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Archive for December, 2017

Christmas and Changed Lives

December 29th, 2017

Christmas as a heart experience remains forever.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Christmas and Changed Lives.”

The wait for Christmas Day seems interminable. Each day grows busier and busier with preparations until the day arrives. The family and friends gather; the dinner is served and enjoyed; family gifts are shared, and carols sung. But then what? Inevitably, Christmas as a calendar event too soon concludes. Christmas as a heart experience remains forever. How you enter the Christmas celebration is not as personally impactful as how you exit the occasion.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s experience of the angels’ visitations, the shepherds’ hurry and wonder, royalty’s worship and lavish gifts, and then life returns to normal or unfolds in ways you could not have imagined. Obviously, Joseph and Mary could never be the same as they had been before the wonder of that amazing, miraculous night in Bethlehem’s stable. But the initial aftermath was not as idyllic as you might expect it should have been.

Disruption appeared to be Joseph and Mary’s new normal. Christmas does not mean that everything will always be pretty and peaceful. An angel came again to Joseph in a dream, warning of Herod’s evil determination to destroy the young Messiah. The angel instructed, “Flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word . . when Joseph arose, he took the young child and his mother and departed for Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod.” Read Matthew 2:13-23 NKJV. A miracle changed their lives and purpose forever.

In Luke’s masterful narrative of the Christmas angels singing to shepherds on a Judean hillside, there came the inevitable moment, “When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven.” Inevitably, angels return to Heaven and people return to everyday life, potentially changed forever by such moments of Heavenly encounter. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see this thing which the Lord has told us’ . . The shepherds returned [to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-16 NKJV. Every lamb that was born would remind them of the night they bowed before the Lamb of God, “Who takes away the sins of the world.”

Angels inevitably return to Heaven. But there are still lives to be lived, families to provide for, responsibilities to be fulfilled, work to be done, but also an unbelievable story to be told to all who have an open heart to listen. Matthew writes of a similar experience for the Kings who travelled from so far, “Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, [the Wise Men] returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:12 NIV. I know those words merely describe the different geography of their journey home, but I cannot avoid the application that life is never quite the same after you have seen and worshiped the Christ. Read Matthew 2:1-12 NIV. Their lives were never again the same.

At Christmas, you cannot bow with a true heart of worship, and afterward return to your everyday routines as you were. Christmas holds the power to change everyone, as well as everything that was, is, and will yet be. Changed lives are the real evidence of Christmas. The Savior changes routines, shifts priorities, adjusts values, and especially redeems and redirects lives. Ultimately, the observance of Christmas will pass but the Savior can and will change your life forever. Christmas is so much more than the beauty and pageantry of mangers, angels, shepherds, or Eastern kings.

Christmas is about a Savior who changes lives now, and for eternity. If you worship at the manger, you are expected to live for the Savior and point others to Him. The Apostle Paul was clear, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV. When you were given the gift of grace, you were also given the ministry of reconciliation.

Today, I pray for you to to receive the gift and embrace the joy of His Good News.

Christian Communications 2017

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Devotionals

Choose Joy

December 21st, 2017

Joy is both a gift and a choice. Choose joy.

“You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today urge you to,

“Choose Joy.”

“Merry Christmas!” Such is the all too familiar greeting, but “merry,” seems an underwhelming emotion when referring to the Eternal God coming into our world. “Joyous Christmas,” seems more appropriate to the Advent season. Open your heart and home to be overwhelmed this Advent season by a sublime joy that Peter described this way, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV.

Inexpressible and glorious joy is the proper response to the Savior. The experience and expression of the Savior’s birth, life, and unequaled sacrifice deserve no less. As the angel announced to the shepherds that first Christmas, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people.” Luke 2:10 NAS. The good news is the same now as then, as is the promise.

However, Heaven’s joy did not originate on that first Christmas. The Incarnation simply dramatized the eternal purpose of the Father for all His creation to know inexpressible, glorious joy. Creation is described as the time when, “the morning stars sang together and all the Angels shouted for joy.” Job 38:7 NIV. That same eternal joy will fill your heart as you stand before God, “Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy.” Read Jude 24-25 NKJV. Joyfully celebrating Christmas provides your opportunity to experience His inexpressible and glorious joy every day.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV. Great joy is yours but never automatic. Joy is a gift God gives; joy is a choice you must make. Advent invites you to choose joy. Nurture joy; mature joy until the emotion becomes a disposition abounding from spiritual resources. Jesus promised, “If you abide in Me . . My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:7/11 NIV. You have His joy, completely.

