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Archive for October, 2012

Some of the most difficult moments in life are when we can’t see the purpose in our pain.

Labor pains can be incredibly stressful, but most women gladly look beyond the momentary misery and see that life of blessing that will result.

Physical therapy after major joint surgery is characterized by many times of discomfort and random frustration. Yet, the process almost always leads to improved mobility and a more satisfying life.

What stinks is spending a lot of time and/or money and emotional capital on something that fails or is destroyed. That’s when it can be hard to find the redeeming purpose of why a marriage fails or a diligently practiced career fails or why a recommended nutritional regimen doesn’t prevent heart problems or cancer.

At such times, it is important to remember that our lives are not islands. We are part of a community and we can find purpose in our pain if we use the experience to help others avoid loss or overcome the failures.

The fact is that our pain can ultimately lead to others’ gain.

Our pain can become a training ground for ministry.

This truth has helped me to find purpose in some very painful events in my life as I’ve shared with others the lessons that I’ve learned.

You perhaps have done the same. It’s what we are supposed to do.

It is what Jesus did.

True to the process, the challenges and pain that Jesus experienced have found purpose in helping us to learn about overcoming challenges and pain.

Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18)

On countless occasions, I have recalled tough times faced by Jesus and have been inspired to endure and move past the trials. And because of God’s grace in holding me up and leading me to a better place, I’ve been able to help others to connect with God so that they might do the same.

Whatever hard time you’re facing now, thank God for your enrollment in Pain U. And remember that no mentor can teach and coach about something he or she has never experienced.

Find purpose in your pain, my friend. There are people all around you who need your help in doing the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s not something we typically think about, yet it is as real as the ground upon which you walk.

I’m talking about the fact that we have guardian angels.

The Bible doesn’t devote much space to these intercessors but when references are made, they’re very clear.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible includes such a reference.

“….angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14)

The larger context of this verse involves the declaration that Jesus Christ, existing before creation, is greater than any angel.

Although Jehovah’s Witnesses define Jesus as a created, super-angel, Hebrews 1 is explicit in saying Jesus was no angel, but instead fully God.

The verse above gives me comfort and I pray that it does the same for you. I’m glad to know that God has assigned an angel or perhaps multiple angels to watch out for me and intercede in various ways when I encounter more than I can handle on my own.

How that happens specifically can’t be defined in a quantitative manner but there is no doubt that some of the provision and wisdom and encouragement that comes my way has been preceded by messages from an angel or angels back to Mission Control in heaven.

You’ve had such moments when there was no logical, merit-based reason that an intercessory blessing came into your life.

But it did.

That was no accident.

I want to believe that an angel had first talked with God.

Let’s thank God more for His grace toward us in forgiveness and provision and instruction.

And let’s remember to thank God for sending angels to watch over us.

I’m looking forward to the eternal day that I meet the angel or angels assigned to me. I’m sure that we’ll have plenty to talk about. I pray that you’ll have the same heart of anticipation.

As always, I love you
Martin

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The list below is an excellent, 10-point plan for any person who desires to lead a godly life.

The life principles are simple to understand and have obvious benefits to those who practice them.

Practicing these will definitely protect against all sorts of problems.
Conversely, doing the opposite can lead to incredible amounts of heartache and suffering.

Ironically, the author who was so careful to practice them for so long — King David — was also one who later threw these principles under the chariot wheels in a terribly bad season of his life. It aches my heart even now to think of the tragedy that scarred so many…..

As you read this list, recall from David’s life what can happen when we don’t follow David’s divinely inspired teaching from Psalm 101:

  • I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.
  • I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.
  • I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them.
  • I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.
  • I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
  • I will not endure conceit and pride.
  • I will search for faithful people to be my companions.
  • Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.
  • I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence.
  • My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the Lord from their grip.

Please, be a person of integrity in every setting. Including those times at the computer when nobody is around… except the Lord.

Search for faithful people to be your companions. Why? Because of what Paul wrote in I Cor. 15:33 — “Make no mistake. Bad company corrupts good character.”

Our cities are increasingly under the grip of the wicked, perhaps not in violence but still in promoting greed and condoning immorality.

Let’s ferret it out, even when we go to the voting booth to select candidates who are above reproach.

Being faithful doesn’t require being a genius, as the above list proves. It does, however, take integrity.

Let’s do what God said through David’s pre-Bathsheba writing. Our world will become a better place as each of us do so.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It would be hard to imagine a professing Christian saying he or she did not hate evil.

But many don’t actually.

At least in some forms.

Yes, certain double-minded believers will say killing a child is evil — as long as the child is outside the womb.

Some believers define and describe adultery as evil but then silence their politically correct lips when the conversation turns to the topic of homosexuality.

And then there are those believers who say the Church should help the poor but then they make no protest to leadership when chunks of church budget money are spent in ways that clearly serve members’ comfort-zone wants rather than Kingdom needs.

Psalm 97:10 says, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.”

God hates abortion. So should we.

God hates homosexuality and adultery. So should we.

God hates selfishness masquerading as ministry. So should we.

