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Archive for July, 2012

Some people will pay thousands of dollars for a single bottle of aged wine.

And then, they won’t even drink it.

Why? Because drinking it would ruin its value.

Go figure….

It’s not just wine speculators who attach what we would consider WAY too much value to wine.

There are countless millions around world who value various forms of alcoholic beverages more than seems responsible.

We all know people who have placed their taste for alcohol ahead of their financial and role model responsibilities to their families and employers.

It’s not a pretty picture.

My purpose this morning is not to lash out against those whose beverage lists include various and moderate amounts of alcohol. I don’t share that beverage pattern but I also recognize that my perspective cannot be lifted up as a “Thus saith the Lord” edict.

Scripture does allow for moderate, non-inebriated consumption of wine. But getting “loopy?” I don’t see that anywhere in scripture as cool with God.

What scripture does say is that any consumption of wine (i.e., alcohol) that causes people to question our commitment to faith is to be avoided.

Why?

Because souls are more important than taste buds, more important than stomachs and certainly more important than buzzed giggles.

No form of alcohol tastes so good that it’s worth putting a bitter taste in God’s mouth.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Romans 14:19-21).

It wouldn’t be good to be in the check-out lane with booze in your cart and then you see somebody who has been thinking about talking to you about God. If that person is surprised to see the alcoholic beverage, sees you as less of a Christian and decides to forgo asking questions, then that has not been a good thing.

OK, so you knew you weren’t going to get loopy with the wine or beer, but at that point, it didn’t matter what you thought.

What mattered was that your taste for the booze got in the way of evangelism.

I know this is a tough topic to discuss. That’s why I’m encouraging you to ask for God’s leading on your personal beverage policies.

It’s between you and Him, anyway, in the final analysis.

You and I just have to make sure that our beverage policy IN NO WAY creates an opportunity for hindering others’ spiritual growth.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Think of a couple of jobs you used to have.

Now ask yourself if the people with whom you worked would collectively describe you as an obviously godly person.

What about your neighbors? Do they view you as a God-serving Christian, even if they have not accepted your invitation to visit your church?

You have asked them, haven’t you?

And then there are the relatives. On your worst days, have they seen you press in tightly to the duty of demonstrating Christlike kindness and humility and verbal compassion?

Yes, it’s vital to be in worship each week and in the Word each day and in prayer throughout the day. But if our daily or weekly legacy in the eyes of others doesn’t demonstrate faith in God, then we are sadly failing the Lord, those whom we love, our congregations, those acquaintences who observe our lives AND we’re failing ourselves.

We were created by God and re-created in salvation — again by God — for the purpose of bearing spiritual fruit.

Here’s a simple reminder of this fact that doubles as a one-verse instruction manual for godly living. It’s the last verse of Psalm 23:

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (verse 6)

When you and I commit ourselves to a life of serving others’ interests ahead of our own, God will pour His goodness and His love through us into the lives of others. That’s what people will appreciate about us and that’s what they will remember about us.

That goodness and love will be in our shadow of faith because wherever we go, there will be a trail of godly influence behind us.

By the way, to have a shadow behind us, we must keep the Light in front of us.

So there you have it… Christ before us and Christian compassion, morality and influence behind us.

What a blessed place to be until we’re called to the land without shadows known as heaven.

As always, I love you
Martin

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King Jehoshaphat was generally a good leader for Israel’s Southern Kingdom during the days before the Babylonian exile.

In fact, one of the most intriguing, inspiring and instructional accounts in the Old Testament is recorded in 2 Chronicles 20 and involves Jehoshaphat’s obedience to God regarding worship as warfare.

A coalition of Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites decided that the Southern Kingdom should be destroyed and the land split among the attackers.

These were nasty, pagan people that the Lord had prevented Israel from destroying while enroute to the Promised Land. Centuries later, the ungodly coalition was is no mood to abstain from war out of appreciate for past mercies.

So the massive army of “-ites” moved toward Jerusalem.

Jehoshaphat learned of the pending attack, of course, and immediately took up a special offering to hire a thug-filled, mercenary army to protect him and his people, right?

Wrong.

Jehoshaphat instead called the people together for a time of fasting and prayer.

And as a contingent of the people stood in the Jerusalem temple courtyard, these are the words he said:

King Jehoshaphat was generally a good leader for Israel’s Southern Kingdom during the days before the Babylonian exile.

In fact, one of the most intriguing, inspiring and instructional accounts in the Old Testament is recorded in 2 Chronicles 20 and involves Jehoshaphat’s obedience to God regarding worship as warfare.

A coalition of Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites decided that the Southern Kingdom should be destroyed and the land split among the attackers.

These were nasty, pagan people that the Lord had prevented Israel from destroying while enroute to the Promised Land. Centuries later, the ungodly coalition was is no mood to abstain from war out of appreciate for past mercies.

So the massive army of “-ites” moved toward Jerusalem.

Jehoshaphat learned of the pending attack, of course, and immediately took up a special offering to hire a thug-filled, mercenary army to protect him and his people, right?