Choose joy. Share the joy. If you are silent or unclear about your joy at Christmas, why would, or should, the world be drawn at other times to the truth you tell. Consider this. Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share its joy with others. But a joy-filled message is not credible when coming from a joyless messenger. You can’t share something you don’t have, and you can’t keep something that you won’t share, and others will not believe something they do not see. When you give joy, you gain joy. That states a spiritual principle that also applies to inexpressible and glorious joy, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV.

Share the joy of Christmas every day, to every person, and in every imaginable way. Celebrate with abandon and without apology. Invite, include, involve, converse, welcome, laugh, love, express life, and always be real. Celebrate joyously and without apology. Incarnate the joy of His incarnation, and the timeless message an unbelieving world cannot resist. The message of Christmas remains forever unchanged, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NKJV. Christmas offers every reason and opportunity to choose joy.

Today, I pray for you to discover the inexpressible, enduring joy found only in the Savior.

Christian Communications 2017

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A Peace that Surpasses Understanding

December 13th, 2017

Where Christ governs, peace is found.

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a peace that surpasses understanding.”

Peace is most precious to those who are without it. But true peace is elusive for many because, though they long for it, they do not know where such peace can be found. Our world is much like the world into which Jesus was born. Armies, hostilities, occupying forces, political and religious divisions were all the order of the day, then as now. Rulership was imposed by the strongest upon the weakest and the most brutal upon the most vulnerable, as today.

Yet Jesus came from the Father and was declared by angels as the Prince of Peace whose arrival was into exactly that kind of troubled world. “Suddenly a great company of the Heavenly Host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’” Luke 2:13-14 NIV. Peace will never come by the force of men’s armies and political alliances. The Bible speaks of three expressions of God’s peace which Jesus gives that the world cannot.

Most importantly and foundational to all peace, there must be peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Read Romans 5:1-2 NIV. Such expressions of peace are only available to the one who has accepted Jesus’ invitation to live at, “peace with God,” surrendering to living life on God’s gracious terms, without hostility toward His Law and will.

There is peace from God. That comes only from Jesus, Who said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you, not as the world gives, neither can it take it away.” John 14:27 NLT. Peace from God is when a supernatural tranquility rests in your heart without regard to difficulty and distress.

Also, there is the peace of God. This peace is experienced as an unexplainable measure of well being and contentment that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Read Galatians 5:19-25 NIV. Those attributes are in stark contrast with those who live apart from the peace of God, as evidenced by, “discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” There is no earthly experience of peacefulness that compares with God’s peace, which is the very expression of His own character and conduct.

Imagine with me a time and place where it will truly be said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:7 NIV. When will that time come, and where can that be found? Where Christ governs, peace reigns. Isaiah foresaw a day in which it would be true. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV. The answer is simple and clear. Where Christ governs, only there will true peace be found. Until you are at peace with God, you will not be at peace within yourself, will not find peace of mind, nor can you live at peace with others.

Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is knowing the living presence of Jesus, whatever the doubts, distress, or dangers of the moment. Peace does not come from your surroundings. Peace does not come from all men being in agreement. Peace starts in your heart, when you make all things right with God. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “’Peace, peace, to those far and near,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will heal them.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” Isaiah 57:19-21 NIV.

This promise can be your confidence; “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You.” Isaiah 26.3 NKJV. My Christmas wish for you can be stated in the words of the Apostle Paul. “Now may the God of peace be with you all.” Romans 15:33 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be enveloped with enduring peace that cannot be disturbed.

Christian Communications 2017

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Strength from Weakness

December 6th, 2017

God’s Word in your spirit echoes His truth.

“As your days, so shall your strength be.”

Deuteronomy 33:25

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“Strength from Weakness.”

Most everyone has certain words, ideas, or convictions that shape and direct their journey, maybe from something they read or from someone’s advice or experience with which they identified. Such words become a fixed point, a North Star, from which you can navigate daily life.

Beware of the world’s noise and be suspect of the cacophony of its errant suppositions. Along your journey, when you are seeking and listening for God’s voice, He will speak a word to teach and guide you. God promised, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 NIV. It is important that you give God opportunity, and critically important that you listen carefully and obey when He does.

Across my seasons of my life and circumstances, I have found God’s promises true and available exactly when I needed them most. Such a word from God, spoken into your spirit, instantly echoes with truth and becomes a fixed point from which you can then safely navigate the moment, confidently chart the course ahead, as well as mark the progress of your journey.

You must find a dynamic balance between those who feel a helpless paralysis, afraid to do anything or afraid of doing the wrong thing until God has spoken, or the presumptive casualness of others going full speed ahead while assuming God will just speak if and when He chooses. Either would be an uncomfortable extreme for me. I want to walk wisely according to the Word, while listening for the gentle voice of the Spirit to direct my steps and choices along the way. I want to live in such a way that I am always attentive to God, welcoming His voice and wisdom at all times, while living confidently in the moment.

