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Archive for January, 2014

Rejoicing Is a Choice

January 31st, 2014

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NIV.

You can choose to make any day a Sabbath experience.

My thoughts and comments today are that “rejoicing is a choice.”

Emotions! What would you do without them? Without emotion, life would be without color or definition. Yet without direction and discipline, those same emotions will wreak havoc. At any given moment, your emotions are either a choice or a reaction. You do not choose, nor can you control, what will happen in your day; however, you must choose how you will respond. Be prepared. Solomon offers a good reminder, “You do not know what a day will bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1 NKJV. Happiness should not relate to happenstance.

You will have good and bad days, happy and sad days, helpful and hurtful days, pressured and care-free days. Addressing this assortment of life experiences, Solomon gave wise counsel when he wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven . . [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has set eternity in the hearts of men . .” Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8/11 NIV. Solomon packages the diversity of life experiences within the larger context of eternity and the overarching capability of God to bring beauty into any season or circumstance.

In this [an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials . .” Read 1 Peter 1:3-14 NIV. Exactly in the context of suffering, grief, and trials, Peter writes of “inexpressible and glorious joy.” Without a broader, spiritual context for your life, emotions will be rampant – unrestrained and unpredictable.

The most ordinary or difficult of days should be celebrated with the perspective of the Lord’s presence and providence, as David encouraged, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NIV. Read the surrounding context of this Psalm. The words of the Psalmist are not a casual detachment from life’s realities. David’s simple declaration is his response, not to the most tranquil of times, but in the most troubling – personal anguish, swarming enemies, feeling surrounded, searching for refuge, yet finding God in the midst of it all and every reason to rejoice. Such days are when you rejoice, not why. Your rejoicing is because, “the Lord made the day.”

What should you do on your worst day? “Rejoice and be glad in it.” Paul instructed, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! . . Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Philippians 4:4/1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV. You can choose to make any day a Sabbath experience.

A Sabbath experience reveres God’s sovereignty in daily life, rests in His sufficient providence, and recognizes that God is the author of this day and every other, whatever the source or challenge of its present circumstance. The nature of any day should not determine the joy of your embrace of that day; every day provides you opportunity to respond in joyous faith and thanksgiving to God, rather than react in doubt or despair to its situations.

My prayer for you today is that you will rejoice in God regardless of present circumstance.

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The Miracle and Mystery of Healing

January 29th, 2014

“Prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well.” James 5:15 NLT.

The essential elements of healing are the grace and sovereignty of God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the miracle and mystery of healing.”

Few things present more unanswered questions and opinions than healing through prayer and faith. It would be easy to struggle with the questions: if healing occurs, how healing occurs, and why healing occurs, or more commonly, why it doesn’t. The reality is that many of us have more questions than answers in this very real area of spiritual life. Wisdom is not letting answers you don’t have dissuade you from the answer God gives. The Savior that has the power to forgive sins also holds the power to heal. Read Mark 2:1-12 NIV/Isaiah 53:4-6 NKJV.

God’s Word is clear, “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well.” James 5:14-15 NLT.

Is that true? Of course it is. God’s Word says it is, providing many examples of healings in both the Old and New Testament, and through the ministry of Jesus, as well as others. Anyone willing to look honestly into God’s Word will find the promise of healing as well as its successful practice. Across history, and yet today, there are many such testimonies. Whatever else you question, you are not left to wonder if healing is promised in God’s Word. Don’t wait until you understand all of God’s mysteries; simply be available to God’s miraculous power and divine possibilities.

When my Dad was a teenager, my grandmother was diagnosed as, “terminal.” At the invitation of a neighbor, she and my Dad visited a small church in Buffalo, New York, where she was prayed for. Never having been in a church until he was seventeen, he accompanied his mother who was prayed for and miraculously healed that Sunday night, living several decades longer. The Randolph family came to faith through her miraculous healing, her story reaching across generations to our family today, and our children, our grandchildren, and hopefully to their children as well.

