Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2012

My eyelids aren’t happy with me right now.

I keep telling them to “Wake up!”

I’m very drowsy but I don’t have the option of going back to bed to get more sleep.

Well, I could but that would be giving into “self” at a time that I have much to do for others.

Including the Lord.

And so, I deny what my flesh wants in order to do what my faith compels.

It’s the right thing to do if I am to be faithful to God and actually is commanded by Jesus in this way:

Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34).

I’m sure that my eyelids will try again today to impose their will upon me.

I’ll have to make sure that I deny that lucious pillow time that will attempt to lure me away from ministry efforts. You, of course, know the feeling because you’ve had to resist the same call of the pillow.

I have a midweek Bible study to prepare, a sermon to continue polishing, several letters to write, several Sunday bulletin items to prepare, a number of phone calls to make, a Spring sermon series to plan and all this after my devotional time of reading, praying and writing is completed. I hope to also meet briefly today with a couple of church members.

And this is just for the planned activities today.

Please join me in the effort to deny self. And please say a brief prayer for me so that I don’t allow my eyelids to rule my priority list.

The more we’re successful in that, the more success we’ll have for others, including the Lord.

As always, I love you
Martin

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It’s time for a personal inventory.

What habits or attitudes do I possess that are influencing others — particularly children — away from Christianity?

Of course, it’s important that you ask yourself the same question.

For our reason for living is to lead people to Jesus, not away from Him.

The cost of persistent failure to lead them the right way is way too high and we must make sure that we’re heading the right direction and encouraging others to go with us.

Here’s why:

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.” (Mark 9:42-46)

Jesus was talking about adults influencing children away from seeking a relationship with Him and His Father. The consequences of being a bad influence are horrible.

Let’s each make sure that kids see us loving Jesus, learning about Jesus, serving Jesus, sharing Jesus and talking about Jesus.

It’s much more satisfying to think about walking forever on the streets of heaven than it is swimming in an ocean of fire with an 800-pound grindstone tied to my neck.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

Boy, did I relate to the hurting father described in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

In Mark 9, a dad brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples so that the boy could be delivered from the spiritual and physical torment that certainly also traumatized the family’s life.

Jesus was absent when the father and son met the disciples but He arrived before the father and son left.

There was a crowd surrounding the disciples and apparently a lot of yelling and finger-pointing because the disciples had failed in their efforts to deliver the boy from demonic possession.

When the crowd saw Jesus returning from His Mount of Transfiguration experience, they abandoned the disciples and immediately ran to Jesus.

In the crowd was the father who said this in vv. 17-18:

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, ‘Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.'”

Jesus’ response?

Frustration with the lack of faith among His disciples and the crowd in general.

Yet, His grace and desire to demonstrate sovereignty over evil prompted Jesus to action.

He asked the dad to bring the boy to Him. Soon, the boy was writhing on the ground in front of Jesus as the demon tormented him.

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?’Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

“The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’”

Perhaps you realize, as do I, that we too often put qualifiers on our prayers that limit the success of our prayers.

How many times have we asked God for help and yet had hidden doubts that His intervention could make any difference?

Perhaps with a rocky marriage. Perhaps with a stubborn health crisis. Perhaps with a prodigal child.

We see the prayers of others and ourselves and the lack of a desired success ratio and we’re tempted to think God “can’t” do what we need.

The father in this story wisely saw that the problem was his faith, not Christ’s capacity.

There are a number of matters in my corner of the world that I believe need the intercession of God’s power.

The problem isn’t with God’s capacity, but with my unbelief.

Please join me in more often praying, “Please, Lord, help me overcome my unbelief.”

All of our lives will be better off.

That’s what happened for the boy delivered from the demon (v. 26) and for the dad whose faith brought the boy to the only One who could help.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

Oh my.

Jordan Lifander is probably feeling today like the poster child for Psalm 40:12.

That passage includes these words: “For troubles surround me — too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out.”

Here’s the problem Lifander brought on himself.

“Jordan Lifander, a former Cedarhurst, Long Island volunteer firefighter, said this week that he was sorry for telling firefighters in the Palmetto State (South Carolina) that he was a captain of FDNY’s Ladder 133, which lost 12 men on Sept. 11.

“You know, once you tell one lie, you gotta keep up that lie,” Lifander told CBSNewYork.com on Wednesday. “I got all caught up in the whole 9/11 anniversary and just lied. I was not a member of the FDNY, was not a captain in Ladder 133.”

“Dressed in a uniform with an FDNY patch, Lifander spoke at a 9/11 memorial service in Spartanburg, S.C., last year, telling the crowd he attended 47 funerals in three weeks for brothers who died that day. He received a standing ovation from the crowd.”

Lifander described the ruse as a twisted inflation of his ego. “The lie, keeping up with it, a very big mistake … It just snowballed into something that was out of my control. I’m truly sorry for misleading and lying.” (excerpt from Yahoo News! article 2/24/12)

Lifander has stopped talking with reporters since the lie made national news. But firefighters who were part of 9/11 ARE talking.

