Archive for June, 2010

My Dad’s Influence

June 18th, 2010

“These words I command you . . impress them on your children.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV

“The reach of your life should extend far beyond the extent of your lifetime.”

My thoughts today are about “my Dad’s influence.”

Father’s day is this weekend, and that brings my thoughts to my Dad. When I speak of my regard and respect for him and for the things he taught me about God, I find myself referring to him as Father. When I talk about our relationship and the practical things he taught me about life and people, I hear myself calling him Dad. My Dad was Joseph Raymond Randolph, Ray to his friends and J.R. professionally. Born in Tarboro, North Carolina, my Dad grew up in Buffalo, New York.

He was converted at 17, never before having been in a church, when my grandmother was miraculously healed of terminal cancer at a prayer meeting. Soon after, he attended college in Springfield, Missouri, and became a college graduate, the only one from his family of six, in a generation when college was not common. He and Mom were pastors in Granite City, Illinois, until his death in a highway accident outside of Sikeston, Missouri, in August 1963, at the too young age of 44 years.

I was 21, married just three weeks, and preparing for my senior year of college when I lost the greatest influence in my life. Two weeks after his death, I was introduced as the young pastor of the church where he had served for the majority of my lifetime. As a father he was exemplary, a man of integrity and ministry, a loyal friend of many, a shepherd to people who still today speak fondly and kindly of his influence. As a Dad he was caring and kind, fun when appropriate and most serious about things that truly mattered. See 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 NKJV.

Along all these years, I have been surprised at how many times my words begin with, “My Dad taught me . . “ My Dad still shapes the man, husband, father, friend, and pastor that I am becoming. Dad’s words still guide my choices and guard my behavior; his words still shape my beliefs and convictions; his love for God and devotion to God’s Word are a foundation for my years of ministry and teaching. My Dad’s example and expectations of only giving your best still motivate my quest for excellence in what I do and teach. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:11 NIV.

The reach of his life extends far beyond the extent of his lifetime. I now understand that today’s verse explains how he lived his life and how his life impacts mine yet today. “These words I command you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them at home and when you walk along the road . . tie them as symbols . . write them on your houses and gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9 NIV. Only what touches your heart has the power to change a life.

Truth is born in a heart with a singular love for God, but that alone is not enough to touch the next generation. The transfer of truth and love of God must be the central task and devotion of a father’s lifetime – in everything he is, all that he believes, whatever he says, in everything he does, and wherever he goes. Consistency of character, personal conduct, training and teaching, exemplary manner of life, and spiritual leadership is the essential calling of a Dad. I am a blessed son to have had parents like that; I hope I am a blessing as a Dad and Granddad. See 3 John 4 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you hold fast to truth that is timeless and eternal.

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Love – The Jesus Kind

June 17th, 2010

“You must love others as much as yourself.” Mark 12:31 Living Bible

“You add value to others when you recognize how highly God values them.”

My thoughts today are about “love – the Jesus kind.”

That is quite a lofty achievement, isn’t it? “Loving others as much as you love yourself” would be far easier to obey if everyone were as easy to love as some others are. I think that is why Jesus did not make the command about the other person; He made it all about you. God knows that you were created with a healthy self-esteem, and though that is a bit complicated because of each individual’s natural condition – theologians call that “falleness” – most everyone still has a good dose of appreciating and preserving themselves, some a little too much really.

I read a lovely phrase about the practical aspect of loving others – “you only love others when you add value to their lives.” Isn’t that what you are trying to do for yourself, adding value? You want to be better and do better.

You invest in a good education for yourself so that you will have more options and fulfillment in what you do, with a greater chance for success and financial security. You choose a spouse that will enrich and enhance your life. You select a neighborhood and schools for your children that will better insure their safety and academic achievement. You try to eat wisely and exercise a bit to insure better health and longevity. Isn’t all of that about adding value to your life?

