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Archive for May, 2014

Scraps and Crumbs

May 30th, 2014

“Nor will I offer to the Lord my God . .  that which costs me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 NKJV.

Scraps are never good enough for who or what is important to you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “scraps and crumbs.”

If someone invited you to dinner, then pulled out their leftovers from a previous night’s “box to go,” would you feel they had given adequate thought to your visit or valued your company? God must sometimes feel inadequately valued when offered our scraps of priorities, time, affections, energy, efforts, finances, and abilities. When a person uses the best and first fruits for themselves and gives only their meager remnants to God, is God honored and worshipped?

Isaiah told of a man who cut down a tree, first using the wood to build a fire by which he warmed himself and to cook a meal that fed and satisfied himself, “And the residue thereof, he makes a god.” Isaiah 44:14-17 KJV. That still happens with people far more sophisticated and successful. Only after satisfying his comfort and appetite did he think of his soul. See Mark 8:36-37 NLT. The word, “residue,” suggests scraps or crumbs. God is not made in an “image” you have of Him; you are “made in His image and after His likeness.” See Genesis 1:26-27 NIV.

Maybe the only thing worse than offering the true God your residue is taking the scraps of your time and means to create a false god, expecting his help. I don’t think that I have ever done the latter, but I fear that there were occasions when I may have done the former – giving God less than He deserved, offering what’s left without apology or repentance. Israel was commanded to only offer God the first and the best; God deserves nothing less from you and me.

In response to God’s mercy, King David desired to build an altar in thankfulness for the Lord’s great grace to Israel. David chose a threshing floor where he would offer a pleasing sacrifice. When the owner recognized the King and understood his purpose, he generously offered the King the land without price. I love David’s response; “I will not offer to the Lord my God . . that which cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:18-25 KJV. Typically, what costs you little is worth exactly that.

Let’s be practical. Giving God your crumbs happens when you devote hours a day to your own pursuits leaving only moments for Him, or when you treat money as your own and giving God your few remaining coins, or when you use all week for your work and amusements still needing Sunday for yourself and family. When you have time for every form of social media but scarce opportunity for God’s voice, or when you give priority to your recreation, entertainment, hobbies, or fitness routine providing no adequate time for your soul, you are giving God scraps. In today’s busy, noisy world, Jesus’ words are of primary importance, “Seek first the Kingdom of God . .” Matthew 6:33 NKJV.  My Dad was right, “First things first!”

No love will endure when only giving what’s left. No marriage will flourish. No child will thrive. No friendship will grow. No savings plan will succeed. No career will advance. No Christian will thrive. Scraps are never good enough for who or what is important to you. Being serious about your own spiritual life and that of others will cost you a personal price, to be gladly paid.

My prayer for you today is: put God first in everything, in every way, every day.

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Distractions and Diversions

May 28th, 2014

“Anyone who starts to plow, then keeps looking back is of no use . .” Luke 9:62 TEV.

The devil is the master of distraction and deception.

My thoughts and comments today are about “distractions and diversions.”

Distractions happen. Distractions waste more of a person’s time than we realize when they occur. Ironically, while writing this, I became distracted. That happens easily to any of us. Interruptions occur; misdirection results. Here’s the problem. Typically, you are not interrupted by more important matters. Usually, lesser things crowd into your life and crowd out of your life things you cannot afford to procrastinate. Your success results from setting priorities, maintaining focus, and avoiding distraction.

A distraction can be a brief, pleasant diversion. However, any diversion has potential for a misdirection you may not intend. That can be costly if not noticed and corrected. Unfortunately, distractions come in all shapes and descriptions, some in the pretense of responsibilities or others disguised as opportunities. The devil is the master of distraction and deception, using love of the world, desires, worry, regret, greed, anger, offences, or temptations to dissuade you from being the person Christ means you to be.

Jesus spoke of the danger of spiritual distraction, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God.” Read Luke 9:57-62 TEV. See John 6:66-69 NIV. Jesus’ clearest teaching on distraction is found in a parable He told. Read Matthew 13:3-8 NIV. The same seed – with incalculable potential for good – had differing results, according to the reception of its truth. Jesus was not talking about farmers and fields, nor seed and soils. In His story, Jesus was describing people into whose hearts and lives the Word of God was sown, inefficiently in some but effectively in others. Read Matthew 13:18-23 NIV. Whatever diminishes your obedience to God’s Word, His will, and His ways is a distraction you cannot afford.

