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Archive for June, 2012

So you’ve been hiking a hilly area on a hot day and you’re tired and thirsty.

Your steps take you by a small pond with where you see slightly green water.

Your body is craving hydration and calling you to chance a face-first gulp of the fluid, but then you hear it faintly in the distance.

It’s the sound of a rushing stream. Not loud, but real nonetheless.

Making the no-brainer decision, you turn away from the stagnant pond and move closer to the sound.

Minutes later, you’re standing by a stream where cool, clear water is quickly flowing.

In Gideon-like manner, you kneel and begin drinking, one cupped hand at a time.

“Ah, this is SO much better than that pond water,” you tell yourself.

One doesn’t have to have actually experienced the above scenario in order to appreciate its message.

Flowing water is nearly always a better choice than stagnant water when it comes to consumption. It’s just the nature of physical life and how biological pathogens reproduce when not disturbed and so forth.

And so it is with things spiritual.

Christians who stay busy and are headed places are Christians who are more refreshing to those around them.

A congregation headed toward goals and making efforts to go to its community is a congregation that provides more spiritual refreshment to people whose lives are dry and thirsty.

We’ve all seen Christians who fall into the trap of complacency, either because they think God hasn’t gifted them with abilities to serve or because they think they’ve already done enough work for God and now it’s time to retire from faithfully serving.

It’s sad. And it’s wrong.

Jesus came to bring streams of Living Water, flowing from the fountain of God’s heart and mind.

He didn’t come to be the divine pond into which we randomly lower a bucket whenever we become parched.

Flowing water is so much better for us,

In life and in faith.

Listen to the words of Proverbs 18:4.

The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”

Drink from the Bible, my friend. Read it as if it were a cool, clear stream in a dry, hot land.

It’s refreshment will revive you and your testimony as to its goodness might lead to others drinking from the bubbling brook of biblical wisdom.

Holy hydration is always the better choice.

The more that you and the members of your congregation drink Living Water, the more energy you’ll have for staying busy in bringing refreshment to the parched souls all around you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Acts 19:8-10 offers a valuable lesson to any believer who strives to be a lighthouse of loving faith.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them (synagogue Jews) became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”

Sometimes, our best and most-loving efforts to introduce people to a saving faith leads not to conversion, but instead confrontation.

Yes, Jesus was right when He said the road to eternal destruction is wide and crowded.

Paul tried and tried to persuade Ephesian Jews that Jesus was the Messiah and their only hope for eternal life.

What he found was hardened soil that the seeds of the gospel could not penetrate.

I thank God that Paul didn’t throw up his hands and presume that he was a lousy Christian and even lousier messenger of God’s grace.

Paul simply realized that everybody is a sinner in need of salvation through Christ and so he found another venue for sharing his faith.

One closed door led to two years of open doors with thousands and thousands of people — primarily Gentiles — who would have never been found inside a synagogue.

God used Paul and the open doors of that lecture hall to plant at Ephesus that would become vital in the health of 1st Century Christianity.

Listen, just because your faith-sharing efforts seem at times to hit a dead end, that doesn’t mean you’re to stop sharing your faith.

Just look for another field within which to plant your seeds of faith.

Perhaps it will be one person from another department at work talking with you in the break room rather than the sarcastic co-worker who shares a cubicle with you eight hours a day.

Perhaps that break room chum will invite another co-worker a week from now, and that co-worker invites somebody to your break room group a couple of weeks after that. And so on and so on.

Believe me, I know that it’s frustrating when those close to you don’t want to hear about your faith. But remember that somebody somewhere in your life does want the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Just keep planting as Jesus taught us in the parable of the sower. Our faith is not measured by what others do, but instead by how we keep planting. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:6, it is God who provides the increase.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m glad that being a genius is not a requirement for being faithful.

I’d be in big trouble if that were the case.

I’m alot of things, but genius isn’t one of them.

Some things I understand and can even have innovative ideas from time to time.

But in other areas, my comprehension and competency falls short of where I’m sure God wants them to be.

Because of my imperfections, I am quite grateful for scriptures that point me in the direction of becoming more holy.

Particularly those that are easy to understand.

