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Archive for January, 2014

We’ve all seen the movies about boxers and the scenes in the ring when one boxer takes the opponent’s best punch and then scornfully taunts, “Is that the best you got?”

The resulting outcome for the not-hard-enough puncher is never good.

I thought of this movie dialogue moment while reading this morning from Matthew 20:12-17. The passage was part of the daily segment from the One-Year Bible that I read online.

In this passage, Jesus enters the Jerusalem temple immediately after His triumphal entry. He is disgusted at the exploitative rip-offs by moneychangers and sacrificial animal salesmen and He throws them out of the temple after knocking over their tables.

Of course, the religious leaders had to have been conspiring with the crooks in order for them to be doing business in the temple.

So when by throwing the crooks out, Jesus was also indicting the leaders who had sanctioned the rip-offs.

Jesus followed up the temple cleansing by healing a bunch of people.

You’d think that the religious bigshots would have jumped all over Jesus for a lack of self-control or a lack of fair, judicial hearings or for whatever.

Here’s the best they could come up with: they complained that kids in the temple were praising Jesus.

Wow.

That sure is a wimpy punch by ones who desparately wanted to knock out Jesus.

With the enormity of what was happening in those days and what was about to happen, the powerful Sanhedrin was griping about kids praising Jesus as He healed people?

Jesus could have rightly asked, “Is that the best you got?”

This pathetic display of intellectual impotence continued the three-year pattern of repeated failures to paint Jesus into logical and spiritual corners.

And it affirmed the fact that the hatred of religious leaders toward Jesus was not why Jesus ended up on the cross as our atoning sacrifice.

Jesus put Himself there by choice.

Their hatred was only a tool which factored into how Jesus went to the cross, not why.

Let’s learn from Jesus’ experience in Matthew 20:12-17. When people air sometimes-wimpy gripes about our faithfulness, let’s calmly reply that we’re simply doing what we can to bring honor to God who deserves all the praise we can give Him and more.

Like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, those complaining to us might not like it, but they will hear the truth that Christians are created to give God “the best they got.”

As always, I love you
Martin

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God told the Hebrews, via Moses, to prepare for the Passover night by covering the door frames of their homes in Egypt with the blood of flawless, yearling lambs or goats.

When the death angel saw the blood, the firstborn of the house would be spared.

When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12:13)

It was the death of the innocent, flawless animal that saved the families from terrible suffering.

Those who didn’t take God’s Word seriously suffered horribly.

The principle still applies for those wanting deliverance when death comes to their door.

If the blood covering of the innocent, flawless Lamb of God is seen on the soul, spiritual death will not come to the person.

We need the covering of Christ’s atoning blood on our souls.

Please heed the Apostle Paul’s words and make sure that you have that covering.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27)

I want God to see Christ’s blood covering my sins. That’s why I was baptized.

I pray that you’ve made the same decision. Or that you will.

As Paul wrote, it’s what the children of God do through faith.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We could never adequately appreciate times of quiet unless we knew times of chaotic, noisy racket.

When the annoying rattle in the dashboard stops and we can drive without the distraction to our thinking, it’s good.

When the neighbor’s incessantly barking dog is finally given a bowl of food and is silenced, it’s good.

When the persistently griping co-worker goes on vacation for two weeks, it’s good.

Quiet is SO nice compared to corrosive noise.

Yet, without that racket, we wouldn’t value the calm as we should.

It’s all about the contrast.

And so it is with the chaotic, corrosive effects of evil.

In fact, God re-purposes that evil so that it promotes good.

Satan must hate how God does this.

But Satan hates everything, so that’s OK.

Check out this verse that can help us understand the place of evil in serving God’s purposes:

“But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

These words of God were directed toward Pharoah when he wouldn’t let the Hebrews leave Egypt.

Pharoah was evil in his heart toward Moses and the Hebrews and defiant in his rejection of God’s miracle-amplified mandates to “let the people go.”

In verse 15, Moses told Pharoah that God could have simply wiped the Egyptian ruler and his people “off the face of the earth.”

But God’s sovereignty and His purposes are better served by God’s will overcoming evil rather than eliminating it from the earth.

It’s quite logical when we think about it.

Teams don’t lift trophies after practice sessions, but instead after championship contests.

There is no victory where there is no contest.

Evil creates the occasion for the contest.

Faith in God’s purposes and power creates the avenue for the victory.

God allows evil so that His children might re-purpose it for His glory and their victory.

Let’s remember this when evil stings us. Just like Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

As faith strengthens us during the contest over whom we trust — God or Satan — victory over evil will become our testimony that can spread God’s fame throughout the “earth” of our lives.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If we have this one thing, we have everything we’ll ever need.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” (Psalm 23:1 NLT)

Wow.

