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Archive for January, 2012

We’ve all seen those climactic moments in the movies when the good guy’s arch enemy is coming in for the kill.

Battling soldiers fill the backdrop, as do fallen warriors whose shields and swords weren’t enough.

Of course, our hero is wounded and grimy from his fighting before the showdown scene.

And the evil enemy’s face smirks because of the presumed victory soon to be his.

Blade against blade, shield thrust against shield thrust, the struggle moves this way and that across the movie screen.

Then the hero trips and falls to his back, presenting what the enemy thinks is his window for finally destroying goodness personified.

Down comes the heavy, blood-stained sword…. clang!

Again it falls with all the enemy’s might…. clang!

Again and again…. with the same result.

The hero’s shield, however, would not fail and moments later, the hero was on his feet before the tiring foe and soon, the enemy was no more.

It’s a great scene that we’ve seen in various forms over the years, but the lesson is always the same.

Without a shield — a strong shield — we won’t survive the attacks of the enemy.

I read this morning of what fashions the strong shield that we need to withstand the enemy’s attacks.

“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.” (Psalm 25:21)

Many of the most dangerous attacks that Christians face are launched with sharp-edged lies intended to wound or destroy. We’ve all faced them. Our responsibility as believers is to rely on truthfulness and character when it comes to how those watching decide what to think.

The Apostle Paul taught that believers are to carry the shield of Truth in order to fend off the Enemy’s lies.

If we’re committed to truthfulness with God and others, He will always sustain and deliver our spirits and souls, no matter what happens to our flesh, our jobs, our family status, our social standing or whatever.

You’ve seen Him do this before for you and He’ll do it again because your hope is in Him and your integrity is your shield.

Always carry your shield, my friend. That way, you’ll always have hope.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’ve observed over the years at family reunions, school functions and church fellowship dinners that some people are inclined to help clean up after the event and some people demonstrate more interest in leaving as soon as the event ends.

Fortunately, we all know people who are there until the job is done.

It’s just in their nature.

They have servants’ hearts.

I thank God for them.

For they are the keys to successful reunions or school functions or fellowship dinners.

I hope that you fall into this category rather than being part of the “I’m done eating. Let’s go” contingent.

The One-Year Bible reading for today reminds us that when we serve others, we imitate Christ.

“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

The next time a church function occurs that requires volunteer help, particularly with cleanup, please be one of the first to offer your efforts to those coordinating the event.

And then demonstrate the same sort of offer toward other church ministry activities that depend on volunteers.

You’ll be pleasing Christ, your role model and Redeemer. You’ll be pleasing those you’re helping. You’ll be setting a good example for your kids or for your uninvolved friends. And you’ll be putting a smile on your heavenly Father’s face.

Oh yeah, and you’ll feel better about the health of your own faith.

Serve. It’s what Christ did for us. It’s what responsible Christians do for Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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For most issues in life, we trust in the competency of those with whom we’re dealing, whether it be a medical professional or a banking associate or restaurant chef or an auto mechanic or any other service provider.

But when push comes to shove and it seems like we’re teetering on the precipice of physical or emotional or financial disaster, counting on a professional — or even ourselves — is not enough.

There are some deliverance levers that people aren’t big enough pull.

That’s when we need God’s help in a most defining way.

I was reminded this morning of how God has repeatedly helped me in ways that people could not.

In deeply personal and painful situations that I could not resolve on my own or with human help alone, God was my everpresent help in times of trouble.

He did for me what I could not do for myself.

His intervention was not always according to my timetable, but when intercession occurred according to His timetable, it was all good.

And it continues to be.

I trusted Him and He did not disappoint me.

This compelling truth has sustained me during several episodes of extended and uncomfortable “waiting on the Lord.”

True to His Word, He has not left me nor forsaken me.

This is the promise that comforted King David during a terribly difficult time of his reign. Though his earthly prospects were quite gloomy at the time, David knew that God wasn’t done working in his situation.

He knew that God had rescued the children of Israel during their tough times in the wilderness and that the same God loved him and, in His time, would deliver him into a better situation.

“…in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” (Psalm 22:5)

This is what David remembered.

This is what comforted him and strengthened him.

And this fact of history can comfort and strengthen us.

Listen, trust in God NEVER disappoints as long as we remember that it is God’s timetable that counts, not ours.

Keep trusting God in the storms and in the deserts and in the darkness and in the conflicts, my friend.

You won’t be disappointed.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m glad that God’s love and rich promises aren’t just for A-list people.

From the time we’re little kids, we see how society shows favoritism to the beautiful people, the wealthy people, the athletic people and, begrudgingly, to the manipulatively violent people.

Average people or those deemed as marginal by society? Sorry, Charlie, to quote an old tuna can commercial.

In God’s Kingdom, though, we’re not valued based on the above. Instead, we’re all valued the same and it’s proven by the price that God paid for each soul’s opportunity for redemption. That price, of course, was the blood of Jesus spilled on the cross of Calvary.

Because God loves us equally, even when we don’t equally love Him back, we have equal access to the promised blessings available to those choosing to be in His family.

Here’s a passage from today’s Bible reading that spoke specifically of King David’s blessings, but the promise described is available to each believer. And that gives me the double blessing of great, personal confidence and a great message to share with those not yet in God’s family.