Years later as a pastor, married, and with a two-year-old son (that was me), my Dad was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever, severely affecting his heart and leaving him debilitated for six months, requiring constant help for the simplest activities of every day care. Like his mother years earlier, he was prayed for and miraculously healed. Those stories and others wondrously filled my childhood. Some may try to reduce James’ words to a formula to force God to work at their will. Others wrongly assume that unless everyone is healed, then no one actually could be.

Healing is both a mystery and miracle. I confess I do not know how healing happens, nor why healing does not always occur for the most desperately needy or apparently most deserving. But unanswered questions must not dismiss the answer given in God’s Word. The Bible is true; “Prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well.” James 5:15 NLT.

Of this be certain, healing is the Lord’s doing. Prayer and faith – your own or another’s – are significant components to the possibility of healing, but the absolutely essential elements of healing are the grace and sovereignty of God. You can neither make healing apply as you wish, nor should you dismiss healing as a wondrous possibility for your life.

My prayer for you today is: believe in and expect the power of God every day.

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Being Exemplary

January 27th, 2014

“Christ . . is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT.

Personal example far outweighs impersonal instruction.

My thoughts and comments today are about “being exemplary.”

Maybe you have heard it said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Such instruction doesn’t work so well in parenting, or relationships of any kind. The problem with such advice is this: personal example far outweighs impersonal instruction. Words take little time, minimal cost, and marginal effort to tell someone what to do. The most accurate instruction is not nearly as effective as modeling. The best teaching, and therefore most enduring learning, includes example and demonstration.

In previous comments last week, I wrote, “As God came into His world by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God works today in our world to bring lost people from unbelief to faith as His Word is incarnated in the very lives that have been forever changed.” But how does that work? Paul wrote to Christ-followers, “[You are] known and read by everybody, you show that you are a letter from Christ . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 3:3-4 NKJV. (See “Living Letters,” EDL, Friday, January 24, 2014). I want to further develop how God achieves that incarnation of truth through the lives of those who know and trust Him as Savior.

Jesus’ expectation and your assignment are clear, “Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Tim 4:12-13 NLT. Now, that’s a holy mission requiring devotion and sacrifice. How can you and I bring a living word to a world where the plethora of inauthentic words and paucity of worthy examples devalue efforts?

In humility, Jesus understood, “The Son can do nothing of Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son also does [in like manner]. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all He does . . I don’t speak on My own authority. The Father who sent Me gave Me His own instructions as to what I should say. And I know that His instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” John 5:19-20 NIV/12:49-50 NLT.

The Father modeled for Jesus what He should say and do and the Son wisely followed His Father’s example with His disciples, and with us. As Jesus learned from His Father, He taught by example and modeling all the Father taught Him. To His disciples, Jesus said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done.” John 13:15 NLT. In your strength alone, success is impossible. You need the indwelling Word of God and anointing of the Spirit. See Colossians 3:16-17 NIV.

The calling is daunting but the solution is this simple. Christ . . is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT. If you will walk as He directs, speak what He says, and do the will of the Father as He did, you are following His example and your life will be extraordinary. “Live as children of God in a dark world . . Let your lives shine brightly before them.” Philippians 2:15-16 NLT. Being ordinary is nothing special; being exemplary is.

My prayer for you today is that you are a shining example of all that is good and holy.

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Living Letters

January 24th, 2014

You are a letter from Christ . . written with the Spirit of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV.

Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Son and your Savior.

My thoughts and comments today are about “living letters.”

Paul’s appreciative amazement is evident as he wrote, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: God [in Christ] appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believe on in the world, was taken up in glory” 1 Timothy 3:16 NIV. Those words are the clear, expansive description of the Incarnation – God becoming man that every man might be redeemed. God was manifest in the flesh. “Christ, being in very nature of God . . and being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man . .” Read Philippians 2:5-11 NIV. Read Hebrews 1:1-3a NKJV.

John marveled at the wonder of incarnation as he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word . . and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,  full of grace and truth . . No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son . . He has declared Him.” John 1:1/14/18 NKJV. Who would claim to understand the mystery and majesty of the Incarnation, that truth being well beyond our limited comprehension?

