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Archive for September, 2014

We know of the wonderful teaching in Colossians 3:17 that all of our words and actions should honor and serve God, whether toward Him directly or toward the people He created and loves.

The same principle is also taught in a verse from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible:

“Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.” (2 Corinthians 12:19)

These words from the Apostle Paul display how much his heart was devoted to the Christians in the Corinthian church.

What makes them particularly special is that Paul’s heart was aching because of conflict within the congregation, from member to member, from members toward scriptures they were ignoring and from some members toward Paul via acceptance of false reports.

Even in the midst of that disappointment, Paul’s love remained.

His integrity was solid.

His devotion never wavered.

Though treated as an enemy by some, Paul responded with love for all of his “dear friends.”

I’m sure that many prayers preceded his intercessory actions on behalf of the Corinthian Christians.

He loved them and wanted divine guidance and empowerment in order to strengthen the believers.

This, of course, is a wonderful example for us.

Everything we do as Christians, particularly toward those in our congregations, should be for strengthening others.

Not one of our God-given breaths should be used to say anything that tears down, but instead to build up.

And every calorie burned should be fueling our deeds rooted in faith, not flesh.

When our head hits the pillow tonight, may it be true that everything we did served to strengthen our friends.

As always, I love you
Martin

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They had lost their homes, their jobs and many of their family and friends. And they had been forced to leave their beloved Jerusalem.

In fact, one of their beloved leaders had been murdered and countless numbers of people they loved had been thrown into prison.

All because of loving and living for a man who had taught them to love all people.

It wasn’t fair.

But it was a time of great faithfulness.

The beginning of Acts 8 describes the tsunami of persecution that came against Christians after the martyrdom of Stephen.

Hell was unleashed in a sense upon Christians in and around Jerusalem, the birthplace of Christianity.

Yet, what Satan intended for extinguishing the flames of faith instead spread them to a much wider audience.

The hard times actually served the purposes of the Great Commission.

Check out these words from Acts 8:4.

But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.”

I don’t wish hard times on anybody. I certainly don’t go looking for them.

They happen, though, and it’s important that we look within them for opportunities to spread our faith, whether it be to the person seated in the Career Center next to us who is also looking for a job or it is the discouraged looking man in the surgery waiting room two seats down from us who could really use a prayer for his wife who is in surgery as is ours.

The seeds of hope that sprinkle from our lives into others just might sprout and grow as the Lord finds more receptive minds and hearts.

Listen, when tough times come, particularly those that seem SO unfair, let’s shine, not whine.

How people view our faith — and hopefully Jesus — will be radically different based on which we choose.

One other thing… please pray for the millions of Christians around the world who are facing persecution by terrorists yet continue to shine, not whine.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Having an intercessory, shepherd’s heart is not just for the Christian apostles of the 1st Century.

It’s something that every Christian is called to have.

Even if we’re shepherding just one person.

Here’s what the Apostle Paul wrote regarding his shepherd’s heart:

I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)

We should pray daily for the believers and congregations within our circles of influence. They’re our family, after all.

When a Christian brother or sister is struggling, we should feel their need for help and encouragement. That’s when we’ll be more likely to come alongside of them in prayer and active efforts to help as fellow believers should.

If someone is getting bad information, whether doctrinally or with how live in everyday life, we should be discerning of the poisonous path being promoted and we shouldn’t complacently say nothing because we don’t want to get involved.

When we do speak, though, it should be with words based on facts and scripture, not only our feelings and opinions.

For opinions often have little influence against destructive behavior designed to tear down others in order to divide loyalties.

Let’s all commit to being good shepherds, regardless of if we wear the title.

There are too many sheep starving for safe pasture, Living Water and someone to help them against the wolves.

As always, I love you
Martin

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The best way to weaken the influence of an attacking troublemaker is almost always by indirect action rather than a loud “Shut up!”

You see, the troublemaker likely won’t shut up and might spew even more poison about you.

You’ve seen this happen at the job or at the school or among extended family or perhaps even at church.

What’s so much better to do is to display personal integrity, kindness and Christlike character in order to reveal the truth to others that the poison words are bogus.

Fortunately, most of us don’t have to deal with this very often.

But when we do, it’s vital that we get it right.

Just like the Apostle Paul did in 2 Corinthians 11:7-15. If you’ll click this link and read the passage from today’s section in the One-Year Bible, you’ll see that enemies of the Gospel and Paul were trying to destroy his influence.

Paul didn’t respond with poison. Instead, he responded by pointing to his efforts to live with humility and integrity.

Paul wanted to leave his enemies firing blanks so that their attacks only made noise but scored no hits.

For Paul to say in verse 9, “I have never been a burden to you and I never will be,” not only confirmed his commitment to the believers at Corinth but it also displayed his pastor’s heart that he never wanted the sheep to suffer because he was a mooching minister.

