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Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

According to the gospels, Jesus wasn’t amazed very much.

According to my quick research, there were two times that scripture says Jesus was amazed.

One time involved a person whom Jesus didn’t expect to have a correct understanding of faith — a Roman centurion. That account is in Luke 7.

The other time involved people whom Jesus DID expect to have a correct understanding of faith — the people of His hometown synagogue. That account is in Mark 6.

Interesting contrast, huh?

Surprised by a foreigner with an atypical faith and surprised by hometown peers with an absent faith.

It seems that Jesus was amazed by those things that He didn’t expect.

I pray that you and I don’t amaze Jesus in these ways.

It is good if Jesus expects us to show a correct understanding of faith and then we actually do so.

Simply stated, let’s not give Jesus any surprises.

If we call Him Lord, our lives should show that He is Lord.

When it comes to an obedient life, let’s live such in a way that amazes those around us and not our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As always, I love you
Martin

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When it comes to most products and services in life, you get what you pay for.

Want a more reliable, more comfortable car? You almost always have to pay more than you would for a less-comfortable car with a less-enviable reputation.

And what about generic vs. name-brand shoes? That’s nearly always a no-brainer since cheap shoes have no way to hide the diminished durability that comes with the rigors of continual pounding on the pavement or concrete floors at work or school.

The whole “you reap what you sow” thing regarding investment of money also applies to our family and spiritual lives, as well.

Treat your kids like decorations for your self-absorbed life and you might end up seeing them visit you perhaps once a year after they reach adulthood and then for a brief “Thanks for giving me birth” visit to you in the ICU just before you pass away.

You’ve seen lonely senior citizens who yearn for time with their adult children who once were little kids yearning for more time with Dad or with Mom.

It’s really sad, this “Cat’s in the Cradle” syndrome.

What’s even more sad is that it didn’t have to be this way.

I pray that you are investing time into your family.

For what goes around comes around.

It’s the law of the harvest.

This principle applies with personal ministry, of course.

Whatever you invest into the Kingdom of God in terms of time and money will be reflected in what you harvest.

It boils down to the determination of how much you want from your faith.

If you want an abundance of fulfillment, of spiritual and random material blessing, then you’ve got to invest heavily in spiritual service and tangible blessings shared with others through your local congregation and through your generosity toward people not associated with your congregation.

Am I saying all this because I’m a pastor and want you to donate money to my congregation? Absolutely not.

If I never see a penny of your finances, that’s OK with me because I want your focus to be on building up the Kingdom through your congregation and through your personal benevolence to financially hurting people in your neighborhood or workplace or among your extended family.

The same general principle applies with the sharing of encouraging words. If you are chintzy with efforts to build up others, then you’ll receive few words of encouragement when you face hard times.

And in the realm of evangelism, the law of the harvest is absolute.

Plant few seeds. See few results, if any.

Plant many seeds. See many responses. Even if only a few become Christians, many more have felt and appreciated the gracious encouragement they received and God was glorified.

The evangelistic fruitfulness of your congregation is directly related to how your church members apply this principle.

The Apostle Paul wrote of the law of the harvest while addressing the church at Corinth. He was specifically writing about financial offerings, but I believe the principle applies in a variety of contexts.

“Remember this — a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Plant generously in the various gardens of your life, dear friend.

That way, you will be a vessel of blessing to the Kingdom of God as you share with your congregation, with your relatives, with your friends, co-workers, neighbors and sometimes even complete strangers.

God will see your obedience to His will and Word and will send blessings your way.

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God” (2 Corinthians 9:11).

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  When goals trump gripes

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Some of the griping that we face in life is not related to what we’re doing wrong, but instead what we’re doing right.

Yes, it’s true that our choices and actions are sometimes deserving of chastisement because we didn’t prepare well or we didn’t perform with passion.

It is also true, however, that we are randomly bombarded with baloney from people who really don’t like the progress we’re making for the Lord.

If you are a young adult having success in leading a “wild thing” young adult away from the party scene, you’re probably not going to be popular with that young person’s drinkin’ buddies. In fact, it would be a surprise if you didn’t have criticism leveled at you for being a hypocrite because of your past sins.

