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A Sacrificial Life

May 26th, 2017

Squandering life is wasteful. Sacrificing one’s life is noble

“If you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 CEV

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“A Sacrificial Life.”

This weekend our country will observe Memorial Day, remembering and honoring the men and women, and their families, who have served our nation and the lives sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. I live in a military city with multiple military bases and hospitals. A significant number of the families of our community are either veterans or active duty military. When I meet veterans or see the faces of young soldiers serving bravely in far-flung reaches of our troubled world, I am humbled by the courage of the men and women who pledge their lives for the safety and sake of others.

They do not regard life as expendable or to be cheaply sacrificed. In contrast, more than most, they clearly see the incalculable value of life and yet are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for others. Only the person who would willingly sacrifice their own life has truly realized how precious life really is. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 NIV.

A few months ago, I received treasured, family heirlooms from my cousin – faded news clippings and the Purple Heart my uncle received while serving with the United States Marine Corps in WW II. Like so many young men, my Uncle Ralph was wounded in battle in the Mariana Islands, and after months of recovery was then a casualty in the assault of an enemy island, and was ultimately listed as, “missing in action.” He was my Dad’s older brother. For his sacrifice, he was revered in the Randolph family and his loss impacted my Dad, grandparents, and my uncle and aunt for their lifetimes. I only knew him through his picture as a Marine, displayed in a place of honor in my grandparents’ home.

If men and women will sacrifice their lives for freedom, love of country, and the safety of their families, should we who are called by His Name and redeemed by His sacrifice not give our lives in His service and the advance of His Kingdom? Squandering life is wasteful. Sacrificing life for God and others is noble. “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV.

Jesus’ call to discipleship remains the same today, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:23-25 NIV. Those last words pose a haunting question for every soul. The reward of your sacrifice in His Name by far exceeds the cost. Jesus was clear and His promise certain, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29-30 NIV.

Jesus issued a monumental challenge that still resonates within hearts where He dwells. Sacrifice means living for something, and Someone, greater than yourself. In Christ’ name, we are all asked to lay down our lives in service to others. This weekend, as you recall the price others paid for your freedom, remember the price the Savior paid for your salvation.

Today, I pray for you to value your life as a gift to be given back to God and others.

Christian Communications 2017

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Courage and Fear

January 2nd, 2017

Courage and fear are mutually exclusive

 “Jesus came to them, walking on the water.” Mark 6:48 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about “courage and fear.”

Life involves some frightening moments. A new year may include new uncertainties, challenges you must navigate with faith rather than fear. Or you may carry concerns with you from the year just concluded. A change of calendar does not exempt you from the same or similar concerns. And a new year may introduce problems you do not anticipate. There is good news for either possibility.

Mark records an instance of miracles on either shore of the Sea of Galilee, as well as a harrowing night of panic, fear, and despair of survival between those miracles. Read Mark 6:45-56 NLT. In the first miraculous event, at the end of a day of teaching and ministry Jesus fed a crowd of thousands with just a boy’s small lunch. In the second, Jesus healed many of the sick and suffering who were brought to Him. Between these two exhilarating experiences was a perilous, night time journey across about four miles of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus had sent His disciples ahead of Him while He remained to pray. In the dark of night in the middle of Galilee, the disciples encountered a life-threatening storm – too far to return to where they were safe, yet too far to journey on to where they would be safe. Men, well acquainted with the sea, despaired of survival. Mark described them as, “in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves.” I love the description of Jesus’ arrival, “Jesus came to them walking on the water . . then He climbed into the boat and the wind stopped.” Who walks on water except God? Who commands the wind and sea and they obey?

I observe two things. The wind and waves that threatened and frightened them were exactly the elements that carried Jesus to them. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV. When Jesus comes, the frightening elements are calmed and profound peace displaces fear. You can face any storm with Jesus alongside.

The Psalmist knew the only Source of true peace, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Psalm 61:2-3/23:4 NKJV. In His presence, you are always safe.

In whatever circumstance, now or in the unforeseen days ahead, you will discover Jesus alongside you. What frightens you today? World events? Health issues? Marriage challenges? Family concerns? Job insecurity? Inadequate finances? Uncertain future? God will come to you, even in the turbulent waters that threaten. Courage and fear are mutually exclusive. Fear will overwhelm you unless faith displaces fear with courage.

Today, I pray for you to discover a new courage in whatever you encounter on your journey.

Christian Communications 2016

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Friends

October 23rd, 2015

“A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 AMP.

The wise person knows where and from whom they will receive help and healing.

My thoughts and comments today are about “friends.”

Maybe you would recognize the theme song of Cheers, a television program popular from 1982-1993. “Making your way in the world today, takes everything you’ve got; Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name.” The odd lot of likable characters found a sense of family and friendship in the iconic Boston Pub.

When life feels increasingly bewildering and unfriendly, you will seek the company of others, “Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” When you need refuge while you sort out life, where do you go? Some choose a busy, noisy place to drown out their own thoughts and concerns. Others like a quiet place alone where they can reflect and consider. But all seem to appreciate the reassuring company of people who welcome them whatever the time or trouble. See Proverbs 27:17 NIV.

