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Archive for November, 2013

Pop quizzes aren’t always bad things.

When I was in school, whether as a kid or as a graduate seminary student, I didn’t like pop quizzes.

Taking a test with no studying and no advance warning left me feeling unprepared and vulnerable to academic failure.

I usually did OK with them because I had tried to pay attention in class. But I can’t say that I scored 100% on every quiz.

As Christians, we face pop quiz opportunities all the time.

Some are voluntary, meaning we see the opportunity to answer questions of another and we step into the moment with our spiritual insights. For example, a work breakroom conversation of several people starts raising questions about what the Bible says about this or that.

We have what we believe are answers and so we step into the pop quiz of faith.

Some are not voluntary, however, and you find yourself being confronted by one or some who think Christianity is harsh, judgmental, too restrictive and run by uncompassionate men and their god.

You’re being peppered with questions such as why would a “so-called loving” God let innocent suffer or why do crooks so often get away with ripping off old people or why are husbands ordained by God as the head of the house or how can somebody actually believe that the miracles in the Bible really happened in contrast to the laws of nature.

We Christians should have answers to the above questions, of course. I encourage you to research them and perhaps ask your pastor or congregation elders to help you find the answers.

More important than the above questions, though, is being able to answer the question, “How can I have peace in my heart?”

Now that’s a pop quiz we should all be able to answer.

Please, prepare yourself to explain to others how you found peace in your heart.

Recall the life experiences that convinced you that you weren’t getting to heaven on your own — that you were a sinner in need of a Savior.

Recall how the Word was introduced into your life — and your heart — by another.

Recall how those Gospel seeds were watered by the love and examples of other believers.

Recall that “come to Jesus” moment when you were convicted and knew that you had to choose one path or the other.

Recall that moment of public confession and baptism into the family of God.

This is an example of how the believer answers the pop quiz of sharing faith.

This is what the Apostle Peter calls us to do.

“…if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” (I Peter 3:15-16)

Be ready, my friends.

People need the hope you’ve found.

And we need to be ready whenever such a pop-quiz moment comes our way from the Lord.

As always, I love you
Martin

P.S. Because of spending time with family, the Morning Devotion postings will resume next Monday.

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I was reminded by my computer this morning that I am a sinner.

Thanks alot, iMac.

It’s not fun to be confronted with a failure of faith.

In fact, it stinks.

But it’s better to get the bad news now and turn again to the Good News than it is to ignore the Good News now and be stuck forever with bad news.

You have certainly experienced the frustration of telling your computer to do something it was created to do and programmed to do, yet the blinking cursor mocks you and ignores you as if it is a defiant adolescent.

You paid a lot of money and put a lot of time into that computer and here it is treating you as irrelevant.

Something has failed and only frustration is resulting.

NEWS FLASH!!!! You and I are that computer in God’s sight.

He has put a lot of resources and thought and time and His Son’s sweat, tears and blood into creating us and programming us what to do, yet we sometimes ignore Him as if we’re blinking cursors, as if defiant adolescents.

He gives us instructions and we don’t do them.

We’re temporarily the “dumb computer!”

Disobedient is more accurate.

And that’s when we’ve sinned.

I am a sinner.

There are times that I realize I should have been praying more about a certain situation instead of leaning too heavily on my abilities or the abilities of others.

Knowing that I should be praying more but not doing it is a sin.

Ouch!

Do you fail in the same way?

Lest you think I am embellishing the cost of my neglect, look at what James writes in his biblical letter:

“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:17)

Oh my.

Whether it’s prayer or making an encouragement contact with a struggling church member or forgiving a co-worker who gossiped about you or catching up on your tithe checks at church that you didn’t give because you didn’t like what the preacher said — or whatever you know you should have done — please get back to the spiritual place God wants you to be.

I need to do the same.

Life is better when we’re saying “Yes” to God.

Really, there’s no good reason not to.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It doesn’t take a genius mind in order to have good, godly relationships.

It does take a humble heart, however.

The biblical author James gives us a clear recipe for how we should treat our relatives, our friends, our co-workers, our church members and whoever else the Lord places in our lives. The more we practice this pattern, the more good relationships we’ll enjoy.

“…peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18)

We all need more people in our lives like the above.

And they need the same.

Let’s do our best to provide such to them.

