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Archive for December, 2012

I certainly wasn’t expecting to do spiritual shovel work this morning.

When I read in Revelation 4:11 that God was worthy to receive glory and honor and power, I was intrigued in a way that hadn’t happened before.

Receive from whom?

As if He needed more.

He’s supreme and beyond measure in glory and honor and power, so how can He get more?

Can we give Him power?

I didn’t want to casually wander past this moment of wondering and so I started digging.

Translation after translation used the same three words of glory, honor and power, pointing to strong uniformity for the verse among the ancient Greek writings upon which our modern Bible is based.

I won’t get into the Greek textual analysis for “power” but I will share an insight that occurred to me regarding the word “receive.”

It’s something not discussed by commentators and not revealed in the many translations.

The Greek word translated in an almost passive sense as “receive” perhaps should actually be translated with a much stronger sense. Why? Because the word used by ancient writers actually has the connotation of “taken with authority” or “assertively possessed.”

When I read this, the light bulb came on in my mind and heart.

In the realm of the universe, in the realm of the Church and in the realm of my heart, there is one person who has the authority and qualifications to take with authority the place of glory (what He possesses), the place of honor (what He is given by others) and the place of authority/power (what He exerts).

That person is God.

He alone is qualified to take with authority the place of Jehovah.

Others have tried, most notably Satan. But they’ve all failed to qualify.

That’s why our Creator God alone is worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power that comes to Him who sits on the throne.

Listen, we serve an awesome God.

Let’s do all we can today to praise His glory, reflect His honor and lean on His power as we imitate Christ.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Nobody likes making mistakes and even more distasteful is being corrected for the error.

This is true for the small child misbehaving at home and for the veteran employee who is expected to avoid errors in performance or judgment.

Like you, I’ve made mistakes along the way in my secular and ministry careers.

Sometimes, the mistakes prompted difficult conversations with those to whom I was accountable.

I’ve always tried to learn from the mistakes and the subsequent “I need to do better” conversations.

Is it easy to admit a lapse in good judgment or a lack of extra effort that might have found a better solution?

No.

But you already know this from your own experiences.

Listen, we can always do better.

Even if we’re already doing well at work or personal ministry.

God wants the best from us because He wants the best for us.

That’s why He disciplines us from time to time.

Just as we err at work, we also err at times with our personal ministry efforts.

Perhaps we’re too lax in our pursuit of personal holiness. Or perhaps we’re neglectful of His call to work harder in building up our congregation’s volunteer ministries such as education or fellowship or worship music or whatever.

Because God always seeks and works for our good, we should welcome His corrective voice whenever we hear it.

For example…

“Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)

The next time you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit convicting you to cease a particular sin or to let go of a particular grudge or to get more involved with a volunteer ministry at church or to start tithing as Jesus commanded, please don’t ignore the heavenly rebuke.

Humbly repent and then earnestly await the peace and the blessing that comes from a corrected relationship with your Father in heaven.

If you’re like me, you’ll find that it’s SO much better after conceding to God that you can do better.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It happened again.

I’m talking about an inner flood of awe and appreciation for the Lord because of a single verse in the Bible.

I’ve been a Christian for 44 years and a pastor since 1987 and yet, I still get the starry-eyed goosebumps sometimes when I read verses like Psalm 130:3-4 —

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you”

I am a sinner. Even though it occurs less frequently than in years past, I still fall short of God’s expectations sometimes. And I need forgiveness.

If God weren’t willing to forgive me, I couldn’t have confidence of standing eternally in His presence when my life is over. I’d only stand before Him for the moment of my judgment and then I’d be off to everlasting destruction in hell.

But because I’ve accepted His offer of forgiveness by means of accepting His Son Jesus as Lord, I’m content to serve God with reverence and joy.

That’s why He saved me — to serve Him. The Apostle Paul said the same thing in Ephesians 2:10.

Grasp within your mind and heart the depth of God’s grace and you’ll grip more firmly the hand of God who desperately wants you to walk with Him forever.

As always, I love you
Martin

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During my high school days on the track team, one thing you couldn’t do — and still cross the finishing line — was to quit.

