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Archive for January, 2013

Of course, God sees our good deeds that serve many at church or work or school or in our neighborhood.

But He also sees our acts of faith-based kindness that are known only to one other.

And He takes note.

That’s just how He is.

He’s a loving Father and it pleases Him when His child does good for another simply because it’s the kind thing to do.

Any parent or aunt or uncle or grandparent or Sunday School teacher knows the satisfaction of seeing a beloved child do the little things of kind faith.

I was reminded of this sweet truth this morning in an indirect way while reading from the One-Year Bible. The passage below is a sad indictment of man’s capacity for darkened hearts. But it does point clearly to the fact that God sees all, even in the midst of subtle malice.

“What are worthless and wicked people like? They are constant liars, signaling their deceit with a wink of the eye, a nudge of the foot, or the wiggle of fingers.” (Proverbs 6:12-13)

The God that sees the wink of a dark-hearted person or the foot nudge of a calloused adulterer or the wiggling finger of a judgmental cynic is the same God who sees the opened wallet of a believer helping a laid-off single dad or the sacrificed sleep of a Christian retiree who will sit up all night with a terminally ill neighbor so that the neighbor’s spouse can get a night of rest.

It’s amazing when you think about it, this idea that God sees even nudging feet.

Let’s keep this in mind when Satan tempts us to think helping others privately means nothing to God and, therefore, will mean nothing to us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Who do you allow to influence your faith?

Or even to gain a place in the inner circle of those who persuade your life decisions?

I certainly hope the eligibility criteria for such people includes their measure of dedication to your best interests.

You see, if somebody doesn’t place our interests ahead of his or her own, then to one extent or another, they are simply using us.

And that’s not good.

Of course, the reverse is true. If we’re not putting others first, we’re using them.

What a failure of faith.

Jesus defined a key criterium for who should influence our lives.

It’s one we should practice toward others as well.

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” (Matthew 19:26).

Our congregation is voting on elders and deacons this Sunday. I’ll be calling upon the members to vote for the men on the ballot only if they believe the men are committed to serving the membership with all their hearts.

If someone is not committed to serving my best interests, then I certainly don’t want them leading my congregation.

And the same test should apply to me as the pastor.

Others first.

It’s the right philosophy and practice.

Be a leader in your home or in your workplace or in your school or in your congregation.

Serve others first.

It’s what Jesus did.

It’s what we’re to do.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Wouldn’t it be great if we had never put our foot in our mouths?

Or thought something selfish and flesh-minded during the midst of a spiritual conversation?

The struggle against flesh never stops, no matter how active we become in personal ministry.

Even people in full-time, vocational ministry say really dumb things occasionally.

I speak from experience.

Hopefully, the frequency diminishes as the years pass but we never stop being us.

Thank God that the more we learn about Him and talk with Him and serve Him and associate with people who adore Him, the less we’ll act like the Apostle Peter did in Matthew 19:27.

It was NOT a good day for the guy.

“Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

“The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

“Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

Oops!

This was one of those moments that Peter would later regret, I’m sure.

Before he opened his mouth, he didn’t stop to think of what Jesus gave up when He left heaven and came to earth.

He didn’t think of all the promises Jesus had made about infinite blessings in heaven for the faithful.

He didn’t think spiritually but only materially and socially and politically regarding the new world.

Of course, we never think such thoughts, let alone speak them, right?

The fact is that we have had moments when we complained about doing SO much for God without seeing the payoff we wanted in the timetable we wanted.

Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?

  • “Lord, I forgive and forgive and the person keeps hurting me. This forgiving stuff just isn’t working….”
  • Lord, I’ve tithed for a few weeks now and I haven’t gotten the storehouses of blessing yet that you promised in Malachi 3:10. You know I’ve got a lot of bills coming up that have to be paid and if you don’t give me a big blessing, I’m going to have to sell something and there goes my testimony of serving a generous God.”
  • “Lord, I’ve been nice to my stubborn spouse for months now and have continued spending my “funny money” on things for him/her, yet I still get the same hassles as ever. A lot of good being merciful and generous is doing me right now….”

Listen, whether it’s material wealth or a mellowed-out relative or big-shot status in heaven or the hope that people we don’t like won’t make it to heaven, we have got to stop looking at faith as a strategy for boosting self.

We will never give up as much as Christ gave up for us. Even so, we all will gain much more than we could ever deserve as long as our hope rests in God and our greatest treasure is to please His heart.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Jesus declared in Matthew 18:10 that children have guardian angels.

The Book of Daniel states that an angel was interceding in the prophet’s behalf during a time of great struggle and during his time of intensive prayer.