If you are an older adult having success in helping to lead a workplace — or even a congregation — away from mediocrity and into productivity, you just might face criticism from current or former employees/members who tried to do the same but weren’t successful.

Sadly, there are a number of times in our lives when we encounter people who don’t want us to succeed and who use words and actions to undercut us.

At such times, keeping our eyes and hearts on the mission is the only way to reach the goal.

That’s why prayer is SO important.

For prayer opens the door to our hearts and minds through which God can impart direction and resolve and power.

Prayer also provides for the infusion of discernment that is sorely needed when others are talking trash to us and about us.

I was reminded of all this while reading Nehemiah 5-7 this morning in my One-Year Bible. Nehemiah faced repeated schemes from people who didn’t want to see Jerusalem rebuilt after the exiles returned from Babylonian slavery.

It’s a compelling account that points to the depths of human scheming possible when people choose to serve themselves rather than the Lord.

The team of naysayers were focused on undercutting the re-establishment of Jerusalem as a worship/ministry/cultural/economic center. And I’m sure that the Devil was coaching the men such as Tobiah, Sanballat and Shemaiah, each of whom were committed to preventing the city’s return to the role ordained and desired by God.

The chapters offer an impressive example of leadership principles needed to overcome such poison. I encourage you to read Nehemiah 5-7 in order to be a better leader at your work, your congregation or your home.

Nehemiah and those joining with him in the rebuilding mission did succeed, but only because they understood the real agenda of their critics and did not take their eyes off the goal.

Be discerning, my friend. If others only crank up the complaining when you start chalking up successes toward worthy goals, then that should tell you something, shouldn’t it?

Pray that your critics will be persuaded by the Holy Spirit toward seeing your mission as a blessing to them rather than as a threat.

Oh, and one other thing…. don’t gripe back at them. Nehemiah and his team of thousands didn’t and look how God empowered their mission — the city’s entire wall was rebuilt in 52 days!

Listen, when people throw stones at you, remember to say “Thank you very much for the building block” and then use the stones to humbly build your city of faith.

Who knows that one of those critics might one day run to your “city” to find hope when he or she has lost all of his or hers?

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Apathy toward apathy 

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I’ve felt a heaviness in my heart since yesterday morning.

The reason? The moral decay of our nation is accelerating and too few of us Christians are trying to put our feet on the brakes.

I know that I can’t wag fingers at the apathy of other Christians who obsess over chasing the “good life” while terribly bad things are happening around them.

You see, even though I haven’t joined the Conga line of living for earthly success, I also haven’t done as much as I could have to call believers to proactivity in their faith.

Yesterday, I read again an article about the increasing influence of the homosexual community with Disneyworld in Orlando. Gay Day has become a signature event for the park with countless thousands of gays parading and pirouetting on streets and in attractions that have been the domain of traditional families for decades.

I read of how multiple meeting spaces and exhibit halls through the park are used for hedonistic purposes such as pornography sales and sexual liason planning for offsite locations.

As bad as that was, what really wounded me was the statement from a Disney spokesman that fewer and fewer parents are expressing concern about the Gay Day activities, and even fewer are asking for refunds because of what their kids see happening during the course of the day.

Traditional family parents just don’t care as much about what the homosexuals do in at DisneyWorld, it appears.

That’s bad enough.

But then I read last night another story that showed the erosion of godly values, not among the carnal-minded who are only doing what they’ve always done, but instead among those who should be digging in their heels — traditional family parents.

You can read the story yourself at this link, but the gist is this: fewer and fewer parents even care what filth is put on TV. As societal values decline, so does the impartation of godliness to children.

To think of where we are now regarding national moral standards as compared to 50 years ago is absolutely mind-boggling.

It’s a bad thing when the gatekeepers of social influence are increasingly characterized by the absence of godly character.

With Disneyworld being more concerned about embracing gay attendees than they are about offending godly attendees, it is obvious that the Disney Corporation has decided which worldview is increasing in power and which one is declining.

Sadly, traditional Christians haven’t done enough to persuade them otherwise.

