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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.

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Altars of Consecration

October 21st, 2014

“Abraham built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7 NKJV.

The promises you seek are only found in the consecration God expects.

My thoughts and comments today are about “altars of consecration.”

The story of Abraham’s journey is told in “milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.” Those characteristics will describe any intentional pursuit of God. Obedience is the sincere expression of faith. By faith Abraham obeyed . . . [and] went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NLT. Obedience is essential and non-negotiable. (Review EDL, Part 1: www.allenrandolph.com/?p=8077). Today, I suggest the very important, second aspect of Abraham’s faith journey, “Altars of Consecration.”

Altars are significant to God and prominent in each person’s spiritual journey. Godly consecration is essential and non-negotiable to all spiritual progress. Be advised; consecration is not a casual affair; it is costly. Old Testament altars were messy, bloody places where only the first and finest of offerings were acceptable. Those sacrifices merely foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Out of painful recognition of his sin, David discovered God’s heart, “The sacrifices God [desires] are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17. The best definition of a broken and contrite heart that I have heard is: “A heart in which the evil has been crushed.” Today, an altar of consecration is where you humbly bow to the singular sovereignty of God, a sacred place of worship expressed in costly sacrifice and sincere consecration of your allegiance, affections and will.

Consecration became Abraham’s lifestyle, and it must be yours as well. Every place Abraham pitched his tent, he built an altar, dug a well, and worshipped the Lord there. Again and again, it is said of him, “Abraham built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7 NKJV. See Genesis 12:8/13:18/22:9. On every altar, Abraham offered a sacrifice and made a further consecration of himself to God and His promises to multiply and bless his seed. Romans 4:17-21 NIV. No other occasion evidences the extent of Abraham’s obedience and consecration more than his altar on Mount Moriah. Read Genesis 22:1-17.

“By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents . . for he was looking forward to a city with foundations whose builder was God.” See Hebrews 11:8-10 NIV. Consecration is best expressed through obedience despite present realities, while holding fast to a relentless faith in a promised future. The promises and permanence you seek are only found in the obedience and consecration God expects. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us . . Our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV/Romans 8:18.

There are times when an altar of consecration needs to be repaired, as occurred with Israel. “And Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down . . with twelve stones, he built an altar in the name of the Lord . . then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice.” Read 1 Kings 18:30-39. If any, what repair needs to occur to the altars where you have made consecrations to God? “I urge you by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God . . that you may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2. You and your life are “the living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”

Today, my prayer is that you renew your consecration and devote yourself to be altogether His.

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Encouragers

August 8th, 2014

May our Lord Jesus Christ . .  encourage your hearts” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV.

Encouragement is a gift anyone can give and everyone appreciates.

My thoughts and comments today are about “encouragers.”

Disappointment occurs when expectations and assumptions are “not as appointed.” If disappointment lingers or when multiple disappointments occur, discouragement results. Discouragement has an emotional element, but is much more. The emotion disguises a loss of courage to persevere. Inaccurate though such feelings may be, they temporarily persuade you that your current disappointment is predictive of your future. God has good news for you. “Therefore we do not lose heart . . inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV. Courage is the confidence that God has everything under control and all will be well.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. When discouraged, read that slowly and frequently. Sometimes, God encourages you by sending an encourager into your situation.

Paul described his need for encouragement. “There was no rest for us . . outside there were conflicts, inside there were fears – have you ever identified with those feelings? – but God who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy . . so was the news he brought . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5-8 NLT. I remember my Dad saying, “Everyone makes others happy. Some when they come and some when they go.” Be like Titus, a joyful presence and carrier of good news.

Everyone needs an encourager, a friend who helps you feel, then believe, that there is reason to be hopeful. You can be a world-class encourager, if you will. Maybe you never assumed that what you could say or do would make any difference. But it does, and you can. The person who waits to only do great things, never does the ordinary things they could have been doing all along that make a difference. Joseph became so good at blessing others that they changed his name to Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” Acts 4:36 NIV.

Encouragement is a gift anyone can give and everyone appreciates. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV. Once you see a face brighten by a word shared or a heart lifted by a kindness shown, you will search for every opportunity to encourage others. The practice becomes a habit, then the habit becomes a lifestyle, and the lifestyle becomes contagious.  

There is someone nearby who needs you to be an encourager. The surest way to be perpetually encouraged is to practice the joy of encouraging someone else. When people see you coming, may they feel as Paul did, “At the sight of these men, Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” Acts 28:15 NIV. Good company always brightens a day and blesses a heart.