Today’s reading from the One-Year Bible includes Psalm 145 and that segment lists a number of God’s characteristics that I should imitate:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (vv. 8-9)

The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (vv. 13-14)

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.” (v. 17)

Let’s review the above characteristics:

gracious

compassionate

slow to anger

rich in love

good to all

trustworthy in all promises

faithful in all that is done

upholds those who have fallen

lifts up those bent over with burdens

righteous in all ways

Wow. That’s quite a list.

Why wouldn’t we want to serve a God who perfectly demonstrates these 10 characteristics toward us and others?

And why wouldn’t we have godly influence in the lives of people who see us demonstrating these others-focused characteristics on a consistent basis?

You know, there are many people in your life or mine who are hungry for more examples of these behaviors. Why? Because so few people live up to this list… or even come close.

If you and I become better imitators of God, though, checking our lives daily to measure how we’re demonstrating the nature of God in serving others, we’ll have more evangelistic impact, I’m sure.

Remember, touching lives for the Gospel is not about impressing people with mental genius but instead about spiritual goodness.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes the stories of scripture are reminiscent of a Hollywood “bustin’ heads, kickin’ tails” guy flick.

Such is the case with the exploits of Jehu, an Old Testament character who was fed up with the scheming, compromising kings of the northern and southern kingdoms for Israel.

You can read about it in today’s One-Year Bible segment but here’s the gist: Jehu was essentially the white hat sheriff coming to bring street justice to the kings Joram and Ahaziah.

Borrowing from a line John Belushi’s Blues Brothers, I saw that Jehu really was on a mission from God.

It was an ugly time in Israel’s history and God had seen enough.

Jehu, an army general, wasn’t perfect, the Bible makes clear, but he was a whole lot closer to what God wanted than were the two evil kings.

It’s a story filled with action and drama and faith-inspired boldness.

The lesson I want to share today from this story — I do hope you’ll read it by clicking the above link — is that ungodly human efforts to establish control over one’s life will never succeed in producing inner peace.

Why? Because God’s sovereignty and justice demand an accountability for believing lies that Satan’s promises are more powerful and valuable than God’s.

When Joram learned that Jehu was coming to town, the king boarded his chariot and went out to meet the iconoclastic general.

“When Joram saw Jehu he asked, ‘Have you come in peace, Jehu?’

“How can there be peace,” Jehu replied, “as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” (2 Kings 9:21-22)

Joram and Ahaziah correctly realized that Jehu was not in the mood for a “Kum Ba Yah” moment of reconciliation and so they headed for the hills.

They should have had faster chariots and better hiding places because both were quickly killed by Jehu and his sympathizers.

As much as this story teaches about the problems of rascal, ungodly leaders, I believe it is more relevant to the everyday lives of everyday believers.

How? The fact is that all kinds of Christians struggle with all kinds of problems — some of them HUGE problems — because of languishing unsanctified zones in their lives.

Essentially, the remnants of things worship or pleasure worship (idolatry) are given space in the heart because of lusts of the flesh, be it sexual or financial or craving for social status or even the satisfaction of seeing somebody suffer because of a perceived offense against you.

Sometimes Christians will turn to godless people for advice — or even direct intercession — rather than turning the pages of scripture and to prayer.

This should not be.

As Jehu said, how can a Christian expect to have peace in his or her heart and soul as long as he or she is relying upon any form of idolatry or godless advice?

Listen, providing inner peace to believers is not a commodity that God franchises to ungodly agents of darkness.

It only comes from God because it is designed to fit into the hole God built into our hearts and souls.

Let’s strive to rid ourselves of worshiping of anything other than God or trusting the guidance of anyone other than God.

Then we’ll have the peace that passes all understanding.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s a potent passage in today’s One-Year Bible reading that emphasizes our need to trust God more.

It’s the story of Elisha when he met the widow of another Old Testament pastor who had run out of money on which she and her sons could live.

She pleaded for help because she was at the point of seeing her sons hauled away as slaves because she couldn’t pay off her debts.

All she had was a bit of oil in a large jar.

The Holy Spirit spoke to Elisha about how the problem would be solved — she would receive an oversupply of what she needed and could sell it to pay her family’s living expenses.