I share the above this morning because of what I read today in my One-Year Bible:

While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly” (Ezra 10:1).

After the return to Jerusalem of the Babylonian exiles, many of the Jewish men ignored God’s warning and command against marrying non-Jewish wives. As a result, the decay of faith among the Jews accelerated and all sorts of problems occurred for the semi-restored Israel.

The root of the woes was the marital binding with ungodly spouses.

Ezra was overcome with sadness when he arrived in Jerusalem and saw the mess the disobedient believers had made of their lives and of their wannabe nation.

He then led a national move of repentance and sending away of the ungodly, foreign wives. It was a terribly painful, disruptive time, but better in the long run.

The question you and I have to answer is this: do we care what is happening to our nation’s morality and, ultimately, to our national fabric?

Will we continue to let the people of the world play with matches while we share space in an increasingly dry forest?

Or will we allow our saddened hearts to compel us into demanding that they go somewhere else to play with matches?

Better yet, will we do all that we can to water the dried-out trees and saplings around us with the Living Water so that our circles of influence are less vulnerable to the flames?

As I said above, we can’t expect carnal people to stop being carnal people, particularly as fewer Christians even care about such.

What we can do, however, is encourage Christians to embrace personal holiness and to stand against the influence of unholy living through letter-writing campaigns, by economic boycotts, by pouring out the Living Water of God’s encouraging Word to everybody we meet AND by praying, praying, praying for more Americans to humble themselves.

As we all call on God, He will hear our prayers and heal the land.

II Chronicles 7:14 says so.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Fear buttons

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Everybody has fear buttons.

I’m talking about those buttons in our individual lives that are periodically pushed by others or by unexpected life circumstances.

We might get by for a bit when others “tap, tap, tap” on those buttons, but sooner or later the fear monster jumps up like a jack in the box and we’re discombobulated for a bit…. or for a long time.

Some buttons involve strained, core relationships that are on thin ice.

Some buttons involve failing finances that are barely keeping up with even a minimal standard of living.

Some buttons involve a lengthening list of aches and pains that appear destined for deterioration into serious health woes.

And some buttons involve people who seem to pad their sense of joy by taking away yours via mean words or actions.

Oh yeah, there are also the buttons involving job loss, national political turmoil, community immorality, and many others.

I doubt that you have all these buttons on your chest.

I imagine, though, that you have at least one of them.

Even if it is smaller and it is somewhat obscured by your shield of faith.

God knows we have these buttons. It’s part of our human existence.

God also knows that He’s provided the remedy for fear buttons.

It’s the big button called “FAITH” that we can choose to place over our heart.

The more that we push that FAITH button, the smaller the fear buttons become and the smaller the fear monster appears when somebody or something does push the fear button.

Because of a growing faith, we can experience a shrinking fear of feeling abandoned if somebody breaks a relationship with us.

Because of a growing faith, we can remain hopeful even when our net worth and mortgage status are screaming “Hopeless!”

And because of a growing faith, we can keep hope-filled even when the doctor’s face is glum, when the gossip factory against us is running three shifts and when our once-wholesome society sprints toward godlessness.

Here is the key fact in all of this — God is still on the throne.

And He promises to sustain and save the souls of those who seek and serve Him.

That is all the reason we need to push the FAITH button whenever one or more of our fear buttons are being pushed by another or by circumstances.

I was reminded this morning in my One-Year Bible reading that faith always trumps fear when people see God accurately.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident….

For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.” (Psalm 27:1-4, 5 NLT)

Life has been pushing several of my fear buttons lately. It hasn’t been enjoyable, to say the least.

But for every push on the fear button by a circumstance or by a particular person, I’ve learned to P.U.S.H. even harder and more frequently on the FAITH button.

P.U.S.H. as in continuing to pray until something happens.

Why? Because of my absolute confidence that the same God who WILL deliver my soul to the eternal blessing of His presence will also deliver earthly blessings to me so that I can serve Him as a poster child for faith overcoming fear.

He’s done it before. He’ll do it again. For me. And for you.

