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Archive for January, 2013

Blogger Bob Bly has assembled what he listed as the 10 wisest things he’s ever heard:

  • You play the hand you’re dealt.

  • Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

  • There is no “try.” There is only do or not do. (Yoda)

  • It’s not just what happens to you; it’s also how you handle it.

  • Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead. (Scottish proverb)

  • Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

  • Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

  • Life is unfair.

  • Be second, not first; the pioneers are the ones who get arrows in their backs.

  • Live below your means.

I don’t agree with all of the above perspectives, but I do see the value of discovering wise principles to guide our living.

The wiser we grow, the better our thinking, the better our choices and the better our outcomes.

Solomon, of course, saw the value of wisdom as exceeding any other earthly objective and, when given the choice early in his reign, chose to gain wisdom from God rather than gold.

It was a wise choice that not only brought him a divine tsunami of insight but also, later, brought a tsunami of wealth.

Here’s Solomon’s take on the importance of wisdom:

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” (Proverbs 4:7)

He wasn’t trying to be a smart-aleck. Very simply, Solomon was directing us to put the pursuit of helpful, honorable knowledge at the top of our mind’s shopping list.

It’s much like a retired, successful farmer telling his young adult grandson that buying more seed is one of the smartest things he could do.

For without the seeds, their can be no harvests.

Join me in seeking more wisdom today, whether in a time of prayer to the Author of wisdom or from personal Bible reading or with reading of a Christian book or in a conversation with a mature Christian friend.

I’ve learned so much over the years and I realize that, to be more effective for the Lord and for my loved ones, the wisest thing I can do is to pursue more wisdom.

I’m under conviction about this today. My challenges and opportunities are greater than my mind. Yours are, too.

Let’s do the wisest thing we can do.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I imagine we’ve all had those moments when the Lord was stirring our hearts to help a co-worker or neighbor with words of encouragement or with actual hands-on efforts such as a move across town, a household repair or with babysitting at a last-minute notice.

But for some reason that doesn’t equate with faithfulness, we didn’t do what our consciences wanted us to do.

We can do better.

When His voice is calling us to be His people to others who would be blessed by our help, let’s get at it.

If we have to lay aside our agendas for a brief time, then that is an offering of humble faith.

God will be pleased and our co-worker or neighbor will be both helped and instructed as to the goodness of Christianity.

Here is Solomon’s take on the importance of helping others.

“If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, ‘Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.’” (Proverbs 3:28)

The Holy Spirit doesn’t waste His spiritual breath speaking to us for no good reason.

Whenever you hear His voice directing you to help somebody, then please get to it.

If we’re not hearing His voice calling us to help others, then we have a big problem.

It’s called selfishness and perhaps it has gotten so bad that God has given up on us as vessels of kindness.

Let’s be sensitive to His voice. Others will find our faith to be much more evident and relevant.

And that can only lead to good things for us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Quite frequently during my high school years, my teachers would give pop quizzes just as the class session began.

And, more frequently than I wanted, I wasn’t prepared to get an A grade since I hadn’t studied the night before.

It was very satisfying on those occasions when I aced the pop quiz.

Eventually, I realized that it’s better to study consistently and do well on a surprise quiz.

That lesson served me well in my college years because some of the professors pulled the same stunt.

While others complained and anguished over the questions, I moved methodically through the quiz and usually ended up doing quite well.

The fact is that it’s always better to be prepared since we never know when the ultimate pop quiz — our standing before the Lord — will come our way.

I’m giving you a pop quiz this morning. It’s one that I have to take as well.

Passing this quiz will have eternal benefits and taking the quiz will reveal key areas in our lives that need improvement. Please check mentally each line that you’re passing the test as God would expect.

“Who may live on your holy mountain?

__ Those whose walk is blameless,

__ who do what is righteous,

__ who speak the truth from their hearts;

__ who have no slander on their tongues,

__ who do their neighbors no wrong,

__ who cast no slur on others;

__ who despise those whose ways are vile

__ but honor whoever fears the Lord;

__ who keep their oaths even when it hurts;

__ who lend money to the poor without interest

__ and do not accept bribes against the innocent.

Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” (Psalm 15:1-5)

As you and I honestly answer these questions, perhaps even asking one who knows us to grade us on these criteria, we’ll become more like the person God wants us to be.

We won’t get a perfect score but we’ll have the opportunity to become better learners and better servants as we prepared for graduation day into glory.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s a beautiful word picture in today’s One-Year Bible reading that fills me with anticipation for an incredible blessing.

It’s so simple, yet so potent.

It sure reveals something about the heart of God.

What makes this text even more interesting and useful is that it is spoken within the context of sibling reconciliation.

You’ll recall that the brothers Jacob and Esau had a terribly dysfunctional relationship during their young adult years.

Jacob was a schemer and Esau was a flesh-focused slug who sometimes didn’t think things through as he should have before acting.