Beware; distractions preempt attention from what God is saying and doing in your life. “The evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” Vs 19. Your spiritual life requires priority and focus. Distractions dull God’s calling in your heart and diminish His dreams for you before their time of harvest.

Be careful; distractions prevent the Word of God from becoming rooted in your heart. “Since he has no root, he lasts only for a short time. When trouble comes . . he quickly falls away.” Vs 20-21. Avoid shallow convictions and superficial faith. See Colossians 2:6-7 NKJV.

Be watchful; distractions preoccupy your mind with worries and fears instead of God’s Word. “The worries of this life choke [the Word], making it unfruitful.” Vs 22. Worry ignores God’s Word while consuming thoughts and emotions with fear, suffocating hope, and destroying expectation. See Philippians 4:6-8 NLT/2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Jesus’ conclusion is, “. . the man who hears the Word of God and understands it. He produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” Vs 23. Paul was neither distracted nor dissuaded, “None of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself . . one thing I do, forgetting . . reaching . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Acts 20:22-24/Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding.

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The Power of the Resurrection

May 26th, 2014

“God raised Jesus from the dead . . to be seen . . by witnesses whom God had already chosen.” Acts 10:40 NIV.

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is believable to others when the effect of His resurrection is visible in your life. 

My thoughts and comments are about “the power of the resurrection.”

Jesus’ resurrection is God’s assurance to you that nothing is hopeless, no circumstance is final, and no distress if unchangeable. I believe: the resurrection of Jesus is the most powerful, sovereign act of God since creation. The Apostle Paul wrote, “. . of first importance: Christ died for our sins . . was buried . . raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers . . last of all He appeared to me also.” Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-10 NIV.

Do you think it strange that Jesus did not make public appearances after His resurrection, except selectively? I would assume Jesus would appear to Pontius Pilate, the powerful Roman Governor, or wicked king Herod, or the Jewish High Priest and the Sanhedrin council, or the crowd who adamantly insisted, “Crucify Him, crucify Him; we have no King but Caesar,” choosing Jesus to die, rather than Barabbas.

Peter preached, “We are witnesses . . God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen.” Acts 10:36-45 NIV.

The disciples saw Jesus’ cruel and public death, watched his lifeless body buried, and the tomb sealed and guarded. Their dreams and hopes died and were buried with Jesus. A few visited an empty tomb to remember what used to be. Others felt too lost to go anywhere or do much of anything yet, sharing their confusion and disappointment while huddled behind locked doors. (John 20). Some headed back home with hopes crushed (Luke 24). Some returned to their former life and pursuits (John 21).

On every occasion, the resurrected Jesus – without natural limitations and with more glory and unlimited power – appeared to them. Immediately everything about their lives changed. Jesus was alive! Their past made sense; their future was secure; their lives now had a grand purpose; they were eye witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. 

The personal reality of the resurrection changed their cowardice to courage, their confusion to conviction. The resurrection, as they now understood it, infused them with courage to live fearlessly, willing to suffer, even sacrifice their lives, for the truth of their irrefutable, personal experience of Jesus, “alive for ever and ever.” Revelation 1:18 NIV. These same men and women – once disheartened, discouraged, and confused – were suddenly world changers, fearless and bold to preach to everyone everywhere. It was said of them, “They saw their boldness and recognized they had been with Jesus . . They that have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Acts 4:13/17:6.

The resurrection was transformative. They were fearless, were courageous, risking their lives, fully persuaded. No ocean was too broad, no country too far, no task too difficult, no sacrifice too costly. They lived in the present reality and power of the Jesus’ resurrection.

Until the resurrection of Jesus makes a difference in your life, you will make no difference in the lives of those around you.

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I have spent much time writing this, but I have a better idea. I want to share a video of my teaching on this topic at the Cathedral of Faith, San Jose, CA.

Click on the “vimeo.com” link below, or copy and paste it into your browser, or go to the EDL website: www.allenrandolph.com, and scroll down the right hand column to beneath the Calendar, and under “Church Websites” click on “The Power of the Resurrection” which will take you to the sermon video. I hope you will enjoy and experience God’s invitation to “know the power outflowing from His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10 AMP.

http://vimeo.com/93172840

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Compassion

May 23rd, 2014

“When Jesus saw the people, He was moved with compassion for them.” Matthew 9:36 NAS.

