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Why Are You Afraid?

April 27th, 2016

You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26 NIV.

Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “why are you afraid?”

Life is full of questions. And questions without acceptable answers are discomfiting. However, questions can be beneficial, prompting a sincere search for truth and knowledge. Sometimes, finding the right answer depends on asking the right question. As Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples became frightened by a threatening storm. In fear for their lives, they awakened Jesus and He asked His disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Read Matthew 8:23-27 NIV. Without understanding a question correctly, you can’t answer the question accurately.

As I read those verses, my thoughts were captured by the simplicity and specificity of Jesus’ question. Had He asked them of “what” they were afraid, their answer would have been obvious. The suddenness of the storm, the strength of the winds, the severity of the waves, and the uncertainty of their safety were legitimate cause for alarm. But Jesus asked them “why” they were afraid. They knew what they feared; they did not know why they feared. The disciples had no answer and seemed even more puzzled by Jesus’ subsequent rebuke of the winds and waves, and the immediate, resulting calm. Fear is a wasted emotion.

Rather than ask the obvious and very real origin of their fear, Jesus questioned them about the underlying reason for their fear. They were alarmed by the elements that produced their fear – the storm with its dangerous winds, threatening waves, and imminent danger. Much like you and me, the disciples were caught in circumstances they did not create amid consequences they could not control, and they panicked. Faith or fear? Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking. Fear is a wasted emotion. It changes nothing for the better. See 1 John 4:15-19 NKJV. Fear erodes faith; faith banishes fear.

On this occasion, Jesus accurately defined the disciples as having, “little faith.” Exposing their fear, Jesus addressed their insufficient faith. God does not demand more faith than you have but life will compel all the faith you have.  Disproportionate fear diminishes faith in God’s character and promises; where there is substantial, steadfast faith in God’s care and sufficiency, fears are subdued. Maybe there is a situation in your life right now that engenders difficult questions, troubling thoughts, or fearful emotions. Why are you so afraid? There are more than enough moments when life is confusing, even frightening. Be practical. Refuse your fears. Read Luke 12:22-32 NIV. Declare your faith. “If you have faith as [the smallest of seeds] . . nothing shall be impossible for you.” See Matthew 17:20-21 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to embrace faith tenaciously and lay aside all fear willingly.

Christian Communications 2016

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The Capacity to Regress

July 28th, 2014

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do.” Romans 7:15 NIV.

Your capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the capacity to regress.”

At times, I am bewildered by how little I really understand about myself. While feeling proud of my progress, I am puzzled by the ease with which I revert to ways and habits I previously found unworthy. As old as I am, that still perplexes me, as it did Paul, “I do not understand what I do.” Romans 7:15 NIV. I surrender progress achieved with much effort and diligence, and find myself closer to where I was than where I need to be. My capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

When where you have been still holds attraction, the path of progress can be challenging. Read James 1:12-15. Temptation alone is not sin, but spiritual maturity and Godliness are measured by your recognition and rejection of any temptation to regress to familiar yet ineffective ways of coping with everyday life.

You will never find confidence or growth by returning to options once familiar and places formerly comfortable. As danger threatened or opposition arose, Israel looked over their collective shoulder with misplaced fondness for what they left behind in Egypt. “In their hearts they turned back to Egypt.” Acts 7:39. Read Nehemiah 9:9-17.

Before judging Israel harshly, consider your own temptation to return to negative emotions, old prejudices, wrong attitudes, unworthy appetites, unholy ambitions, or unhealthy habits. Paul encouraged and warned the Galatians, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.

Let me suggest some Biblical examples of regression and suggest their causes, (1) Complicated discipleship, “From that time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” John 6:66-69. (2) Competitive affections,Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10. (3) Confusing circumstances, After Jesus’ death and reports of His resurrection, Peter and other disciples returned to fishing. See John 21:1-5. A vulnerable time is when disappointment in people or situations and the resulting discouragement dissuade you.

Maybe today you identify with the Apostle Paul in his struggle with bewilderment. Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I allow . . for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15-21 NIV.

In the succeeding verses, Paul confessed his despair over his spiritual frailty.  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25 NLT. I suggest three spiritual practices that bring clarity during bewildering times: God’s Word, (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV), Jesus’ example, (Hebrews 4:14-16), and the Holy Spirit’s empowering, (Acts 1:8/Romans 15:13). In your panic, the answer may first appear to be running back to your weaknesses; God’s answer is fleeing to a safe refuge – into the arms of God. See Proverbs 18:10/Psalm 27:5/91:1-2.

