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Archive for February, 2014

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

It’s one of scriptures most vivid metaphors and applies to so many situations.

Don’t put new wine in old wineskins or you’re going to have a big mess.

New wine ferments, produces gas that fills the wineskin that then is stretched.

The new wineskin, made of leather or an animal belly, is flexible and stretches fine.

Old wineskins don’t adapt, though, and most often rupture because of the pressure for change.

We see this dynamic played out in all sorts of ways in life.

A manager comes into the workplace with new ideas and long-time employees — biding their time until retirement — might resist the call to adapt.

A principal tries to persuade students and faculty to change the classroom culture to promote learning and not simply emotional survival, yet the principal’s initiatives prompt a blow-up of conflicts rather than a coalition for improvement.

It happens in families, too, when a remarriage occurs and a blended family deteriorates into a powder keg of a new parent seeking to provide disciplinary consequences for previously unrestrained children.

The examples could go on and on but the point is clear, both involving the way of faith and just everyday life.

In the church, new ideas for enhancing ministry impact are sometimes seen as threats by those who are set in their ways of doing this or doing that.

And those promoting the new ideas are sometimes seen as troublemakers who don’t understand “how life really is.”

Let’s resist the temptation to criticize and reject ideas that are new and different than our own. It’s possible that an established strategy is still the best strategy but we must be willing to honestly and humbly evaluate if there’s a more effective way to serve at church or to succeed at work or to promote harmony in the home.

The best way to remain flexible, to not become a stiff, old wineskin, is to keep God’s love and Truth and power flowing through us day by day.

That way, we remain flexible and adaptable.

That way, we can embrace good ideas that are new to us and can help us enjoy new blessings and victories for the Kingdom.

This is SO much better than having a blow-up because we wouldn’t change.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

One of the ways we show love to another is by being willing to help them during a time of need.

In fact, taking his or her hand during times of trouble shows that the relationship is more important than the circumstance.

Many parents of adult children know what it’s like to see their children hit a rough spot on the road of life and then hear that child turn to Mom and Dad for help.

That’s when Mom and Dad adopt the “rescue” mindset and go to help the child again.

Close, adult friends often display the same supportive behavior toward one another.

It’s what love so often does.

God is the same, it seems.

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” (Psalm 34:19)

Let’s rejoice that God desires to be our Rescuer.

Even when we’re not in those crisis moments, let’s rejoice that our Redeemer/Rescuer is so good to us.

We just might show our appreciation for Him by doing what we can to help others during their times of many troubles.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Imagine the brief horror of life without breath.

What terror there would be until the darkness of death came.

If you’ve ever had the wind knocked out of you, you recall what that fear is like — even if only temporarily.

But God gives us the ability to breathe so that we can experience the light of day.

The breath we have is a gift from Him.

Should we not use that breath to provide gifts to Him?

When we make it our purpose to redeem our breaths by infusing them with His purposes — whether we’re speaking or quietly serving — He is praised and we are blessed.

It’s what we were created to do.

“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” (Psalm 34:1)

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)

Let’s become more active in testifying to God’s goodness. When something good happens to us or another at work, let’s audibly or in writing thank God for the blessing, whether the beneficiary is a Christian or not.

When someone makes it through a difficult health situation at church or within our extended family, let’s clearly thank God for His grace and power in a way that others hear or read it.

When we avoid a potentially deadly accident on the highway, let’s make sure to say a prayer of thanks and testify to others at our destination that God obviously isn’t done with us yet.

In the store checkout line, thank the clerk for the blessing of a kind smile.

In the doctor’s office, thank the doctor for using his or her God-given abilities to help people.

In the neighbor’s yard, discuss the beauty of the landscape plants and flowers the neighbor has and then praise the Lord for His creative genius in making such visual blessings.

You get the idea.

Let’s constantly speak His praises.

After all, He’s constantly loving and helping and blessing us, one breath at a time.

As always, I love you
Martin

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We’ve all heard about how disaster victims are sometimes showered with donations of clothes by people wanting to help.

And we’ve all heard that those clothes on too many occasions have been old and apparently unwanted by those giving them.

