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Archive for April, 2013

There are boxing matches where both contestants are winners not because it’s ruled a draw but instead because both fought bravely and smartly and effectively.

And then there are matches where the weaker, less skilled contestant had his hand raised by the referee not because he fought a good fight but instead because the stronger, more skilled contestant wasn’t prepared mentally and physically and let his emotions take over in the hostile setting, a sure recipe for defeat.

Simply stated, this was a case when the favored contestant lost the fight through failure rather than being defeated on his best day.

God desires every believer to experience spiritual victory and that’s why He sent Jesus into the world.

We are assured of victory as long as we keep fighting the good fight, according to the Apostle Paul.

Our battle is not against the heavyweight who packs a powerful left hook but against the scheming voices that lie to us about the neglect of God and “damaged goods” status of our ability to overcome challenges.

As long as we keep fighting, we haven’t lost.

Today’s One-Year Bible reading includes a verse that is so helpful to us with this need to not lose.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (Psalm 100:5)

Satan couldn’t overcome the person, the purpose and the power of Jesus’ life and ministry, despite his best efforts.

He wasn’t strong enough to throw a knockout punch in heaven before the creation of the universe and he was declared the loser.

He wasn’t strong enough to throw a knockout punch in the Garden of Gethsemane or on Mount Calvary or at the Rome-guarded tomb and he was declared the loser.

And he’s not strong enough to throw a knockout punch against our faith and as long as we keep the light of Jesus beaming from our lives as we live according to His Word, Satan can never extinguish it.

Really, the boisterous nature of Satan’s threats is pathetic.

For all the darkness in a huge, indoor arena doesn’t have the power to extinguish a single candle in the middle of the building.

No matter where somebody is seated in those millions of cubic feet of airspace, that single point of light will still be seen.

Please remember the power of our light. Keep it shining.

Satan has no power to overcome our light with his darkness.

His only hope is for our light to fade because we don’t prepare for the battle and we let emotions rule.

Keep shining. Keep fighting. And Satan will keep losing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Sometimes, less is more.

A potent passage from today’s One-Year Bible reading is a good example.

“He made us, and we are His.” (Psalm 100:3)

Apart from being a seven-word memory verse that anybody can recall, this gift from God’s Word is a powerful reminder of His love, His purpose and our responsibility.

Here are questions that we should vigilantly ask ourselves:

When people hear me speak, do they perceive that I am His?

When people wound me, do I follow His example by showing grace and a godly example of self-control?

When I consider how to use my time each day, is there a significant chunk devoted to His purposes?

When I’m tempted by the Devil with sin traps that have caught me in the past, do I run to His arms in prayer and to His Word for wisdom?

When I am asked to help with a volunteer ministry at church, do I sincerely seek His leading in my response?

When I look at how I use the money that comes my way, is there a sizeable portion given to His ministries?

When I see someone struggling with revolving-door efforts to find inner peace, do I prayerfully start building a bridge of influence in hopes that the person’s soul becomes His?

We each stand at decision intersections throughout the day regarding the use of time or money or physical effort or self-control or that really difficult one — forgiveness.

He made us.

We are His.

Let’s do our best to live like it.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Nobody likes being blamed for things.

Especially when the accusations are false.

Even more troubling is when the one who did wrong was the one doing the blaming.

We’ve all been guilty of this at some point, of course, starting on the schoolyard playground and continuing into our adulthood at the workplace or home or even at church.

Yes, we humans are a sometimes difficult lot made even more so because of our random displays of evasive pride.

I use “we” with full knowledge that you and I might want to think we’ve never tried to shift the blame.

The fact is, though, we’d be hard-pressed to prove it to God.

I thank God for His grace because I don’t stand among the redeemed on the strength of personal perfection.

God knows that we insecurity-tainted humans would rather point fingers at others when citing reasons for our calamity than we would pointing at ourselves.

He’s seen humanity do just this from the beginning when Adam blamed God and Eve for his choice to sin.

You see, Adam pointed the finger at God in reaction to the problems he brought on himself.

Ouch! In one way or another, we’ve all done the same.

Just like Gideon did when the Lord appeared to him in the Book of Judges.

For seven years, the Israelites had been brutally oppressed by pagan nations who took all their livestock and probably most of their crop harvests. Hebrews were starving.

This sad state was the direct result of the Israelites rejecting God’s command to worship Him only rather than idols.
They tossed faith aside but when troubles came, they didn’t repent.

Instead, they chose to resent.

Wow. That sounds familiar.

Listen to the words of Gideon when the Lord appeared to him:

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” (Judges 6:14)

If you’ve ever thought or said, “Why didn’t God keep this from happening to me? Where are all these miracles the Bible talks about?” then you and Gideon are partners in weakened faith.

As am I, of course.

Amazingly, God chose to help Gideon through his extended pity party and actually used the young man in a powerful, nation-changing way.

Like I said, God is gracious.

And, like I said, we have no hope apart from that grace.

Please reject Satan’s temptation to point fingers of blame at God when life turns sour. For the fact is that many of our problems are the fruit of our own sour, self-seeking choices.

Let’s do better toward God and life will be better for us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (Proverbs 14:4)

It’s a lot less work keeping a barn clean if the owner never puts farm animals in it.

But less work in the barn means less working animals out in the field.

And how smart is it to have a barn with stables and no field animals?

The point is this — enjoying the benefit of work done out in the field comes with doing some work of our own in order to deal with messes that are just part of everyday life.

The application is quite simple with respect to family life, work life, church life or any other setting within which people are involved.

