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I’ve seen a number of Facebook pictures lately from the high school reunion that I was unable to attend.

It’s been surprising to me as to how unhealthy some of the former classmates appear. I’ve found myself asking, “How could they let themselves go like that? Don’t they want to have really long and active lives?”

But then I recognized that I still have room for improvement in pursuing daily exercise and in continuing to eat even more healthfully than what I already do.

Yes, my waistline is the same as when I was 18 but my joints aren’t as flexible because I’m not stretching frequently enough. I’m taking a risk of injury from a twisting fall simply because I’m not doing enough to remain flexible.

Gonna have to work on that.

Yes, I’ve cut out carbonated soft drinks and everyday desserts from my diet. And I rarely eat greasy food such as bacon or potato chips.

But is every thing that goes into my mouth dietitian-endorsed?

Uh, gonna have to work on that one, too.

Here’s the point — whenever we’re tempted to gaze out the window at the shortfalls of others, we need to discipline ourselves to look in the mirror and compare ourselves not with those of lesser fitness, but with those optimally fit for our age.

It’s a humbling thought, to be sure, this idea that we should measure ourselves according to what should be for us rather than the shortfalls of others.

Here’s the Apostle Paul’s words in this matter:

“Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3)

Paul doesn’t call us to evaluate others, but instead ourselves. And the measuring stick is the faith pattern taught in the scriptures and demonstrated by Jesus Christ.

I’ve got work to do with my flesh and with my faith.

For me to be eating a Twinkie while criticizing somebody’s expanded girth would be hypocritical and foolish.

Griping and wagging fingers about the “lack of faith” others show toward their God has no place, particularly when our own “to do” list for spiritual growth has plenty to keep us busy until we graduate to heaven.

Please ask God to stir your heart to make progress today toward a better example for Christ.

Please join me in addressing at least one needed area of improvement in our spiritual lives. You know where you’re lacking just as I know where I’m lacking.

Only good will result.

As always, I love you

Martin

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Life is filled with colloquialisms. Here are a few:

  • “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”
  • “You are what you eat”
  • “Garbage in, garbage out”
  • “Like father, like son”
  • “She’s certainly her mother’s daughter”
  • These phrases speak to the undeniable correlation between the product and the producer.

    You and I didn’t crawl fully grown out of a stork’s delivery bag.

    We were conceived by others, we were birthed by others, we were raised by others and we continue to this day to be shaped by the involvement of others.

    That’s why — if we want to have lives of godliness pleasing to the Lord — we are to be discerning in who allow to be our inner circle “influencers.”

    If we want our lives to produce the sweet honey of kindness, moral purity and generosity, we need to stay close to the hive of holiness.

    I pray that you have a circle of friends who love the Lord and strive to become more like Christ.

    I pray that you have a congregation where the leadership is closely connected to the Vine of Jesus Christ.

    I pray that you have an immediate and extended family that pursues personal holiness and spiritual fruitfulness and invites to join them in those pursuits.

    I need more of this.

    I need to provide more of this to the people I know.

    Here’s the catalyst for today’s Morning Devotion –

    “For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.” (Romans 11:16)

    The Apostle Paul was referring specifically to the faithful patriarchs during this explanation of how God grafted faithful Gentiles into His Kingdom that was launched 1,500 years earlier by God.

    His point was this — faithful people committed to holy living are always committed to imparting that same level of commitment.

    Please send the roots of your faith DEEP into the Bible via daily reading and reflection and prayer.

    Please spread those roots WIDE as you seek Living Water (biblical insights) via other sources such as Christian music, faithful testimony from Christian friends and theologically sound Bible teaching on the radio.

    And please look for every opportunity to feed what you’ve learned into branches that reach wider into the world, providing shade for the spiritually weary and fruit for the spiritually hungry.

    The world desperately needs more holy branches.

    Let’s ask God to grow us, to shape us, to prune us and to feed us so that we might do the same for others, with them doing the same for others.

    It’s how this thing called Christianity is supposed to work.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    There is no place for coasting when it comes to faithfulness.

    We can’t push the accelerator to the floorboard of faith in order to cruise down the highway of holiness and then take our eyes off the road and foot off the gas AND expect to roll right into glory.

    We’ve got to keep pressing into spiritual growth and spiritual service until we leave this life.

    No exceptions.

    Simply stated, there is to be no retirement from faithfulness.

    If we start coasting too early, there will be a steep price.

    I was reminded of this fact this morning while reading my Bible. In 2 Chronicles 16, a formerly good king for the southern kingdom of Judah made a very bad decision that was nothing like the many good decisions he had made earlier in his reign.

    For 35 years, King Asa had led the people into a closer walk with God and had prayed to the Lord before making important decisions and had called his subjecrts to trust God with all of their hearts.

    But then something changed in Asa’s heart and he no longer felt the need to trust God.

