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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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Nobody likes being lost when they’re on a journey.

Yes, it’s true that many male drivers refuse to ask for directions when driving in unfamiliar areas, but the principle above applies in a far larger context.

Many journeys are not geographical, but instead emotional or spiritual.

I’m trying to become a better sojourner in my spiritual life, encountering a decreasing number of occasions when I don’t know which way to turn.

The more I listen to and learn from the Holy Spirit, the more efficient will be my life of faith.

In my Bible reading this morning, I read these words:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” John 16:13

Jesus would not have said this if it were not true.

This means that we can’t begin to grasp the dimensions of God’s truth if we rely only on our brains and hearts.

So many facets of faith can’t be understood without the Holy Spirit’s help.

If they could, then Jesus was lying.

Please don’t try to do the faith thing apart from a thirst for more and more truth filling your heart, mind and soul.

You’ll fail if you lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We need more truth guiding us if we are to pursue that for which God created us.

Pray for the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit.

Make sure you’ve done what Peter taught in Acts 2:38 for receiving the Holy Spirit.

It’s the only way to really know if you’re heading the right direction in loving, serving and sharing a godly faith.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click here  Endless stream of lies

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It’s amazing, actually, at how predictable the schemes of the Enemy really are.

So why don’t we all avoid sin like the plague?

Because of pride, that’s why.

Others who dance with the Devil get their toes stomped, but that won’t happen to us, we sometimes believe.

We’re so easily hustled into believing we’re really good dancers who can stay one step ahead of the Enemy’s pointy-toed, snakeskin boots.

Yeah, right.

Listen, there is no asterisk on Romans 3:23 regarding our name.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

If we’re not continually careful and humble and immersed in the Word and prayer, we will embrace the lie that God can be bumped to second place and yet He will still deliver us to heaven as if He were first-place in our hearts.

Please remind those around you, and perhaps even yourself, that nothing good comes from believing Satan’s lies.

Particularly the lies that masquerade as being faithful.

Lies such as the one represented in today’s One-Year Bible reading. 2 Kings 16 describes how King Ahaz of Judah feared destruction by the Assyrian army and so a huge payoff of gold and silver from the Jerusalem temple treasury was made to the Assyrian king.

The looming attack was averted and then Ahaz paid a visit to the pagan king, Tiglath-Pileser. While there, Ahaz saw a pagan altar worshiped by the Assyrians. Ahaz was infatuated with the altar’s appearance and ordered Uriah the Jerusalem temple priest to make a copy and put it in the Jerusalem temple.

That was terrible enough.

But then Ahaz directed that the pagan altar be placed where the bronze altar — long before ordained by God as the primary place of sacrifice — had been located. The bronze altar was moved off to the side, no longer used for sacrifices to Jehovah but instead for “seeking guidance” (2 Kings 16:15).

Other changes were made to the Jerusalem temple’s main worship area as a result of Ahaz’s infatuation with Assyrian worship practices.

Devaluing the place of Jehovah in temple worship led only to problems for Ahaz, though. Rather than repent and remove the false worship icons and altars, Ahaz made things worse.

2 Chronicles 28:24 describes how Ahaz took even the furnishings of the temple, “sent them away” and closed the doors of the temple, instructing the now-corrupted priests to “set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem.”

It got even worse.

“In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoke the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger” (v. 25).

Satan loved all this, of course.

Remember, his greatest desire is to anger God.

He hates God.

That’s why it is SO important that we make no choices that serve Satan’s agenda. For once we start down that road, we can very easily drive off the cliff.

Please remember these two absolute truths:

  • Satan is a liar who wants to destroy you and deny praise to God
  • God is Truth and wants to deliver you into an eternal life of praise to God
  • Test every thought and offer from others, my friend. If it doesn’t point in some way toward biblically honoring God (Colossians 3:17), don’t embrace it.

    Satan won’t like your choice. But God will.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Grab your running shoes
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    It would be a terrible shame to chain a thoroughbred race horse to a grinder mill pole and have that stallion of speed walk in a small circle for the rest of its life.

    It would be SO much better to climb on the back of that thoroughbred and thrill at the exhilaration of racing around a mile-long horse track.

    You see, the stallion was born to run, not be tied to a pole and forced to walk in tiny circles.

    When the horse runs, the horse and its master rejoices.

    The above picture came to mind this morning when I read Psalm 119:32.

    “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

    It is clear from this verse that a sense of spiritual drudgery is the last thing that God wants to see in our lives.

    It’s also clear that God knows the multiple and varied encumbrances that entangle themselves into our lives.

    Man’s fallen human nature has tried since the Garden of Eden to find inner peace through personal charm or might or physical beauty or money or whatever.

    Problem was that somebody else with more charm or more might or more beauty or more money always seemed to cut in front of us just when we thought we had found the fountain of happiness.