How then can you love others and add value to their lives? Simply stated, it is by placing a higher value on them, the way you value yourself – thinking of them as highly as you think of yourself – treating them as well as you treat yourself – speaking of them as kindly as you speak of yourself – wanting the best for them as you desire the best for yourself – and rejoicing with and for them when they rejoice.

“That the members may have the same care for one another. And if one suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with them.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 NAS. When you rejoice equally for another’s success as for your own, and when you empathize with their sufferings as you would struggle with your own, then you “love others as much as yourself.” You add value to others when you recognize how highly God values them, and treat them accordingly.

Maybe Jesus stated this principle most practically and plainly, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” John 13:34-35 NKJV. You are only asked to give others what you have been given by God, to regard others as God regards you, and to behave toward others as is God’s manner with you. A frequent and favorite saying of mine is this: “love to be authentic must be practical and observable!” Is your regard for others practical and observable?

My prayer for you today is that you learn to value others as God and others value you.

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Trusted Leaders

June 16th, 2010

“Bring Me seventy . . who are known . . as leaders among the people.” Numbers 11:16 NIV

“With or without a title or position, someone is watching you and following your example.”

My thoughts today are about “trusted leaders.”

There is a principle of leadership easily drawn from today’s verse and it is this: the most trusted leaders are known in the circle of people they are asked to lead, and will have come from among those same people. Occasionally in times of crisis a leader may arise who was previously unnoticed or overlooked but generally, trusted leadership is evidenced from among the people through the processes of time and proven record.

The news recently told of a political candidate in North Carolina who won the Democratic Party’s primary for the US Congress. He was unknown, unemployed, raised no money and made no campaign appearances. Yet he won the primary election! How confident do you think voters in the general election will be of this unknown candidate for such a national office?

People tend to respond most cooperatively to those they know well and are more comfortable when knowing another’s history of reliability. The placement of a leader should be no surprise to anyone; the hoped for response should be two simple words of recognition, “Of course!”

I suggest that everyone is both a follower and a leader; you are following someone and others are inevitably watching and following you. Learning to follow another supportively may be the beginning steps in your becoming a trusted leader, and that recognition is not a release from your continuing to remain a good follower as well.

A leader does not deserve, and should not expect, a quality of followers any more loyal and supportive than others have seen them to be. “Care for the (people) of God entrusted to you . . because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord over the people assigned to your care, but lead by your good example.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 NLT.

When given to you, the opportunity to lead others does not first grant you honor and privilege; the trust of others gives you responsibilities and accountability before God that should call for an honest humility. Society recognizes and enforces the sober duty of a parent’s responsible care and leadership of their children. The community holds parents legally accountable for their children’s health, safety and well being. As well, responsible “elder care” is a growing social concern in an aging and ailing community, and those failing that trust face legal consequence.

How much more is the sacred accountability for shaping lives spiritually and eternally? “Leaders . . keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17-18 NIV/See James 3:1 NIV.

Notice in today’s verse – “The Lord said to Moses, Bring Me seventy . . who are known to you as leaders among the people” – God is the One before whom all leadership is brought, and to whom all leadership is ultimately accountable. Remember everyone is a leader in some way to someone else. With or without any title or position, someone is watching your life and following your example. My Dad taught me, as a young minister in training, “Others who follow may exceed your liberties; be careful. They may fall short of your discipline; be exemplary.” That’s good advice!

My prayer for you today is that you would be easy to follow and careful to lead.

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Follow The Leader

June 15th, 2010

“Let us follow the Lord’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:25

“Follow Jesus, and those who are following Him, and you will never go astray.”

My thoughts today are about “follow the leader.”

When I was a boy – “before technology” as my 11 year-old grandson today so matter-of-factly described that time in my life – our games were played on the streets, back yards, schoolyards, or an empty lot in our neighborhood, not on video games in the living room. One of the games we played in our neighborhood was “follow the leader,” along with stick ball, street football, kick the can, etc. The premise was simple; whatever the leader did everyone else had to do exactly the same. The last one able to successfully do so became the leader for the next round.