    When the arch-enemy nation of Israel (the name of the northern kingdom during Israel’s divided years) started building a large fortress to allow an economic blockade of Judah from its trading partners to the north, Asa didn’t pray to God as he had during other times of threat and turmoil.

    Instead, Asa trusted his gold and hired a thug king and his army to attack Israel.

    The plan worked in a worldly sense. Israel abandoned the unfinished fortress and, temporarily, Asa and Judah were safe.

    But God was furious that Asa had turned to a pagan king for help rather than to the God who had done so much — sometimes in miraculous ways — to help Judah.

    God sent a prophet named Hanani to Asa with a message and the king then made his situation worse.

    “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.”

    “Asa became so angry with Hanani for saying this that he threw him into prison and put him in stocks. At that time, Asa also began to oppress some of his people.” (vv. 9-10)

    More than three decades of memories regarding God’s grace, provision and faithfulness were ignored in Asa’s latter-day refusal to repent.

    It got even worse.

    Verse 12 tells of Asa developing a serious foot disease three years later that would have prompted any believer to press into the Lord in prayer. But not Asa. He was still mad.

    Verse 12 says that Asa did not pray to God but instead “turned only to his physicians.”

    Within two years, he was dead.

    How sad.

    So many years of faithfulness and spiritual victory. And then a spiritually tragic ending.

    Let’s keep pressing forward until the Lord lifts us upward. Let’s reject Satan’s lie that we can coast into heaven.

    Please.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    There is a verse in today’s Bible reading with which we all struggle on occasion.

    “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” (Romans 8:35)

    We love the idea of unending love.

    We don’t love the idea of trouble, calamity, persecution, hunger, destitution, danger and threats of death.

    If we have one idea, does that mean we won’t have the other?

    Paul’s life and the lives of millions today proves that both can exist at the same time in the same life.

    Christ’s love carries us through the trials, not simply to the trials.

    As a child, when I was injured or emotionally wounded, did that mean my parents didn’t love me? Of course not.

    In fact, they were often the ones helping me to find comfort and healing and understanding.

    Faith is not a matter of living in a cocoon.

    Instead, it is a matter of living in fellowship with the Father. It is a matter of living with an empowered, instructed, encouraged state of purpose that keeps putting one foot in front of another until one’s arrival in glory.

    God’s love for us abides.

    Let’s keep moving forward in serving Him with an abiding determination to build His kingdom until we move to the place with no more trouble, calamity, persecution, hunger, destitution, danger and threats of death.

    A place where only love abides forever.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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    Christians being killed in Iraq because of their faith.

    The same is happening in Nigeria.

    The culprits are hoodlums masquerading as religious zealots ostensibly on a mission to purify their regions of any theology-based threat to their radical, ultra-conservative Islamic belief.

    It’s perhaps happening elsewhere and we just haven’t yet heard about it.

    Persecution on a non-fatal level is far more widespread, however. Churches are being destroyed or prevented from building.

    Congregations are being forced into hiding in order to continue meeting.

    Christians are losing jobs because of anti-Christian peer pressure brought against employers or company managers.

    Christians are being alienated at work because of ethical principles that won’t go along with the unethical behavior of colleagues.

    You and I are likely not encountering anywhere near the degree of religious persecution being faced by believers in some other nations. We should pray for them. And we should learn from them.

    If Satan has his way, however, oppressive persecution found in other nations toward Christians will eventually take up residence here.

    Until that day comes, let’s do three things.

    First, let’s promise in advance that we’ll never compromise on our faith, no matter the pressure we face.

    If teens and smaller kids can stay loyal to the Lord when a rifle is pointed at their heads, then we certainly can, too.

    Second, let’s look for every opportunity to pray for Christians facing such pressure. God is stronger than Satan and prayers of other believers helps to provide a “covering” of God’s Holy Spirit strength and wisdom for those engaged in spiritual warfare.

    Third, let’s look for every opportunity to tell others about the displays of determined faith being exhibited by our overseas spiritual siblings. Even non-Christians will be impressed by the character and determination of people whose love for God and love for people is so strong that they’d give up their lives rather than give up their faith.

    The Apostle Paul experienced persecution on a recurring pattern. Why? Because of his overt faith.

    He saw that it was growing against other believers, yet Paul wanted them to remain strong in faith because of the great reward in heaven.

    Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:19)

    I can’t help but to think of the excellent example of Stephen when he was being killed — with Paul’s pre-conversion approval — rather than cave into the religious leaders’ coercion to renounce Christ.

    No matter how often or how difficult the hassles attributable to our faith becomes, let’s always profess faith in Christ and encourage others to embrace Him as well.

    That way, we’ll arrive in glory no matter how tough the storm of persecution, whether we’re the subject of breakroom gossip or we’re in the crosshairs of a fanatic’s rifle.

    As always, I love you
    Martin

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