“I’m outraged,” Bill Youngson, former captain of Ladder 133, told BlueRidgeNow.com. “I’m sick and tired of people standing up and telling people these stories for a little bit of glory. People have cancer, I have asthma and we paid our dues. In six months, we buried more people than you’ve ever seen and to read this story—this lie—it has to stop. Put that guy on the wall of shame.”

Lifander’s self-built wall of shame is so high this morning that he can’t see a way out.

I pray that he turns for help to the One who is higher than that wall.

The One who lifts repentant people up.

The One who tears down walls rather than builds them.

Lying is bad. Sometimes really bad.

But it can be forgiven.

That’s the promise of I John 1:9 that says God will forgive us if we confess our sins to Him.

We’ve all lied somewhere along the way.

Let’s all make sure that we’ve sought forgiveness from the One who can get us past the wall of sin.

And let’s make sure that we ignore the falsehood bricks that Satan keeps trying to hand to us so that we’ll build a new wall of pride and separation from God and others.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

While reading from Leviticus over the past few days, I’ve been reminded of why I’m so glad to be living under the New Covenant rather than the Old.

Extensive, detailed instructions are given for gaining forgiveness from God — and spiritual cleansing because of certain physical afflictions. Elaborate sacrificial and hygenic rituals were required, including those that had logical basis in the prevention of further physical or spiritual corruption.

It was typically a time-intensive process to gain forgiveness for sin or for approval of renewed fellowship with the community if skin diseases were present or if one’s house was tainted by mold.

My appreciation for the cross and the all-sufficient blood of Jesus is always increased when I read of Old Testament sacrificial requirements.

I’m so glad that God tells me in I John 1:9 that our faithful and just God will forgive our sins if our confession of wrongdoing is sincere.

I’m so glad that Ephesians 2:8 tells me that I am saved by faith in Christ’s cleansing blood through grace rather than by works.

I’m so glad that Romans 8:1 tells me that as long as I choose to remain “in Christ” with the loyalty of my heart, my name will remain in His Book of Life.

You know, church would be a whole lot different on Sunday morning if we had to have a stockyard to keep all the animals in while the members waited to have them sacrificed for sin.

It’s SO much easier for us now because it was SO much harder for Jesus then.

Let’s make sure that we never take Christ’s sacrifice for granted.

Not only did He make the Way to salvation through His sacrifice, He also removed once and for all the need for the blood of bulls and goats and lambs and birds.

Life is easier with Jesus.

For us. And for a lot of bulls, goats, lambs and doves.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

Wow.

It took an awful lot to amaze Jesus. In fact, I found only two occasions in the Bible where Jesus was amazed.

One of them was mentioned in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

It involved the Mark 6 account of Jesus’ attempt to minister in His hometown.

It didn’t go well.

At all.

In fact, the results were so sparse that the Bible says “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (verse 5).

Jesus had been preaching for a while by the time He walked into Nazareth and so He naturally went to the synagogue where He had spent SO many sabbaths during His life and was invited to speak. Mark’s gospel said the people were amazed at His teaching.

But apparently not to the point of transformation but rather to the point of condemnation.

Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” (vv. 2-3).

Six questions. Six insights into hearts that weren’t open to the wisdom being shared, but instead were seemingly tinged with pride.

He’s no better than us because He grew up with us so who does he think he is?” was the attitude that appears to have flooded their hearts.

It seems that envy was at play here.

Listen, we need to do all that we can to avoid feelings of envy when somebody close to us is accomplishing more for the Kingdom of God than are we. It is important that we celebrate and encourage the successes in Christian service that others are having, rather than take pot shots at them because of hidden envy.

The same principle applies, of course, with success in the workplace or in school or sports or whatever.

Humility absorbs wisdom and celebrates the success of others. Pride does the opposite.

Let’s choose humility always.

That way, we won’t amaze Jesus with our lack of faith.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

There was a very simple principle demonstrated in Leviticus 4, a passage that I read this morning.

The greater the responsibility a person had in God’s kingdom, the greater the cost of the sacrifice needed to gain God’s forgiveness.

If the high priest sinned, he was to sacrifice a bull at the altar according to the detailed instructions of Leviticus 4.

If a leader among the people sinned, a male goat was to be sacrificed.

If a member of the community sinned, a female goat or female lamb was to be the sin offering. If that person couldn’t afford a goat or lamb, then two doves or pigeons could be sacrificed. If the person were a pauper, then some fine flour could be given as a sacrifice.

Bull. Male goat. Female goat.

Why a different standard for sacrifice?

Perhaps it was because of the principle taught by Jesus in Luke 12:47-48.

That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Please pray for your congregation’s leaders, particularly your pastor or preacher or whatever you call him. They are accountable to a higher standard and face a greater consequence if they fail.

Yes, it is the uniformly potent blood of Jesus that takes away the sin of pastor and the sin of the pew-sitter. But there is no denying that fallen leaders have much more work facing them when it comes to cleaning up the rubble and rebuilding their lives.

They’re flesh, just like you. That’s why they need prayers from you so their hands and lips provide deeds and words that serve God rather than shaming themselves.

And while you’re at it, please pray that you become more like Christ. Even though we don’t sacrifice female goats anymore, it’s a whole lot better to avoid the need for forgiveness.

As always, I love you
Martin

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »