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Rules and Standards

April 12th, 2018

God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

 “[God’s] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace

for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “rules and standards.”

Life is better with rules. Rules are essential, establishing boundaries and measuring achievement. Yet, very few of us appreciate rules in the way we should. People seem to bristle when too many rules seem restrictive and imposed. We all tend to resist when we feel less free to do as we want to do. Consider this. Without rules, athletic competition would be havoc. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong, rewards and penalties.

I can’t imagine a world without rules. With no rules of the road, driving would be dangerous. In daily interactions, the bold would overpower the timid. The strong would take advantage of the weak. The wealthy would neglect the poor. For a clear reason, the Ten Commandments were not called the, “Ten Recommendations.” Nor were they meant to be. Out of His love for you, not His love for law, God commanded those rules to live by.

Marriages are best with mutually understood rules. Families need clearly stated rules. Friendships succeed with mutually accepted rules. Employers and employees require agreement on rules. Individuals need to establish standards by which they are willing to be evaluated. I am grateful that my Dad believed in rules. Admittedly, I didn’t appreciate those as much while a teen. But Dad’s rules were always clear and fair – and enforced or rewarded. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Rules establish safe boundaries for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you, except for your guidance and protection. Rules can protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of standards rather than rules. I see three occasions for rules and standards.

You need people in your life who help you learn and establish Godly standards. That is the value of parents, teachers, friends, civil and governmental authorities, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit. They establish rules that benefit all. The Bible reminds us that, “The authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Read Romans 13.3-6 NIV. Respect rules, embrace appropriate boundaries, and appreciate their practical need for making your life better, measuring your achievements, rewarding your efforts, and keeping you safer.

The rule of law protects the lawful and restrains the lawless. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 NKJV. In your life, whose opinion and counsel offer you trusted guidance, Godly wisdom, and a spiritual haven in uncertain times?

True liberty is not without restraints, and never without limits. I had a fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who taught our class a simple principle about boundaries and liberties, “Your liberty to swing your fist without restraint ends at the tip of another’s nose.” What a great rule for fourth graders, as well as kids, teens, and adults of all ages. Friends and family help set standards of behavior for one another. Often it is more kind than cruel to say no. Choose wisely the bounds you will honor, and associate with friends who respect them, and thereby respect you.

At all times, you must require and embrace boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before any situation needing rules presented itself. The right decision is never too late, but it’s best when made early. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying.” I Corinthians 10:23 NAS. Choose what is profitable, in order to edify others and glorify God. God’s Word marks the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and where you and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me a very practical and valuable lesson about establishing non-negotiable, personal boundaries, for success in pastoral ministry. My Dad’s advice was invaluable, “Many who look to you for leadership will likely exceed the liberties you permit yourself; so be wise and measured in all you allow yourself to say and do. And others who follow you may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, always seeking to excel.”

There will always be others observing and following you. Jesus was clear, “I have set before you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. You are always safe when following Jesus’ example. Paul was clear as well with his instruction to young Timothy. ”Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV. Be sure that the rules you expect others to observe are a priority in your own life and relational interactions.

Even when you do not think so, someone is always following you, Many years ago, a man made this observation of me, “Pastor, you are not hard to follow because you do not make sudden turns.” I am not sure whether he meant that as a compliment, but I accepted it as one. I want to be easy to follow for my family and for those who trust my leadership. My objective is simple. I want my family and friends to know what my values are, where I am going, Who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

“God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, [His] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV. I like that. In your life, His rules produce a, “harvest of righteousness and peace,” for those who accept and follow the Father’s instruction and disciplines. Anything that God requires of you is for your benefit, not His. Embracing God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

Today I pray for you to establish Godly standards. His rules are given to protect, not confine you.

Christian Communications 2018

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Unashamed

January 13th, 2016

“Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Hebrews 11:16 NIV.

Live so your family and friends have no cause for embarrassment.

My thoughts and comments today are about “unashamed.”

As a teen, I recall occasions when my father wisely reminded me, “Allen, remember; you are a Randolph.” His words were not of distrust, but of his trust and expectation of me. From his words, I understood that my conduct and conversation should reflect positively or would reflect negatively on others as well as myself.