Life is lived best when you are following a leader, as long as it is the right leader that you are following. Everyone is following someone. Some people choose who they will follow; by default, others just tag along with the crowd, without any idea who they are following. The leader that you choose to follow will determine where you are going, how you will get there, where you will end up, and who you have become when you get there. So choose the right leader!

First of all, choose to follow God’s Word and God’s Son. You will never be led astray, and you will love where that takes you, now and forever. One of the most common invitations of Jesus was simply, “Follow Me!” It can’t get much simpler than that. “Then Jesus said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23 NIV.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the demands first, and never end up following Jesus. I suggest you keep it simple, and just choose to follow Jesus, as He invites you to do. Closely walking with God will make any demand to be no big deal to do, no great sacrifice to make. Discipleship is not first about what you are asked to do, but more so, it is about Who you are asked to do that for. See Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV/1 Peter 2:21 NIV.

Choose to follow the Holy Spirit in your heart. “I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you . . when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:7/13 NIV. The entire book of Acts is a history of Spirit-filled Christ-followers actively following the Spirit of God’s leading. Paul gave practical advice about following the Holy Spirit in these words: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NIV. Learn to recognize and trust the voice of God in your heart.

Choose to follow Godly leaders placed in your life – parents, pastors, teachers, friends, those who are following Jesus. Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV. Paul unashamedly invited others, “follow me, as I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 NIV. Follow Jesus, and those who are following Him, and you will never go astray. That’s not just on Sundays; it is “following the Lord’s leading in every part of our lives,” – your everyday life!

My prayer for you today is that you be a leader who is following Jesus, your Leader.

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Popular Culture – Timeless Kingdom

June 14th, 2010

“In Christ . . we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” Romans 12:5 NLT

“Popular culture prizes success; God’s timeless Kingdom values service.”

My thoughts today are about “popular culture and a timeless Kingdom.”

We belong to each other . . need others? Today’s verse is difficult for most of us because of our addiction to independence and self-sufficiency. We are willing to relate to others, even help one another, but “belong to each other . . need all the others.” Really? Yes, the Kingdom of God does not operate on the same basis as today’s culture. Popular culture prizes success; God’s timeless Kingdom values service. “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge (yourself); rather serve one another in love. The Law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14 NIV.

The world’s value system is much the same as in Jesus’ time. Success and greatness seem to be measured by how many people are at your service, dependent on your favor. That kind of power and supremacy is intoxicating. Jesus turned the natural order of things upside down and taught that true greatness is measured by how many you are willing to serve, not because you have to but because you choose to do so, in Christ’s name. Read Luke 22:33-37 NIV. “If any one wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” – not many ready volunteers for that usually. Here’s why that is so difficult.

Committing yourself to belong to each other requires a relinquishment of independence, in a lifestyle of unselfishness that many struggle to embrace. From one’s earliest years, “me first” is the normal order – get to the front, gain the spotlight, have the most, and be the best!

What will you do with the Bible’s clear teaching on belonging to each other? “In honor, preferring one another . . in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others . . love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 12:10 NKJV/Philippians 2:3-4 NIV/ Galatians 5:14 NIV. Apart and on your own, you cannot be all you are meant to be.

Admitting that you need others requires a heart of real humility, that many people fear will leave them vulnerable and dependent. We have all seen people a little too needy and clingy and do not want to seem like that. In truth, you, along with every one of us, need other people in one way or another all the time. You cannot retain the right to choose who you need and when you need them; that is not an option that you have “in Christ.”

Jesus’ way is this: when your life is “In Christ,” Jesus chooses who you need and who needs you. You will often have to swallow your pride on both counts. Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 NIV. The Bible asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God..” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV. When you fully belong to God, you find it easier to give to, and receive from, others.

My prayer for you is this: recognize yours and others’ incompleteness without one another.

Love you, Poppa

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