He asked you for life, and you gave it to him— length of days, for ever and ever. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” (Psalm 21:4-7)

Look at these rich promises that came to one who saw God as the Source for a better life:

  • life forever
  • victories over obstacles
  • peer admiration
  • persistent blessings
  • joy in the relationship with God
  • solid, unshakeable trust in a perfect Father

These aren’t just for earthly kings. Because Christians are in God’s family, we’re all princes and princesses when it comes to the blessings of being in the truly Royal family.

I’m glad that I’m on God’s A-list. I’m sure that you are, too.

Let’s do all that we can today to show Him and others how grateful we are for these blessings. And then let’s encourage others to seek the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Proverbs 4:23 says that “above all else,” we are to guard our hearts.

Why? “For everything you do flows from it.”

That’s quite a statement.

Everything?

Yes.

The words we speak are the overflow of the heart, Jesus said (Luke 6:45).

Our resistence to sin is based on the amount of scripture we hide in our hearts, Solomon said (Psalm 119:11)

Our greatest gift to God is a heart desiring to walk in His Word with patience in order to exalt God’s name and influence in the world (Isaiah 26:8).

Listen, no good father would knowingly allow a rabid, wild animal into his family’s home. Whatever it took to keep that threat away is what he would do because he knows that a potentially deadly bite can’t be undone.

Satan is a prowling wolf, my friend. His bite is rabid to the soul.

Guard your heart by equipping yourself with the armor of faith described in Ephesians 6:10-17. Do all that you can to equip your loved ones with that same armor.

Build up the walls of your faith fortress by learning and leaning upon the Word day after day after day.

And remember this, bad company corrupts good character (I Cor. 15:33).

Yes, acquaintances happen. But friendships occur by choice.

So, choose friends wisely.

I’ve seen too many times the horrible damage caused in many lives by poor choices of friends.

Please, choose friends that won’t pull you away from the choice of growing faith, but instead will encourage you toward it.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s no question that Jacob’s son Joseph had a difficult path early in his adult life. Betrayal by his jealous brothers left him stuck in a pagan land and beset with unjust treatment, yet Joseph remained faithful to God.

Genesis chapters 37-50 describe in great detail the various experiences Joseph faced and how God worked through them all for the preservation of the divine promise to Joseph’s ancestor, Abraham.

While reading from Genesis 41 this morning, I was moved to a greater appreciation for the grace of God.

Handed lemon after lemon, Joseph just kept making lemonade.

God chose to bless Joseph in the midst of a life that was not just how he wanted. And Joseph knew that what he received were signs of God’s favor.

Here is a passage from Genesis 41 that describes two wonderful blessings sent to Joseph who had ascended — through God’s grace — to Egypt’s second-most powerful role and the one responsible for later saving Egypt from starvation during seven years of famine.

Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

You and I are not going to be picked as vice presidents for this nation. We are not going to be responsible for seeing that the entire nation has food.

We will, however, face difficult times at some point.

Perhaps you’re even facing them now.

Please open your mind and your eyes to see the blessings God sends your way in the midst of the burdens.

Perhaps it won’t be the birth of a child, but it might be the spiritual re-birth of a child, a family member or friend.

Perhaps it will be the birth of a restored relationship with somebody important to you.

Perhaps it will be the rebirth of good health or a stable job or a settled heart after finding a congregation where you can thrive in worship and service.

Listen, when we discern the blessings of God amidst the burdens of this world, we’re more likely to stop allowing our troubles to torment our hearts. And we’re more likely to be fruitful for the Lord who promises to — someday — deliver our souls to the land of eternal celebration.

Let’s learn from Joseph. Let’s count our blessings. This way, we’ll more likely be ones that God can count on to serve Him and others.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It stinks when somebody else promises to give us help that we really need and then that person forgets to do so.

The sad fact is, though, that we’ve probably done the same thing to others on more than one occasion in our lives.

Part of being a person of integrity is the keeping of promises.

Is there a promise that you haven’t kept?

I was reminded of this topic while reading from the One-Year Bible this morning. The story from Genesis 40 involved Joseph and Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. The cupbearer had been imprisoned for some reason, but Joseph interpreted a dream that pointed toward the cupbearer’s restoration to a position of service in the palace.

The cupbearer was grateful for the good news and Joseph asked the man to do all that he could to get him, Joseph, released from prison. You’ll recall that Joseph was locked up on bogus allegations of sexual assault.

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23)

For two years, the cupbearer enjoyed his restored life while Joseph languished in prison. I’m sure that Joseph wondered why the cupbearer didn’t do what he promised. But Joseph kept the faith and didn’t become entangled in resentment.

Finally, the cupbearer did remember Joseph and spoke to Pharaoh about a prisoner who interpreted dreams. That’s when Joseph’s life circumstances turned for the better.

Please ask God to refresh your memory of any forgotten promises to help another, and then do all that you can to honor your word.

Perhaps the person or persons no longer have the need for help, but that’s not the issue here. Your integrity is the issue and you should offer to make good on your promise.

I’ll be asking God for the same refreshment of my memory.

We’re SO grateful that God doesn’t forget His promises to us. Let’s make sure that we imitate His integrity when it comes to promises we’ve made.

As always, I love you
Martin

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