She just had to trust God more than she ever had.

And she had to do so in a way that coincidentally would lead to a great testimony of God’s power pouring into the lives of those she knew.

Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.'” (2 Kings 4:3)

Many jars were collected from neighbors and, after Elisha’s prayers, each was miraculously filled with olive oil. The abundance was so rich that the oil’s sale paid off all the woman’s debts and left enough for the family to live on.

As exciting as this must have been for the widow and her sons, there must have also been a powerful testimony given to the neighbors.

You see, the woman’s expansion of faith led to a growth in trust toward God and that led to neighbors seeing a powerful testimony of God’s provision and grace.

Listen, we can “ask for empty jars” from our neighbors whenever we ask them what they’d like us to pray for in their behalf.

When our faithful prayers and God’s purposeful grace lead to one of those prayers being answered, we need to celebrate “the filled jar” with that neighbor.

James, the brother of Jesus who wrote a letter of the New Testament, wrote about the need for more prayer in more ways — “ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2).

Hmmmm….. I want to encourage you to start praying to God more often in search of important spiritual and physical needs in your life and the lives of others.

We’ve all failed occasionally in seeking God’s intercession with job stress, with health problems, with parental frustration, with cantankerous church members and with all sorts of other needs. And so we’ve struggled and stressed in these areas because we’ve been leaning on our own understanding rather than acknowledging God in all our ways.

As Proverbs 3:5-6 teach us, God wants to direct our paths — resulting in our blessing — but we’ve trusted our own wisdom too much.

It’s time that we trust God more by praying more to Him. And not just for ourselves.

Let’s ask others if we can pray for empty areas in their lives. When God blesses, everybody will be encouraged and God will be glorified.

I need to do this and I’m working to improve. I pray that you are, too.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No matter how dark the night seems, even if only a spiritual or emotional “night,” God’s love and Word shines in it if we’ll just look for Him.

Here’s the promise:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

Listen, there is no place that we can find ourselves that God cannot reach. In fact, He created wherever we’re at.

His arms are always longer and stronger than ours.

Reach for Him no matter how low you think you’ve fallen and no matter how far you think you’ve wandered.

He wants to rescue you. He wants to sustain you.

He desires to hold you fast.

For He loves you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We face all sorts of peer pressure.

Even if we’re surrounded by people who identify themselves as Christians.

Since we’re not going to be exempted from such pressure until we graduate to the next life — where everybody is perfect — our challenge is to ALWAYS be concerned first about what God thinks we should do.

Yes, we’ll have to accept some alienation at times if we’re going to be true to faith. You’ve felt that isolation at work or at school or among extended family or perhaps even in your own home.

You’ve heard the words that you should just go along with the plan the “everybody” wants.

It’s vital to remember that “everybody” should include God.

And it’s vital that God’s voice should be the One telling you that He’s cool with the plan.

The cost of flawed listening is too high and we shouldn’t make faith-reflecting decisions based only on the testimony of humans pushing personal agendas.

This topic was prompted this morning by a passage in I Kings 22 that involved a prophet named Micaiah who was asked to be a “yes” man for Israel’s King Ahab. The king wanted to launch a military campaign against a foreign king who had earlier taken control of an Israelite city.

Ahab knew in his gut that the 400 paid prophets in his kingdom were not in tune with Jehovah and, although the king was a basket case spiritually, he wanted the endorsement of a legitimately faithful prophet.

Before Micaiah spoke, a messenger was sent to Micaiah from King Ahab to prompt the prophet to endorse the words of the other prophets who said, “Attack!’

In essence, Micaiah was told to just go along with the other prophets and all would be fine.

“Don’t rock the boat, Micaiah. Don’t seek God’s wisdom. Just agree with the others,” was essentially the message to the faithful prophet.

Micaiah’s response?

But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”

This is a good example of how we should resist peer pressure that doesn’t include God’s voice.

Let’s keep Micaiah’s example in mind the next time we face peer pressure to do something that might not be the Lord’s will at work or at school or at home or even at church.

Peer pressure is all about gaining approval from others. Join me in making sure that the One exerting the most pressure is the One whose approval we MUST have for gaining eternal life.

As always, I love you
Martin

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