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Archive for July, 2012

Nobody likes receiving the punishment he or she deserves.

It’s so much better when our careless outburst at work or reckless, ticketed behavior behind the wheel is met with mercy, not retribution.

We’ve all done things deserving of costly consequences. And sometimes, we’ve paid that price.

But we’ve also done things that should have prompted the sting of punishment but did not.

It wasn’t because the offended one was weak, but instead because the offended one was strong.

For, you see, mercy comes from the one who has the physical strength and the social right to punish us but whose emotional/spiritual strength allows him/her to choose grace.

I pray that you’ve shown grace to somebody recently, even though there was a voice within calling for “payback.”

If you were merciful, you demonstrated in faint form the nature of God.

One of the most compelling and correcting verses in the Bible is found in Romans 5:8. In concise manner, the verse defines the essence of mercy:

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Listen, every human has been shown mercy by the fact that Jesus died for him or her as the most costly love letter in history.

I pray that you will make sure that investment of merciful love by God is applied to your eternal account by means of decision to accept Christ as personal Savior.

If you’ve already done so, I pray that you’ll help somebody else to appreciate and embrace this promise of love that will put them on the highway to heaven.

Even though — like ourselves — he or she doesn’t deserve it.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Please make a dedicated effort today to help a poor person in some way.

It’s what God wants us to do:

Those who are kind to the poor lend to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17)

Perhaps you’ll stop by the grocery store and buy a day’s worth of pop-top canned food and beverage to keep bagged in the floorboard of your car so that you might hand it to a homeless person at a street corner, along with an evangelistic tract and printed invitation to your church.

Perhaps you’ll buy a box of food or diapers to donate to the local benevolence pantry.

Perhaps you’ll pay the school field trip fee for one of your kid’s classmates whose parent just lost his or her job.

There are all sorts of ways that you can be God’s vessel of blessing to someone in need.

Whatever we do for another will never equate to what God has done for us in Christ.

Jesus was kind to us beyond anything we might imagine because He took the punishment for our sin that was intense beyond anything we can imagine.

Jesus received His glorious reward in heaven.

Be generous to the poor, my Christian friend, and you can be sure that your glorious reward will be awaiting you in heaven.

As always, I love you
Martin

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In Romans 4:11-12, the Apostle Paul writes that God is the Father of all faithful believers, whether they are among the “circumcised” (Jews) or among the “uncircumcised” (Gentiles).

Paul was emphasizing that one’s biological or cultural DNA don’t determine acceptance by God but instead one’s choice to live as a redeemed, faith-showing child of God.

“He is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. He is also the Father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

This is clear to me from the above text — God is our Father if we walk in the footsteps of faith demonstrated by Abraham.

That being the case, how do we walk in Abraham’s footsteps?

That’s a huge topic of study, but I want to give a very simple perspective this morning.

When Abraham was told to trade a comfortable setting for a life of periodic moving and showing faith to others, he did so.

When Abraham messed up by lying about his marriage because he was driven by fear and was later convicted to seek spiritual restoration with God, he did so.

When Abraham heard the voice “Put others first” when deciding if Lot could choose the best land for himself, Abraham did so.

When Abraham’s relatives were taken hostage by pagan raiding parties and God called him to launch a dangerous rescue effort, Abraham did so.

When Abraham was called to solve a family crisis by showing a “Hit the road” tough love toward a rebellious son who despised Abraham’s true firstborn Isaac, Abraham did so.

And when Abraham was called to show a willingness to sacrifice that which he loved the most — his son Isaac — Abraham did so.

Want to walk in Abraham’s footsteps? Want to make sure that God sees you as His child?

Obey God’s call to go in His name when your comfort zone is crying out, “I like it here.”

Repent when fear has led you astray and return to the place/situation God wants you.

Always put others first.

Defend those you love, even at the risk of financial, social or physical harm to yourself.

Don’t enable destructive behavior of others by ignoring the random need for “tough love.”

Never doubt that God’s call to sacrifice something dear to you will lead to a greater confirmation of faith.

Listen, walking in Abraham’s footsteps is sometimes not easy.

But it will be eternal.

And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Okay, so we know that we can’t command emotions such as telling a child to immediately stop being sad because they’ve just broken their brand-new toy.

