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Posts Tagged ‘death’

Sometimes, life within the guard rails might seem confining but it is actually very liberating.

For as we respect those rails as our protectors, we can focus on enjoying the journey, not fretting every moment about our car heading off the cliff.

That’s how it is with our respect for God and His Word.

When we realize that faith is not a feeling but instead a determination of direction, we gain confidence that our lives will actually mean something more than having perpetual happy moments.

It is the respect for God and striving to honor Him that keeps us on the road and not smashing against guard rails.

Or worse.

When we live honorably because of loving Him and knowing the consequences of not doing so, we are free to thrive as people who love and serve others.

Consider the words of Proverbs 14:27 —

“Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death.”

Never stop drinking from that fountain, my friend.

Life as God desires for you is in that cup.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Had a birthday yesterday.

I’m growing closer to my white robe birthday in heaven.

Until that graduation day comes, I need to embrace the words of Psalm 48:14.

“He is our God forever and ever, and He will guide us until we die.”

On my own, I’ll never be smart enough or wise enough to do life faithfully.

I’m a sinner and I mess up.

I’m a human and don’t remain laser-focused on Kingdom purposes 100 percent of the time.

As a pastor, I encounter shepherding and strategic decisions that need God’s wisdom that is so much greater than mine.

I need God to guide me until I am in His presence in glory.

I pray the same for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Hello again, my friends.

I apologize for not communicating with some of you that I would be taking a brief break from posting the Morning Devotion. I sent an email announcing the mini-sabbatical but my e-mail program had a glitch and I think it didn’t make it to many of you.

In any event, I’m back after a trip north to see family, including my dad George who has been through some major changes/challenges lately.

God is good, though, and he’s doing the best possible under the circumstances, though.

For those of you who knew the situation, I thank you for your prayers.

Dad is in the winter season of his life and I’m sure that he has been thinking a lot about his eventual graduation from this life into the next.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible contains a number of verses about the same topic. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7 the following words…

“…the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—
so the living should take this to heart…. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time”
(vv. 1-4).

Solomon isn’t advocating that we linger in grief and perpetually pondering our promised passing. Instead, he’s directing our attention to the reality that our existence involves far more than physical life on earth.

In effect, he’s saying that this life is simply a pre-cursor to our next life.

It’s like we’re in dress rehearsal for the real thing and we need to be ready when the curtain is lifted.

I like the idea that the life that comes to us after we die is better than the life we’ve had after we were born.

Let’s commit to being wise.

Let’s think alot about our upcoming death.

Not in a somber, despairing manner but instead in a joyous, anticipatory manner.

For it is such thoughts that can sustain and even encourage us in the winter of our earthly lives when our flesh is feeble, when we are almost entirely dependent on others to feed us, clean us and provide medical care for us.

The day is coming when Dad won’t have his earthly limitations because he’ll be forever in the presence of the Lord!

That truly is going to be a day that is better than the day he was born.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m reading a book about the changes a Christian should consider making if he or she learned he or she had month to live.

My objective is to lead our congregation through this study sometime next year so that we’ll all become more clearly focused on the priority list God wants us to have in this life.

I’ve got room to do a better job in this respect. Perhaps you do, too.

That’s why I was intrigued this morning when I came across the following passage during my devotional reading time:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:14-15)

There were several people in the Miami area who headed to work in their cars yesterday morning and expected to head back home last night.

But they didn’t.

They died in auto accidents, a total surprise to them and those who loved them.

None of us know for certain when our days on earth are done.

And so, our choices should be based on the distinct possibility that we might not be here tomorrow.

In view of that fact, it’s very important that we conduct a personal inventory of unfinished relationship tasks that need resolved. You see, we don’t want to leave this life with unresolved conflict between ourselves and another person.

And we don’t want to leave this life with an unfavorable spiritual legacy toward our loved ones.

Please don’t leave this life knowing you should have forgiven another, but you didn’t.

And, of course, don’t neglect the opportunities to seek the forgiveness of others if an apology is in order.

Whatever commitments made to others have not been fulfilled, please do so before your post-mortem reputation is stuck with the fact that you didn’t keep your promises.

Though the specific context of the passage above dealt with human desires for investment gains, I think the larger message of the verse involves relationships.

Here’s a priority structure that I use to guide my handling of time, finances and emotions — faith, then family, then friends and then work.

Please make a list of the things that you believe would HAVE to get done if you had one month to live. Pray about the list to make sure God’s Kingdom ranks first and then get at it.

I need to do the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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The Bible says that God wants everybody to be saved since He loves them all.

Remember, Jesus died on the cross as punishment for all the sins of mankind.

But most people won’t be wearing white robes in heaven.

Not by God’s choice, but instead their own.

Millions of Christians have debated for billions of hours on the meaning of spiritual free will, changing few minds in the process.

I’m not into winning arguments.

That’s up to the Holy Spirit.

I will, however, point out that Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22 clearly points to the omnidirectional love of the God and also to the obviously conditional grace of God.

Read the parable in that chapter of the king’s banquet and you can’t help but to notice that God doesn’t discriminate in who He invites to the celebration of eternal life. He does discriminate, however, on who is accepted into the banquet feast.

It’s based on their choices, not His.

You see, God already made His choice by sincerely inviting them.

Those who prepared themselves to be honor the king and the event were welcomed.

But those who thought only of their stomachs disqualified themselves.

For many are called, but few are chosen” Matthew 22:14

I’m so very grateful that you care about the things of God. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Please join me in living as “chosen” people, keeping ourselves prepared with the King-honoring garments of faith such as those described below in Galatians 5:22-23 that become ours when we “put on” Christ with confession and baptism (Galatians 3:27).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

There are people in our lives who have heard that God loves them but don’t know how to live as “chosen.”