Let’s do what James said.

There’s a harvest of righteousness waiting for them and us on the back side of our choice to plant seeds of peace rather than criticism and division.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There are three sticks of behavioral dynamite that are sure to blow up any Christian’s testimony.

  • Slow to listen
  • Quick to speak
  • Quick to get angry

If people in our families or workplaces or neighborhoods see us displaying these tendencies on a recurring basis, our Christian influence will vaporize into a frozen-in-place fog of failed testimony.

This does not have to be.

The world already has plenty of people characterized by the above.

What is needed are more people who do the opposite.

For don’t we all want people to treat us in such a fashion?

Willing to listen to us first before telling us what they think about our ideas or actions?

Willing to think carefully about how their words will be understood by us before they open their mouths?

Resisting the temptation to get angy just because a decision or conversation didn’t go their way?

James summed it up this way in the first chapter of his biblical letter:

“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (verse 19).

It doesn’t matter how many scriptures we quote to others or how “churchy” we dress on Sunday or how many happy hour invitations we forgo, if we don’t heed James’ counsel here, we’re still gonna blow up our testimony.

And that means less people will see and hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and that means fewer people will consider becoming Christians.

Let’s do our best to do what James said.

For God’s sake.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I love the vivid, sometimes veiled nature of scripture.

“What’s wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way?”

These words from Psalm 114:5 remind me that God is almighty and that immense power of nature is but a pawn in His hands.

God wanted to deliver His children to safety away from the pagan army of Pharoah and the Red Sea was in the way.

And so, God spoke.

The will of God — literally His breath — pushed a pathway through the Red Sea and the Hebrews fled to safety on the Sinai Peninsula.

The above rhetorical question emphasized that when God speaks, nature listens.

The wind and the waves obeyed His voice at the Red Sea, just as they did 1,500 years later when God’s Son calmed the Sea of Galilee to save the lives of His apostles.

So if God’s voice can part or calm a massive body of water, can it not prompt us to hurry toward the completion of His will?

Are we motivated to get going in order to help others come to spiritual safety “on the other side?”

Are we prepared with a credible testimony and memorized scripture to help hurting, distressed people to experience “Peace! Be still” moments?

Let’s hurry toward becoming one who listens for the voice of God and acts faithfully in response.

It’s not good if the Red Sea was more obedient to God’s voice than are we.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you’re an adult leading a group of small children through a mountain gorge in order to reach a campsite on the other side, you’ll do all you can to find the least-threatening, least-strenuous path.

You want to make sure your little lambs don’t fall to their injury or death and that one of them doesn’t fall behind because of the difficulty of getting to the other side.

You see, lambs need shepherds to be careful.

It’s true with parents.

And it’s true with Christians in a position to influence those younger in the faith.

Here is what the author of Hebrews wrote about this responsibility of shepherds toward the lambs :

Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:13)

Let’s do our best to avoid lifestyle or conversation patterns that can easily slip into sin — or are already tripping over the rocks of rebellion. Even though we know enough of scripture and of God’s willingness to quickly restore us at our repentance, the “weak and lame” believer might not.

Let’s commit today to showing others how to walk the safe, straight, strengthening path toward glory.

Jesus, the champion of faith, the initiator and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2) will get them to glory as the sheep and lambs trust Him.

And there will be a peaceful harvest of right living along the way (verse 11).

I want that.

I need that.

And so do the lambs watching my path and yours.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Our faith saves us, not our good works.

This is a recurring promise — and premise — in the Bible.

For good works write a new history of godliness in our lives, but they cannot “unwrite” our past choices of ungodliness.

Only faith can cover them through the atoning blood of Christ.

There are some very valuable roles for good works of godliness, however.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible identifies one.

“Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” Hebrews 11:2

We all know that a good reputation is something that can’t be bought with money but instead with good decisions.

For there are many people who are very wealthy and yet are impoverished in their reputations.

And we know some for which the reverse is true.

If we have a poor reputation, it doesn’t matter how much money we have in God’s sight and in the sight of many.

We’re still bums.

Let’s be blessings to others.

Let’s allow our faith to overflow into the lives of others in ways that produces encouragement and help and inspiration and intercessory prayer.

That’s a whole lot better than having a fat wallet with an empty heart.

As always, I love you
Martin

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