Today, my prayer is for you to live with courage, encouraging others along the way.

(Bible references are NKJV unless noted.) 11097

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Opportunity for Joy

August 5th, 2013

Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.”  James 1:2 NLT

The life, or faith, that never meets resistance never develops strength.

My thoughts and comments today are about an “opportunity for joy.”

As long as there is life, there will be times that try your faith; you can neither avoid nor escape them. You must face them, be faithful in them, and learn from them. “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.” James 1:2 NLT. Really? Trouble as “an opportunity for joy” definitely seems counter-intuitive, but look beyond the obvious.

Before you dilute God’s truth with your view of reality, let James elaborate. “For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:3-4 NLT. The life, or faith, that never meets resistance never develops strength and personal conviction of truth. Trouble is an “opportunity for joy.” Physical resistance is what develops natural strength; resistance in your spiritual life develops strength the Bible calls faith.

God’s objective for your spiritual life is to preserve you in and through trying times, not to protect you from them. During those challenging times you will learn more about God than you ever knew before. And you will learn more about yourself, discovering strength where you thought you were weak, and maybe weakness where you thought you were strong. You will find God’s faithfulness unfailing, His provision sufficient, and His Word to be sure counsel for every circumstance.

James, the brother of Jesus, was not advocating that you be glad because you have troubles. That would be quite unreasonable. James’ advice is this: beyond the difficulty of the moment, see the unfolding purpose of God and rejoice in anticipation of the good that will come however trying and unlikely it may presently seem.

The Bible offers broad teaching from multiple voices to support this truth. “Therefore we do not lose heart . . for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory . . for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 NKJV. See Romans 8:18 NIV.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV. What is on trial? Your faith is on trial that it may be proven to be real. Trying times may have come to destroy your faith but can strengthen your faith and prove its sincerity and tenacity instead.

When Paul faced a severe trial of his faith, he realized the very real effect, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV. Beyond your problems, you can find the power and faithfulness of a great God. Now that is a true “opportunity for joy.”

My prayer for you today is that your faith will be equal to your trial.

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Betwixt and Between

May 27th, 2013

“The boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by waves.” Matthew 14:24 NKJV.

No storm, however long its duration or severity, can keep you from God’s reach.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betwixt and between.”

Every achievement requires three parts: the commencement, the challenges, and the celebration. Some people start celebrating long before they have actually done anything. The birthing of an idea is exciting and its eventual accomplishment is gratifying; the challenge is all that effort and expenditure necessitated in between. Real life is lived in the middle, mostly betwixt and between commencement and celebration. That’s why there are a disproportionate number of beginnings never fully implemented and never completely realized.

In its broader sense, prosperity is reserved for those who successfully navigate through and beyond the inevitable adversity. Matthew relates this incident; “Jesus made His disciples get into a boat and go before Him to the other side . . the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” Matthew 14:22-25 NKJV.

In the middle is where a person often panics, forgetting their destination and failing to expect Jesus there. Answer a few simple questions from the Bible narrative. According to Jesus, what was the disciples’ destination – “the other side [of the lake.]” Where were the disciples right then – “in the boat in the middle of the lake” – not where they had been nor where they would be. What was the difficulty they experienced – “tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” – not where they expected nor what they expected. What happened to change everything? “Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.”

No storm, however long its duration or severity, can keep you from Him. In the middle of your storm, you can lose sight of Jesus’ words about reaching the other side of the sea. Some years ago, my friend, Amos, challenged me with his description of people “in the middle of a miracle.” The disciples knew they were in a violent storm; they didn’t yet know they were also “in the middle of a miracle.” When you can only see the problem around you, God sees miraculous possibilities for you. Maybe you are in such a moment; be encouraged. In every difficulty, God will be with you. “In all these things we are more than conquerors though Him that loved us . .  [Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.

In my journey of faith, I have learned this Biblical truth: as Savior and Deliverer, Jesus comes to you on the very element that frightens you. In the middle, you can easily be distracted from the truth that Jesus is Lord and Master over all, at all times, in all situations – “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV. When Jesus is the commencement of your journey and the celebrant at journey’s end, He will be your companion all along the way. See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV/Galatians 6:9 NKJV.

As a postlude to the heroes of faith in the preceding chapter, you are included, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV. Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith persevered “in the middle.” Jesus endured the cross, despised its shame, and now celebrates your daily victories and eternal salvation.

My prayer for you this day is that you do not lose your way along the journey.

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