Irreplaceable Influence

October 30th, 2014

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3 NIV.

Cultivate friends whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be.

My thoughts and comments today are about “irreplaceable influence.”

My friend, Don, told me of a conversation many years earlier when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” Though I do not remember saying those words, I trust that I did. I aspire for those words to accurately reflect my gratefulness to God and appreciation for my family and friends whose love and lives have made me want to be better than I would otherwise have been. Anything noteworthy is owed to others’ kindness and God’s mercy; my faults and foibles are mine alone.

There are no such “self-made men or women,” and if there were they would have little of which to boast. “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT. Along the path of my life, people made a difference in who I am still becoming. People invested in my life, as well as our marriage, family, and ministry. Often selflessly and sacrificially, friends shared irreplaceable time, priceless experience, practical counsel, needed correction, and patient forgiveness. Such friends are above price, God’s gifts, for whom I realize how important they have been, and continue to be. Some people are alongside for a season of life, others for a lifetime, but all are irreplaceable in the process of God’s work in your life. As is true of all of us, I remain a work in progress.

Families provide a legacy. From most of mine, I learned how to live; from a rare few, I learned how not to live. My grandparents had much to do with shaping my earliest years. Looking back, I learned the privilege and priority of family from them and the security of being loved and willed to succeed. My parents taught me about my Christian faith by their Godly example; the consistency of their lives confirmed their words. Still today, my convictions and choices are influenced by my Mom’s songs and my Dad’s sermons. My wife has modeled caring and selflessness that challenges my desire to be more than I have been. Our children and grandchildren enrich our home and family every day by sharing our values, passions, and service to God.

Teachers contributed to who I am becoming. A fourth grade teacher taught me a love for language and learning; a Sunday School teacher invited me to know and love Jesus; a college professor changed my life through his friendship and counsel; a minister’s diligence and loyalty to the Word of God created my passion to know and share truth faithfully; friends became mentors giving Godly counsel. The example and personal availability of so many spared me from the mistakes I would have made and unwise paths I might have taken. Others’ unshakable belief gave me the courage to venture further than I would have dared without their company.

In the three congregations we have served, Church families made ministry a lifelong joy. People have been as gracious as God has been generous. Our marriage and children are blessed with the kindness of those we served, as well as those who partnered in ministry alongside us. All have made our journey more safe and satisfying than would have been otherwise, and Gayle and I are grateful to God and you.

Life apart from good and Godly friends is unimaginable. Indelible impressions formed my habits and heart. Our years have been graced by a quality of valued friendships I could never have anticipated. Now, across a lifetime of years our friendships are counted as Gayle’s and my greatest treasure. Walking without such pleasant company and invaluable encouragement is unthinkable. God planned that from the beginning.

With intentionality, cultivate people whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be and to what you are called to do. Such friends bring to mind Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you . .  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11 NIV. To a company of people, I gratefully say, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” By the grace of God, I hope to be that kind of person to others.

Today, my prayer for you is to develop friendships whose influence you find irreplaceable.

Immeasurable Potential

October 28th, 2014

“God willed to make known this mystery . . Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27.

In Christ alone, immeasurable potential is possible.

My thoughts and comments today are about “immeasurable potential.”

Referring to potential, it has been said, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in a seed.” Potential is immeasurable, except to God. You too have an amazing, God-given potential, that only your Creator fully knows. Potential is not primarily about self-realization; potential is found in fulfilling the design and will of God for your life. Innately, you know that you desire to be more than you’ve been.

Paul marveled at the mystery and truth that, “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26-28. The origin is clear; the possibility is real; the outcome is certain. It is a tragic mistake to accept less than is promised and possible. Sometimes, the status quo may seem good enough. Be advised; settling for what comes naturally, will compromise a potential that is only available spiritually.

God’s determination and desire for you have not changed. ”In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11-12. Before a complex theological concept of “predestination” bewilders you, consider Paul’s words, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Read Romans 8:28-30 NIV. As you soon discover, all that happens is not good, but at all times God is working for the good of those whose love trusts and rests in His righteous character rather than their present circumstance.

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son . .” Romans 8:29 NIV. That is your destiny in Christ. The process by which God accomplishes that is two-fold: transformation and conformation. In its simplest form, the Biblical concept of “predestination,” describes, “a decision God made long ago.” Exactly how and where the sovereignty of God and the free will of man intersect, I do not know; I just know that in the purpose, providence, and power of God, your history becomes a workshop where God continues to achieve your destiny. Concern yourself with the purpose; let God care for the process.