No amount of commands from another is going to make the child happy at that moment.

And so it is if something far more serious occurs such as losing a job or losing a house or losing a family member to illness.

No amount of words from another can force us at that moment to be happy or even reasonably content.

Such feelings have to grow from within.

If this is the case, then why are believers seemingly commanded in scripture to display certain emotions such as in I Chronicles 22:13 when King David commanded his son Solomon to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

I understand how one may be commanded to be strong. We CAN exercise our bodies and minds to be tougher and more resilient.

But our emotions such as not being afraid or discouraged?

How can those abstract feelings be commanded as if a physical action of moving our mood flag from the sad side over to the happy side?

Here’s how I answer that question — King David had reminded his son Solomon that discretion and understanding was a gift from the Lord, that obedience to scripture was a gift TO the Lord and that success was assured for those who carefully observe the scriptures.

So when David said what he did to Solomon, it seems that he was directing/commanding his son to bear the fruit of submissive, learning faith.

It’s like a jobsite manager being ordered to be influential over his low-productivity subordinates. He can’t stand in the middle of the employee meeting and declare, “Okay, everybody, now I’m influential so work harder.”

Instead, he has to recognize that his job is a gift from the employer rather than an inalienable right.

He also has to communicate to subordinates that their job is a gift, not an entitlement.

He has to communicate that their collective workplace efforts are to be gifts to the employer who doesn’t have to keep them on the payroll.

And the manager has to communicate that success comes to those who comply with the employer’s expectations.

Because he is obedient in communicating these truths, his influence grows and hopefully his subordinates’ productivity.

So, we see, influence can be commanded because the manager has been given a clear roadmap for obtaining it. If he follows that map, he succeeds. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t.

That’s why I believe David could legitimately command Solomon to be courageous rather than afraid.

David had given his son a clear roadmap to courage and it was up to Solomon to follow it.

If Solomon obeyed, he’d be courageous.

Here’s a passage that we’re commanded to obey that compels us to reject fear:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

These words from Paul weren’t suggestions. These were commands from the Holy Spirit given through Paul.

And look at the benefits of thinking the way that God commanded!

Wow…I welcome now more than ever the command found in Psalm 116:7.

“Be at rest once more, O my soul.”

I pray, too, that you will find rest in Him as you follow the roadmap to peace.

As always, I love you
Martin

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God gave me an incredibly encouraging and useful insight this morning while talking with somebody about faith and fear.

It was concise and potent.

It spoke precisely to the core of how we anguish or of how we stand strong.

Here’s what I heard in my inner man and immediately shared with the person with whom I was talking.

“The Enemy wants us to dwell on the “What if.” But God wants us to dwell on the “What IS.”

As soon as I spoke these words, I realized just how true the statement is.

Satan wants us to be gripped and crippled by fear of what might happen to us if things don’t go the way we want…. In all sorts of ways.

You know that this IS how he works. When you’ve been gripped by fear at times in your life – and we all have – we struggled and suffered primarily because of fear and not because of fact.

Yet, when we’ve responded to Satan’s “what ifs” with our declaration of the “what IS” facts of God’s blessings in our lives AND, most importantly, the fulfilled promises of scripture¸ we have stood strong and victorious.

That’s what I want to encourage you today to consider doing.

In every court of law, fact always reigns over supposition.

The judge and jury are to make decisions based on what is, not on what if.

Our promise of eternal life in heaven is based on the fact that the resurrection IS real, not might be real.

Our access to eternal life in heaven is based on a personal conversion that IS, not on one we might make someday.

Listen, there is no IF when it comes to God’s love, to God’s authority or to His power to save our souls and provide for our lives.

These are absolute “IS” facts.

On Christ the solid rock we stand, my friend. All other ground, including the “what if” whisperings of Satan, is sinking sand.

Be strong, my friend.

Stand on what is.

And on what IS to come.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We all like silver linings.

I’m talking about that figure of speech that describes a positive outcome or perspective when we find ourselves inside a dark cloud of turmoil or despair.

A man falls off a ladder at home, breaks a leg and has to deal with lingering pain, physical therapy, medical bills and perhaps lost income. Sounds like a dark cloud but then doctors tell him that the blood tests and bone scans found early stage cancer that has a 95 percent chance of being removed because it was found so early.

