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Spiritual Practices

October 9th, 2015

“The Father has blessed us . . with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual practices.”

Days can be busy and noisy, leaving you over-stimulated and weary. Everything seems rushed and everyone hurried. All too often, the urgent displaces the important. The pace of our lives and the noise of our surroundings diminish things vital to our well-being. More tragically, you can lose something of yourself somewhere in the noise and busyness. Unrelenting activity produces a confused identity. A conviction of spiritual identity provides: certainty about purpose, clarity of direction, and sufficiency of your God-given gifts and abilities. So much depends upon a true sense of your God-given identity.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude. We are so much like the disciples – often busy and tired. Jesus invited His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV. Time alone with God is where you rediscover your identity in Christ. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV. In his epistles, Paul wrote prolifically about your life, “in Christ.” Read Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV.

Let me suggest Biblical disciplines that strengthen your spiritual identity. Begin with this. Practice Sabbath rest. The Sabbath principle incorporates the whole of one’s life before the Lord. All other spiritual disciplines begin and extend from a heart that practices the principle of Sabbath. More than a day set aside from usual and necessary activity, Sabbath is a deliberate time – without worry or hurry – to reorient your body, soul, and spirit with the Biblical practices that encourage and celebrate your faith. In Jesus, true Sabbath is found. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.

Prioritize quiet and solitude. Practice to be quiet and content in God’s presence. “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother.” Psalm 131:1-2 NIV. Prioritize time in God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. Regular attention to the reading and meditation of Scripture is critically important. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV. Prioritize prayer with thanksgiving. Communicating your heart and gratitude to God results in communion with God. “In everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

Prioritize Praise and Worship. Grow comfortable expressing your heart in joyful adoration. Psalm 100 NIV. Prioritize edifying Fellowship. You were made for community. Acts 2:46-47 NKJV. That is where you grow and serve best. “Let us not neglect our meeting together . . but encourage and warn one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT. Spiritual practices develop a life that abides in Christ, trusts His finished work on the cross, and celebrates your identity in Christ.

Today, I pray for you that your identity is rooted and built up in Christ Jesus.

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Identity Theft

October 2nd, 2015

“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 NKJV.

Your identity can be fully rediscovered in redemption.

My thoughts and comments today are about “identity theft.”

Identity is the core of everything about a confident and successful life, yet many people struggle with a confused identity. You will not discover your identity by looking in the mirror or recounting your achievements and accumulations, nor by the compliments or criticisms from others. Authentic identity comes from knowing who you are in Christ.

Identity theft is a growing problem in our increasingly technological society. Nationally, a new victim of identity theft occurs every two seconds. In 2014, there were 13.1 million victims resulting in thefts of $16 billion. As numerous and disconcerting as those statistics seem, there is a vastly more devastating theft of identity occurring within the hearts and souls of men. The enemy of your soul is relentless in trying to deface the image of Christ in whomever it is found. Nowhere in Scripture is the devil’s tactic to deface one’s God-given identity clearer than in the story of Daniel.

Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, invaded and conquered Israel. Please read Daniel 1. In the first of three invasions, he took young men of royalty and nobility back to Babylon, removing the best and brightest of Israel. Four attempts were made to ultimately remove and replace their Godly identity. Every move was strategic, changing their Godly identity by removing their Jewish heritage and practices while replacing those with the ways and worship of Babylon.

(1) Isolation from previous experiences – nation, faith, family, history, and spiritual heritage and practice. Vs 3. Separation from Godly reinforcement – family, Godly fellowship, church, and spiritual practices of prayer and God’s Word – initiated his devilish scheme to displace their previous dependence and trust.
(2) Indoctrination by replacing their beliefs, convictions, and language with “the language and literature of the Babylonians.” Vs 4. Be advised; culture today is a powerful tool of conversion, shaping your thoughts, desires, beliefs, behavior, standards, mores and morals.
(3) Influence by reorienting their appetites from kosher dietary practices to a “daily provision of the King’s delicacies and the wine he drank.” Vs 5. Jewish practice included a kosher diet. Babylon’s purpose was to create a new taste for what they could not provide for themselves, becoming dependent on the King’s good will and benevolence.
(4) Identity theft was the devilish strategy all along. The final scheme was to change their Hebrew names to foreign names attributed to Babylonian gods, discrediting who they were and persuading who they were meant to be. Vs 6-7. When I was a teen, I rarely left the house without my Dad reminding me, “Allen, don’t forget you are a Randolph.”

