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Archive for December, 2012

God has been so good to us during the past year, even if our jobs, our associates and our bodies have stressed us more than they’ve blessed us.

We know we’ve been treated better than we deserve. If God hadn’t been merciful, we’d have been destroyed long ago because that’s what our sins deserve.

The fact is that we’ve been shown favor in the form of people who have cared about us, bodies that have not encountered fatal illnesses and we’ve had some form of income or provision so that we could have food, housing, clothing and even a few wants.

God IS worthy to be praised!

All the hope you and I have rests in Him.

That’s why I was so moved by the words of Psalm 150:3-6 as I read them on this last day of 2012:

Praise Him with a blast of the ram’s horn;

praise Him with the lyre and harp!

Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing;

praise Him with strings and flutes!

Praise Him with a clash of cymbals;

praise Him with loud clanging cymbals.

Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

I doubt that you will be a one-man band next Sunday at church, playing a lyre, harp, tambourine, flute and cymbals, all while dancing before the Lord.

You do have breath, though, and so you should sing praises to the Lord. As should I.

Perhaps you can’t play an instrument. But you can sing in a way that pleases God, even if your voice never makes it to the platform.

Sing loud, my friend. Why? Because God’s love for you is loud enough for all to notice.

As always, I love you
Martin

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In this season of giving, what has your Father in heaven received from you?

Did smile-producing gifts come to Him from your heart this week just as smile-producing gifts came to you from your loved ones and friends?

These are questions that I must answer as well since you and I share the status of being among the “created” rather than being the Creator.

Yes, it’s true that our financial gifts to the work of ministry should be generous, including at least a tithe of our earnings.

And, yes, it’s true that our investment of time into volunteer service for the church and community should reflect the choice to genuinely sacrifice several hours of time weekly or monthly that our selfish side would rather devote to ourselves.

But doing for God is not all that He wants.

He’s hungry for our being His as well.

In fact, the Bible paints a beautiful word picture revealing that God’s deepest desire is for the trust of our hearts and hopes toward Him.

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:10-11)

Grandparents adore their little grandchildren not because of how fast the kids can run or how much they can carry or because of how much of their allowance they spend on Grandpa or Grandma.

Instead, grandparents adore the little boogers because of how they enjoy sitting in Grandma’s lap or because of how they cling to Grandpa’s hand as they walk through the park or because of how they giggle when winning a board game the grandparents taught them to play.

Because of those heart-strong relationships, the kids have no fear of darkness or storms or barking dogs as long as Grandpa or Grandma is there.

You see, Grandpa and Grandma have always helped, always loved, always protected, always provided, always encouraged.

That’s why the little kids learn to put their hope in Grandpa’s and Grandma’s unfailing love.

And that’s why little kids who grow in that environment have a head start in forming the same type of trusting relationship with their Father in heaven.

I encourage you to recall the times when you’ve been blessed by the unfailing love of people in your life. Perhaps that will prepare/prompt you to put more hope in the unfailing love of One who has never failed.

And you just might be more willing to take the hand of a little kid who needs to experience a human example of unfailing love.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Merry Christmas to you all. I pray that more than anything else over the coming days, you’ll appreciate the good people that God has placed in your life.

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Dec. 24, 2012

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In Proverbs 30:25, Solomon pointed to one of the world’s most productive creatures and explained the reason for its success.

“Ants — they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer.”

It’s humbling to realize that the tiny ant has a better understanding of life success than many humans, sometimes even ourselves.

We coast. We presume. We mooch. We claim we’re victims of others’ failures. We complain that we don’t have what others have.

And all the time, the little ant keeps working to provide for himself now and in the future.

The lesson? Success is less about being strong and swift and more about being persistent and focused.

This is true in the workplace. This is true in having good relationships. This is true with our health, both physical and financial.

And this is true with our faith.

Hitting a few home runs isn’t going to lead to a winning season for a baseball team, but all the players hitting a lot of singles will.

Rod Carew is in professional baseball’s Hall of Fame not because he smacked monster home runs but instead because he hit a whole lot of singles during his long baseball career.

You see, his legacy is enjoying a perpetual summer now because — despite his lack of home run strength — he kept storing up singles summer after summer after summer.

Start storing up food, or funds, or fitness, or friendships and certainly your deeds of faith while it is “summer,” my friend.