Some years ago, my Mom suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was not expected to live through the night. God gave us another seven weeks with her before her death. The first week at the hospital was numbing and wearying for me, praying for her recovery but knowing that any hour might be her last. One night as I trudged home from the hospital exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I felt God quietly whisper into my heart, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25. God’s Word in your spirit echoes His truth.

I was too tired to ask for such a word and not at all expecting it, but God spoke when and what I most needed to hear. I recognized the familiarity of those words from the Bible, and later looked up the verse, to find the added strength of the following words accompanying His promise, “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27. I cannot describe the strength, assurance, and comfort those simple words made at that moment, and in the several weeks that followed, and still to this day. When you feel most alone and without strength, you are neither alone nor without strength when God is with you.

I was glad that I had previously hidden God’s Word in my heart and recognized His promise from the Bible. Every night following, I went to bed knowing the sufficiency of God, and every morning I awakened confident of His abiding, daily supply of strength. These years later, I still walk each day in that gift from the Lord given to my heart. Like the manna God provided to Israel, they could gather only enough for each day. But His provision for each day was sufficient and exactly enough. Strength isn’t physically bankable. “To those who have no might, He increases strength . . But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary.” Read Isaiah 40:29-31.

There will be much about tomorrow that you cannot know now and may not understand then; but nothing that God does not know. When you know that His strength will be equal to each day’s responsibilities and necessities, you will live with anticipation and confidence. “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Read Proverbs 3:5-10 NIV. Our Father has promised, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in [your weakness].  With Paul, you can know that, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Today, I pray for you to recognize God’s voice amid the confusion of so much other noise.

Christian Communications 2017
Website and archives: allenrandolph.com
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Sharing the Joy

December 1st, 2017

Christmas is sharing the good news with others

 “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people . . a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “sharing the joy.”

I love this season of year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite times. They are calendar events but so much more. I enjoy their accent of my three priorities: faith, family, and friends. We gather together to give thanks for the bounty of God’s goodness and provision, and soon after we gather again with family and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus and His coming to earth as the Savior of the world! As thankfulness distinguishes the first, joy validates the latter. Can you even imagine the spectacular pageantry that first Christmas? To say the least, Angels and Kings and shepherds are unusual companions. The message of Christmas is simple and direct, “Good News of great joy for all the people.” Read Luke 2:8-20 NKJV.

How could anyone improve on the Angels announcement? “I bring you Good News of great joy that will be for all the people . . a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NIV. Good news! Great joy! For all people! What was the shepherds’ immediate response? They believed the truth and they shared the joy. “They came with haste . . and when they had seen Him . . they made known abroad what was told them concerning the Child.” My premise is this: Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share the Good News. Your joy is incomplete until shared with others. I have observed the truth of that. Joy is the purest and fullest when given to others, freely and extravagantly.

I see three common behaviors to avoid. Don’t let the world run away with the party. It is easy to be disappointed by the superficial hype and hoopla the world attaches to the holiday. Their superficiality exposes that they lack any real cause for celebrating. They must pretend the good times, because they have not heard and believed the Good Tidings. Our celebration should out shine theirs

Don’t trudge wearily through the season, unable to be released into its joy. Avoid being wearied by the frantic pace and artificial merriment the culture imposes, or emotionally overwhelmed by your own disappointment or difficulty. The most world changing event of history deserves your full celebration. The simple truth is, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Read Nehemiah 8:10-12 NLT. Why wouldn’t we throw a party the world would be unavoidably drawn toward? Why don’t we become people the lost would long to become? Why can’t we incarnate the message the unbelieving world could not help but embrace?

Do make the Good Tidings available and the great joy believable. Sharing the joy must become your passion and purpose. Our message should be, “Unto you is born a Savior.” Our passion must be to, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The Greek word, “evanggelion,” is translated into English as, “good tidings.” You can notice the similarity to evangelism and evangelist. As were the Angels at His birth, you and I are to be everyday evangelists proclaiming the Gospel of His birth, life, death, and resurrection as Savior to all men.

A friend expressed our task this way, “In every way, preach Jesus. When necessary, use words.” Your life and mine is to shine the light and bring hope to a sin darkened world. “How beautiful [is the one] who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation.” Isaiah 52:7 NKJV. Together, let our voice and His Word be heard, “Because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:14-15 NIV. Let this Christmas season be life-giving to someone because you shared the joy.

Today, I pray for you to experience a truly joy-filled Christmas season and celebration.

Christian Communications 2017

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