Shame is a negative, but healthy, emotion you feel when you behave in a less worthy manner than you or others should expect. I am ashamed of some things I have said and done across the course of my life, and thankful to God and others who have shown me love and grace in spite of that. Along the way, I hope I have learned to do better. Though admittedly as human as the next person, my aspiration is to live so my family and friends have no cause for embarrassment.

Though not an exhaustive list, the twelfth chapter of Hebrews describes multiple people of exemplary faith in these words, “They were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Read Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV. To me, that is the most incredible description of grace and the confident power of God.Grace includes you in that noble company of saints. Read Ephesians 2: 4-10 NIV.

I know that  my name is linked to His in grace. Imagine the power of that and personalize the Bible’s affirmation; read it aloud right now; “God is not ashamed to be called my God.” It is neither pretentious nor presumptuous to affirm that as true. Let its transforming truth sink deeply into your heart and spirit.

Dare you and I believe, that in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in a manner that God is not ashamed to be called our God. How dare we not believe what God has said to be true? Paul had every expectation of that truth, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20 NKJV. “Both the One who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Read Hebrews 2:10-12 NIV.

It reassures and comforts me that God chose to identify Himself to Moses affirming, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Exodus 3:15 NKJV. The record of each was less than sterling. But God was not ashamed to be called their God. At the end of my life, it will be satisfaction enough to hear my Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want to live in the strength of my Dad’s belief in me and my Heavenly Father’s grace toward me. Read 2 Timothy 1:12-14 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to live as honors Jesus, with neither shame nor regret.

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Nature and Nurture

August 11th, 2015

“Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

My thoughts and comments today are about “nature and nurture”

This morning, comments from my friend, Shane, prompted some reflection on the origin of behavior and development of character. It seems the debate ultimately centers on the influences of nature or nurture. Both are influential. Nature forms who you have been, expressed by what comes naturally to you for better or worse – your habitual reactions, possessive inclinations, prejudices, self-willed, or self-centered.

My friend cautioned about trusting nature over nurture, “Leave it to nature and you leave a blank canvas [for yourself and] others to paint on.” We were all conceived in sin, meaning that we were born into a fallen world, possessing a fallen nature, and separated from God and Christ. Paul accurately described life apart from Christ, “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Read Romans 7:18-25 NKJV.

Conversely, nurture instructs and guides your values, traits, convictions, and conduct, therefore determining who you become. Paul understood our common dilemma but also God’s gracious redemption, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Read Colossians 3:6-10 NIV.

In Christ, you have the hope and promise of becoming more than you are. “To all who believed Him and accepted Him, [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn!” John 1:12-13 NLT. Paul elaborated further on this remarkable transformation of your old nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV. Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

The Word of God nurtures Christian growth and Godly character, “[God has] given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature . .” Read 2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV. Especially note verses 5-9.

The Holy Spirit nurtures discipleship and obedience, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Read Romans 8:1-11 NIV.

Spiritual discipline nurtures firm resolve, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Christian Fellowship nurtures spiritual life and growth. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV.

For me, these words sum up any debate about nature versus nurture, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV. The remedy for all you have been and the potential for all you can become is found ultimately in Jesus as Lord and Savior. See 1 John 3:2-3 NLT.

Today, I pray for you that you are nurtured in your faith and an encourager to others.

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Living Letters

January 24th, 2014

You are a letter from Christ . . written with the Spirit of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV.

Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Son and your Savior.

My thoughts and comments today are about “living letters.”

Paul’s appreciative amazement is evident as he wrote, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: God [in Christ] appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believe on in the world, was taken up in glory” 1 Timothy 3:16 NIV. Those words are the clear, expansive description of the Incarnation – God becoming man that every man might be redeemed. God was manifest in the flesh. “Christ, being in very nature of God . . and being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man . .” Read Philippians 2:5-11 NIV. Read Hebrews 1:1-3a NKJV.