The implication of these facts is that you and I have guardian angels.

That being the case, let’s think and act today in a way that the angel can go to God with a smile, not a frowning, shaking head.

Let’s live out Colossians 3:17.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

If I were an angel representing you before the throne, my job would be a whole lot nicer if I could go to God with good news about your displays of faithfulness rather than with pleas for God’s patience and mercy.

A text from today’s Bible reading speaks to this point of divine monitoring: “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” (Proverbs 5:21).

I’m strengthened by the promise that I’m not alone in my struggle against the forces of this world and the flaws in my own flesh.

I’ve got greater powers to help me, including an angel who knows me better than I know myself.

I pray that you’re strengthened this morning by the fact that you have divine help as well. As you walk in that strength, God will see that you’re living to please Him and you’ll make your angel’s mission a whole lot more pleasant.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We can lead a horse to water but we can’t make him drink.

It’s a fact-based figure of speech that some of us have have literally experienced.

How many times have we given advice to a person that would make their lives easier, but they just won’t accept it?

Too many.

But, of course, God can say the same thing about us.

The fact is that our love for others should stir us to steer others toward the Living Water of God’s Word.

We can’t make them drink, but perhaps we can prompt them to think.

The confluence of the Holy Spirit’s convicting influence, the self-evident truth of scripture and the integrity-based example that we portray just might lead our unsaved relative or friend to genuinely consider his or her need for repentance and Jesus as Savior.

As Paul wrote in I Corinthians, one person plants the gospel seed, another waters it with loving encouragement and personal example, but it is only God who triggers spiritual transformation as in “providing the increase.”

This is the point of Jesus’ words to Peter recorded in today’s reading from the One-Year Bible.

“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

“Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.’ (Matthew 16:16-17)

Let’s do our best to provide Gospel seeds. Let’s provide good spiritual examples.

Let’s remember, though, to pray for conversions as our best strategy. Why? Because the spiritual awakening of the heart to the reality of Christ as Messiah is something that only God can bring about, not us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No woman would walk down the street of a rough neighborhood with an open purse on her shoulder that contained a fat wad of cash in full view.

The chances of somebody stealing it from her — or worse — would be too high to make such a careless decision.

Yet, we Christians are careless sometimes in not protecting what is MOST valuable to us — our hearts.

We go where we shouldn’t — emotionally, mentally, financially or even physically — and then we find that our hearts have either been tainted, wounded or, in the worst case, stolen.

There is a way to avoid this tragedy and remain the person who brings smiles to God’s face rather than frowns.

Solomon shows us the way with a primer from Proverbs:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

  • Avoid all perverse talk;
  • Stay away from corrupt speech.
  • Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
  • Mark out a straight path for your feet;
  • Stay on the safe path.
  • Don’t get sidetracked;
  • Keep your feet from following evil.” (Proverbs 4:23-27)

 

Whether it’s in the work lunchroom or in the school locker room or at home during an argument or at the computer when nobody is around, please follow the path described by Solomon.

It’s narrow, yes, according to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:14. But it’s the only path that leads to eternal life.

No matter what thrills and pleasures are advertised along all other paths, they all end up running off a cliff into eternal suffering.

That’s not what God wants for you. He loves you and wants your heart to be His forever.

Let’s stay safe.

Walking straight toward Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It would be great if our journey of faith could be graphed with a straight line heading ever upward.

But it can’t.

We’ve failed during our time in the Lord and that graph line looks more like a bouncing stock chart and nothing like a heaven-bound centerline.

I was reminded of my life’s pattern of non-linear faith while reading from Matthew 14 this morning.

The chapter in the One-Year Bible contains the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s brief experience of doing the same.

For a moment, Peter’s faith line was arching toward heaven.

There’s a problem with moments, though. They don’t last very long.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)

I see in this passage a cycle of faith that we’ve all experienced many times in one form or another and which, unfortunately, will continue to encounter until we head to heaven. Hopefully, though, the frequency will decline as our faith grows.

What cycle is that? Faith => Flesh => Fear => Failure => Faith

The fact is that faithful people who go to church and read their Bibles and pray and tithe and volunteer — all the things they should do — are just as susceptible to failure as anybody else if the voice of “flesh” gains too much volume in their hearts and minds.

Peter felt the threats of the world and thought of his flesh’s weakness and fear set in.

When fear set in, the voice of the flesh grew louder than the voice of faith.

That’s when failure began.

Thankfully, when all was lost, he cried out in faith.

Restored, he proceeded in confidence until the next time the cycle repeated itself.

This is our life, too.

Let’s do our best to trust faith more and flesh less.

That sinking feeling is never good.

As always, I love you
Martin

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