The Practice of Peace

July 29th, 2015

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6 NLT.

The practice of peace begins with prayer.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the practice of peace.”

Every day, disputes and differences polarize our lives and relationships. An unfriendly gap widens between religious and secular beliefs. Economic inequality divides communities, nations and our world. Political and international conflicts threaten our personal well-being and global safety on every continent. In today’s world, peace seems elusive. I observe that the less real peace we have in our hearts and homes, the more conflict we cause in every other realm. The God of Peace and the Prince of Peace are the only source of peace.

Incorrectly, people assume that peace is the absence of troubling circumstances. If that were true, there could be no peace at all, because problems are a fact of life. Jesus was clear, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Problems threaten your peace of heart and mind; perspective is at the heart of peace. Your evaluation influences your expectation.

Here is the Apostle Paul’s practical advice: “Don’t worry about anything – INSTEAD – pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT. You can worry, but praying and giving thanks is healthier. Worry and prayer are mutually exclusive. Worry is natural. Prayer and thankfulness are optional, but wiser choices to make. Often, the last things a person tries are the only things that effectively work. The practice of peace begins with prayer. Prayer opens your heart, settles your fears, and provides solutions.

Paul promised that prayer with thanksgiving is the sure path to experience God’s peace – “Shalom” – the peace of God in every circumstance. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NLT. The apprehension you feel when things are unsettled, or the mounting irritation from relational conflict, or the perplexity of spirit are dissipated in the simple, sincere practice of talking with God with thankfulness, reverence, and expectation. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 NIV.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV. You experience peace around you when you welcome the peace of God within you – peaceful dwellings, secure homes, undisturbed rest.

Today, I pray for you that the peace of God within you surrounds and keeps you.

Christian Communications

Inspired Enthusiasm

July 24th, 2015

“This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NKJV.

Enthusiasm is an attitude you choose before becoming an emotion you feel.

My thoughts and comments today are about “inspired enthusiasm.” Life is to be enjoyed; enjoy every moment. You are meant to live everyday to its fullest extent. I am not describing some exhausting pace to have it all and do it all or some merely emotional excitement. Life is sacred and meant to be savored, holding eternal value. When you realize that as true, you discover the source of enthusiasm and achievement. Enthusiasm is an attitude you choose before becoming an emotion you feel. It is interesting that our English word, “enthusiasm,” originates from the Latin word, “entheos, inspired by God.” When you are inspired, you inspire others. What you do with your life daily holds more eternal importance than you may realize.

Life should be a full expression and fulfilling discovery of the abilities God has given you to serve Him and bless others. That warrants enthusiasm. The Psalmist discovered the source of enthusiasm, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24. This day is filled with the presence and purposes of God. Your response is to embrace its opportunities and enjoy His service. The Apostle Paul was direct and to the point, “Serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11 NLT.

It is natural to be excited about your own good fortune, successes, and pleasant experiences, but life is more than that. Enthusiasm can appear to be no more than an abbreviated expression of emotion and excitement. Or enthusiasm can motivate and energize your best effort and attitude. Such an approach to life is not your response to life as you view it at the moment, but a preemptive attitude about life as it could and should be.

Life allows you to be either a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer simply reflects the surrounding temperature, or others’ temperaments in this case. In contrast, a thermostat influences the temperature of situations and the temperaments of yourself and others for the better. Throughout every day that choice is made either deliberately or by default. Imagine the positive impact of enthusiasm. An authentically enthusiastic person could be described as: excited, eager, positive, passionate, zealous, animated, zestful, wholehearted, positive, or expectant. I think those words describe Jesus. I hope that would be the way others describe you.

The key to inspired enthusiasm is plain and simple. Ask yourself, “Does everything I do express my intent to ‘serve the Lord enthusiastically?’” When you understand that even the simplest, smallest thing you do for anyone is serving the Lord, you will do it with the enthusiasm that deserves. “Serve wholeheartedly, [work enthusiastically/NLT] as if you are serving the Lord, not men, because you know the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.” Ephesians 6:7-8 NIV.

Today, I pray that your passion for serving God and blessing others will abound.

Christian Communications o7218

Biblical Faith

July 22nd, 2015

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV.

Biblical faith is central and requisite to the Christian life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Biblical faith.”

Life is difficult without a healthy measure of faith. Faith is natural unless compromised by opinions and circumstances. Disappointing experiences, damaged trust, and resultant doubts are usually the product of insincere promises or insufficient abilities to fulfill promises made. Yet your Christian life is completely dependent on faith. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers, “We walk by faith not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.

Your life in Christ begins with the gift of faith, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Your spiritual life grows by faith’s increase, “. . if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard.” Colossians 1:22. Faith sustains you during and at the end of your journey, as faith did for “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:11-12.

And how is this journey of faith successfully accomplished? It’s simple really. “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith . .” Hebrews 12:2. Faith is neither something you create of yourself nor can you sustain apart from Jesus, alive in your heart. “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 NKJV. “Faith is not a mere sterile, intellectual belief, but it is that which confirms the heart, clarifies the mind, and controls the affections.” (Barnes’ Notes).

(1) Biblical faith is central and requisite to every aspect of the Christian life. Citing the example of Enoch, “as one who pleased God,” the Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:5-6 NIV. Faith is essential, not optional. Biblical faith is described best in Hebrews 11:1.