Let’s show them so that, perhaps, they’ll choose to be among the chosen…. forever.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Lori and I drive vehicles that are close to the end of their useful lives and we’re praying that we get at least a year from each of them before we start looking for replacements.

When that time comes, the sellers of the replacement vehicles will expect cash, not a bunch of sob stories about the problems with our current vehicles.

For us to expect anything else would be foolish.

It’s all about expectations.

Now, if I say something that deeply offends somebody to the point that they can’t sleep at night because of the wounded emotions, their expectations are likely to be that I would ask their forgiveness, not pull out my wallet and give them a bunch of $20 “Band-aids.”

You see, no amount of money is going to heal that wound. Instead, it will only cover up what will continue to fester and eventually scar.

I was reminded of these facts when I read Proverbs 11:4 this morning as part of my daily Bible reading. Here’s what Solomon wrote:

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

It seems to me that Solomon is pointing to that time when someone dies and his or her soul heads to eternal peace or to eternal pain.

It is foolish to think that any amount of earthly wealth will buy one’s escape from the horrible consequences of rejecting God’s authority and His remedy for sin, Jesus Christ.

God will not be bribed into waiving His pattern of holy justice simply because He’s offered a pile of money that’s already His anyway because it came from His pocket in the first place.

The only way that I can escape the consequences of my sins is to be seen as righteous and not deserving of wrath.

I know for a fact that my self-managed measure of righteousness leaves much to be desired.

I know that I sometimes stumble and fall and make a mess of things.

So how can I be seen as righteous in order to be delivered from death?

Cling to Jesus, that’s how, repeatedly being covered by His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) as I ask God to forgive me because I’m covered in His blood poured out for me on the cross.

This same promise can be yours.

Nothing physical can deliver you from spiritual death.

It’s the choice of our spirit that seeks sin and it’s the choice of our spirit to seek the Son.

Choose wisely, my friend.

Remember that no amount of physical wealth can satisfy God’s spiritual wrath.

Choosing Jesus, the One who innocently suffered all the wrath that would ever be due all mankind, is your only hope for deliverance.

Make sure that your greatest desire is to be rich with the righteousness of Christ.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click What good is a useless faith_

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One of the Bible’s most beautiful pictures of worship is when Mary of Bethany poured anointing perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiped it off with her hair.

It was an absolute picture of devotion by one with a passionate faith in her Messiah.

This same Mary was also the one who chose to hang on every word that Jesus was speaking during an earlier dinner at the house she shared with her sister Martha.

Mary caught grief then for leaving her sister to do all the work in the kitchen, but Jesus defended Mary’s choice, saying she was focused on “the better things” of honoring God.

These pictures of devotion came to mind this morning when John 11 portrayed quite a different picture of Mary.

Actually, Mary was shown as one going through a spiritual crisis and who refused to go to Jesus.

“I trusted Him. I prayed to Him. Repeatedly. And then He let me down,” was the clear impression of her attitude based on her recorded behavior.

As I read the account involving the death of Mary’s brother, Lazarus, I thought of how most every believer at one time or another enters a season of spiritual crisis involving a profound feeling of being let down by God.

Mary had been Jesus’ biggest cheerleader in Bethany, I’m sure. A skilled socialite, Mary knew how to connect with people and to influence them.

It was a very good thing for Christ’s ministry to have Mary on the team.

But then Lazarus became deathly ill.

Mary and Martha and their friends started praying like crazy.

Mary said a message needed to get to Jesus so that He could do another one of Him healing miracles and poof! Lazarus back to good health.

After all, Mary reasoned, Jesus had the power to do so. He had even made blind people able to see again.

This was Lazarus, we’re talkin’ about. He was the brother of Mary and that should grant some special access, shouldn’t it?

No.

Jesus, of course, had a larger plan for this circumstance. One that would resolve Lazarus’ physical woes but which would also become a defining moment for how the Jews looked at Jesus, both those who loved Him and those who hated Him.

She was terribly distraught that Jesus didn’t provide a long-distance healing for Lazarus — or even come right away to pray over him.

“I’m one of His biggest supporters. Doesn’t that count for something?” she might have said to herself.

Jesus, of course, had a different agenda for this event. But Mary couldn’t see that and was simply reacting to her experiences and presumptions.

Mary’s profound disappointment was shown when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died.

She refused to meet Him, despite the likely urging of Martha.

Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would live again and then He asked about Mary.

When Mary heard that Jesus had asked for her, she jumped to her feet and left her home where she and friends had been mourning.

Mary found Jesus and fell at His feet, not to thank Him for coming but instead to complain that He didn’t show up earlier to prevent Lazarus’ death.

Fortunately, this story had a happy ending and Christ’s faith in God carried the entire crowd of weak-faith believers through the flood of despair.

For Mary, this was a painful, yet potent lesson about heartache and personal timetables and plans and the need for a mature faith.

It is a lesson that we need to re-learn over and over.

Christ’s delay in answering our prayers does NOT mean Christ doesn’t care. Instead, it often means that circumstances or perhaps our hearts are not ready yet for the display of His interceding power.

“Not now” does not always mean “Not ever!”

The wise believer trusts that God’s answer to his or her prayer will come at the time that it will accomplish the most for God’s Kingdom and for the believer.

Mary had to learn this lesson as recorded in John 11.

Paul had to learn this lesson and wrote about it in Romans 8:28-37.

James had to learn this lesson and wrote about it in James 1:2-8.

Some of us now are gaining spiritual maturity as Christ spends what seems to us as too much time in His intercession workshop. Our lesson from John 11 is to keep trusting through the heartache, knowing that He’s working on something significant and enduring that will be good to us and bring glory to Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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