Wrong.

Jehoshaphat instead called the people together for a time of fasting and prayer.

And as a contingent of the people stood in the Jerusalem temple courtyard, these are the words he said:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us….Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. ‘” (vv. 6-9, 12)

What followed this time of prayer and fasting is similar to the experience of Gideon and his 300 men who worship their way to victory as the enemy soldiers turned on each other and the pagan army was destroyed from within.

Jehoshaphat and the people started singing over and over the words, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

Can you imagine the effect upon your faith if at one moment, you feared you were going to be slaughtered by an evil army but then, the next day, the army is dead and left behind are all of its possessions for the blessing of you and all of those with you?

Never underestimate the power of worship, my friend.

I’m not suggesting that a repeated shouting of “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever” in a bankruptcy attorney’s office is going to immediately restore your finances or that chanting these words will instantly still the voices of gossipers at work who have it out for you.

What I am suggesting, however, is that your worship and mine tells God where our hearts are and, more importantly, where His place is within our hearts.

And when God sees our desire for His help — even to the point of praying and fasting and completely relying upon His intervention to address our problems — He promises to get involved in ways that can only be attributed to Him.

Want more intercession power of God flowing into your life? Then do what Jehoshaphat did — pray more, fast more and definitely worship more, particularly when your human nature is telling you to fight the battle yourself.

As always, I love you
Martin

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So Abraham was about 120 years old when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac.

And Moses was 120 years old when he obeyed the Lord and didn’t make one last rush into the Promised Land that he so desperately had wanted to enter.

And Daniel was past 70 when he was forced to choose between faith and avoiding an evening with the lions.

So this pervasive “I’ve already put in my time volunteering” idea among Christians is at odds with God’s view of faith, is it not?

It’s ironic and unfortunate that those with the most wisdom and experience in churches — the older folk — too often fall into the trap of thinking that faith can be shifted into a coasting mode.

It’s also quite dangerous to those who embrace this lie.

The fact is that faith and coasting are mutually exclusive.

It’s sort of like a tug-of-war contest. If we’re not pulling, we’re going to be dragged in a direction that will leave us and those we love as losers.

Please learn this morning from the example of King Asa in the Old Testament.

The book of 2 Chronicles tells of how Asa was wonderfully faithful throughout 36 of his 41 years on the throne. During that time, marvelous things happened for the Southern Kingdom of Israel, primarily because Asa led his people on a path of faithfulness.

Listen to the words of a prayer recorded in 2 chronicles 14:11 when the Cushite army was preparing to attack Asa’s army for the purpose of destroying the Southern Kingdom:

Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.’

God graciously responded by supernaturally enabling Asa’s army to wipe out the Cushite army.

Various signs of God’s favor followed in succeeding years as Asa promoted faithfulness to God throughout his kingdom. Decades of peaceful existence were enjoyed by the people of the Southern Kingdom.

Sadly, though, Asa chose to forget the words given him in those good days by a prophet named Azariah sent from God. Listen to this simple yet profound message that still rings true today:

The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2)

If only Asa would have embraced that message until the day he died. Sadly, Asa stopped trusting the Lord in the last years of his life.

The pagan Northern Kingdom started efforts that could have led to a later, all-out attack on Asa’s Southern Kingdom. Rather than pray for God’s help as he had done before, Asa instead trusted gold and silver to buy protection by the godless armies of Damascus.

Big mistake. And even bigger sin.

The prophet Hanani came to Asa with the bitter news that his forsaking of trust in God would lead to God’s forsaking of protecting the kingdom from war.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Asa developed a painful disease in his feet. Again, he did not turn to God, but instead to human physicians.

That didn’t help and Asa died an inglorious, painful death.

If only Asa would have remained faithful throughout his life, things would have gone better for him and for his people.

Please, my friend, recognize that there is no such thing as retiring from faithfulness.

Believing but not serving is NOT faithfulness.

Plan now to never retire from trusting God to empower you for spiritual battles throughout your life.

For you can be sure that Satan won’t retire from trying to destroy your soul or the lives of the people you love.

As always, I love you
Martin

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A teen girl, loved by her parents, graduates from high school and goes off to college. Three months into the college life, while reading the professor’s notes on a flunked test as she walked down dorm stairs, she tripped, fell and broke her leg.

Did her parents stop loving her because of the fall? No.

Did she fall because her parents had stopped loving her? No.

Did her parents’ love become more clear than ever AFTER the fall? Absolutely.

For it’s very likely that the parents poured themselves and their money into helping their daughter as quickly and fully as they could.

Could the parents’ love have prevented the fall? Not directly because they weren’t physically there to catch her.

But if she had recalled their teaching to always watch her steps when on stairs, she wouldn’t be in the mess that she was.

You see, the parents’ love never changed before or after the fall. It was just shown in priceless, nurturing ways once the fall had occurred.

Yes, the parents wished the teen would never have fallen and they had taught her over and over about how to avoid it.

