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Archive for December, 2013

The last chapter of the Old Testament holds a promise that is incredibly comforting to my faith.

It speaks of something that I am looking forward to when my days on earth are done.

You see, by the time this promise comes true for me, it’s quite possible that I’ll be a feeble, old man who will have long said good-bye to the idea of running and jumping.

And yet, when this promise comes true, I’ll be a spry as a newborn calf.

Compared to the alternative facing those without faith in Christ, the blessing of my new status will be immeasurable and eternal.

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (Malachi 4:2)

The last day’s reading of the year in the One-Year Bible includes Malachi 3-4. The fourth chapter speaks of God’s righteous judgment on the rebellious who choose to reject God’s Word as their pattern for living. Fortunately, Malachi 4 also talks of God’s gracious desire to save souls, including those of children led to lives of faithfulness by their faithful fathers.

Let’s pledge to hold fast to reverence for God so that the Sun of Righteousness — Jesus Christ — will continue bringing healing into our imperfect, sin-stumbling lives.

It’s so much better running with joy back out into the pasture of everyday life, set free from the burden of unforgiven guilt by the promise found in I John 1:9.

“But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

What’s even better is that the eternal day is coming when our leaping with joy will be punctuated only by moments on our faces before the throne of God.

What a great mental image to have for starting a new year!

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s nice to learn that somebody’s good deed to help us was something that he or she had been planning for a long time.

Imagine getting a costly gift from someone and then learning that the person had been saving and planning the presentation for months.

That information would significantly sweeten the moment of receiving the gift.

Why? Because the forethought reflects a deep appreciation for who you are in the giver’s life.

We’ve all experienced this blessing, both in being the recipient and in being the giver.

It’s really nice.

Now think of the infinitely greater blessings of salvation and inner peace and life in a godly congregation, each of which God planned for us even before the Universe was created.

Think of how prophecy after prophecy was given in the Old Testament, pointing to the time the gift of a Savior would be given to the world to show God’s deep longing for intimate relationship with every human soul.

Think of how the joy of sinless, intimate fellowship with God — awaiting us in heaven — was planned for us from the moment it was forfeited in the Garden of Eden.

It’s such a rich thought to ponder these priceless gifts that God wants us to receive.

I was reminded of the above while reading this morning from Psalm 146:

He keeps every promise forever.

He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry.

The Lord frees the prisoners.

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.

The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.

The Lord loves the godly.

The Lord protects the foreigners among us.

He cares for the orphans and widows (vv. 5-9).

Even the most basic review of Jesus’ ministry finds that God delivered on the above promises during His Son’s three years of ministry.

To think that Jesus’ work plan included that which was promised centuries earlier is quite significant.

Jesus was on a mission to show people that God loved them and had been planning for a long time to bless them and, for whoever would accept the remedy, to save their souls.

Please start planning now for how you might bless someone months from now in a way that shows the deep appreciation for who he or she is in your life.

It’s the right thing to do and will show God that you want to be more like Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Here’s a gift from scripture this morning in the form of an extremely practical bundle of wisdom from Solomon:

There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise:

Ants — they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer.

Hyraxes (rock badgers) — they aren’t powerful, but they make their homes among the rocks.

Locusts — they have no king, but they march in formation.

Lizards — they are easy to catch, but they are found even in kings’ palaces. (Proverbs 30:24-28)

Here are the life wisdom lessons we can draw from this passage, lessons that can help us to have a more humble, more fruitful 2014.

First, like ants, let’s keep working, never presuming that what we have now is what we’ll have tomorrow. Let’s keep working because even if we end up with more than we need to provide for ourselves, somebody else is needing food help that we can provide to them.

Second, like rock badgers, let’s be content with having a safe, solid roof over our heads, even if our residence impresses nobody. Our mission to to seek physical/spiritual provision for others and ourselves “out there,” not simply to have a snazzy abode “in here.”

Third, like locusts, let’s recognize the value of shared goals and cooperation. There are fields “white unto harvest” but we’ll fail to have the impact that God desires for evangelism if we try do ministry by ourselves rather than cooperate with other believers with evangelism and shared compassion ministries toward people in need.

Finally, like lizards, let’s look for ways to gain places of influence among those in politically or financially powerful places. Let’s look for every opportunity to offer help — volunteerism or otherwise — with the “movers and shakers” in our community.

Join a civic organization that has influential people. Seek to make friendships with them. The Lord just might use that friendship someday to serve His kingdom and the Light of God’s love will shine in the king’s palace in a way it might not have otherwise.

Ants, badgers, locusts and lizards — good teachers all. Let’s do our best to be good students.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Waiting is sometimes not what we want to do.

