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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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Sacrifice

April 28th, 2017

Squandering life is a terrible waste,

while sacrificing one’s life is a noble gift

“I urge you, 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.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “sacrifice.”

Life is a precious, priceless gift. Never regard life as expendable, insignificant, or to be cheaply given. Yet Jesus issued a crucial call to discipleship. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 NIV. In 1956, Jim Elliot, a 28-year-old missionary pilot, was one of five missionaries martyred by Huaorani Indians in Ecuador. In his personal journal, he had written, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” How very true!

Jesus issued a monumental challenge that still resonates within the heart that He created, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” Luke 9:24 NIV. Jesus does not depreciate your life as unimportant or without supreme value. But what did Jesus mean when He required that you, “lose your life”? Would it mean to trade a few years here for an eternity with God? Could it mean to live for something and Someone much greater than yourself? Yes, that must be it, sacrificing something you treasure for something that you would treasure even more, as well as forever.

Jesus told the story about a merchant trading in pearls. Fine pearls were admired by him, acquired by him, and prized by him until the day he saw a pearl unlike any other, more magnificent than any he ever hoped to own. In all his life and journeys, nothing could compare.  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46 NIV. Its price to some would have seemed extreme, but not to him. Everything he possessed and valued was an inconsequential sacrifice for the priceless thing he would receive in exchange. Jesus Himself and His Eternal Kingdom are that “Pearl of great price.”

Jesus was unapologetic when He said, “And 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. Squandering your life is a terrible waste, while sacrificing your life for God is a noble gift. Heed Jesus’ warning, “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 9:24-25 NIV. The Great Exchange is when you joyfully surrender what was formerly most precious to you to receive what you never imagined could be yours.

Today, I pray for you to surrender your life as a worthy gift given back to God.

Christian Communications 2017

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God’s Extraordinary Grace

October 18th, 2016

The greatest gifts come from the benevolence of grace.

edl-grace-defined

“It is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith.” Ephesians 2:8 TEV.

My thoughts and comments marvel at “God’s extraordinary grace.”

Diligent people have an almost incurable work ethic, which comes with the assumption that the measure of reward correlates to your measure of effort. The belief that you will receive what you earn and get what you deserve seems inbred. But is it not true that sometimes you get more than you deserve while at other times you receive less than you earned? Paul observed, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as a debt [owed].” Romans 4:4 NKJV.

Gratefulness seldom results from your own efforts and hard work; true and enduring gratefulness results from recognizing the unmerited grace that has been shown to you from God and others. “If by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace.” Romans 11:6 NKJV. The greatest gifts come from the benevolence of grace. You don’t earn grace; you simply, joyfully, and gratefully receive it.

“In our union with Christ Jesus, God raised us up with Him to rule with Him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of His grace in the love He showed us in Christ Jesus. For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift.” Read Ephesians 2:5-10 TEV. Grace is God’s initiative of your salvation; faith is your response in acceptance of His gift. See Romans 5:1-2 NIV. “For without faith it is impossible to please God, for He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV.

The Apostle Paul marveled at what he could only describe as, “the extraordinary greatness of [God’s] grace,” whereby you and I have been saved by God’s grace. You and I could not deserve such an invaluable, indescribable gift nor could we ever earn it by our efforts. Paul recounts the shameful history of himself and ourselves, “spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sin . . destined to suffer God’s anger.” Ephesians 2:1-3 TEV. Paul then describes our indescribable God, “God’s mercy is so abundant and His love for us is so great . . He brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5 TEV.

Neither your worthy achievements can negate your need for God’s grace nor can a shameful past remove you from the reach of His grace. Because of God’s love, we each require and receive His grace when we reach out in sincere faith to the Savior Who died for our sins. Don’t hesitate. If you need grace today, reach out in faith to Jesus. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 NKJV.

Salvation, as are all gifts from God, is by extraordinary grace received in obedient faith. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to embrace grace in its fullest measure.

Christian Communications 2016

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Relationships

May 9th, 2014

“A person is a fool to . . not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT.

A right relationship is the entry point for a rich relationship, both life-long and eternal.

My thoughts and comments today are about “relationships.”

Life is about relationships. The best of life is empty without them. You may seem to have everything, but if you lack mutual and meaningful relationships what you have will never be what you desire. The best of good things can never substitute for a heartfelt closeness with family and friends. That’s where true richness of life can be found, but with one very important addition. A righteous relationship with God is the most important relationship you will ever have.

It is easy to be occupied with what you think God wants from you, and offer Him many good and worthwhile things. All the while, you could fail to give God the one thing He most wants – yourself. God is not dependent on you and me for anything that He cannot readily and abundantly provide for Himself, except for one thing that only you can give Him, your love and your life. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Read Romans 12:1-2 NKJV. Your life is a gift from God; what you do with your life is your gift to God.

What God most wants from you, and wants most for you, is a rich relationship with Him, for you to experience spiritual intimacy that is fulfilling and life affirming. Jesus exposed the foolishness of lacking that relationship, “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Read Luke 12:16-21 NLT. Be wise, not foolish. Jesus does not teach against wealth. He warns against the foolishness of thinking that anything could ever be enough without a rich, personal relationship with God. This warning is not just about wealth; Jesus warns of accepting anything or anyone as a substitute for the singular relationship you cannot be without.

“Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment . . they should be rich in good works . . by doing this they will be storing up treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NLT. Only a genuine relationship with God “gives us all we need for our enjoyment . . as a good foundation for the future.”

Life is about relationships. Spiritual life is not about religion; your spiritual life is about righteous relationships – a real, personal relationship with God and right relatedness with others that begins now and continues throughout eternity. Jesus’ sacrifice was to reconcile you to God. “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV. Offering you a right relationship is the entry point for a rich relationship with God, both life-long and eternal.

What would such a relationship with God would look like for you? As importantly, what do you think would be required of you to have such a relationship with God? I would suggest that a rich relationship with God would be mutual, authentic, practical, loving, continually transforming, and always growing.

My prayer for you today is to know God in a way that transforms all you are and do.

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