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Archive for the ‘grace’ Category

One of the most impressive characteristics of King David was his consistent rejection of temptations to kill the man so often trying to kill him — King Saul.

Many times, the skilled warrior David had the opportunity and logical rationale to attack Saul who was insanely jealous of the young man’s abilities and relationship with God.

But David always refused, recognizing that God had put Saul in his position and that only God had the legitimate authority to take him out of it.

It couldn’t have been easy to withhold retaliatory efforts.

But that choice was easier, David reasoned, than would be having to explain to God why he killed Saul without God’s leading in the matter.

A passage in today’s One-Year Bible reading provides one of those accounts when David could have easily extinguished Saul’s life and just about everybody would have said David had a right to do so.

If some guy had tried repeatedly to kill me, would I have made the same choice as David?

Probably not. I’d like to say I would have but how can I really know unless I’m in David’s sandals?

The next time you have a payback opportunity drop into your lap, please seek the Lord’s will in the matter.

No, it wasn’t right how you were treated by that person in the past.

Yes, the person deserves painful consequences for making choices that harmed you.

But by showing grace rather than retribution, are you not demonstrating faith in a more influential way?

If David had killed Saul, the grief caused by the troubled king would have ended but along with it would have come the end of God’s blessing.

And no matter what the hassles were in putting up with the messed-up Saul, the hassles of a corrupted relationship toward God would be much greater and David knew this.

David trusted God to see the unfair treatment and for Him to address it in His timing. And God did as you can read in I Samuel 31.

Listen, my friend, reject revenge.

Embrace grace.

Leave room for God’s hand to act.

God will see your heart of obedience and humility and trust and He WILL bless you and comfort you.

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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Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (Proverbs 14:4)

It’s a lot less work keeping a barn clean if the owner never puts farm animals in it.

But less work in the barn means less working animals out in the field.

And how smart is it to have a barn with stables and no field animals?

The point is this — enjoying the benefit of work done out in the field comes with doing some work of our own in order to deal with messes that are just part of everyday life.

The application is quite simple with respect to family life, work life, church life or any other setting within which people are involved.

Yes, it’s less hassle in one sense if we don’t have to deal with stinky situations caused by a difficult relative or co-worker or church member.

And, yes, those moaning when we want them to be quiet can create quite a distraction for us and even more so for the others in our “barn.”

But the alternative produces its own set of hassles — as in little or nothing being accomplished for the intended beneficiary.

There are hundreds of millions of wannabe parents around the world who would delight to have a child throwing a temper tantrum in their living room because the child didn’t get his or her way with something or who was crying over a spilled bowl of ice cream or who was stinkin’ up the place with a disaster diaper.

The idea of being irritated with a child’s messes to the point of not wanting kids, though? That would never happen for such couples because they understand that a quiet, hassle-free house does not line up with their desire for a harvest of family love and memories of growing closer through the challenges.

It’s the same at work or school or at church.

People are people. They aren’t perfect. I’m not. You’re not.

Yes, we should keep our “stall” clean 100 percent of the time so that others don’t have to deal with distasteful actions or words. But we don’t. And that’s why we must resist the temptation of pointing fingers at others’ perceived failures while at the same time holding noses on soured faces.

Let’s be gracious toward the people in our lives, even though they’re not perfect.

For we can sure that there have been times when they were gracious to us, despite our imperfections.

If God didn’t want to ever deal with messes, He would have never given us life.

That’s why Jesus came to provide the greatest barn cleaner the world had ever seen.

Let’s try our best to not drain the life out of others by nitpicking their stalls while ignoring the piles in our own.

We’ll all accomplish more out in the field this way.

As always, I love you
Martin

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If you’ve ever had a close friend turn into a traitor — for whatever reason — you know how hard it is to restore that person back into your inner circle.

Perhaps you have yet to do so.

Sometimes that betrayal shatters a victim’s emotional DNA and he or she is never the same.

I’m grateful that God’s character and compassion and desire for relationship are greater than the destructive power of man’s selfish pride and that His empowerment helps us to overcome the emotional-defense barriers we erect to protect our lacerated hearts.

The passage below from today’s devotional reading points to God’s mind-blowing grace that offered to forgive the Hebrews’ chasing after false gods, something that broke God’s heart.

I can’t promise that I would have shown the same grace had I been in God’s place.

“And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people.” Jeremiah 12:16

When somebody sincerely apologies for betraying us, we are to forgive them and give them a place in our lives — just like God did with the exiles who returned from Babylonian captivity.

Perhaps our relationship will be on a different, more guarded level, but we clearly are called to let go of all grudges and let God’s love and Word flow through our lives into the lives of those who turned the corner toward doing what is right toward us and in God’s sight.