Yes, it was sometimes grueling to keep running when legs were heavy and burning with pain.

But quitting would have added self-doubt and feelings of failure to the physical burden.

Yes, I truly enjoyed it when I won races.

And, no, I didn’t like losing.

But as long as kept running the best I could, I was never a loser.

Those who crossed the finish line, whether in first or in last, were never losers.

They kept going and experienced victory over the voices calling them to quit.

That made them winners, whether they received ribbons and trophies or not.

Those that quit? They were the losers.

Sometimes it is tough to keep walking the path of faith.

Life hurts.

People are yelling at you to give up because you’re not as fast or strong or as impressive or conniving as others.

Don’t quit.

Keep running the race of faith in your family, at your job, at your church.

Your success will be measured by God against what He expects of YOU, not somebody else.

Though the church at Ephesus was far from perfect, according to Revelation 2, one thing that congregation did get right was the fact that people there were not quitters — “You have patiently suffered for Me without quitting” (Rev. 2:3).

When you cross that finish line into eternity, there will be plenty of people waiting for you who crossed it long before you.

That won’t matter, though, because everybody who crosses that finish line will receive a crown in recognition of their faith, not their swift feet.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s not easy to keep pressing forward in our work or the pursuit of an important goal when we’re struggling with deep sadness.

Perhaps a serious, limiting health condition has developed. Perhaps a marriage has collapsed. Perhaps a “soulmate” friend has had to move away because of a job transfer.

Perhaps even a family member has died.

Such times are never easy.

But they need not be made worse because the rest of our life shuts down.

Consider the farmer in early spring. If he were depressed for one or more of the above reasons, it would be a multi-level tragedy for him to become gripped by apathy rather than grabbing seeds and heading for the fields.

Even in the midst of hurt, he must not lose sight of hope.

For it is that hope that compels him to plant.

And it will be that hope, realized at harvest, that will have made the difference in his life.

The writer of Psalms gives us such a valuable tool:

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)

No matter how dark the day or how deep the despair, keep planting, my friend.

Better days are on the other side of the planting season.

Days worth singing about.

It’s been true in my life and it can be true in yours.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s instructive to watch somebody remain calm and focused on solutions when those around him or her are loudly complaining and accusing.

Such individuals seem to have a gift for managing crisis situations rather than causing them.

You and I aren’t the only ones who appreciate this kind of resolve. I’m sure that the Lord appreciates it as well.

After all, wasn’t He the perfect role model for self-control?

Even when His feelings of anger led Him to throw the money-changers out of the Temple courtyards, Jesus didn’t give full vent to His anger.

Had He done so, there might have been a number of burned spots on the ground where lightning bolts had zapped the greedy men exploiting worshipers.

Having feelings of anger is not a sin if we’re upset about a legitimate injustice contrary to godliness.

It’s letting that anger grab the steering wheel of our minds and hearts that becomes the problem.

Let’s face it. We all encounter circumstances that lure us toward unrestrained, accusatory and vindictive anger.

We just have to recall that emotions aren’t to determine our path. Our devotion to the Lord is to do that.

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Let’s do our best to remain calm no matter what happens, imitating the Lord and showing others what pleases Him.

After all, we can be sure that Jesus has chosen to remain calm toward us on countless occasions when our choices probably made Him angry.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s good to be reminded by scripture of just how important baptism is in the mind of the God.

He certainly didn’t see it as optional.

“And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross — not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses — the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.” (I John 5:6-8)

There were a zillion ways that God could have declared to the world that Jesus was His Son, yet He chose the moment of Christ’s being raised from the watery womb.

“This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased,” God said after Jesus submitted to baptism (Matthew 3:17).

God didn’t say this before the baptism, but instead after.

God doesn’t command that we shed our blood on the cross. Jesus did that for us in an amazing act of grace by the Father and the Son.

He does command baptism, though, and Paul explains why in unmistakable fashion in Romans 6:4-7.

Please celebrate your baptism as the time that your obedience to His commaned revealed you were a child of God.

If you haven’t been raised from the watery womb of baptism, please find a Christian to baptize you as soon as possible.

It’s the ultimate witness protection program.

As always, I love you
Martin

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