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Archive for April, 2012

An article published last Friday by The Week magazine reported that the fastest-growing religious segment in the nation is actually atheism.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans now classify themselves as having “none” when asked to define their religious faith.

What’s so troubling in the rapid rise of “none” people is that most profess to having had a religious belief and then abandoning it.

I hope you’ll read the article by clicking the link above. You’ll be intrigued and perhaps inspired to be more active and evident in your faith.

What was clear to me from the article is that we Christians bear some of the responsibility for the declining permeation of faith in our nation.

Hypocritical, judgmental, apathetic are how too many Christians are seen by those wavering and later wandering from faith.

It’s so sad.

Some of you have family or friends who have abandoned faith.

And some of you have heard that relative or friend say he or she was disgusted with poor examples of faith that obliterated any claim that God’s divine power and influence and grace could serve any good in real life.

Listen, we’re not going to stop the massive rush of lemming-like atheists toward the cliff of eternal destruction.

Remember, Jesus said that path was very broad and very crowded.

We can, however, humbly communicate and demonstrate the love and integrity and grace of a sincere Christian faith.

Those in our circles of influence need to see that Christianity actually does make a positive difference for ourselves and the people in our lives.

Our faithfulness — and particularly our grace toward others — just might lead a borderline atheist back onto the narrow path that leads to life.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you’re like me, you’ve given up too quickly when it came to prayers for certain matters.

Perhaps you prayed for a few weeks about a certain health need and when it didn’t improve — or perhaps even worsened — you just figured God had already set His mind on how things were to be and you gave up.

Perhaps your prayers ceased after a couple of months regarding a desired better job, or a teen child’s return to hormonal normalcy in his or her behavior.

The fact is that we’ve all thrown in the prayer towel too early on too many occasions.

What are major concerns in your life now for which you are praying? Are you on the verge of giving up in your prayers?

I deeply desire to become more effective in leading my congregation in faith development and fruitfulness. As I should.

But in view of the fact that I’m not as successful as I should be — at least according to what I sense should be happening — I clearly need to pray more so that I’ll understand more and be empowered more and accomplish more.

What MUST not happen is my accepting the status quo.

This topic came to mind this morning while reading from the One-Year Bible.

Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 18:1.

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up….”

The following verses talk of a widow who had a conflict with somebody who was giving her a really hard time. The local judge — a non-believer, Jesus said — didn’t want anything to do with her and he ignored her.

For a time.

But because she wouldn’t stop pleading with the judge to intercede in her behalf, he relented and granted her the relief she sought.

He knew she wasn’t going to give up until she got the help she needed.

That’s the point of the parable for believers, Jesus said.

If what we are praying for is a genuine need rather than a nice “want,” we shouldn’t have a deadline for prayer. Needs ARE important and God wants to see how important they — and He — are to us

Please…. pray…. don’t give up.

If it is a need, it will be met eventually.

We just have to keep praying.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It stinks when somebody steals from us.

Several weeks ago, one of the men in our congregation had a $17,000 motorcycle stolen from his job, despite the presence of a Lo-Jack anti-theft system which didn’t work.

A week after that, one of the men in our congregation had his electronics repair business van stolen from his workplace by somebody he had helped over the years with lodging and food.

And then Lori was victimized yesterday at her job when somebody stole her expensive, new Iphone 4s. No, it’s not as valuable as a vehicle but it is still aggravating and disconcerting to know such people are among your co-workers.

We’ve, of course, had to spend a lot of time and money remedying this theft and Lori is not done yet because of all the content that has to be reloaded into the replacement phone.

As I’ve been reminded of the thefts that I’ve faced over the years, I reflected on how someone gets to the point of having no conscience when it comes to stealing from others.

As with any kind of sin, it’s likely a progression that started long ago with the stealing of candy from other kids or coins from Dad’s dresser or toys from another family’s back yard or wherever.

Ironically, there was a passage in today’s Bible reading that related to this topic.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

It’s very important that we hold children accountable the first time they steal from others. The lesson needs to sting as well as educate. For if the seriousness of the offense isn’t communicated early, that seed of cancer will grow.

I’m glad that I got caught in 4th grade when my new “friend” talked me into taking a candy bar from a store rather than paying the dime required. I hated having to tell my dad what I did and being grounded for two weeks after the fact. But I learned the lesson well and have not struggled with temptations to steal.

Listen, the person that stole the $17,000 motorcycle was not committing his first crime. The same is true for the person who stole Lori’s phone.