We just have to keep pushing the big button in the middle.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click  Add to your ‘Attaboy!’ list

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I want to be seen by God as Apelles was seen by the Apostle Paul — as one whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.

And I want to seen by God as the godly women Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis were seen by Paul — as one who works very hard for the Lord.

Apelles, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis were mentioned in my One-Year Bible reading for today from Romans 16. Paul is ending his epic letter to the Christians at Rome and chooses to affirm a number of people who had endeared themselves to his heart because of the faithful love and service to God’s Kingdom.

It’s an uncluttered passage that promotes the idea of unity, volunteerism and the fact that God values the ministry efforts of women as much as He values the ministry efforts of men.

It is refreshing to read Paul’s words. It is also instructive for those of us who are struggling now with the vitality of our faith.

God sees what we do for His sake.

Faithful Christians are to observe others’ Kingdom efforts, too, offering words of encouragement and appreciation just as Paul did.

Can you imagine how encouraged Apelles, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Pesis and the other named believers were when Paul’s letter was read to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Christians in Rome?

They didn’t serve in order to get on Paul’s “Attaboy!” list, of course. Yet their loyalty to God and gratefulness for His blessings surely were boosted as they heard their names and received the handshakes and hugs from fellow believers.

I want to encourage you to affirm the ministry efforts of others in your congregation or some other Christian setting. Tell them verbally or in writing of how you appreciate their efforts.

And then look for others in your circle of influence to whom you can provide the blessing of affirmation.

It’s the right thing to do.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click An ocean of lemonade

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A key measure of our faith is how we conduct ourselves when others make costly decisions.

I’m talking about those times when you’re given a pitcher of lemon juice and you scurrying to make lemonade.

In the Apostle Paul’s case, as recorded in Acts 27, the lemon juice was ocean-sized.

And yet, Paul was protected and provided for in a way that made lemonade for hundreds of people then and millions of people since.

Here’s the recap: It was late fall and the Mediterranean Sea was rocking and rolling like a washing machine. In the midst of that giant bowl of lemon juice was the ship upon which Paul and his Roman captors were riding enroute to Rome.

The ship was tossed around like a cork on the waves and more than 270 men — excluding Paul — thought they were all going to die.

It turned out, of course, that not one of them died.

Yes, God was good in how He answered Paul’s prayers.

Not only did the men survive, but people got healed and saved on the island where the ship eventually wrecked.

And we believers have found lemonade-style refreshment ever since from the Acts 27-28 accounts.

What is interesting about this whole sequence is that Paul had tried to prevent this whole mess from ever happening.

While temporarily anchored off the coast of Crete, the ship owner, pilot and the Roman centurion in charge of Paul agreed they should set sail across open waters in order to keep a schedule.

Bad idea, Paul said.

So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’  But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.” (vv. 9b-11).

Because the three men didn’t understand who Paul was — or WHOSE Paul was — they ignored his words. What did this preacher man know, anyway?

Talk about a bucket of lemon juice in the face!

Paul knew that it was going to get rough.

But he also knew that God had a purpose and a plan for his life and that he WOULD stand before Caesar in Rome.

And so, not knowing the details of what would come, Paul found strength and patience in the fact that God’s plans will be accomplished one way or the other.

Of course, the journey to Rome is a whole lot more interesting for us because of all that Paul faced along the way. And it is far more instructional/inspirational as compared to, “Paul boarded an Alexandrian ship at Tyre and disembarked three weeks later on the coast of Italy.”

Clearly, the three men mentioned above messed up in an earthly sense. They made a costly decision that would have been avoided had they listened to the preacher man.

But they didn’t and Paul needed to faithfully start making lemonade.

I thank God for the refreshing lemonade of Paul’s story in Acts 27-28.

And I thank God — in advance — for the refreshing lemonade that will come to the people in your lives as you respond in the pattern of Christ whenever someone else makes a costly decision against your reasoned advice.

Remember, God has a purpose and a plan for your life and you will be given opportunities to share that plan with people God has already planned for you to meet.

Make sure that you have a glass of lemonade ready for them, OK?

As always, I love you
Martin

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