It doesn’t matter how strong you are, but instead how focused on the fact that the time is coming when you’ll be glad for all that you stored up.

As always, I love you
Martin

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A lot of college football teams are preparing for bowl games with hopes of victory.

Hours of practice, hours of watching videotape of opponents’ previous games and hours of team meetings are invested in order to improve the chances of lifting the winner’s trophy.

But no matter how hard both teams prepare for the game, 50 percent of those practicing, studying and meeting WILL lose out and be filled with disappointment.

It’s the unfortunate reality of competitive sports.

There are always winners and losers.

When it comes to salvation, though, winning or losing is totally up to us, not the competitor.

No matter how hard our Enemy practices or studies our weaknesses or meets with his mischievious minions to scheme our eternal downfall, he has no authority over what we do.

If we want to be saved and if we choose to follow God’s path to heaven, we WILL spend forever with the Father.

Take that, Satan!

In today’s devotional reading from the One-Year Bible, the Apostle John gives us these words in chapter 12:

“They triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (verse 11)

Listen, Jesus did on the cross all the work needed to build a bridge from the road of eternal death over to the road of eternal life.

We just need to make the choices to take that road and to stay on that road, testifying to His glory and grace, no matter how bumpy it gets sometimes.

If we keep following Jesus no matter what Satan says or does, we have a guaranteed victory with a glorious trophy of eternal life waiting for us after the game.

I can’t wait to enjoy that celebration. And I hope that you’ll be there with me.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s a beautiful thing when you’re about to say something and then the person with you speaks the very words that you were about to say.

Not beautiful in the sense that they stole your line, but instead because they know you so well.

This is a rare privilege and capacity that few people in our lives possess.

To be known so well that our thoughts are their thoughts…. hmmmm….

Couples share this sometimes.

Best friends, too.

It’s really great when couples are also best friends.

This blessing of mental intimacy can erode into a great burden, though, if thoughts turn pessimistic or even hurtful.

It’s better by far to focus on thoughts that build up, not tear down. Thoughts that look for solutions rather than obsess about problems.

Even greater than the intimacy that we share with those who sometimes know our thoughts is the intimacy that we can share with the God who knows all of our thoughts all the time.

“Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139:4)

To be thinking of how much we love Him and then know that He knows we’re praising Him mentally, now that is an awesome blessing.

It reminds us, of course, that He also knows when we’re doubting Him or inwardly complaining about Him.

And, sadly, He knows when our thoughts are pridefully ignoring Him as we slither toward sin of one form or another.

Let’s strive to recall that God sees every thought and hears every word before it is spoken.

We’ll be far more likely to think of things that will please Him rather than disappoint Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We’ve all experienced times when our spiritual mood was being determined by our material inventory.

I’m talking about those times when we slip into a measure of discouragement, perhaps even despair, after a highly valued possession is stolen away by theft or by accident or malice of another.

I’m talking about those times when a business fails or a costly investment fails or a “gotta have it” bank account is nearly empty.

Is it easy to be spiritually upbeat at such times? Not if we’re looking at what we’ve lost.

It would be crazy for me to piously lecture you about keeping proper priorities in life while at the same time hiding the fact that I’ve struggled with disappointment during times of disappearing wealth.

I’ve not reached the point of despair, thankfully, during times when bank balances kept dropping lower and lower. I don’t take credit for being Mr. Spiritual Tough Guy, though.

Instead, I give credit to the sustaining grace and encouragement flowing from God.

I thank God for helping me to remember that all the wealth in the world is worthless compared to the promise of living in heaven forever.

In the midst of a prophetic book of judgment upon rebellious Old Testament Israelites, God placed a lovely, encouraging passage that spoke to my heart this morning and I pray that it speaks to yours.

We believers really do have something more valuable than all the material riches of the world — the promise of eternal life in heaven.

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” (Habukkuk 3:17-19)

Please join me in rejecting the “Woe is me” thinking the next time you see that your financial status is less than it was, or will soon be. And please encourage other believers to embrace this same promise so that they’ll realize that the God who loves them has the most amazing eternal retirement program in the universe.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I wrote the Morning Devotion today before having to head to physical therapy, but then it was eaten in electronic transit through cyberspace.

I’m not sure what happened.

This is frustrating since the writing was about the incredible grace of God described in Jonah 4.

Hope you’ll read the chapter at this link and get most of the lesson anyway.

Gotta run!

As always, I love you
Martin

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