But there is much everyday that you do not understand, yet accept as truth. My Dad’s joy was being a pastor as well as a private pilot, before the popularity and affordability of commercial flights. As a young boy, I often accompanied my Dad in his small Cessna without the ability to understand or satisfactorily explain the Law of Aerodynamics. I trusted my Dad’s knowledge and experience. Nor need I intellectually explain the Incarnation of Jesus to the satisfaction of those who choose not to believe. I, for one, choose to believe the Incarnation of Jesus is true, as told in the Word of God.

Truth is more than mere facts or accurate information. Facts can change when circumstances change. Truth remains true, unaffected by past, present, or future circumstances. Truth is a Person, and that person is Jesus Christ, God’s Son and your Savior. Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am . .  the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 NLT. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth.” James 1:18 NKJV.

This is my application of today’s thoughts and comments, and my challenge to you: as God came into our world by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God works today in His world to bring lost people from unbelief to faith, as His Word is incarnated in the very lives that have been forever changed by the “grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 NIV. The dictionary also defines “incarnation” as, “a person regarded as embodying or exhibiting some quality or idea.” That is meant to describe you, when God’s truth is dwelling in you and faithfully expressed in your speech and conduct.

God’s plan has not changed; God still makes Himself known by incarnating truth, as He did when “the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.” Paul was clear; “You yourselves are our letter . . known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV. People are looking and listening to know God’s truth radiating from your life.

My prayer for you today is that you be a living letter from God, received and cherished by all.

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A Prayer Strategy

January 22nd, 2014

“After they prayed . . they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4:31 NIV.

Prayer and faith are the door through which God enters powerfully.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a prayer strategy.”

There will be times when you have to do something, but don’t know what to do. You will experience situations, unfamiliar or even desperate. The Bible is filled with times and places when people have felt much like you do. Consider Moses facing an impassable Red Sea while pursued by Pharaoh; imagine Daniel awaiting imminent death from ravenous lions; the Apostle Paul endured a terrible storm in a ship being torn apart, and sailors ready to abandon ship; feel the isolation of the Apostle John, callously exiled to die on a remote island. Inevitably, they and others turned to God in their worst circumstances and God did not fail them. You are wise to study others’ faith and its results, and to learn from their experiences.

The Bible reports of Peter and John that the religious leaders, “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” If you spend time with Jesus, others notice a difference. Soon after Jesus’ ascension, Peter and John were arrested and threatened with worse if they dared speak of Jesus again. Read Acts 4:21-33 NIV. Jesus always had faced the opposition, always knowing what to do. But Jesus was no longer with them as before; they were on their own. “After they prayed, the place was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 NIV. Like those early disciples, this is what you do when you don’t know what to do.

(1) First, pray with faith. “Lord, behold their threatenings.” Acts 4:29 NIV. Prayer is too often the second, third, or last thing you think of doing when facing threatening situations. Begin with prayer; then, you may not need to worry. Here is good advice, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer . . let your requests be made known to God . .” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

(2) Ask God for what you lack. “Lord . . enable Your servants . . with great boldness.” Acts 4:29 NIV. They had reason to be afraid, but fear like faith is really a choice. Fear thrives when you feel threatened. Faith grows when you choose to let God be God. Stop listening to your fears; listen for God’s assuring word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV. The Word in your heart makes you bold in your faith.

(3) Expect God to do the extraordinary. “Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 4:30 NIV. Why pray at all, if you aren’t going to expect something spectacular from God? 2 Chronicles 16:9 KJV. Give God an invitation to display His power. Genesis 18:14 NKJV.

(4) Prepare yourself for things to change. “After they had prayed, they . . spoke the Word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 NIV. More than expected happens when you pray; not a lot can happen until after you do. Prayer and faith are the door through which God enters a desperate situation powerfully. And His entrance is to fill you with His abiding Spirit. See Ephesians 5:18-20 NKJV. A Spirit-filled heart expects something marvelous and miraculous from God. “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you rely on the power of the Spirit in every situation.

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