It had to have pained Paul’s heart to know that lies were being told about him just so his protective influence would be lessened.

But this wasn’t about defending one’s ego. This was about affirming his love and personal integrity in order to continue shepherding the flock. This was about equipping the sheep to know the truth in order to alert them to falsehood coming from opponents of truth.

Regardless of the setting wherein you might be facing attacks on your character, please focus first of having the personal character that honors and imitates the Lord and then focus on humbly communicating that reminder to those who might be hearing lies and attacks upon you.

It’s not about shouting down the masquerading angels, the wolves in sheep’s clothing, but instead about equipping and protecting the ones listening.

It’s about being known as a blessing in people’s lives, not a burden.

As always, I love you
Martin

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The Old West wasn’t tamed by farmers who quit work at lunchtime.

Instead, there was feeding animals at sunrise, planting seed in the morning, plowing and mending fences in the early afternoon and repairing barns and checking on animals in the late afternoon until it was dark.

Though the order might have varied from farmer to farmer, the basic framework of responsibility was the same.

Keep busy. Keep progressing.

We’re a better nation now because of what those diligent folk did there and elsewhere around the country.

Of course, the principle of never slacking off applies in a spiritual sense as well.

Solomon — a lover of the soil — knew about keeping busy and productive.

Here’s what he had to say about the diligent lifestyle:

“Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

If you’re in sales, you know that your livelihood depends on heeding this principle.

If you’re a fisherman, you know it applies on the water as well.

Virtually every endeavor we can imagine reveals the same truth — those who stay focused on their mission all day are the ones who succeed most frequently.

Please apply Solomon’s principle at your job. You’ll be a better employee. Your supervisor and co-workers will appreciate how you’re helping the company to succeed and have more revenue to share with workers.

Apply the principle if you’re in school. You never know if the additional review of book chapters you do in the afternoon before a test will help you score the A rather than a B or C.

And keep looking for opportunities to share news of God’s blessings in your life. Or keep looking for opportunities to pray with somebody about a pressing need in his or her life. We never know when a door is going to open for such opportunities.

What IS certain is that if we never look for them and if we never prepare for them, then we won’t go through them.

And what profit is that to us? Or to the Kingdom?

Let’s keep busy for Jesus. It’s how the Kingdom progresses in its mission to lead people to Christ.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I liked the reminder given me this morning by Solomon:

“For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips.” (Proverbs 22:18)

Solomon wrote these words after having shared many, many verses of inspired instruction given him through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The king wanted his readers to view scripture as they would a trusted workshop tool or kitchen utensil — close by and always ready to make a difference.

I’m trying to learn at least one new verse every week to add to my depth of readiness for personal ministry and intimacy with God.

Galatians 6:10 is a verse that has been cementing itself into my heart and mind lately. It tells me to do good for others whenever I have opportunity, particularly for Christian brothers and sisters.

I’ve found myself quoting that verse in a number of settings lately. It’s rewarding to share the Word with people in ways that helps them to understand the Christian mission and to perhaps start living it out more frequently themselves.

Please consider the start of a verse-memorization initiative in your life. You’ll be glad you did and so with the Lord who observes your efforts and has the power to magnify them as you offer them in faith.

As always, I love you
Martin

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King Solomon said that most people striving to be “successful” are doing so because they envy their neighbors.

Simply stated, pride fuels the desire to be as successful or more successful than others.

Solomon — a king who knew something about success — said in Ecclesiastes 4:4 that this craving is like “chasing the wind.”

The king said it was much better to have one handful with quietness than to have two handfuls after the stress of combining hard work and chasing that wind.

The better course is to recognize the futility of thinking that money by itself brings happiness, he said.

Happiness instead comes from being diligent and honorable in our behavior at whatever work we do, recognizing that money is to be seen as fuel, not as a trophy.

I’ve never seen a sports car owner brag about the size of his or her vehicle’s gas tank. That’s because he or she sees the gas as fuel, not as the admired feature.

In a sense, that’s how we’re to view wealth.

It is to be a tool, not an idol.

And when we find enjoyment from our work and are at peace with God wherever we are financially, we are truly blessed.

We trust that God will never allow us to “run out of gas” before we arrive at our eternal destination.

We can enjoy our lives without a perpetually pouty face that thinks God hasn’t blessed us enough and that we’re gonna have to make up for what He hasn’t given us.

Consider these words from Ecclesiastes 5:19-20:

“…it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.”

Would I like to have a bigger paycheck? Of course.

Is my level of appreciation for God’s grace diminished because I don’t? Absolutely not.

Whatever I have is a gift from God that is not mine because of my merit but instead because of His mercy.

I am to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and then trust that He will add to my life all that is needed financially so that I can keep doing more of the same.

Even if my income drops, I’m hopeful that my love and service to Him will not.

I’m just glad to receive any blessings from God.

Perhaps you feel the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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