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Joy is a Choice

December 23rd, 2016

I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people.” Luke 2:10 NAS.

Joy is a choice you make and a gift God gives

Our five month old great granddaughter, Riley

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

“Merry Christmas” is an all too familiar greeting, but merry seems a bit underwhelming when describing the history-changing birth of Jesus. Merriment is a good thing that comes from enjoying good times with good friends. But Christmas is so much more. And God has more for you, much more. I believe, “Joyous Christmas,” would be more appropriate for God’s intent for this and every season of life.

This Advent, open your heart and home to be overwhelmed by an inexpressible and glorious joy. That’s how Peter described Jesus’ presence permeating your heart and daily life. “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV. Your experience and expression of the Savior’s birth, life, and sacrifice promises no less and deserves nothing less than great and glorious joy. Let your joy be unrestrained.

That first, auspicious Christmas night, the herald Angel’s announcement to the shepherds described the moment and promise, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today, there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” At such news, Heaven could be silent no longer; “Suddenly, there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” Luke 2:10-14 NAS. Indeed, the Incarnation was “good news of inexpressible and glorious joy.” However intended for you His joy may be, great joy requires your initiative.

Joy is a gift God chose to give; joy is a choice you must make. Advent invites you to choose joy. Nurture joy in your heart because it is not natural to our fallen nature. Choose joy again and again until joy becomes a settled disposition of your spirit, while you draw continually on ample, spiritual resources. Jesus said, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you . . that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:7/11 NIV.

Inexpressible joy should not be left unexpressed. When you have His joy completely, you will express His joy consistently. You can’t share something you don’t have, and you won’t keep something you don’t share. When you give joy, you gain joy. Celebrate with abandon and without apology. Let His joy be real in you until it is irresistible to others. Incarnate the joy of Christmas that an unbelieving world cannot resist. Great joy is unknown where the Good News is untold.

As our family entered this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we are grieving the death of a 21-year-old son and grandson, Parker. I empathize with others who feel the shadow of grief at this season. Grieving is unavoidable, even appropriate in such circumstances. A friend recently commented, “Sometimes tears are all we have.” Grieving is no reproof of joy. Grieving is the process by which healing comes. Grieving needs time and trust to accomplish its purpose. Allow yourself time, and choose joy this Christmas. Grief will give way to healing and the joy that results. Joy is not some sort of hilarity; joy is a settled confidence that God is Who He says He is and will do what He says He would do.

Hope, joy, and peace are God’s incomparable Christmas gifts for you. You can find joy amid grief, when you include trust and hope. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom 15:13 NIV. Choose joy this Christmas.

Today, I pray that Jesus is the source of your joy and your celebration is without restraint.

A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Allen and Gayle Randolph    

Christian Communications 2016-121014 Christmas joy

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Giving Thanks

November 28th, 2016

Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father.”

Ephesians 5:20 NKJV.

Giving thanks is a mark of character and good manners.

My thoughts and comments today are about “giving thanks.”

Feeling thankful is merely an emotion, coming and going at your whim; in distinction, giving thanks is a deliberate choice and specific action. Giving thanks is not always easy, but it is always possible. Thanksgiving is the lifestyle of the person who recognizes and honors God as their Source.

The Psalmist wrote, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5 NIV. Never mistake that as optional; it is recognition due the Author of all that is good. It is true that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above . . from the Father.” James 1:17 NIV. Every good thing that you receive finds its source in God.

As a boy, I remember my Dad telling a story about a Godly widow who had little but took seriously Jesus’ instruction to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Each morning she would pray for God to provide for her and every evening she thanked God for His faithfulness. Her ungodly neighbor, who had neither regard for God nor her prayers, decided to dissuade her of her foolish faith. He placed a box of groceries outside her door, watching and waiting for her to discover them. As she was exuberantly thanking God for His provision, her neighbor could not resist interrupting, “God didn’t bring you those groceries; I did.” With a patient smile, she replied, “The devil may have brought them, but God is the One who sent them.”

Giving thanks is a mark of character and good manners. As Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 NIV. Self-sufficiency is a myth. This is the plain and simple fact, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19-20 NKJV. Should you and I not rejoice and give thanks for such a promise? “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20 NKJV. From this verse, I see several practical truths regarding the matter we are considering today. Give thanks to God. Give thanks always, without exception. Give thanks for all things, without exclusion.

There is something I have observed. Facts do not follow feelings; feeling follow facts. The fact is: God has been gracious and generous always, in all ways, and to all people. “Therefore, by Him, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15-16 NKJV. Note the order. “The sacrifice of praise,” precedes then results in, “giving thanks to His name.” God would not leave such an elemental truth at the mercy of emotions. People wrongly assume that a person should not give thanks without feeling thankful. Knowing the releasing power of thankfulness and gratitude, the enemy of your soul will use such inaccurate reasoning to discourage then excuse you from being thankful. Many times, you may only feel thankful after you are obedient to be thankful. Feeling thankful is elusive; being thankful is obedience.

Today, I pray for you to be faithful in thankfulness to God and others for grace.

Be Thankful Always

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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High Standards

August 28th, 2015

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 3:17 NIV.

Passionately protest mediocrity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “high standards.”

Standards are important to a worthwhile life. Standards provide a benchmark – a standard of excellence against which similar things must be measured or judged – for what you deem acceptable or unacceptable. Using others as your standard is inadequate. If you don’t establish your standards, your friends or the surrounding culture will. “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV.

A person with low standards ultimately has no standards. The Father’s intention for us is clear: “Until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV. That is a high standard, fully achievable in Christ Jesus. Maturity is your destiny in Christ.

