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Archive for April, 2012

It used to be that men were the only ones who struggled with porn and reading immoral books.

Like I said, it “used to be.”

Perhaps you’ve heard about the explosion of interest among women in their 40s and 50s toward the above.

One of the fastest-selling books in America, according to media reports, is an erotic book specifically designed for the above audience.

Wow.

Sad, huh?

The never-ending search for emotional intimacy has been corrupted and deceived to new levels by the embracing of unbiblical lust, a condition that cripples one’s ability to experience the far more important spiritual intimacy with God.

Shame?

What’s that?

Listen, you and I can’t control the minds and hearts and actions of others.

What we CAN do, however, is make sure that our minds and hearts and actions are under the control of God’s Word and Holy Spirit.

How can we know if we’re heading in the right direction morally?

Here’s a passage from today’s devotional reading that can help to keep us on the “straight and narrow” if we’ll practice it.

“I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” (Psalm 101:2-3)

Anything that God would see as immoral or “vile” should never be found in our presence or possession. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is clean and what is dirty.

Does everything you watch on TV or via DVD or on the internet pass the above tests?

Have you been reading anything that would break Jesus’ heart to see in your hands?

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if deep cleaning is needed in your life.

God wants the best for us and that will more likely be ours if we have blameless hearts, particularly at home.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Being afraid of ungodly threats is not sinful.

In fact, it’s common among believers.

Whether it is a health threat or a financial threat or a family breakdown threat, the looming calamities we sometimes face are pregnant with potential danger and we are blind if we don’t recognize them and prepare to respond should fear become fact.

Being afraid doesn’t show a flaw of character. Not displaying faith amidst the fears does.

There was a subtle but certain lesson in this regard that was woven into the account of Gideon recorded in Judges 7.

After God had sifted Gideon’s army from 30,000 down to 300 who didn’t let fear trump faith, the young commander was told to go and conquer the pagan Midianite army camped in a nearby valley.

God knew that this assignment was not logical from a human-thinking standpoint — 300 men against thousands and thousands of bloodthirsty, Hebrew-hating soldiers.

God knew that Gideon might have fears of completing the assignment.

So this is what our gracious God said to Gideon:

During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.” (vv. 9-11)

Clearly, Gideon was afraid of the Midianites.

That’s why he and his assistant went to spy out the camp.

God was even more gracious, of course, and allowed Gideon to hear that some in the enemy camp were afraid of what God might do against their army.

Rather than display a collapse of faith, Gideon’s fear prompted his reconnaisance of the camp and subsequent affirmation that God WAS in control and that victory WAS going to happen.

It’s a good story, this account of Gideon in Judges 6-8. I hope you’ll read it today.

For now, though, I simply want you to know that it’s OK to have concerns — or even fears — when faced with challenges that can’t be avoided.

Just remember that the closer you move to confronting the “enemy” circumstance that God has called you to face, the closer you will be to hearing God’s comforting, guiding voice and to seeing/feeling God’s sovereign power and plan.

This has been true in my life with various threats and it will be true in your life as well.

We just have to make sure that our faith is stronger than our fear.

As always, I love you
Martin

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The Lord is SO patient with us.

Even when we’re wrapped up in our agendas and frustration rather than by the awareness and appreciation of His grace.

Too many times, we’ve been like Gideon who didn’t grasp the enormity of divine grace.

At least not initially.

You’ll recall that Gideon was the young man to whom the Angel of the Lord appeared in the days before biblical Israel had a king.

The spiritual apathy of the Hebrews had left them spiritually impotent and militarily bankrupt and pagan nations had oppressed them in brutal fashion.

Yet, God’s heart heard their tormented, confused cries for help and the pre-incarnate Christ was sent to Gideon with a message.

The story is told in the book of Judges beginning in chapter 6. You should read that story today. It will encourage and equip you.

The element in that story that I want to briefly address here occurs in the initial contact between the Angel of the Lord and Gideon.

It’s so typical to how we believers still act sometimes, even though some 3,500 years have passed.

Here’s the passage that surprised me but also didn’t surprise me.

“The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, He said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (vv. 11-13)

OK, so here’s the scene. Israel is all messed up because of their own spiritual failures and lack of national self-discipline. Yet, when a divine messenger comes from heaven with powerful, affirming words of encouragement for Gideon, the first thing Gideon does in response is complain and blame.

It’s pathetic.

It’s also an incredible display of grace by the Angel of the Lord.

How many of us would have responded to Gideon that he and the Israelites were ungrateful losers getting what they deserved and that we had changed our minds about helping such people?

Amazingly, the Angel of the Lord didn’t come to pronounce judgment that Israel was reaping what she had sown.

He came, instead, to declare grace, to call a leader, to rescue His people who seemingly were running away from Him.

As you read the rest of the story in Judges, you’ll come to appreciate even more the grace and patience of God.

That’s a good thing.

Listen, we can tell ourselves how ridiculous Gideon’s initial replies were to the Lord, yet have we not also pointed fingers at God for not protecting us or blessing us with prayers answered when and how we wanted? Careful here before you exonerate yourself.

Remember, God has seen every inclination of your mind and mine. He’s heard that unspoken thought of yours that asked, “If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

Listen, we should rejoice whenever we see or hear or sense the gracious offer of God to help us, however it comes to us. The last thing He needs to hear is our griping about how we think He should have done this or done that.

For actually, if justice were the only criteria, we all should be piles of ashes on the ground.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Though it’s rare today in our country, it is still an enjoyable, remind-us-of-our-heritage thing to see hard-working farm animals helping the farmer to produce healthy crops for the market.

Those farmers — particularly those of Amish descent — realize that without those animals, crops aren’t grown and food isn’t eaten.

