Proverbs component of today’s One-Year Bible reading.

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11).

We’ve all seen people go ballistic over minor things, portraying themselves as petty-minded bombs.

We’ve also seen people being machine-gunned with hurtful criticism and yet they remain as calm as statues and, once the fools are done ranting, a series of calm, concise words often disarms the attackers, either directly or indirectly by eroding the influence of the critics.

Hopefully, you and I have long ago forsaken the strategy of rage. For we clearly know that calmness is always the better path, no matter the context.

Even if we have to be assertive in defense of biblical principles and social boundaries, we can do so in a calm manner.

People resorting to screaming and hollering prompt so much chaos in workplace or family or school settings.

Let’s pledge to remain calm, no matter what is said or done.

When the crisis is over, you can be certain that the calm one will be stronger and more influential with the people whose opinions count.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We’ve all walked into the trap at least once.

I’m talking about the trap of arguing with a person who sees argumentative confrontation as his or her “home field.”

In sports, and in life, it’s difficult to win when playing on somebody’s home field.

Perhaps you’ve been snared recently in this trap.

Stinks, doesn’t it?

Listen, we live in a fallen world with people who sometimes behave like skunks when harsh words start flying.

I pray that you and I are cleansed of any skunk tendencies that might show up when conversations turn tense.

It’s so much better to remain calm, even in the midst of disagreement.

Fueling one another’s anger never helps parties to listen and think clearly, whether at home, at work, at school or even at church.

This topic is prompted this morning by a short, yet potent bit of wisdom in Proverbs 29:8.

Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.”

It’s easy to find mockers. Just listen for those who stir the pots of discontent with ridicule, allegations, hurtful sarcasm, crass judgmentalism and so forth. Such people are more focused on tearing down than they are on building up.

Anger is both their fuel and their objective.

We must pray for their awakening and that we show them the better way.

When somebody is bubbling over with anger toward you — even if they don’t recognize its effect upon themselves — PLEASE respond with patient grace. Apologize if need be for any error made that disappointed the angry person. I’ll need to do the same.

As we turn away the negative emotions of others, even as we humbly accept any truthful words they might be offering to us, we not only protect ourselves from the stains of anger, but we also provide a living roadmap for how the angry person might find a better way to interact with others.

As always, I love you
Martin

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