Some years ago, while teaching a Pastoral Counseling class to young Bible school students, I needed to define spiritual maturity in practical terms. This is my definition, “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” That defines our Savior and should describe you and me. Christ-likeness should always be your choice. In any and every situation, you are presented with this choice, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 NKJV.

Spiritual conformation is the progression by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes that. “We know that when Jesus is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2 NKJV. Meanwhile, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV. Maturity is much more than increasing Biblical knowledge. Maturity is the embodiment of Biblical truth woven into the fabric of daily life – how you think, what you will sacrifice, what you believe, how you behave, what you value, how you live.

God’s Word and Christ’s example are high standards, not achievable apart from submission to the Lordship of Christ and dependence upon the indwelling power of the Spirit. Paul applied these high standards in simple, practical terms: bear with each other; forgive grievances; embrace love; let peace rule; be thankful; let the Word dwell in you; admonish with wisdom. Paul’s summary was, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Read Colossians 3:12-17 NIV. Passionately protest mediocrity; for me, that says it all.

Today, I pray for you that Jesus is the high standard to which you aspire.

Christian Communications

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Decisions and Destiny

February 10th, 2015

“Keeping your eyes on Jesus, on whom your faith depends.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT.

Focus directs desire; desire decides direction; direction determines destiny.

My thoughts and comments today are about “decisions and destiny.”

After near mishaps, my wife, Gayle, and I agreed on a simple practice: “An automobile should never be moving in a direction the driver is not looking.” The simple principle of focus eliminates so much regret. Breaking my own rule one day, when I was distracted and in a hurry, left a clear reminder on the back bumper of my car. I backed into the concrete base of a light pole in a parking lot. Rest assured; too late, I looked in the direction of my abrupt stop. But the damage was already done.

That seems a good lesson for life as well. You need never finish where you did not intend to be. First, determine which direction you ought to go, and then direct your focus and energies there. You will be drawn in the direction you are looking. Focus directs desires; desire decides direction; direction determines destiny. Destiny does not happen by random chance; destiny is achieved according to God’s will and your confirmed choice. “In [Christ] . . being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Read Ephesians 1:11-12.

On more than one occasion, my friend, Campbell, reminded me, “The heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” Determine your focus and you will govern your desires, ambitions, and even your achievements. When you fail to do so, life does not work as well. Avoid distractions that misdirect your heart away from your goal. As David determined, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” Psalm 57:7 NIV. Read Psalm 112:1-9 NIV.

People whose focus is on what is positive and possible are encouraged in those directions. Focus on what is negative and difficult and you are inextricably drawn that direction. My advice is that your life be forward looking and progressing onward; keep looking, expecting, reaching. Let nothing of yesterday keep you from anticipating today.

The Apostle Paul reduced your path to progress to just one simple thing. “One thing I do: forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.” Philippians 3:13 NIV. Three activities combine as though one goal – forgetting, reaching toward, and pressing forward to a Godly objective. David understood the same principle. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek . .” See Psalm 27:4.

There is a qualifier for your success in life. It takes more than just focus; first, you have to have the right goal and then keep a fixed focus. Anything less than, “the high calling of Jesus Christ,” is just a misleading distraction. Life’s success comes by, “keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom your faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT. Look around for encouragement; lay aside what encumbers your progress; be rid of all that entangles your advancement.

This is God’s wondrous promise, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. Now that is something in which you can trust and believe.

Today, my prayer for you is to understand that tomorrow is built on the foundations of this day.

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God’s Love and Yours

September 5th, 2014

“Love . . always looks for the best.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG.

Love looks for what others will not give the time, or care enough, to see.

My thoughts and comments today are about “God’s love and yours.”

I have found in life that you usually find what you are looking for. If you look for people’s faults, you will find them plentiful, eventually seeing little else. The reality is that we all have enough of those, if someone looks for them. But is that love? In your relationships, look for reasons to love. If you expect others to look past your own peccadilloes, learn to look beyond theirs.

The challenge in a relationship is learning how to keep in view the things you saw at love’s origin. Along the way, you notice more and more distractions that are other than expected. Those are probably smaller than and less than what they begin to appear, but a wrong focus will cause another’s graces to be overshadowed by their glitches. Then comes the temptation to fix others’ shortcomings, much to their displeasure as well as the detriment of your relationship.

When someone seems oblivious to the imperfections of the object of their love, others may say, “Love is blind.” I would argue that love is not blind at all, but simply chooses to overlook what is contrary to that love, and instead, “Love . . always looks for the best.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG. Love looks for what others will not give the time, or care enough, to see.

That alone explains God’s amazing love and grace. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Imagine; God sees your sinfulness yet loves you, in spite of it. In contrast, our humanity waits until love has cause and justification. God’s simple justification for love was the depth of your need and the expanse of His own love. Read Titus 3:4-8/Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” Jesus’ love has an amazing power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. I love this paraphrase of Paul’s words contrasting our ruined lives with God’s immeasurable grace, “Christ presented Himself for this sacrificial death when we were too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway . . but God put Himself on the line for us offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.” Romans 5:6-8 MSG.

A man of wealth and authority came to Jesus, sincerely seeking the path to eternal life. Read Mark 10:17-22 NIV. Moments later he would walk away because the price seemed too high. Writing Peter’s account of the occasion, Mark observed, “Then Jesus looking at him, loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV.  Others may have seen his wealth and position and might have received or rejected him on that basis, but Jesus saw so much more. Jesus saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him – even before he made his choice, and even though he chose wrongly. God’s love precedes your choice; today, your choice can release God’s love into your searching heart.

Today, my prayer for you is that you love enough to expect the best of others, and yourself.

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