John marveled at the wonder of incarnation as he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word . . and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,  full of grace and truth . . No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son . . He has declared Him.” John 1:1/14/18 NKJV. Who would claim to understand the mystery and majesty of the Incarnation, that truth being well beyond our limited comprehension?

But there is much everyday that you do not understand, yet accept as truth. My Dad’s joy was being a pastor as well as a private pilot, before the popularity and affordability of commercial flights. As a young boy, I often accompanied my Dad in his small Cessna without the ability to understand or satisfactorily explain the Law of Aerodynamics. I trusted my Dad’s knowledge and experience. Nor need I intellectually explain the Incarnation of Jesus to the satisfaction of those who choose not to believe. I, for one, choose to believe the Incarnation of Jesus is true, as told in the Word of God.

Truth is more than mere facts or accurate information. Facts can change when circumstances change. Truth remains true, unaffected by past, present, or future circumstances. Truth is a Person, and that person is Jesus Christ, God’s Son and your Savior. Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am . .  the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 NLT. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth.” James 1:18 NKJV.

This is my application of today’s thoughts and comments, and my challenge to you: as God came into our world by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God works today in His world to bring lost people from unbelief to faith, as His Word is incarnated in the very lives that have been forever changed by the “grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 NIV. The dictionary also defines “incarnation” as, “a person regarded as embodying or exhibiting some quality or idea.” That is meant to describe you, when God’s truth is dwelling in you and faithfully expressed in your speech and conduct.

God’s plan has not changed; God still makes Himself known by incarnating truth, as He did when “the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.” Paul was clear; “You yourselves are our letter . . known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV. People are looking and listening to know God’s truth radiating from your life.

My prayer for you today is that you be a living letter from God, received and cherished by all.

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Getting Life Right

September 5th, 2011

“It is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God.” Romans 10:10 NLT

“Righteousness is the Bible’s description of ‘getting life right.’”

My thoughts today are about “getting life right.”

I think that every individual wants to live “right” but what if you don’t know what “right” is, or how to make that happen? I think that’s usually the problem. It’s a lack of knowledge and ability, not desire and intention. I observe that when you get life right, you tend to keep going that way. But when you let life go wrong, it tends to go more wrong. Some people have gotten so mixed up about life that they don’t really know for sure what is right or wrong. Things can feel right but be so wrong, causing pain and hurt to yourself and others. And people know things instinctively to be wrong, but will not restrain the inclinations and appetites that make them weak to resist wrong.

What’s the difference? Who decides? Is it left to you to figure out? Would such an individual responsibility be responsible? It’s rather simple really; God has established right from wrong and you should be grateful that He has. Society clearly shows that without an arbiter of right and wrong, we don’t do so well on our own. What if there were no speed limits or “rules of the road,” nor the penalties and enforcement to govern your obeying them? How well would it work for each driver to decide for themselves the right speed, or proper lane to drive in? Can you imagine the mayhem on our streets and highways by just letting every driver do what they think is right for them?

There was a season of time described this way, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25 NKJV. How does that work out? Here’s God’s opinion; “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart . .  there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 21:2/16:25 NIV. See Proverbs 12:15 NIV. Without a righteous standard, right and wrong is not possible to distinguish. Who but God is qualified to set that standard of righteousness? Righteousness is the Bible’s description of “getting life right.” Getting life right begins with getting yourself right with God.

The Bible says, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved . . for anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-10/13. Believing is not merely a mental exercise; “believing in your heart” is a deliberate decision and willful discipline of your spirit to believe God, accompanying your belief with consistent and corresponding actions of faith and conduct.

But there is a bit more to “believing in your heart.” I refinanced my truck recently; the bank gave me a certificate for a year of unlimited car washes. When my truck needs washing, I have no responsibility to pay for what has already been paid for me. The management of the car wash gives me credit as though I paid them the money. I only have to believe in the trustworthiness of my bank and the integrity of the management at the car wash to honor what has been paid for me. Romans 5:18-19 NKJV. Many people believe with all their heart things that are not true. What you believe has to be true. Your truth has to be God’s Truth. Getting life right is being true to the Truth.

My prayer for you today is that you will trust God who is righteous and just.

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