    Or perhaps when we tasted the fountain, it didn’t satisfy our thirst for significance.

    The fact is that we can’t rid ourselves of every hindrance by relying on the strength of our own efforts.

    Simply stated, you and I cannot set our hearts free.

    Only God can do that through the atoning blood of Christ and through the Holy Spirit who points us toward the Better Way for living.

    Thank God that the power of the gospel IS strong enough to smash the chains and set the sinner free from the law of sin and death.

    Listen, my friends. The Bible is not intended to restrict our sense of purpose and joy and blessing, but instead the opposite.

    God wants us to learn the Word so that we’ll serve with joy and love without limits.

    He wants us to run in our faith rather than to feel like race horses tied to grinder mill poles.

    Read the Word daily, my friend.

    Purchase a One-Year Bible or save this link — One-Year Bible — to your favorites and start investing the 10-12 minutes a day that are required to get through the Bible in a year.

    I promise that you’ll find your faith invigorated and set free, rather than constricted “by a bunch more rules.”

    You’ll read every day of God’s mercies toward those who love and honor Him.

    As you see just how much God loves you, you’ll realize how much He wants to help you to share that love with others.

    Grab your running shoes every morning.

    Pick up your One-Year Bible.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    To hear this Morning Devotion, please click Pump handle? Or faucet?

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    I’m old enough to remember kitchens with hand pumps emptying into the cast iron sinks.

    Our home had standard faucets while I was growing up, but a couple of my aging relatives lived in rural farmhouses that were built before indoor plumbing made it to the country.

    I recall one Saturday when my parents piled the kids into the car for the visit down in the “holler.” We eventually drove through an almost-dry creek bed to reach a simple, wooden house with a pot-belly cast iron stove in the kitchen/dining room/family room/living room. And over there, next to the white porcelain cast iron sink, was the hand pump.

    Though I don’t remember my relatives’ names, I do remember being grateful for the drink of water that was mine when I was allowed to pump the handle.

    Remember, I had never see anything like this before.

    It wasn’t until years later that I pondered the amount of extra work that went into things like laundry or even worse, taking a bath.

    That’s a lot of pumping, my friend.

    It’s so much easier to find refreshment and to wash things when you can just turn the knob.

    Hmmmm……

    There is a spiritual lesson here, of course.

    And it is rooted in John 4, today’s reading in the One-Year Bible.

    Here’s the key excerpt:

    Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (vv. 13-14).

    We have two choices for spiritual water in this life — human philosophies for seeking peace apart from Jesus Christ or the Word of God fulfilled in the life and teachings of Christ and His apostles.

    Choice #1 involves working really hard to lift yourself to a level of knowledge and accomplishment that provides a mirage of inner peace as long as you have the approval of humans who say you’ve done enough to meet their appointed standard.

    This workload is overwhelming and can become even more burdensome as the pride of others lifts the contrived standard for all.

    The fact is that there is no peace, no lasting refreshment and certainly no cleansing in Choice #1. The bottom-line goal of this choice is to have more good deeds than bad deeds and then hope that Karma is good at math.

    Choice #2 is much simpler.

    Learn and trust God’s Word, taken into your life not by burdensome, unending pumping but instead by simply turning on the faucet of trusted truth.

    God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ have already stored up all the Living Water we’ll ever need and it’s ready to flow into our hearts and minds. We just have to tap into it by trusting Christ as Savior and His Word as our perfect guide for living.

    Listen, it is SO much easier to find refreshment and spiritual cleansing through what God has already provided.

    Open the faucet of truth and inspiration and cleansing and restoration.

    Trust the Word of God and Jesus rather than human philosophies which are so burdensome yet so inadequate.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    To hear the Morning Devotion, click here

     

    I’m glad that you’re not going to get drunk today, or even consume one alcoholic drink.

    I wish more imbibing people around the world would make the same choice on this, St. Patrick’s Day.

    What started as a religious observance among Catholics in the 1600s has been transformed by secular interests into a worldwide occasion for drinking, frivolity and, in some cases, depravity.

    I’m sure that the young Patrick of Calphurnius — for whom the day is named — would want people to seek an experience with the Holy Spirit, not bottled spirits.

    Patrick was a godly, British man who had been captured as a teen by Irish slavetraders in the early 400s and held in bondage for nearly seven years. He escaped but returned years later as a Catholic bishop-turned-missionary.

    For at least 20 years, (historical records vary on this) he ministered to the people of Ireland, including the elite.

    And then he died.

    For the next 13 centuries, there were observances of his life and ministry among the Irish Catholics . Along the way, the Catholic Church decided his legacy deserved sainthood.

    But eventually, secular interests took over and corrupted what had been a faith-based event.

    And now, St. Patrick’s Day is party time around the world.

    Chicago dies its river green.

    Multiple cities in England and Ireland have parades lasting hours and taverns selling record amounts of booze.