Making a very long story very short, Jacob schemed to gain a couple of major prerogatives that belonged to Esau. Ultimately, Jacob had to flee for his life.

For a couple of decades, God stirred Jacob’s heart to go back to the land of his birth and take his new family and abundance of wealth with him.

Jacob went but with the uncertainty of how it would turn out when seeing the brother that he exploited long ago.

Fearful of wrath, Jacob nonetheless obeyed the leading of the Lord.

The day came that the brothers finally met. But instead of the retribution that Jacob had prepared himself to expect, he was greeted with something else — a great, big smile focused on reconciliation.

Esau didn’t want to destroy the brother who had cheated him.

Instead, Esau embraced him and the two wept.

Rather than retribution, there was reconciliation.

The big smile on Esau’s face said it all in Jacob’s view.

“What a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!” (Genesis 33:10)

This is a very telling statement that shows just how important forgiveness and reconciliation are in any human relationship.

Jacob, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling us one of the most effective ways that we can communicate the nature of God.

You see, when we reconcile with another after somebody forgives, it puts a smile on God’s face. And the smiles that our peace-making provides to us become powerful testimonies as to why faith is so important.

Listen, friends. Seek to repair all your relationships. Share friendly smiles with others. Particularly those who have disappointed or wounded you.

If you are the one who needs to seek forgiveness, get to it so that friendly smiles can return to your face and the face of the one you offended.

For as you and I do this, others will be seeing the face of God and we’ll stay on the path that prepares us for the day we’ll actually see the face of God.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We know that our Christian service shouldn’t be conditioned on wanting payback for the good we do.

We are to display kindness and forgiveness and generosity and hard work for others simply because those are the right things to do.

Jesus showed all of the above for us long before we ever had the opportunity to show the same toward Him and His people.

He did the right thing with no consideration of a payback for Himself.

Well, we know that’s the ideal.

But then there’s the “real.”

We’re rarely so faithful.

Even the Apostle Paul acknowledged the stubborn streak of self that permeates even the faithful:

“Each of you should not look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

OK, so it’s not sinful to anticipate a blessing in return as long as we sincerely are offering blessings to others first.

If we practice the Golden Rule of doing for others what we’d like them to do for us, then we’re within the will of God and we have the hope of His favor pouring into our eternal storehouse.

It doesn’t take a massive effort or life-threatening act of valor to get God’s attention and promise of blessing.

It just takes a desire to put others first.

Even in something as small as giving them the cold bottle of water that your parched mouth would really like to have.

“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (John 10:42)

Do something nice for somebody today, my friend. No matter how small of a kindness you show, it won’t be too small for God to notice.

That good deed will be the good seed for eternal blessing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Having spent my adult life as a professional writer, I know quite well the compulsion to refine my messages.

My wife Lori is used to my late Saturday nights at the computer, not because I’m writing a last-minute sermon but instead because I’m polishing it.

Shape, sharpen and condense are the missions of those midnight moments.

With years of work as an editor, the fact is that my communication efforts are never sharp enough in my book.

There is always a better way to say it.

Come Sunday morning, though, I have to go with whatever stage the message is at.

Were I to preach the message the next day, I’d be shaping and sharpening and condensing even more the night before.

Why? Because refining never goes out of style.

I have a very good role model for this pattern, by the way.

Not in the sense of taking flawed messages and making them better, but instead of providing readers and hearers with perfect messages of hope and guidelines for holiness.

I’m talking about God, of course.

I should never stop trying to improve as a communicator since I’ve been called to grow more effective in sharing the flawless Word of God.

“The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” (Psalm 12:6)

Listen, whether we’re writing or speaking to others about the Bible, we should never stop thinking and praying and asking for advice from other believers regarding how we communicate God’s holiness and mercy.

Before we talk with others about our faith or about the message of God’s hope or the pattern of acceptable lifestyles, it’s important that our thoughts and words are refined by God’s Spirit, perhaps even seven times over.

That’s why it is SO important that we pray for wisdom and humility before we speak of faith with others.

We want to have the confidence that what we’re sharing has been refined.

Gold already starts out as better than all other metals, but after seven times of refinement, the purity is off the charts.

God has given us His pure love and pure grace and pure statements of what should be our purpose for living.

Let’s do the work of refinement as God answers our prayers for wisdom and opportunity to share.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Morning Devotion: Tie this one on

One of the best things any parent can do is to teach his or her child to be loyal and kind.

As the child learns the importance of these qualities and puts them into practice, he or she will grow into an adult who never lacks friends and never lacks influence.

Why? Because the world will always be filled with people hungry for someone loyal and kind to them.

As we all know, we all have people in our circles of influence aren’t loyal to us and aren’t kind to us.

When we do find such people, though, it is precious to us and we want to maintain those relationships.

Please, be loyal and kind to others. Write these commitments on your heart.

It’s what God wants from us and it’s what others need from us.

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)

The more that we do this, the more we’ll influence people for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

As always, I love you
Martin

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