Luke reports a time soon after Pentecost when Peter and John were brought before the prevailing, religious authorities and threatened to cease their bold declaration of the deity and resurrection of Jesus. Read Acts 4:1-21 NKJV. This was a threat of no small concern. “When they further threatened them, they let them go . . and being let go, they went to their own companions.” Acts 4:23/31 NKJV. Their response was to seek out the company of friends.

What is your immediate response when you find yourself in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or unsafe situations? Gordon MacDonald authored, “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion,” a book of spiritual influence in my life. He proposed that every person needs three things when confusion or conflict comes and your joy of life wanes: (1) a map marking safe places where you find out who God is, (2) a calendar reserving still times when you can hear what God says, and (3) the names of special friends who encourage you to obey what God asks. “A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 AMP.

But let me be clear, it’s not just any friends. The company with which Jesus’ followers gathered were people of like faith – friends filled with the Spirit of God (Acts 4:31), friends of one heart and soul (Acts 4:32), and friends who were selfless, even sacrificial (Acts 4:32). Similarly, en route to imprisonment at Rome, Paul was thankful for friends, “The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15 NLT.

Friends include you in their lives. Jesus elevated the stature and privilege of friendship when He said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 NIV. Those kinds of friends continue to restore and strengthen my faith every day.

Today, I pray for you to have valued and reliable friends for the best and worst of times.

Christian Communications 10137
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Grace and Comfort

October 14th, 2015

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” 2 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV.

Your comfort remains incomplete until shared with others.

My thoughts and comments today are about “grace and comfort.”

In the Bible, there are many descriptions of God’s attributes. Of all the writers who attempt to describe the Indescribable, I love the Apostle Paul’s description best. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all tribulation.” 2 Corinthians 1:2-4 NKJV. Read those words deliberately – grace, peace, mercies, comfort – and embrace them personally. Were it not for His grace, there could be no peace. And were it not for His mercies, comfort would be elusive. Flowing from God’s grace and peace, mercies and comfort abound.

Life can be difficult and trying times confusing. That is when and where you and I need the One, “Who comforts us in all tribulation.” By New Testament definition, tribulation is, “pressure resulting from a too narrow place.” Maybe you presently feel discomfort in a situation with undesirable options in an uncomfortable context. Such a place is sometimes described as being, “caught between a rock and a hard place.” Tribulation is something more than a brief inconvenience from the antagonism of persons or adverse circumstances.

Paul knew such times and also knew the sufficient grace and peace he found in every experience, “We are hard pressed, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV. You need a powerful God with a tender heart and gentle hand, “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” From personal experience, Paul wrote, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NKJV.

Comfort is wrongly assumed as merely kind, emotional support. However, the word’s origin implies a strengthening impartation of courage and fortitude. See Acts 28:15-16 NKJV. For Paul, the Father’s purpose is clear; you are comforted by God to be a comforter of others. “If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” 2 Corinthians 1:6 NIV. Your comfort remains incomplete until shared with others. “Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be fortified in spirit and confident in every circumstance.

Christian Communications

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Encouraged and Encouraging

August 25th, 2015

“That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12 NIV.

Encouragement is evidenced in conviction, confidence, and courage.

Never Give Up

My thoughts and comments today are about being “encouraged and encouraging.”

Someone rightly observed, “Misery loves company.” Misery tends to choose similar company. Trust me; they will not be profitable for you and you aren’t helpful to them. Their depleted emotions further diminish yours. Encouragement is less about emotions and more about positive actions. Encouragement is evidenced in your conviction, confidence, and courage. I suggest three practical sources of encouragement.

Learn to encourage yourself in God and His Word. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:15-17 NKJV. Betrayed, deposed, and driven from Jerusalem by his rebellious son, Absalom, “David was greatly distressed . . but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. The Word of God has power to heal your emotions, calm your fears, and refresh your heart. Read Psalm 19:7-10 NLT.

The Word of God and the grace of God is sufficient whatever your season or circumstance. The Apostle Paul describes such moments, “May our Lord Jesus Christ 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. The Scriptures refocus your attention on Jesus; Jesus is the great Encourager. See Romans 15:4-5 NIV.

Choose to be an encourager to others. “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12 NIV. Is there anything you give others more valued and mutually rewarding than the gift of encouragement? You can’t encourage others when you are discouraged. Sow encouragement; reap encouragement. Encouragement returns from those you have encouraged. There is a familiar, but often misapplied, Biblical principle of generosity that is true in every application. “If you give, you will receive . . Whatever measure you use in giving – large or small – it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” Read Luke 6:37-38 NLT. Notice that the surrounding context is relational rather than monetary.

Seek the company of those whose lifestyle and fellowship encourage you. “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, Philemon, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Philemon 1:7 NIV. Everyone needs fresh courage for the day and its demands. Life can be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleting, leaving you empty of energy and optimism. Days, even seasons, can feel disheartening. At such times, people who are emotionally and spiritually healthy refresh your courage. “And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 NIV. Also see Hebrews 10:25 NIV.

Today, I pray that you will aspire to be an encourager, and refreshed in doing so.

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