Without his mishap, the cancer wouldn’t have been discovered until it was far more advanced and far more difficult to remove.

This sort of thing happens all the time.

This is a major-league silver lining.

I’m sure that you’ve found a number of silver linings during your life. I’m also sure that you, like me, have failed to discern a silver lining or two because of being overly focused on what we had lost rather than what we had preserved or learned or even were in a position to gain.

Perhaps you’re in a dark cloud now at home or at work or with your extended family or even in your spiritual life. Please remember that God allows trials to come upon believers so that they’ll rely more upon prayer and scripture as ever-present spirit boosters.

God also wants to see “overcomer” lessons learned that will help during the next dark cloud and make the believer more sensitive to helping others stumbling around in dark clouds.

There’s another BIG reason God allows the dark clouds — it gives our faith a chance to shine.

The Apostle Paul is the poster child for finding silver linings.

Actually, he excelled at turning silver linings into gold linings.

How did he do that?

By not only looking for the positive potential amidst the dark fog, but using it as a springboard for ministry.

You see, persecution magnified the impact of His messages because others knew that most people would have complained about unfair treatment and would have given up.

Not Paul.

He would just press in even more to minister for the Lord.

I love how Paul found a gold lining in the dark, dark cloud of his days of Roman bondage.

Of course, you know that Paul went through hell on earth during the trip from Palestine to Rome where he would plead his case — actually, the gospel — before Caesar. When he arrived there and was placed into house arrest with an armed guard by him at all times, Paul found that golden lining.

What happened in the midst of that “dark cloud” bondage?

Paul started inviting people to the house where he was locked up and he started preaching and teaching, week after week after week.

And no one tried to stop him.” (Acts 28:31)

Wow. The last verse of Acts describes something that had never happened during all the years that Paul preached as a free man.

He was constantly being told to stop preaching or was being beaten or whipped or whatever just to get him to shut up.

But in the bondage he found the freedom to speak without restraint.

That is a golden lining, my friend. Golden because it promotes the gospel.

Please, sanctify your silver linings into golden linings by using them to promote the gospel.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Acts 27 tells of the terrible ocean storm that threatened the Apostle Paul and 275 other men for many days and nights while they were aboard a ship bound for Italy.

The account makes clear that Paul, a prisoner of faith being taken to appear before Caesar, had warned the Roman soldiers with him that the ship would face a terrible storm and grave danger if the captain attempted a winter voyage.

Paul was ignored because the captain and the ship’s owner knew a big paycheck was waiting for them when they reached Italy.

The centurion in charge trusted the captain more than the preacher.

Big mistake.

Paul was right, of course.

For days, the ship’s crew and the soldiers and a group of prisoners being taken to Rome feared for their lives.

You can read the account by clicking here.

Not surprisingly, Paul never doubted his survival even when the raging storm blocked the sun and the stars for many days and men all around him were gripped by fear of death.

Listen, Paul was no emotional freak of nature who didn’t “feel” fear. And that’s not why Paul remained calm and clear-headed on the S.S. Chaos.

Instead, Paul’s emotional and spiritual stability was based on a promise given him by God that he WOULD declare the Gospel before Caesar, a divine promise recorded in Acts 23:11.

Just to make sure Paul’s confidence in that promise didn’t waver during the intense storm, God sent another angelic message to Paul that he would preach in Rome (Acts 27:23-24).

This was clearly a messed-up situation that could have been avoided if those in authority had listened to Paul. But they didn’t. And Paul suffered along with everybody else, despite it not being his fault.

That’s the challenge we Christians face at times — suffering because of the decisions of others even though we had clearly warned them that their choice would lead to big problems in a family setting or work setting or church setting.

It’s vital that we reject the temptation after the fact to ridicule and blast those who made the bad decisions we warned them not to make.

Paul didn’t resort to finger-pointing and condemnation and we shouldn’t, either. After all, would such choices have replaced the ship and rounded up all the lost cargo and lost sleep?

Before and after the shipwreck, Paul was gracious, focused on how to serve people and how to share Word of God’s protective grace.

Dear friend, be a person who focuses on restoration when problems occur because people didn’t listen to you. The confimation of your wisdom will boost your influence for God a lot more than will heaping condemnation onto those who messed up.

As always, I love you
Martin

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