Today, my prayer for you is to set progress as your highest, spiritual priority.

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The Grace of Serving

June 9th, 2014

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”  Mark 10.45 NKJV.

You are truly a servant when not offended to be treated as one.

Today, my thoughts and comments are about, “the grace of serving.”

Who comes to your mind as having a servant heart? My Mom was like that. I observed her joyfully exercise this practical, spiritual gift of serving throughout her lifetime. For some serving is a God-given gift in their nature. For most of us, serving must become a purposeful development of Godly character and intentional practice. Jesus is your perfect example.

And you and I are called to be like Jesus. Now that is a most staggering goal but there is help. “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” 1 John 3.2 NIV. But that is then, and this is now. I would describe this as a process, a progressive work of the Holy Spirit that is life-long. None of us is a finished product in this life time. It doesn’t happen naturally, nor very quickly either.  

There are days when being even a little more like Jesus seems a pretty big task. His goal is clear: “Until we all . . become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NIV. People often have fairly strange ideas of what that might look like. I find that most spiritual things are a lot more practical and simple than you might make them. When people make spiritual development mystical and complex, they can easily excuse themselves from responsibility to even begin the journey.

Here’s where you begin. Commit yourself to find opportunities to serve others, like Jesus did. “Just as the Son did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 NIV. Jesus didn’t have to serve; He chose to serve. Philippians 2:5-9 NKJV. Serving is a family trait. You choose to serve. You become more like Jesus when you know that serving pleases Jesus most. Pleasing Him is this simple, ”. . through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 NKJV. Serving requires grace, and all grace begins with God.

The disciples were shocked when Jesus knelt to wash their feet. See John 13:12-15. Such a thing was culturally unthinkable, cross-grain to their pride of self and station. They had a lot to learn, and it would be a hard lesson for them. They were looking to be heads of state in His new government. Mark 10:35-41 NIV. Servants of God care more for others than themselves.  

Jesus turned the world system upside down so in His Kingdom it would be right side up. Those insisting on being served are the lesser important in His Kingdom. Jesus said those with a humble and caring heart who choose to wrap a servant’s towel around their waist and joyfully give themselves to serve are the great ones. See Luke 22:24-27 NIV. There comes a nobility with a serving heart. Those who serve are not demeaned; in God’s eyes, they are elevated.

My dear friend and spiritual father, Campbell, wisely said, “Allen, if you want to know how well you are doing as a servant, notice your reaction when someone treats you like one.” That is a good and practical measure of your progress, or lack thereof. A strong dose of servanthood is beneficial, producing serving as a lifestyle, rather than an occasional occurrence. When you enjoy serving, you develop a servant-heart and become more like Jesus.

Today, my prayer for you is that you will feel the joy of opportunities to serve God and others.

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The Power of the Resurrection

May 26th, 2014

“God raised Jesus from the dead . . to be seen . . by witnesses whom God had already chosen.” Acts 10:40 NIV.

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is believable to others when the effect of His resurrection is visible in your life. 

My thoughts and comments are about “the power of the resurrection.”

Jesus’ resurrection is God’s assurance to you that nothing is hopeless, no circumstance is final, and no distress if unchangeable. I believe: the resurrection of Jesus is the most powerful, sovereign act of God since creation. The Apostle Paul wrote, “. . of first importance: Christ died for our sins . . was buried . . raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers . . last of all He appeared to me also.” Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-10 NIV.

Do you think it strange that Jesus did not make public appearances after His resurrection, except selectively? I would assume Jesus would appear to Pontius Pilate, the powerful Roman Governor, or wicked king Herod, or the Jewish High Priest and the Sanhedrin council, or the crowd who adamantly insisted, “Crucify Him, crucify Him; we have no King but Caesar,” choosing Jesus to die, rather than Barabbas.

Peter preached, “We are witnesses . . God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen.” Acts 10:36-45 NIV.

The disciples saw Jesus’ cruel and public death, watched his lifeless body buried, and the tomb sealed and guarded. Their dreams and hopes died and were buried with Jesus. A few visited an empty tomb to remember what used to be. Others felt too lost to go anywhere or do much of anything yet, sharing their confusion and disappointment while huddled behind locked doors. (John 20). Some headed back home with hopes crushed (Luke 24). Some returned to their former life and pursuits (John 21).

