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Archive for July, 2013

I love reading Bible passages that encourage my faith.

That’s why I loved reading Romans 14:17-19 this morning during my devotional time.

The larger context involved the Apostle Paul’s teaching to the church at Rome regarding the topic of foods. Some recent converts were accustomed to eating certain foods while converts from other religious backgrounds saw those same foods as offensive.

Because Paul knew that we humans tend to choke on cultural gnats and yet swallow horse pills of divisiveness, he issued this call for focusing on what pleases God and builds the Church:

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (NLT)

It’s unlikely that your church is about to split over food choices among members. But wherever there are believers, there will be the Deceiver. And he will do all he can to find something that people will fuss over, perhaps to the point of choosing sides.

It’s just what he does.

Let’s remember that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we __________ or ___________, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

If we serve Christ with this attitude, we will please God, and others will approve of our efforts, too.

So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Even when it means keeping our personal preferences for music styles or clothing styles or hairstyles or worship style from grabbing the microphone or steering wheel of our lives and running others off the road to heaven.

Please God. Build each other up.

That pretty much sums everything up, doesn’t it?

As always, I love you
Marton

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Satan loves to trap long-time Christians who have learned to set aside many of their past sinful habits.

He lures them into looking at how they are not as sinful as the world around them so that, as a result, they feel content with their measure of personal holiness.

You and I know, of course, that measuring our personal holiness against the behavior of the world is a recipe for disaster.

We’d never measure the sterility of surgical tools to be used on us by comparing them to the interior of a dumpster. Instead, we’d demand perfect cleanness because of the consequences for allowing filth to invade our flesh.

This principle is why we Christians should always measure our personal holiness against the life of Christ, a man who never sinned, a man whose spiritual garments were as white as snow.

You see, it was His perfection of living without sin that provides believers with the assurance of being seen by God on judgment day as vicariously perfect and thus able to enter into a glorious eternity.

Listen, I’ve been a Christian for more than 40 years and I still have occasions that I have to do the wardrobe change that Paul described in Romans 13:12.

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” (Romans 13:12)

I don’t like the facts of my weaknesses and failures. But, of course, God likes it even less.

Yet, because of His love and His grace — and Christ’s willingness to suffer in my place — I am given a new day to display the Light of a redeemed, transformed life.

Please examine your life for stained clothing. It’s likely that you’re quite aware of your recurring sin weaknesses. Everybody has at least a few.

If you’ll listen closely, the Holy Spirit will tell you what needs to go so that “white as snow” deeds and words might replace them.

As we practice Romans 13:12 more in our lives, we’ll profess our faith more and confess our sins less.

Hallelujah!

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s a love checklist that is far more important than what most people think of when considering such an idea.

This checklist has nothing to do with romancing another person.

It does, however, point to the depth of intimate love that one shares with the One who desires to be our ultimate heartthrob.

I’m talking about the love we show toward God by showing deep, diverse love to the people in our lives.

I encourage you to print this Morning Devotion and use it as a self-assessment tool periodically in order to measure how your love compares to God’s roadmap to good relationships.

The Romans 12;9-21 list below is from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible and, ironically, was also the focus of my sermon yesterday at Southwinds Christian Church in Miami, FL.

I didn’t know about this coincidence until I started reading this morning. Wow.

I love when this coincidence/providence happens.

Here’s the list from the New International Version. Live well as you love much, my friend.

  • Love must be sincere.
  • Hate what is evil;
  • cling to what is good
  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
  • Honor one another above yourselves.
  • Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
  • Be joyful in hope,
  • patient in affliction
  • faithful in prayer.
  • Share with God’s people who are in need.
  • Practice hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice;
  • mourn with those who mourn.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
  • Do not be conceited.
  • Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
  • Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
  • On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
  • if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
  • We’ll win more friends, and possibly more converts, if we practice these divine imperatives given by God.

    And we’ll feel better toward life.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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We grew up playing hide’n’seek.

We loved the mystery of wondering where others were hiding from us and the excitement of discovering them and particularly the joy of tagging them before they reached “base.”

It was a lot of fun…. even when we were the ones tagged and had to start helping to look for others hidden here and there.

People still play hide’n’seek as adults but often it’s not in the pursuit of fun but instead in the pain of shame or in the pride of not wanting to hear critical remarks about unwise choices.

There’s one person who refuses to play the game that we’ve not outgrown.

His name is God.

God does not hide behind bushes or sheds or tree trunks or cars or up on roofs or wherever. As if He even could.

He’s everywhere so how could He hide?

When hiding occurs, it’s something we attempt to do, not Him.

We might do so directly when we rebelliously sin against His Word.

At such moments, we are veiled in sin and that obscures the goodness created within us at birth.

It’s so much better when we don’t hide from the God who doesn’t hide from us.

The Bible reading for today included this verse from II Chronicles 15:2…

The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with Him! Whenever you seek Him, you will find Him. But if you abandon Him, He will abandon you.”

We’ve all had sinful moments that reflected our desire for separation from God’s authority so that we could do what Satan promised was more tasty than God’s Truth.

I certainly wish I could say that I never sinned, that I never swallowed a lie, but I can’t.

That’s why I am so glad that I don’t have to play a scavenger hunt game with God when it comes to being in a right relationship with Him.

I repent (Acts 2:38). I seek God and His forgiveness (I John 1:9). I find Him and He tells me again that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

These truths greatly comfort me. I pray they do the same for you and for the people with whom you’ll share this passage.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When there’s no one to stick up for us during a workplace hassle, it’s discouraging.