Let’s do all we can to guide our kids and grandkids and nephews and nieces into a greater understanding of why stealing is SO bad.

That way, somebody in the future won’t face loads of aggravation and loss because of thefts by the ones we love but didn’t teach in this way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No, I’m not going to stir the pot when it comes to dress code for church services.

That topic is already a cauldron of simmering conflict in many multi-generational congregations.

I’m simply going to ask you to reflect on how you present yourself to the Lord when you enter a time designated for worship.

Because He is there, we ARE to demonstrate our desire to honor Him with humility that clearly sets Him apart as holy in our sight.

Here’s the passage from today’s devotional reading that prompted this brief devotion:

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’

Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:13-15).

Worship time is holy ground time because we are inviting the presence of the Lord into our gathering. Please “take off your sandals” with some consideration of how you visibly present yourself at worship and not just with the choice of clothes but also with attitude and personal devotional time before you even walk in the church door.

As we do this, God will receive more honor and our humbled hearts and minds will receive more inspiration.

As always, I love you
Martin

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In Joshua 4:20, an interesting directive is given by Joshua to the leader for each of the 12 tribes crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

I encourage you to read that entire chapter by clicking here, but here is the point that I want to make.

We adults have a responsibility to teach our children about spiritual milestones.

For the Israelites, the lessons were to involve how and why and when and where God delivered the people through obstacles they could not have vanquished without His help.

If kids don’t learn from their parents or other faithful adults about God’s intercessory, delivering power, it’s liklely that most won’t hear it somewhere else.

That means that they’ll be lacking vitally needed information and inspiration for facing life’s challenges.

It is this very deficit that has our nation in a state of moral, ethical, financial and spiritual decline.

Please do your part to break the cycle.

Talk with a child about a time when God intervened in your life and delivered through obstacles that were greater than your ability to overcome.

Share with him or her about a “What do these stones mean?” moment in your life.

Perhaps it was a physical crisis.

Perhaps it was a financial crisis or a family relationship crisis or a physical danger crisis.

Somewhere in your life God has intervened and your life is better because of it.

Tell a child of how God helped you and the effect that has had on your life and faith.

If we don’t tell them, they AND we will be losers.

As always, I love you
Martin

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One of the most important things a parent can do for a child is to teach him or her how to make good friends.

For there is no denying that the friendship choices a child makes as he or she grows will have a HUGE impact on the direction and destination of the child’s life.

We’ve all seen kids who grew into successful, friendly, responsible adults who have few enemies.

And we’ve seen kids who ended up in overly stressful, unsuccessful and irresponsible lives filled with anger toward — and from — their peers.

We parents have only a few years to teach our kids about making good friends and that’s why it is so important that they see us making good friends.

This topic is also quite important to God.

Here is His view of the matter, taken from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible.

The righteous choose their friends carefully.” (Proverbs 12:26)

This isn’t about being aloof and not being kind and engaging to all those around us.

We are called to love everybody and treat them the way that we would like to be treated.

But when it comes to those we allow to influence us — those we consider our “friends” — discretion is required.

For this kind of friendship represents a team mentality.

Jesus loved everybody but only a certain few were on His team of friends.

You can be sure that a winning sports team isn’t comprised of people who simply happened to be standing next to each other when the game started and they spontaneously knew how to do each thing required to win.

Each was selected because of common goals, complementary skills and compatible personalities.

It wasn’t an ego thing, but instead a mission thing.

Listen, let’s love everybody. But let’s be wise in who we ask to join the crew of people we work with in this thing called life. That way, our “team” will be characterized by abundant success rather than over-the-top stress.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I was reminded once again today as to why I love the Lord so much.

He was thinking of me more than 3,400 years ago, that’s why.

Of course, He was thinking of you, too.

That’s why God spoke to Moses these prophetic words as part of a larger series of blessings and curses given the tribes of Israel on the eve of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land:

About Benjamin he said:

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)

The significance of these words to the tribe of Benjamin should not be missed.

Remember that Jesus was from the tribe of Benjamin.

Remember that –1,400 years AFTER Moses — Jesus promised to provide inner peace to those seeking rest in His presence — “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Wow.

Remember, too, that 700 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote that the “government will be on his shoulders.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And so it was when the authority of Rome placed the cross beam upon Christ’s shoulders for the walk along the via de la Rosa.

Jesus allowed that beam to be placed there because of His love for you and for me.

Beloved, find security in the arms of Christ. He WILL give you rest.

He’s already shown His love for us by carrying our punishment between His shoulders in our place.

As always, I love you
Martin

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