But people — ourselves included — are flawed and forgetful and we eventually pay the price for it.

Thankfully, there are those willing to pay a price themselves in order to help us.

Why? Because they love us. And always will.

Why this illustration today? In Romans 8:35-37 we read the following:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Satan wants us to think that God has stopped loving us if we find ourselves in one of the difficult situations listed above. But that is a lie, just like it’s a lie to think the teen fell down the stairs because her parents stopped loving her.

Oh, if they loved her, they would have kept her from falling,” is one of the lies. She is an adult free to make her own choices and that includes the choice to neglect a safety principle her parents had repeatedly taught her.

Faith doesn’t do its heavy lifting when things are going well, but instead when things aren’t going well.

When did the teen in the story above most clearly see and appreciate her parents’ love? After she had fallen, of course, and needed their help.

When do we most clearly see and appreciate our Father’s love? After we’ve fallen and need His help.

Listen, God’s love for us never changes even though our circumstances can change in a moment.

Before a fall, after a fall — whether caused by us or another — God loves us and helps us to find a path to victory in this life and in eternity.

And that’s the greatest kind of love.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I was blessed this morning while doing my Bible reading.

The blessing was found in 2 Chronicles 9:12 and involved an insight that I had not discerned before, though I’ve read this chapter many times.

The first part of the chapter talks about the queen of Sheba’s desire to investigate the reports of Solomon’s wisdom and about the large entourage she brought with her from her north African country. The account then talks about how Solomon answered question after question, far surpassing the queen’s presumptions about Solomon’s God-given wisdom.

Then the verse below records what followed. It’s an amazing fact that points to a reality of what we can experience in Christ:

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him” (2 Chron 9:12)

This verse portrays the abundance of insight that poured through Solomon into the lives of those around him. But I believe that the queen left with more than a bunch of good stories and insights for living.

I believe that she also left with an abundance of material blessings. The amount is not something upon which I can speculate, but the latter part of verse 12 suggests that it was mind-blowingly valuable.

Why do I say this? Consider what verse 9 says:

Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. There had never been such spices as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.”

So this lady brings 9,000 pounds of gold and numerous jewels and history’s largest collection of food spices. She gives them to Solomon in appreciation for hearing him talk for a few days and then he gives her more wealth than she gave to him?

That sure sounds to me like a blessing.

We go to one wiser and stronger and better connected to God. We bring costly gifts and we listen. And then, when it’s all said and done, we go on our way having received more than we have given.

That’s what happened to the queen of Sheba and that’s what happens to us whenever we go to our King, hungering and thirsting for His wisdom and humbly offering very generous gifts as signs of our appreciation and anticipation.

God promises in the Bible that we can’t outgive God. Sooner or later, faithful givers ALWAYS end up with more blessing than they gave in offering.

Listen, the queen didn’t take the gifts to Solomon because he was behind on his bills and needed the money. Instead, she was showing honor and appreciation in advance.

She finished way ahead of the game in this visit and she knew it.

Whenever we come to worship in search of godly wisdom and we come prepared with generous gifts to show honor and appreciation in advance, we will have the same outcome that the queen did. It might happen the same day or it might happen days later, but it will happen.

That’s part of why we worship. That’s why we listen. That’s why we give.

Coming to the Lord prepared to learn and prepared to give will always lead to more blessing for us than for the King who pours out the blessing.

And that’s just one of the reasons His grace is so amazing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s an interesting verse in Romans 6 that I’ve read right past over the years.

I’m grateful, however, that I finally gave it more attention this morning.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (verse 17).

Compared to some of the hugely compelling verses in Romans 6, verse 17 isn’t really — in a karaoke sense — a microphone-grabber.

What captured my attention today, though, was the sequence of faithfulness that Paul described.

It’s one that I plan on encouraging in others and in myself.

We’re told that obedience begins and is determined in the heart.

That’s where that non-physical yet very real “spirit” that God gave to each of us is abiding.

When our hearts digest the teaching that passes through the intellectual and biblical filters in our mind, we develop an appetite for the pattern of teaching that feeds our spirit and nourishes our faith.

Please pray that God lead your heart into hungering and thirsting after righteousness at the right dinner table of teaching. Make sure that what you hear at church and on the radio or what you read online or in magazines ALL align with the truths of scripture.

Many churches today don’t teach what Paul taught in Romans 6 regarding how and when and why salvation happens.

Please make sure that you thoroughly study this chapter to make sure that your allegience is given to a pattern of teaching that not only prompts the obedience of your heart but also pleases the heart of God who inspired Paul to write this chapter.

No believer should ever allow allegiance to a pastor or to a congregation or to a denomination to become more important than allegiance to teaching that flows from the heart of God. Particularly when it comes to how and when salvation occurs.

As Paul told Timothy, I want to encourage you to study the scriptures to show God that you correctly handle the Word of truth and you won’t have to be ashamed when His Spirit convicts you of following an incomplete or outright false pattern of teaching.

As always, I love you
Martin

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