Their livelihood hinges on having healthy work animals.

The farmers also recognize that healthy animals do more than pull plows or harvesting machines or farm wagons.

As animals, they have to eat alot. And that leads, of course, to byproducts that aren’t so pleasant.

You know what I’m talking about.

Why this topic today?

Because of the fact that we humans are prone to making messes of our own, no matter how hard we put our shoulder to the wheel, that’s why.

Consider this passage from Proverbs 14:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.” (v. 4)

If you want a hard-working farm animal, you’re going to have to clean the stall from time to time.

If you work with people, even hard-working people, you’re going to have to manage stinky emotional or financial or spiritual messes from time to time.

Yes, there’s less drama when you choose to not deal with people such as layperson volunteers at church or even Bible-college trained ministry staff.

But what are you accomplishing in life, really?

What am I doing for the Kingdom of God if I don’t want to deal with imperfect people?

Particularly the one who I see when I look in the mirror?

God didn’t send us to the slaughterhouse when we made a mess of sin and we should show others the same grace when they stink up our corners of the world.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I preached a sermon Sunday that included a reference to Psalm 127:1 that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

The point, of course, is that God is to be the architect, foreman and ultimate beneficiary of our efforts to build an immediate family or a congregation or some other faith-based group.

And so I was inspired this morning because of two passages in the devotional reading for today from the One-Year Bible.

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook Him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In His anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.” (Judges 2:10-14)

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (Proverbs 14:1)

It’s tragic that the Hebrew moms who had been delivered by God into the Promised Land did not teach their children the scriptures given them by God through the pen of Moses.

God explicitly stated in Deuteronomy that if the parents taught their children the Word and will of God, the generations to follow would be showered with blessings and safety.

If they didn’t teach the kids as God ordained, bad things would happen.

Sadly, the moms were “too busy” to teach their kids about God.

Judges 2 clearly states what resulted.

That’s why Proverbs 14:1 is SO chilling.

If we’re not teaching children the ways of God, we’re teaching them the ways of the world.

And that is a sure formula for destroying our heritage and legacy.

Churches are less filled today than in the past because parents are “too busy” to teach their kids about God.

It’s no surprise that family life among too many Christian households is crumbling.

Please, in whatever role you have with your children or grandchildren or nephews or nieces or neighbor kids or any other kid over whom you have influence, teach them as often as possible about God’s love, His Word, His grace, His holiness and His desire for all to know Him through Jesus Christ.

Let’s build God’s household of faith rather than tear it down, one failed stone at a time.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Had a conversation the other day with a man who rides his motorcycle on a local toll road yet doesn’t pay tolls.

It’s not that he’s privileged under the law.

Instead, he’s just turned his license plate holder in such a way in order to be obscured from the camera recording license plates of non-payers.

He’s gotten away with it because the plate is still visible from the rear to those in following vehicles. That’s why the police haven’t pulled him over.

The man, I’ll call him Sammy, smiles when asked why he’s doing such a thing, rationalizing that if he received a bill, he would pay it.

Since he hasn’t been billed, though, he hasn’t felt convicted.

Hmmmm…..

I’m reminded of Luke 20:25 where Jesus said believers are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Government-approved taxes are not something we are to simply ignore, even if we don’t like them.

It’s the law.

Just because we haven’t been caught, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been wrong.

If we don’t like the law, we should work within the system to vote in people who will repeal the tax or reduce the take.

But picking and choosing which tax law we’ll follow doesn’t line up with Jesus’ teaching.

Of course, not giving worship offerings to God also doesn’t line up with Jesus’ teaching.

There were established tax rates in Jesus’ day and people knew them. He called them to follow them.

There were established worship offering rates in Jesus’ day and people knew them. It began with the tithe (10 percent of gross income) and to that were added other required offerings during the year. Taken together, the average Jewish family understood “what is God’s” to mean much more than 10 percent.

Please make sure that you’re not a tax or toll cheat. That just means that others will have to make up for your skipping out on the tax bill.

And please make sure that you don’t cheat God with the offerings He expects.

That just means that other people at church will have to make up for your skipping out on sharing ministry costs for God’s Kingdom. And it means that you’ll miss out on the blessings that God would send your way when you send obedient tithes and other offerings His way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Among the challenging aspects of our human nature is the Velcro-like stickiness of bad memories that so often shove their way to the front of the line in our hearts and minds.

It’s no secret that psychologists say it takes seven compliments to counteract the effect of one insult.

We humans just hold onto negative statements and other offenses much longer and much tighter than we should.

Compounding the problem is that we humans have shown that we’re far more prone to complain to and about others than we are to praise them.

It’s not good.

We don’t have to remain in such bondage of our nature.

We CAN transcend our tendency.

We CAN focus on the positive, both in how we view others and in what we appreciate in our own lives.

There’s a blessing for us if we’ll do so.

Something much better than continually crying over spilled is offered to us in Proverbs 13:12.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Listen, we’ve all had hopes that didn’t pan out. Some of them were huge boxes that weren’t checked.

Perhaps we’ve even grown frustrated with God because He hasn’t given us what we wanted.

If we’ve prayed faithfully, yet the hope has still not been met, you can be sure that He has a reason for withholding it temporarily or permanently.

It’s vital that we don’t allow that unmet yearning to control the steering wheel of our emotions and actions.

We’ll end up making irrational decisions if that occurs.

Not that we’ve ever done that, of course.

It’s so much better to focus on what God HAS done for us in the past regarding fulfilled hopes. For He has surely done much more than we’ve adequately given Him credit for.

As we dwell upon His record of favor poured into our lives, we will have less time to think about the yearnings about our wants and we’ll have a better attitude toward life.

Those are good things.

As always, I love you
Martin

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