On every occasion, the resurrected Jesus – without natural limitations and with more glory and unlimited power – appeared to them. Immediately everything about their lives changed. Jesus was alive! Their past made sense; their future was secure; their lives now had a grand purpose; they were eye witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. 

The personal reality of the resurrection changed their cowardice to courage, their confusion to conviction. The resurrection, as they now understood it, infused them with courage to live fearlessly, willing to suffer, even sacrifice their lives, for the truth of their irrefutable, personal experience of Jesus, “alive for ever and ever.” Revelation 1:18 NIV. These same men and women – once disheartened, discouraged, and confused – were suddenly world changers, fearless and bold to preach to everyone everywhere. It was said of them, “They saw their boldness and recognized they had been with Jesus . . They that have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Acts 4:13/17:6.

The resurrection was transformative. They were fearless, were courageous, risking their lives, fully persuaded. No ocean was too broad, no country too far, no task too difficult, no sacrifice too costly. They lived in the present reality and power of the Jesus’ resurrection.

Until the resurrection of Jesus makes a difference in your life, you will make no difference in the lives of those around you.

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I have spent much time writing this, but I have a better idea. I want to share a video of my teaching on this topic at the Cathedral of Faith, San Jose, CA.

Click on the “vimeo.com” link below, or copy and paste it into your browser, or go to the EDL website: www.allenrandolph.com, and scroll down the right hand column to beneath the Calendar, and under “Church Websites” click on “The Power of the Resurrection” which will take you to the sermon video. I hope you will enjoy and experience God’s invitation to “know the power outflowing from His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10 AMP.

http://vimeo.com/93172840

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Betrayal and Amazing Grace

April 18th, 2014

“On the same night that [Jesus] was betrayed.” 1 Corinthians 11:23 NKJV.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate our faith.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betrayal and amazing grace.”

Betrayal is a terrible thing. It isn’t accidental; it’s deliberate, intentionally hurting another. When it occurs, the pain is immediate and can be enduring. The reactions vary – stunned disbelief, destruction of trust, emotional pain, grief, anger, self-pity, and eventually estrangement. Be careful; betrayal is often sown in the seed of offences, harbored and unforgiven. Forgiveness is the only true remedy.

The history of man is cluttered with betrayal, beginning with Adam and Eve. Abel experienced betrayal by Cain; Jacob betrayed Esau; Joseph was betrayed by his brothers; Job felt betrayed by his friends; Absalom and Ahithophel betrayed David; David betrayed Uriah; Haman betrayed Mordecai; Demas betrayed Paul. The best and worse among us are capable of unthinkable betrayal.

The wondrous story of the Resurrection cannot be told apart from the undercurrent of betrayal. I have been intrigued by this cryptic verse, “The Lord Jesus on the same night He was betrayed took bread and said, ‘This is My body broken for you . .’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 NKJV. The juxtaposition of dark betrayal alongside this intimately sacred moment seems unthinkable. But Jesus was neither surprised nor stunned. “[Jesus] had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”­ Read John 2:23-25 NKJV.

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. For thirty pieces of silver, he identified Jesus with a kiss in Gethsemane. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. In spite of his protests, he would do just that. Jesus knew all the disciples would forsake him. After His arrest, they all would flee in fear and self-preservation. Yet for this Passover, Jesus gathered these very disciples with a sense of strong urgency saying, “With fervent desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15-16 NKJV.

This was the Passover the Exodus from Egypt foretold generations earlier. This was no casual evening. His earthly ministry and the future success of the Kingdom of God would now rest on their devotion and efforts. And He knew the shattering effect His suffering and death would have on their confidence. John later described Jesus’ intent on this fateful night, “. . Having loved His own . . He now showed them the full extent of His love.” John 13:1 NIV. They had to be persuaded of an unfailing love.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate your faith. Jesus knew their frailties, as He does ours. Amazing grace. Jesus still loved them – and you, and me. He desired for them, as for us, “to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Read Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV. As in Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son (Luke 15), “[Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV. Not only to save, but even to seek. He would seek for Judas at that Passover Meal, for Peter at a fireside on the shore of Galilee, and for the disciples, and Thomas, in an upper room where the risen Savior showed them His pierced hands and wounded side.

This Good Friday and Easter is not about Judas, Peter, or the disciples; it is about you and me. Today, and every day, Jesus offers amazing grace – second chances, renewed vows, and new beginnings.

My prayer for you today is for a joyous and glorious celebration of His Resurrection.

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