Compassion provokes a personal identification with the plight of another.

My thoughts and comments today are about “compassion.”

Problems loom large; needs are expansive and solutions seem elusive. Marriages and families struggle; politics are divisive; global situations impose locally; poverty and hunger remain undiminished; government partisanship and ineptitude prevent solutions; unsustainable public and personal debt accumulates; clashes of ideologies and cultures increase; crime and violence intrudes our neighborhoods. Life can be a bit numbing. Understandably, a person could feel overwhelmed.

What is an ordinary person to do? It is easy to become so engulfed in one’s own struggles that you have little reserves for anything beyond your daily concerns. Such a life is too small and ultimately unsatisfying. As a young pastor, I learned these helpful words, “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.” God expects nothing more of you than that, but He also expects nothing less. Compassion is evidenced by corresponding action. “Let us . . love with actions and in truth.” Read 1 John 3:16-18 NIV.

As always, Jesus is your example. “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching . .  preaching . .  and healing every sickness and disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-37 NKJV. Notice what moved the heart of Jesus – “multitudes . . like sheep having no shepherd.”

They were a vast number of people, yet each feeling alone without a shepherd to care and provide their unmet needs. More people feel that way than you might realize. Jesus’ invitation remains, “Come unto Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV. Others saw a crowd; Jesus saw people.

Others may have seen an inconvenience to themselves or interruption to their plans; Jesus saw suffering individuals needing both Savior and Shepherd. When Jesus saw the multitudes, their separation and aloneness “moved” Him with compassion. Compassion is a deeply held emotion, yet so much more. Jesus felt what they felt. Their plight became His concern. Pity and sympathy are common; compassion is uncommon. I remember simple lyrics from years earlier, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

Compassion provokes a personal identification with the plight of another, generating a Godly motivation to provide relief. When you are compassionate, you are most like God. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV. Authentic and Godly compassion is not optional; “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” 1 Peter 3:8 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you are tender toward things that break God’s heart.

Below, I have added the link to a brief, musical video that references the song I mentioned in this devotional.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2KOluWrjU8

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Image and Identity

May 21st, 2014

“The Lord does not see as man sees . . but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV.

Integrity is more important than image.

My thoughts and comments today are about “image and identity.”

Appearances can be deceiving; not everything, nor everyone, will be as they always appear to be. It is said that any person is an amalgam of three identities: “the one others think you to be, the one you believe yourself to be, and the one God knows you to be.” Obviously, the latter is the most accurate and important. Establish your identity in Christ and the Word of God, independent of the opinions of others. Appearances are superficial, only the public face by which you reveal only what you intend to reveal. Inevitably, judgments of one another are largely made by appearances.

You will have expectations of others, as they will of you. Though first impressions are important, we are told, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Sad but true, the graphic design and marketing of a book can be as important to its sales and success as is its content. Similarly, sometimes a person may be more than they appear, sometimes less. Occasionally, you may be disappointed at apparent inconsistencies in yourself or others. Reality does not always correspond with the image another projects or the impressions you form. Jesus said, ”Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” John 7:24 NIV.

That’s why it is important to value integrity, yours and others’ – being the same, at all times in all situations. The prophet Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king from the family of Jesse.  Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13 NKJV. Samuel examined the eldest to the younger – except one was missing, the youngest, David, who was busily tending his father’s sheep. As Samuel surveyed the choices and presumed to anoint the eldest son, Eliab, God spoke, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV. Read that verse again slowly and thoughtfully, “The Lord looks at the heart.” Solomon advised, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Read Proverbs 4:20-23 NKJV. Let your life truly reflect your heart.

Appearances may impress but God searches and knows every heart. Jesse was mistaken for depreciating David, his youngest son. Samuel was mistaken for overly appreciating the age and physical appearance of Eliab, the eldest son. God makes no such mistakes; He looks at the heart to find and affirm what is irreplaceable and invaluable. Integrity is more important than image. Read Psalm 78:70-72/Acts 13:21-23 NKJV.

Jesus’ strong indictment against the proud Pharisees was: “You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:28 NLT. See Matthew 6:5 NKJV. Paul warned of, “. . those who boast in appearance and not in heart.” 2 Corinthians 5:12 NKJV. Paul then concluded with these words, “No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 TEV.

My prayer for you today is that you recognize the difference between image and identity.

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