    Billions of pinches occur in inappropriate places.

    Untold millions of people engage in all sorts of silliness with no regard for why and how the observance started.

    What would Patrick think if his wooden boat that landed on the shores of Ireland long ago were to land instead on a city shoreline next to a massive, secular parade that wore his name but contradicted his values?

    Wow.

    Sure gets you thinking, doesn’t it?

    If the history books are correct, Patrick didn’t go back to Ireland because he liked its beer and women.

    Instead, he went back to Ireland because the people there needed Jesus.

    He loved his life of service to God and wanted it to be used to help others to find God and His Son Jesus Christ.

    My hunch is that Patrick would plead for people to stop with the celebrations dedicated to him, whether godly or not.

    My hunch is that Patrick would much prefer the humble status of Anna the temple prophetess mentioned in Luke rather than the high-profile status of Annas, the pride-fueled high priest who loved the praise of men and who presided over Christ’s Sanhedrin trial.

    “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

    It is entirely possible that Anna had lived more than 60 years as a widow. She had to have faced all sorts of social and financial difficulties and temptations during those years, yet it’s clear that her heart was focused on pleasing and serving God. Because she was so in tune with Him, she instantly discerned the leading of the Spirit, sought out the Messiah and told others about His arrival.

    You see, her humility prepared her for readiness to truly worship.

    Her humility prepared her for effectively pointing others toward the One who IS worthy of worship.

    She wanted no attention for herself, but only for her God and then for her Redeemer.

    That’s a good example for us.

    An example that I believe Patrick would endorse a whole lot more than the boozefests happening in his name today.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    Square pegs and round holes aren’t a good match.

    I learned this when I was a pre-schooler playing with those wooden, multi-colored toy sets that you played with, too, I’m sure.

    Only one of the wooden cut-out pieces would fit through the complementary hole in the rectangular board.

    When you are 2 years old, it takes a while to figure out which piece fits where.

    But by the time your age has doubled to 4, you’re an old salt at such elementary things and you can put the right pegs in the right hole just as fast as you can pick them up.

    It’s because you’ve learned what works where.

    If only our knack for handling square pegs and round holes were as successful in all the realms of our faith.

    It’s true that we generally know how to sit in church without embarrassing ourselves. And we know how to bow our heads in prayer along with everybody else in a home Bible study.

    But what about those times when the Holy Spirit or our church leaders are calling us to do more than simply exist in faith but instead to exclaim our faith?

    Do our brains slow down or even lock up?

    When we’re called to explain the gospel to people or even to invite them to accept the gospel, have we ever appeared as the toddler who had never seen the wooden pegs/shaped holes toy?

    If your Christian life is anything like mine, there have been times when you felt like a child with a beloved, cherished square peg in one hand and an unfamiliar board with a round hole in the other hand.

    You and I felt as though we were trying to mix oil and water and we knew going in that it wasn’t going to succeed.

    It turned out that we were right.

    It wasn’t God’s fault.

    And it wasn’t the fault of the person to whom we were speaking.

    It was our fault.

    We didn’t do enough praying to God or enough listening to the prospect or enough studying of the Word or enough conferring with Christians more experienced than we.

    At such times, I was trying to put my square peg of faith — my history, my culture, my values, my understandings of the Bible — into the round hole of another person’s life.

    When I learned that Christ’s love and sovereignty and power and grace transcends my experience, my culture, my values and my knowledge, then the light bulb came on evangelistically.

    I realized that Christ wants to fill the hole in every soul’s heart crafted into it at conception.

    That hole, however, is shaped according to that person’s life situation, purpose for God and past experience with God, whether distant or near.

    Jesus offered one path of Truth to salvation but He did so in all sorts of settings with all sorts of people and all sorts of conversations.

    What mattered was that they embraced and worshiped the Christ of the gospel, not the presentation technique for how they were introduced to Him.

    Why this topic today?

    The One-Year Bible reading for today included the following text:

    And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins” (Mark 2:22)

    It is absolutely true that the unsaved or backslidden person in your life needs to see the love of God in your actions and hear the Truths of God in your words.

    Your choice of “wine” in sharing the things above, however, will have a bearing on how your actions and words are received.

    Pray for discernment of the “new wineskin” parts of the unsaved or backslidden person’s life. That way, your love and words can be expressed and expanded by the Holy Spirit in new ways that fill their hearts and minds with refreshment.

    Don’t presume the square peg of gospel presentations that worked for you 30 years ago will automatically fit into the round hole punctured into somebody else’s life by the redemptive call of God.

    Instead, pray that God will inspire and instruct your heart to learn that person’s life situation, past experiences with God, their culture and their fears.

    Your new wine of adapted, ancient truths will likely find a receptive heart open to growth rather than a closed heart fearful of change that calls them to stretch.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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