Do we really like being in a long line at the store? Or the bank? Or the gas station? Or at the doctor’s office?

Do we like waiting for months or years to meet the one we’ve prayed will be our life soulmate? Or at least a compatible spouse?

No.

But that’s just where we find ourselves at times.

Waiting.

At least we’re not alone in the disappointment.

We all have to wait at times.

Because others are important, too.

God designed us to wait.

If we don’t want to wait, we don’t want a right relationship with God.

For with God, waiting is normal.

In fact, it’s a prerequisite.

You see, the universe doesn’t revolve around us.

It revolves around God.

And so, we wait on God to do what He thinks best in this world — and in our lives — and we trust that what results will be for our good.

He’s the psalmist’s view on this topic:

“The Lord will work out His plans for my life — for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” (Psalm 138:8)

Three other well-known passages come to mind just now….

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Never forget that God is still in the kitchen even when our bowls for blessing appear empty and our plates for provision have nothing on them.

Dinner time is coming and when it’s served, it’s going to just what we needed and, to some extent, just what we wanted.

Most importantly, though, it will be according to His recipe, not ours.

We’ve all tasted our own cooking and have found that our fast-food mentality isn’t nearly as good for us as is God’s slow cooker.

As always, I love you
Martin

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King Solomon provided me today with wisdom to share that is as practical as it gets.

“Never slander a worker to the employer, or the person will curse you, and you will pay for it.” (Proverbs 30:10)

Griping with untrue words is never right. But when it is clearly intended to get somebody in trouble or even to get them fired, that’s malicious and almost certainly will lead to backlash in this life.

That’s not counting, of course, the accountability before God for engaging in evil behavior.

Just about everybody has been slandered on the job at some point. Probably many more times than we even realize.

When we find out that such has happened, what is our natural reaction desire?

To get even.

But faith is not to be ruled by flesh.

We do right. We speak truth. We demonstrate unmistakable integrity.

And we let time and truth and character be our defenses, speaking up only when we have to.

Let’s avoid slander of others, seeing it for the sin that it is.

That way, we won’t have to pay the consequences of ignoring Solomon’s wisdom.

Let’s instead do all that we can to encourage others to do better and forgive others when they fail.

After all, isn’t this the kind of treatment that WE want from others?

Who will have ultimately have more influence in the workplace? The slanderer? Or the encourager?

As always, I love you
Martin

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Being faithful isn’t complicated.
We humans sometimes make getting along with one another far too complicated.
But it never has to be this way with God.
Here’s what He asks of us:

“O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Like I said, being faithful isn’t complicated.
We just have to live like Jesus lived.
He did what was right.
And He loved mercy.
It’s interesting that my sermon yesterday was about the fourth and fifth beatitudes in Matthew 5:6-7.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
Righteous living.
Showing mercy to others.
It’s what God requires of us.
It’s what Jesus demonstrated.
It’s what shows our desire to please God.
This is faith, my friends.
Let’s do this.

As always, I love you
Martin

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In all sorts of work environments — and even in the church — the fear of a lost job pushes people into unhealthy compromises they’d never make if not for fear of angering the person who can make their lives miserable or even fire them.

We’ve all seen this happen.

Perhaps we’ve even experienced it.

Fortunately, most people in hire/fire positions don’t exploit this power because they know that fear-filled workers are not optimally fruitful workers.

Are you struggling with fear of a person just now because you’re afraid that person will fire you or work to get you fired?

Are you fearful of someone making it his or her mission to trash your standing among peers at school? Or within your extended familiy?

Are you afraid of speaking up at church about an unbiblical action or teaching because you don’t want to create enemies and become the target of icy stares, cold shoulders and hallway gossip?

King Solomon has something to share with us this morning that is intended to strengthen us.

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (Proverbs 29:25)

Let’s do and say what is right in God’s sight. Let’s make sure that our faith is based on the compass of scripture — 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

At all times.

Our souls and consciences will be safe.

Notice that Solomon didn’t promise the absence of conflict.

He promised safety.

That means preservation in the midst of danger.

I’ve lost jobs because of remaining true to my conscience and the Word of God.

Tough times followed.

But my faith was strengthened — “toughened” — and I am a better person now as a result.

And my soul remains safe beyond the reach of the Enemy’s efforts to flood me with fear.

As a pastor, I am to reverently fear the Lord and keep His commandments, not fear people and ignore/edit God’s commandments.

Listen, friends. If hassles and hardships come our way because we’re fearing the Lord and His commandments, God will still carry us spiritually and economically to the safe place we need to be.

Let this be our strength. Let this be our hope. Let this be our “safe place” where our souls can abide in assurance.

As always, I love you
Martin

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