Not a good message for people needing encouragement as much as anything else.

Let’s make sure that we don’t do the same thing to God.

Let’s write our tithe check to Him first each week rather than after we’ve spent on bills, needs and wants.

Let’s make sure that we give Him the first day each week for worship and learning rather than snippets of time here and there after we’ve spent all of our other waking time on work and play.

That way, we’ll honor the teaching that God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai:

“As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 34:26)

God gave His best for us.

Let’s give our best for Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There’s no question that God’s Word is infinitely powerful.

It’s just a matter of if we’ll let our will plug into His.

Just how powerful is God’s Word?

Check this out….

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.” (Psalm 33:6)

Oh my.

The entire universe poofed into existence via a spoken word of God.

Sure lines up with the concept of a big bang beginning, doesn’t it?

Something from nothing.

All because God willed it and spoke it.

That’s a powerful word.

That same God with that same power is waiting to launch a “big bang” moment in our lives.

His Word has already spoken of the power awaiting us to create where nothing was before.

If the unsaved person embraces the Word of the Gospel, a new life in eternity will be created.

If the saved person who has fallen into sin embraces the Word of grace through repentance, restoration will replace corruption.

If the discouraged person embraces the promise that struggles + scripture + prayer + surrender = strength, renewal will be created in the place of despair.

There is so much that God wants to do for us and has already promised in His Word. We just have to receive that power so that He can create within us a new heart, a new vigor, a new perspective, a new hope and a new desire to share each with those who also need to hear His voice.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Let’s avoid the trap of thinking we’ve got plenty of time clean up our spiritual act before “the parents come home.”

You know the setting.

Teens doing things at home that teens shouldn’t do, thinking that Mom and Dad won’t be home for a couple of hours.

But then the door opens and the “Oh no!” feelings start flying as fast as the excuses.

There’s no easy way out of such a mess.

It’s so much better to be found doing right than to be found doing wrong.

“Oh no!” is never a good feeling, especially when it comes to Christ’s return.

Matthew 25 contains the story of 10 bridesmaids who knew the bridegroom was coming sometime, they just weren’t sure when. Five were fully prepared with oil for their lamps and five weren’t.

The latter group wanted more time, akin to teens telling Mom and Dad to drive around the block for another 30 minutes while the teens undid what they shouldn’t have been doing.

Listen, whatever there is in our lives that shouldn’t be there — harbored bitterness, closets of the soul packed with immoral thoughts or actions, unbridled envy of another — we need to throw it out, replacing it with the oil of God’s Word and Holy Spirit influence.

You see, we just don’t know how much time we have before our moment of accountability.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” (Matthew 25:13)

A text-messaging driver could prompt our “meet Jesus” moment with no warning. It happens all the time, you know.

Let’s make sure that we don’t have an “Oh no!” moment when our life ends.

Let’s get ready now.

Let’s make sure to get our spiritual house in order so that our heavenly Dad can look at our lives and say with joy, “Well done” rather than say with sadness, “What have you done?”

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s not in our human nature to help those who hate us, or even don’t like us.

The backstabber at work… the mean-spirited relative who regularly gossips about us to other relatives… the person at school or church who seems to look for our molehill mistakes in order to turn them into mountains…

These are people who are not easy to love.

We all have them… or have had them.

So we’re walking through the parking lot and, in the distance, we see our caustic critic with a dead car battery or with a flat tire.

Do we offer to help him or her?

Or do we act like we didn’t see the problem?

We know what our prideful self would say.

But what about God?

“If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.” (Exodus 23:5)

So there you have it.

We are called to do the right thing, even toward those who have done wrong things to us.

It’s not an easy lesson, but our grace toward critics does show the place of God in our hearts.

Yes, that hateful person might still hate you after your helpful efforts.

But God won’t.

He’ll see that you helped as a matter of faith, not as a matter of personal gain.

And, more than anything, shouldn’t we really be striving most of all for that audience of One?

Prove your faith today.

Help someone who has harmed you.

It’s what faith does.

Those who observe your choice will know that it’s only being done because of faith.

And what a good testimony that will be.

As always, I love you
Martin

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