Yes, it’s less hassle in one sense if we don’t have to deal with stinky situations caused by a difficult relative or co-worker or church member.

And, yes, those moaning when we want them to be quiet can create quite a distraction for us and even more so for the others in our “barn.”

But the alternative produces its own set of hassles — as in little or nothing being accomplished for the intended beneficiary.

There are hundreds of millions of wannabe parents around the world who would delight to have a child throwing a temper tantrum in their living room because the child didn’t get his or her way with something or who was crying over a spilled bowl of ice cream or who was stinkin’ up the place with a disaster diaper.

The idea of being irritated with a child’s messes to the point of not wanting kids, though? That would never happen for such couples because they understand that a quiet, hassle-free house does not line up with their desire for a harvest of family love and memories of growing closer through the challenges.

It’s the same at work or school or at church.

People are people. They aren’t perfect. I’m not. You’re not.

Yes, we should keep our “stall” clean 100 percent of the time so that others don’t have to deal with distasteful actions or words. But we don’t. And that’s why we must resist the temptation of pointing fingers at others’ perceived failures while at the same time holding noses on soured faces.

Let’s be gracious toward the people in our lives, even though they’re not perfect.

For we can sure that there have been times when they were gracious to us, despite our imperfections.

If God didn’t want to ever deal with messes, He would have never given us life.

That’s why Jesus came to provide the greatest barn cleaner the world had ever seen.

Let’s try our best to not drain the life out of others by nitpicking their stalls while ignoring the piles in our own.

We’ll all accomplish more out in the field this way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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So how did you serve in a volunteer role at church this past weekend? Or during the week preceding?

Perhaps you helped with a church-related community service project such as Habitat for Humanity or acting as a Scout sponsor.

That’s good, too.

Ephesians 2:10 says that we were created in Christ Jesus so that we could do good works.

Jesus came to serve.

And so should we.

Luke 22:37 records Jesus’ words about serving, given at the Last Supper.

“For I am among you as One who serves.”

When you think about your participation level this week at church, please envision yourself moving beyond the minimum of attendance and faith-testing offerings. If you’re already active in a volunteer ministry that demonstrates and deepens your faith on a weekly basis, thank you.

The Gallup polling organization reported that 50 percent of people attending church have not taken on any volunteer role.

We Christians can do better.

Our Savior deserves better.

Please show Him the sincerity of your faith.

Be among your church family as one who serves.

You just might inspire one of the non-serving 50 percent to step across the line into a more obedient, more fruitful faith.

As always, I love you
Martin

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One of the lessons that teens typically have to learn the hard way is that parents are usually a lot smarter than the teens might want to admit.

Within a few years of leaving home, most teens realize that Mom and Dad were right more often than the teen had thought.

And that usually means that there is a regret or two or three for not having followed parental advice.

It seems that the people of Israel during Joshua’s day were acting like teens for awhile.

God had told them to do whatever it takes to rid the Promised Land of corrupted-lifestyle people who didn’t worship Jehovah.

And the Book of Joshua describes how the Israelites did take control of the regions where the pagan people weren’t hard-core warriors with stubborn streaks.

But the first chapter of the Book of Judges describes a number of places for which the Israelites didn’t take God’s command seriously.

The Chosen People chose to disbelieve God’s warning that failure to “cleanse the land” would lead to national corruption and calamity.

It’s really sad.

In the minds of the Israelites, there wasn’t really a problem. After all, the pagans allowed to remain WERE serving as slaves and the Hebrews were the dominant forces — at least for a generation or so until Hebrew boys started carrying on with and even marrying pretty party girls from idol-worshiping tribes.

The remainder of the Book of Judges is a sad tale of spiritual compromise and recurring, humiliating tragedy for the Israelites.

If only the Israelites would have listened to their Jehovah Dad.

Listen, God says that you and I need to cleanse the enemy from the land of our individual lives.

Let’s pledge to rid ourselves of any allegiance to a stumbling block habit or vice or tainted philosophy that weakens our loyalty to scripture.

Let’s not think that we can hang out at the Carnal Corral and not step into a pile of spiritual compromise.

We can’t dance with the Devil and not have our toes stepped on or be sure that we won’t be danced off the edge of a cliff.

Whatever stubborn sin there is in your life, please heed the lessons of Judges — destroy its grip with God’s help before it decimates your spiritual vibrancy and possibly even leads to the destruction of your soul.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There is a good reason that people will pay hundreds of dollars to attend one-day training seminars for business or healthcare or education or whatever.

The value of one’s efforts typically increase as he or she becomes better trained and more productive.

And that often leads to pay increases that exceed the cost of the training.

Simply stated, it’s a good investment.

We don’t get paid in this life to become better Christians. And gaining more training in the art of faithfulness doesn’t have a formula-based guarantee of higher earthly income.

But make no mistake — it IS a good investment.

Our payoff, however, comes primarily in the next life when we receive a reward so great that it transcends our ability to imagine.

And in the interim, God graciously provides us the blessings of inner peace and earthly provision and valued relationships such as our church friendships.

Here’s a snippet of wisdom from my reading this morning of God’s Word. Absorb and abide by it and your life will have greater rewards, in this life and the next.

“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” (Proverbs 13:20)

You know people who are wiser than you at work, at school, among your relatives and likely at church.

Spend time with them rather than just using them as random reference sources.

That which guides and blesses their lives can then do the same for you.

Hmmm…. a better life that is ours for the asking.

I like that.

As always, I love you
Martin

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