Can you say that and really mean it?

I want to be able to do that and mean it, but I know that I’ve still got some work to do in that regard.

Lord plus ______” thinking is never good for our faith when it comes to feeling at peace.

That’s why we must continually renew our minds through the Holy Spirit’s influence and the Word’s integration into our hearts and thoughts.

Solid faith knows that if we love and trust God and serve Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, He’ll take care of our needs.

He promises so in Matthew 6:33 when Jesus called us to seek first God’s Kingdom and righteous living and all we need will be provided.

Imagine one of those Swiss Army knife gizmos that has dozens functions attached to it. We’ve all seen them and some of us might even own one similar.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, that knife would probably be all you’d need in terms of tools in order to survive.

God is the ultimate Swiss Army knife.

He is all you and I need.

Let’s follow His leading as our shepherd and He’ll make sure to lead us by green pastures and still waters of worldly provision so that we can keep following and honoring Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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God asks us to do things at times that are frightening to us because of our presumption that bad things might happen.

Many Christians are afraid to tithe, thinking that God won’t keep His promise to more than make up for the larger gifts to ministry.

Many Christians are afraid to forgive, thinking that if the person hurt us once and it really stung, then that same person will hurt us again and it will sting even more because we could have avoided the pain.

And many Christians are afraid to look for ways to talk about their faith with co-workers, neighbors, relatives, classmates and various other relationships. People have made it clear to them before that they didn’t want to hear about religion and many believers don’t want to catch grief again for evangelizing.

So are we to reject tithing, forgiving and faith-sharing just because of our fears?

You know the answer.

God never criticizes us for having fears. We are human, after all.

What He expects from us, however, is that fear never trumps our faith.

What He expects is that we’ll do what He calls us to do, even those things that shape our faith before we share His message.

There is a potent, relevant passage in Exodus that speaks to this principle. It involves God’s efforts to grow and shape Moses’ faith in advance of the history-changing ministry in Egypt before the escape from bondage.

God called Moses to lead the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. But that involved Moses going back to Pharoah’s palace and perhaps facing the long-delayed consequences for murdering an Egyptian 40 years earlier.

Not only was Moses afraid of facing the music in Egypt, he had no confidence that the Hebrews would listen to him.

There’s a lesson here for each of us — God never asks us to do something that’s not good for His Kingdom and good for ourselves.

If He calls us to it, He’ll get us through it. And He’ll provide the power we need if we provide the leadership His people need.

But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you?’”

Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.

“Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him.

So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back.

Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.”

So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand. (Exodus 4:1-4)

I’m not sure what calling of God on your life has been put on hold because of your fears.

But you certainly know what it is, whether trusting God with tithing or forgiving or with evangelizing.

Reach out and grab the tail of that snake that has been causing you to step back from obedience.

Do what Moses did, believing as Moses did — take your fears by the tail and watch the threat become a great tool for ministry.

From fear to faith. It’s a journey we can all make as we take God at His word.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you had a several kids in your car and, because of recurring nausea, you weren’t able to finish driving the curvy, mountainous roads between your destination, would you pull into a restaurant and ask just anybody to get behind the wheel while you rode with eyes closed and stomach in knots?

Of course not. If you had to resort to such a desparate move to get home for the evening, you’d certainly be careful to make sure that the person was a competent driver who took instructions well.

Failure to be careful could lead to tragedy for all.

You see, we have to be careful about how our lives are steered.

If we’re not, bad things can — and sometimes do — happen.

This is particularly true with respect to who is steering our hearts.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Who influences your heart?

Who do you allow to steer your values on issues of morality? Of theology? Of patterns for emotional intimacy?

Who do you turn to for advice on family relationships?

Who is your mentor when it comes to workplace attitudes and behaviors?

Is there a role model for you who is plugged into the Word of God?

You’ve heard the phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

This is absolutely true with respect to the heart.

We’ve all seen it in others’ lives and we’ve unfortunately experienced it periodically in our own.

Let’s be careful to allow only those people surrendered to the Lord to be on the list of those allowed to give us directions for the journey of life.

Test everything.

If it’s something Jesus would allow into His heart, then it’s something that we can allow into ours.

If He wouldn’t accept an idea or behavior because it’s ungodly, then we shouldn’t, either.

How can you know what Jesus would allow into His heart?

Read the gospels.

It will do your heart good.

And the course of your life just might change for the better.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I love the affirmation of my faith in God that is contained in Psalm 19:1-4.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The skies display His craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make Him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

and their words to all the world.

Look into the skies today, my friend.

Your faith will grow stronger as they speak their silent words of praise.

As always, I love you
Martin

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