When there’s no kid who will stand with us when the playground bully comes around, it’s discouraging.

When there’s no friend or relative to sit with us in the oncologist’s office, it’s discouraging.

I’m SO grateful that we don’t have to be alone when it comes to our greatest threat — the eternal status of our souls.

The fact is that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

The companion fact is that our sin has earned us the wages of eternal separation from God in the place called hell. (Romans 6:23)

The encouraging fact, however — the redeeming fact — is that we CAN have someone stand with us when this greatest threat looms large.

Actually, He sits rather than stands.

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)

I don’t need anybody to remind me that I’d be toast without Jesus interceding for me with Jehovah God.

I’m quite aware of my sinful nature and periodic failures.

Of course, God is, too.

God didn’t want me to become an eternal shish-ka-bob and that’s why He sent Jesus.

It’s amazing to think about the fact that when we’ve sinned, Jesus has pleaded our case before the Father. If the books of Job and Zechariah have any application to our lives, it’s entirely possible that Satan also pleaded before God about us, but in a condemning way.

Despite our failures, God continues wanting us to spend forever with Him and that’s why Jesus has the task of interceding for believers like us who need Him to say something like this, “Abba Father, ____________ has confessed faith in Me and is covered in my blood. He/she is one of ours. Please send blessing and wisdom through Your Holy Spirit to help ______________ learn to love and serve you more.”

Please make sure that you have a confessed, personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Please make sure that you’ve been covered by His blood in baptism.

For Jesus said this in Matthew 10:32: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

Stand with Jesus, my friend. Even if it means seemingly standing alone at work or school or at home.

That way, you’ll have the greatest Friend of all standing up for you in heaven from His seat next to the Father.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It was a bad thing to go into battle centuries ago without a shield.

For you had no protection against arrows.

Even if you had a sword in your dominant hand, the shield in the other offered vital protection against what your sword couldn’t stop.

A shield provided security.

We don’t fight today with arrows but we still need a shield.

A spiritual shield.

Why?

Because Satan DOES fight with arrows.

And he’s shooting them all the time in the form of temptations, lies and mean-spirited verbal attacks from people.

We all know the sting and disruption that comes with dropping the shield of faith because of laziness or pride or both.

It’s not a good time.

But good can come from it if we learn to keep the shield ready at all times.

God wants us to feel secure at all times. That’s why He gave us His Word to describe the perfect path that keeps us under His covering protection. Psalm 18:30 tells us a bit about that path:

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.”

Satan will always keep firing arrows of lies and insults and temptations at us. But if we’ll stay in the Word and stand in the middle of God’s path, those lies and temptations will bounce off the shield.

You know, it’s a good thing when we hear that spiritual “clang” of another temptation arrow biting the dust.

Read the Word every day, my friend. And rejoice when you hear the “clang.”

As always, I love you

Martin

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It’s a very good thing when good-hearted, God-hearted people join in a church building for worship.

God is exalted, people are encouraged and equipped and the collective lighthouse of faith shines more brightly.

But that’s not all of what God wants to happen when church members gather.

He’s wanting more than the “woo-hoo!” moments of praise.

He’s also wanting to see the “boo-hoo” moments of repentance.

You see, we all sin. We all fall short of God’s glory.

We all hurt God’s heart with our recurring choices to ignore His Word.

Hurting God’s heart should prompt a hurting of our hearts.

Knowing we’ve sinned should prompt us toward godly sorrow.

For until we feel that “boo-hoo” in our hearts, we won’t feel a need to repent.

When our “boo-hoo” leads to a plea for God’s forgiveness, “woo-hoo!” won’t be far behind.

We all know what it’s like to experience the freedom of forgiveness in our important earthly relationships.

Much richer, though, is forgiveness from the One who created us and who wants to fellowship with us forever.

King Solomon knew well about the “boo-hoo”/”woo-hoo!” progression of faith.

In fact, his dedication service for the Jerusalem Temple emphasized the role of repentance and forgiveness of the Israelites.

In II Chronicles 6, nearly half the chapter addresses a plea of Solomon that God forgive the people over and over and over whenever they repented and turned their hearts back to God.

It’s interesting that so much of the dedication service involved the acknowledgment of future sin and the need for future forgiveness.

Solomon knew there could be no “woo-hoo!” of sincere praise if there were not “boo-hoo” of sincere repentance.

Please read this section of scripture to appreciate what Solomon was praying to God.

For your eyes just might be opened to the importance of “boo-hoo” moments in your church’s worship service.

I’m not talking about sin-prompted sobbing at the front of the auditorium, although there’s nothing unscriptural about that. Instead, I’m talking about those private conversations of the soul with the Spirit of God, conversations during meditation time or before/after the service.

I’m talking about the sort of thing I do during communion meditation moments each week when I review the sins I remember from the past week and repent of them before the Lord.

I don’t like the fact that I have such “boo-hoo” moments but I know that without them, my “woo-hoo!” moments will ring hollow before the Lord.

To attend worship without taking time to repent of sin would have been like Solomon dedicating the Temple without making any sacrifices.

That would have been incredibly dumb and would have missed the whole point of seeking God’s mercy and the entire meaning of all the Messianic promises.

Here’s the wrap-up… Church is about the “woo-hoo!” and the “boo-hoo.”

Let’s do our best to live in ways that the former far outweighs the latter.

As always, I love you
Martin

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