Paul further explains God’s purpose and the process by which that is achieved. “He chose them long ago; when the time came He called them; He made them righteous in His sight, and then lifted them to the splendour of life as His own sons.” Romans 8:30 JBPhillips. After spiritual transformation – which Paul describes as, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) – spiritual conformation is the Holy Spirit’s assignment in your life, and He is very good at what He does. See 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV. Spiritual transformation happens in a moment; spiritual conformation into Christ-likeness continues life-long. Alone you can accomplish neither; both require your cooperation.

The result will be glorious. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV. In Christ alone, immeasurable potential is possible. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:2o NIV.

But you must shoulder a responsibility in this process of spiritual conformation, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy . . do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:1-2 NIV. Until transformation occurred, you were being conformed to the world which surrounds you; since transformation occurred, you are being conformed to God who is within you.

Today, my prayer for you is to know and progressively develop the God-given potential within.

Wells of Refreshing

October 23rd, 2014

 

“Wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:20 NLT.

Satisfaction of soul will never be found apart from Jesus.

My thoughts and comments today are about “wells of refreshing.”

My friend, Campbell, said to me many years ago, “Abraham’s journey is marked by milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.”  That has been a guiding understanding for me. Abraham’s journey began with a severe obedience that extended across his lifetime. See Genesis 22:1-19. Such uncommon obedience provides a path to a Godly, selfless life of consecration. A life without sacrifice is a life without fulfillment or reward. Everywhere on his journey, Abraham pitched a tent, built an altar, and dug a well. To Campbell’s description, I would add another aspect, “wells of refreshing.”

What comes to mind when you consider the word, “refreshing” – maybe clear direction, or renewed hope, or fresh start, or greater peace, or new joy? When something is lacking, you need refreshing. Usually, a person feels their need but doesn’t know their own answer, but God does. The process begins with your relationship with God. “Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.

Abraham became a man of great wealth, evidenced by his herds and flocks as well as the large company of servants and herdsmen to care for all he possessed. The land necessitated the digging of wells wherever they settled, however briefly. See Genesis 12:16/13:2-6. Wells are a necessary source of refreshing. When your spiritual life is lacking enjoyment and your burdens grow heavy, you need to know how to dig, “wells of refreshing.”

Little mention is made of Abraham’s wells, until after his death. “The Philistines had stopped up all the wells of Abraham . . Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father.” Read Genesis 26:15/18-21 NKJV. Abraham dug wells for His own and others’ refreshing, and for the generation to come. Protect the sources from which God provides refreshing – God’s Word, prayer, worship, obedience, fellowship, and serving. Leave a Godly legacy and spiritual inheritance for those who will follow.

The enemy of your soul desires to destroy all that spiritually refreshes and re-energizes you. Repeatedly, the Philistines contested the wells where Isaac and those with him sought refreshing, but Isaac would not be dissuaded. See Genesis 26:22-25. Jesus offers, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39 NIV. The promise remains true, “Wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:20 NLT.

You might feel spiritually drained, even physically and emotionally exhausted. You may be experiencing a dry time in barren places, where progress seems slow and nothing comes easily. Years earlier, someone assured me, “God will not let you walk through a desert season without first teaching you how to dig a well – if you have been paying attention.” Satisfaction of soul will never be found apart from Jesus. To a woman drawing water at a well, Jesus offered, “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.”  John 4:13-14 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is to be refreshed in your body, soul, and spirit – with joy and satisfaction.

Altars of Consecration

October 21st, 2014

“Abraham built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7 NKJV.

The promises you seek are only found in the consecration God expects.

My thoughts and comments today are about “altars of consecration.”

The story of Abraham’s journey is told in “milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.” Those characteristics will describe any intentional pursuit of God. Obedience is the sincere expression of faith. By faith Abraham obeyed . . . [and] went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NLT. Obedience is essential and non-negotiable. (Review EDL, Part 1: www.allenrandolph.com/?p=8077). Today, I suggest the very important, second aspect of Abraham’s faith journey, “Altars of Consecration.”

Altars are significant to God and prominent in each person’s spiritual journey. Godly consecration is essential and non-negotiable to all spiritual progress. Be advised; consecration is not a casual affair; it is costly. Old Testament altars were messy, bloody places where only the first and finest of offerings were acceptable. Those sacrifices merely foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Out of painful recognition of his sin, David discovered God’s heart, “The sacrifices God [desires] are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17. The best definition of a broken and contrite heart that I have heard is: “A heart in which the evil has been crushed.” Today, an altar of consecration is where you humbly bow to the singular sovereignty of God, a sacred place of worship expressed in costly sacrifice and sincere consecration of your allegiance, affections and will.