(2) Biblical faith is: “the substance of things hoped for.” English lacks the breadth and richness of the original Greek text, in which the New Testament was primarily written. As used in this verse, “Substance” is closest to our word, “foundation, that which stands underneath to provide support.” Biblical hope is not at all wishful thinking; it is a spiritual reality established upon the solid rock of God’s Word. Read Matthew 7:24-27. The “things hoped for” are as certain as the singular character, absolute authority, and unchanging reliability of God. If God said it, I believe it. And that settles it. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Read Romans 10:17.

(3) Biblical faith is: “the evidence of things not seen.” As used in this verse, “Evidence” is “the irrefutable proof and unchangeable conviction.” The “things not [yet] seen” are envisioned in one’s heart and accompanied by unshakable conviction of their certainty. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV. Abraham is a great example of this principle. Read Romans 4:19-21 NIV. You don’t choose what you believe; you choose who you believe and that determines what you believe. Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” See Matthew 11:22-24. I believe God.

Jesus used the example of a tiny mustard seed to encourage faith and demonstrate its power, “the smallest seed, when planted it grows and becomes the largest of plants . . if you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . nothing will be impossible for you.” Read Mark 4:31 and Matthew 17:20 NIV.

Today, I pray for you that your faith grows strong and rests fully upon God and His Word.

Time and Eternity

July 17th, 2015

“They were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.” Hebrews 11:16 NIV.

Each birthday I celebrate creates anticipation rather than melancholy.

My thoughts and comments today are about “time and eternity.”

Live wisely each day that you are given. “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength, they are eighty years . . so teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:10/12. One’s years are limited and the number unknown. As I approach another birthday tomorrow, I am aware there are more years behind than remain. That reality creates anticipation in my heart rather than melancholy. I fully intend to enjoy life as long as I can, to savor its joys and extend its years. I choose to be numbered among those described as, “longing for a better country – a Heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16 NIV.

The longing in the heart is not for just more of the same. The human spirit recognizes that man was made for much more than these limited years. Solomon declared it simply; “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV. You and I were created with an inner, insatiable desire for life – life abundant now and eternal forever, and for an eternal place to enjoy it. Heaven is just as real as the world that you now know and enjoy. Heaven is what makes death bearable, and Jesus’ sacrificial death essential.

To those for whom life has not seemed kind, God has promised every Christ-follower a place so much better. “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold I make all things new.’” Revelation 21:4-5.

To those for whom life is good right now, eternal life will be exquisite. Paul was seldom without words except when he wrote of Heaven, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV.

A personal faith in Jesus prepares you for the place He has prepared for you. As a pastor, I have said too many final farewells to family and friends. Each tearful farewell is only temporary and has only made Heaven nearer and dearer. Jesus assured His worried disciples and us, “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” Read John 14:1-4 NIV. The good news is this: when you invite and keep Christ in your heart as Savior, Heaven is where you go when you die. Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 NIV/1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NLT. I do not want to imagine Heaven without you there.

Today, I pray for you to recognize that your longing for life is really about Heaven.

Moments in Time

July 15th, 2015

“You have been my God from the moment I was born.” Psalm 22:10 NLT.

God scheduled your life to enjoy unforgettable appointments with destiny.

My thoughts and comments today are about “moments in time.”

Your life is meant to be so much more than an accumulation of uneventful minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. If no more than that, you have not lived well. Though entering my seventh decade, my life is about more than the duration of years I have lived. My life has been about the grace of God I have been shown, the opportunities of ministry I have enjoyed, the interesting people with whom I’ve shared life, the diverse places I have visited, the sights I have seen, and the unique experiences I have enjoyed along my pilgrimage.

With awe and wonder, the Psalmist declared, “You have been my God from the moment I was born.” Psalm 22:10 NLT. For my purpose today, I will define a moment as “the marking of a significant occurrence rather than a measurement of its duration.” My usage is more akin to a related word, “momentous,” describing “an occurrence of consequence, significance, or gravity.” God’s presence and purpose are seen in such momentous occurrences.

Time can be counted in minutes, but life is measured in moments. Minutes construct the chronology of events in your life, but moments create the experiences, that enrich life with memories, values, and passions. Living only in the minute, you may miss the moment. Have you ever thought about the difference? Minutes are an exact measurement, 60 seconds or 1/60th of an hour, reliably the same every time. Moments, however, are unique and distinct, measured by your experience not their length.

Significant moments may vary individually but are things like: receiving a driver’s license, a first date, graduations, weddings, birth of a child, anniversaries, a new home, promotions, grandchildren, retirement, or any occurrence that marks achievements. And available to one and all is the sovereign moment your heart opens to Jesus and you become His disciple.

There was both brevity and destiny to Jesus’ life; His life and ministry were filled with eternally significant moments. Matthew related the story of a woman who suffered for twelve years, until she determined, “If I only touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed.” She did, and she was. Jesus said to her, “’Your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment.” Read Matthew 9:20-22 NIV. And a desperate, grieving father brought his son to Jesus. “’Lord, have mercy on my son’ . . Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.” Read Matthew 17:14-18 NIV. There are moments in time, often appearing natural but really divine, that can transform and shape your life forever.

God scheduled your life to enjoy unforgettable appointments with destiny. The Psalmist rejoiced, “Every moment You, [O Lord], know where I am . . You both precede and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head . . Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!” Psalm 139:3-6/16-17 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to recognize and cherish moments that are irreplaceable.

Christian Communications, Allen Randolph