Let’s commit ourselves to rejecting what God rejects when it comes to our thoughts, our words and even how we vote.

It’s not good when our Bible tells us to hate evil and then we give emotional or financial or political loyalty to those who don’t.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I won a lot of ribbons and trophies during my years of competitive running from ages 10-18.

I would have none of those good memories now, however, if I hadn’t crossed the finish line of each race, whether it was a 100-yard dash or a 13.1-mile half-marathon.

Failure to cross the finish line meant no reward.

And so it is with faith.

We can’t expect to live in heaven if we’re not serving the Lord when we die.

Sadly, it’s possible to live 99 percent of our lives for the Lord and then throw it all away because of a choice to reject God’s authority and Christ’s place in our hearts.

Salvation is all about relationship, not resume.

The Apostle Paul said as much in a couple of passages that should be taken together:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Notice that the first passage said salvation comes to those who ARE in Christ, not were. That means I need to be in a present-tense relationship with Christ that allows the Holy Spirit to live within me, setting me free from the law of sin and death.

If I don’t want Christ telling me what to do, however, and if I don’t want the Holy Spirit’s voice convicting me of sin, I might reject their authority over my life.

That’s when I stop running the race of faith and, absent of repentance and rededication, I forfeit the opportunity of crossing faith’s finish line.

Some teach that a Christian can’t quit the race even if he or she wants to.

That thinking requires the loss of free will, however, something contrary to the teaching of scripture.

Paul certainly believes in personal choice and personal accountability. If Paul didn’t have to choose the path of persistent faith — if his soul were saved regardless of his behavior choice to “keep running” — then the second passage above makes no sense.

Dear friend, please long for Christ’s appearing. And while you do so, keep running the race that sometimes seems SO long.

There’s something much better than a ribbon or trophy waiting for you when you cross the finish line.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes, we can better understand God’s will for our lives by reading of what He doesn’t want in our lives.

What I call a “reverse checklist for living” is found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. What the Apostle Paul has listed in this passage is the opposite of what God wants from us.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

Yes, we should avoid consistent association with these people because of the I Corinthians 15:33 principle that bad company corrupts good character.

However, periodic role-modeling and testimonies to such people are appropriate, I believe, since some who practice the above might not have had consistent exposure to more redeeming ways of living.

We just have to pray for wisdom and opportunity to demonstrate the nature of Christ in ways that extend godliness without the permeation into ourselves of ungodliness.

So, based on the above, here is our checklist for self-assessment:

  • Do I ever put others ahead of myself?
  • Do I ever love money more than people?
  • Am I consistently humble in attitude and in my words?
  • Do I seek to protect others in my thoughts and conversation?
  • Do I honor my parents?
  • Do I see the good things coming my way as blessings for which to be thankful?
  • Do I increasingly seek to display a holy lifestyle?
  • Am I overflowing in love for the people in my life?
  • Do I forgive quickly?
  • Do I look for ways to speak well of others rather than badly?
  • Does my faith reign over my fleshly desires?
  • Do I ever slip into bullying others?
  • Am I filled with joy when good things happen to others?
  • Do I reject temptations to coerce or trick people in order to get something I want?
  • Do I always measure ideas and plans against God’s Word?
  • Do I ever feel that I’m more valuable than others?
  • Does my desire for physical or egotistical pleasure ever have authority over my faith?
  • Am I portraying faith with words but not embracing it in my heart?

It’s amazing how much opportunity for self-assessment that Paul packed into one passage. Let’s do the work of checking ourselves and changing what isn’t right.

God will be honored more, others will be helped more and we’ll be faithful more than we have.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Most every longtime Christian has heard this line when trying to recruit volunteers for layperson ministry:

“I’ve put in my time serving the church. I’m retired now and it’s time to relax and let the younger people do the work around here.”

Hmmmm……

Have you made such comments or at least been tempted to do so?

What does God think about such comments?

I know that it would be wrong for me to say such things and I pray that I’ll avoid the same trap when I enter my golden years.

I’m actually looking forward to a very active ministry life until I die, even after I’m no longer in a staff ministry.

There’s so much to do and if I can minister for the Lord, then that’s what I should do without reservation.

Actually, my sense of relaxation should come then from the joy within of serving God, not from recliner-comforted muscles.

Even if the day comes that I’m bed-ridden, I can still communicate with others about God via phone, computer or if someone visits me.

The writer of Psalms 92 clearly defined God’s will for how Christian service activity should abide during the latter years of life. About the righteous, the psalmist wrote:

They will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14)

Old fruit trees in a grove aren’t kept from destruction out of respect for their age, but instead because they’re fruitful.

Let’s each pledge to remain fresh, green and fruitful until we take our last breaths on earth. Why? Because it is God who gives us the breath in order to use it for His praises, His purposes and His people.

Even when the joints don’t move and the eyes barely see, we can move the heart of God and others with our lips and with our “fresh and green” thoughts and words.

Please speak a word of thanks today to an elderly believer who remains passionate about praising and serving God. You’ll be honoring not only a godly servant but also the Lord who compels and empowers that believer.

As always, I love you
Martin

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