Consecration became Abraham’s lifestyle, and it must be yours as well. Every place Abraham pitched his tent, he built an altar, dug a well, and worshipped the Lord there. Again and again, it is said of him, “Abraham built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7 NKJV. See Genesis 12:8/13:18/22:9. On every altar, Abraham offered a sacrifice and made a further consecration of himself to God and His promises to multiply and bless his seed. Romans 4:17-21 NIV. No other occasion evidences the extent of Abraham’s obedience and consecration more than his altar on Mount Moriah. Read Genesis 22:1-17.

“By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents . . for he was looking forward to a city with foundations whose builder was God.” See Hebrews 11:8-10 NIV. Consecration is best expressed through obedience despite present realities, while holding fast to a relentless faith in a promised future. The promises and permanence you seek are only found in the obedience and consecration God expects. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us . . Our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV/Romans 8:18.

There are times when an altar of consecration needs to be repaired, as occurred with Israel. “And Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down . . with twelve stones, he built an altar in the name of the Lord . . then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice.” Read 1 Kings 18:30-39. If any, what repair needs to occur to the altars where you have made consecrations to God? “I urge you by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God . . that you may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2. You and your life are “the living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”

Today, my prayer is that you renew your consecration and devote yourself to be altogether His.

Milestones of Obedience

October 16th, 2014

By faith Abraham obeyed . . . [and] went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NLT.

Life is a sequence of events and a succession of experiences.

My thoughts and comments today are about “milestones of obedience.”

Life is a journey, comprising a sequence of years, a succession of events, and a collection of experiences. The last – a collection of experiences – may well be the more important of the three. Experiences create the moments where treasured memories are made. Time can be counted in minutes, but life is measured in moments. If you think about it, you will easily recognize the distinction between minutes and moments.

Minutes are too many to all be remembered. Moments are fewer yet forever mark the journey and progress of your life. I don’t remember the day of the week nor the exact time of day when Gayle said yes to my expression of love and proposal of marriage. But more than fifty years later, I fondly recall that moment and the joy I felt when she did.

Many years ago, my friend and spiritual father, Campbell, said a few words which remain of primary importance to me yet today. He said, “Abraham’s journey was marked by milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.” Campbell’s words were a life-shaping moment of spiritual understanding that continues to impact what I believe and how I choose to live my life – “milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.”

Obedience to God is essential and non-negotiable in your faith journey. There are no more consequential moments than when you walk in obedience. Like King Saul, you may try to offer God your preferred options rather than full obedience. Saul did not offer a lesser sacrifice; he tried to offer a different sacrifice from what God asked. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.” Read 1 Samuel 15:13-15/22 NIV. Any option other than what God requires is unacceptable.

Milestones indicate much more than the irreplaceable time that has passed; spiritual milestones mark the progress and success of your journey, or the lack thereof. They are enduring reminders of the grace of God in your past and the sovereign purpose of God over your future. Such moments are sacred and should be celebrated. Upon Israel’s victory over the Philistines, “Samuel took a stone . . and called it ‘Ebenezer’ saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” 1 Samuel 7:12.

Abraham’s journey began with a divine encounter, as will yours, and his response of obedience. “The Lord had said to Abraham, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’” Genesis 12:1 NIV. Imagine the obedience and faith that was required in that. His journey would take him from his “country,” everything previously familiar to him – his “people,” everyone with whom he felt most comfortable – and “his father’s household,” the source of provision he had trusted.

“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NLT. Obedience requires trust beyond explanation. Abraham did not know where he was going but he knew Who He was following. To follow God obediently, you have to leave where you are to go where God wants to take you. Your spiritual journey cannot take you further than your current obedience will allow.

Consecration to God is essential and non-negotiable in your faith journey. In the next edition of EveryDay Life, we will further examine the very important, second aspect, “Altars of Consecration.” Every moment of consecration at an altar is of eternal consequence in your journey. Every place Abraham pitched his tent, he built an altar and worshipped the Lord there. See Genesis 12:7/8/13:18/22:9. An altar is where you humbly bow and surrender yourself to the supremacy and sovereignty of God, a sacred place of worship expressed in costly sacrifice and sincere consecration. Altars are significant to God and crucial to your spiritual journey.

Today, my prayer for you is for you to grow in the grace of obedience and the practice of consecration.