It won’t be easy for either party, but it will be pleasing in the sight of God.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Nobody likes receiving the punishment he or she deserves.

It’s so much better when our careless outburst at work or reckless, ticketed behavior behind the wheel is met with mercy, not retribution.

We’ve all done things deserving of costly consequences. And sometimes, we’ve paid that price.

But we’ve also done things that should have prompted the sting of punishment but did not.

It wasn’t because the offended one was weak, but instead because the offended one was strong.

For, you see, mercy comes from the one who has the physical strength and the social right to punish us but whose emotional/spiritual strength allows him/her to choose grace.

I pray that you’ve shown grace to somebody recently, even though there was a voice within calling for “payback.”

If you were merciful, you demonstrated in faint form the nature of God.

One of the most compelling and correcting verses in the Bible is found in Romans 5:8. In concise manner, the verse defines the essence of mercy:

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Listen, every human has been shown mercy by the fact that Jesus died for him or her as the most costly love letter in history.

I pray that you will make sure that investment of merciful love by God is applied to your eternal account by means of decision to accept Christ as personal Savior.

If you’ve already done so, I pray that you’ll help somebody else to appreciate and embrace this promise of love that will put them on the highway to heaven.

Even though — like ourselves — he or she doesn’t deserve it.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Acts 27 tells of the terrible ocean storm that threatened the Apostle Paul and 275 other men for many days and nights while they were aboard a ship bound for Italy.

The account makes clear that Paul, a prisoner of faith being taken to appear before Caesar, had warned the Roman soldiers with him that the ship would face a terrible storm and grave danger if the captain attempted a winter voyage.

Paul was ignored because the captain and the ship’s owner knew a big paycheck was waiting for them when they reached Italy.

The centurion in charge trusted the captain more than the preacher.

Big mistake.

Paul was right, of course.

For days, the ship’s crew and the soldiers and a group of prisoners being taken to Rome feared for their lives.

You can read the account by clicking here.

Not surprisingly, Paul never doubted his survival even when the raging storm blocked the sun and the stars for many days and men all around him were gripped by fear of death.

Listen, Paul was no emotional freak of nature who didn’t “feel” fear. And that’s not why Paul remained calm and clear-headed on the S.S. Chaos.

Instead, Paul’s emotional and spiritual stability was based on a promise given him by God that he WOULD declare the Gospel before Caesar, a divine promise recorded in Acts 23:11.

Just to make sure Paul’s confidence in that promise didn’t waver during the intense storm, God sent another angelic message to Paul that he would preach in Rome (Acts 27:23-24).

This was clearly a messed-up situation that could have been avoided if those in authority had listened to Paul. But they didn’t. And Paul suffered along with everybody else, despite it not being his fault.

That’s the challenge we Christians face at times — suffering because of the decisions of others even though we had clearly warned them that their choice would lead to big problems in a family setting or work setting or church setting.

It’s vital that we reject the temptation after the fact to ridicule and blast those who made the bad decisions we warned them not to make.

Paul didn’t resort to finger-pointing and condemnation and we shouldn’t, either. After all, would such choices have replaced the ship and rounded up all the lost cargo and lost sleep?

Before and after the shipwreck, Paul was gracious, focused on how to serve people and how to share Word of God’s protective grace.

Dear friend, be a person who focuses on restoration when problems occur because people didn’t listen to you. The confimation of your wisdom will boost your influence for God a lot more than will heaping condemnation onto those who messed up.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Though it’s rare today in our country, it is still an enjoyable, remind-us-of-our-heritage thing to see hard-working farm animals helping the farmer to produce healthy crops for the market.

Those farmers — particularly those of Amish descent — realize that without those animals, crops aren’t grown and food isn’t eaten.

Their livelihood hinges on having healthy work animals.

The farmers also recognize that healthy animals do more than pull plows or harvesting machines or farm wagons.

As animals, they have to eat alot. And that leads, of course, to byproducts that aren’t so pleasant.

You know what I’m talking about.

Why this topic today?

Because of the fact that we humans are prone to making messes of our own, no matter how hard we put our shoulder to the wheel, that’s why.

Consider this passage from Proverbs 14:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.” (v. 4)

If you want a hard-working farm animal, you’re going to have to clean the stall from time to time.

If you work with people, even hard-working people, you’re going to have to manage stinky emotional or financial or spiritual messes from time to time.

Yes, there’s less drama when you choose to not deal with people such as layperson volunteers at church or even Bible-college trained ministry staff.

But what are you accomplishing in life, really?

What am I doing for the Kingdom of God if I don’t want to deal with imperfect people?

Particularly the one who I see when I look in the mirror?

God didn’t send us to the slaughterhouse when we made a mess of sin and we should show others the same grace when they stink up our corners of the world.

As always, I love you
Martin

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