“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 NKJV. A devious king could not steal his identity. Daniel knew who he was because he knew Who was the Source and Sovereign of his life. Your identity cannot be confused or compromised if you know who you are in Christ. Read Ephesians 2:3-6 NIV. For all who are “in Christ,” your identity can be fully rediscovered in redemption. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Read Ephesians 1:3-9 NIV. “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Read Romans 8:37-39 NIV.

Today, I pray for you that your identity is assured and secure in Christ.

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Today’s EveryDay Life is a continuation of the previous devotional, “History and Destiny,” from a recent Sunday ministry. You can listen to that teaching at the following link by clicking on “Identity Theft.”

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EDL PIX identity fingerprint

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Obstacles, Obstructions, and Opposition

November 1st, 2013

“Amid all these things we . . gain a surpassing victory through [Christ].”  Romans 8:37 AMP.

An overcomer is your identity in Christ, not your ability apart from Him.

My thoughts and comments today are about “obstacles, obstructions, and opposition.”

Life can be challenging. Obstacles, obstructions, and opposition impose themselves across your path and into your plans. Such moments require choices with consequences good or bad. Do you look for an easier path, settle for less, waste valuable resource with little progress, or do you seek Godly solutions not previously considered? You have two options; you can overcome obstacles or be overcome by them. For the Christ-follower, the latter is not an acceptable option.

Too easily, you can indulge yourself and be overcome by things such as: worries, doubt, fears, failures, regrets, disappointments, temptations, or habits until you feel overwhelmed and helpless to resist. Be warned, “By [whatever] a person is overcome, by [that] also he is brought into bondage.” 2 Peter 2:19 NKJV. Paul’s counsel is plain and simple, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 NIV.

Obstacles, obstructions, and opposition can have differing sources. Some obstacles are merely circumstantial, inevitable situations which are common to any of us – things the Bible calls, “the cares of life.” Overcome such obstacles by seeing the opportunity they present, “When trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.” See James 1:2-4 NLT. Read 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV/1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT.

Other obstacles result from a spiritual adversary seeking your harm who will use evil “schemes” to dissuade you or misdirect your life. See 2 Corinthians 2:11 NIV/1 Peter 5:7-9 NKJV. Be wise to his intent and undeterred by his opposition. “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 NKJV.

Obstacles may even be providential on occasion, evidence of God’s loving intervention to wisely direct or protect you. The obvious or your preferred option may not always be God’s highest and best. But His love will guide you “in the right paths for His Name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3 NIV. God may use an obstruction to prompt you to pause and pray about a decision or direction that would not be His highest and best for you. Discern times when God permits an obstacle, obstruction, or opposition in your path. Ignore an obstacle and God may allow an obstruction. Ignore the obstruction and God might allow opposition to get your attention. Paul expected and embraced God’s providential direction in his life. See Acts 16:5-10 NIV.

“Amid all these things [obstacles, obstructions, and opposition] we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 AMP. God has given you the spiritual authority, as well as a solemn responsibility, to be “. . more than conquerors . . [who] gain a surpassing victory THROUGH HIM who loved us.” Paul viewed himself and every believer as overcomers of the highest order. An overcomer is your identity in Christ, not your ability apart from Him. “In Christ!” What a glorious place to be. Read Ephesians 1:18-23 NKJV.

John echoes Paul’s confidence, “You have overcome . . because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world . . For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” See 1 John 4:4/5:4-5 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your identity be clear and your confidence strong in God.

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Identity Confusion

October 16th, 2013

“If anyone is in Christ . . the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV.

Difficulties can confuse your sense of identity; grace restores it.

My thoughts and comments today are about “identity confusion.”

As a teen, I remember my Dad often reminding me, “Remember, you are a Randolph.” He certainly had no intention of elevating our family name above others; socially and financially, we were a middle class family at best. His clear intent was that I remember in my conversations and conduct the responsibility I had to honor the name we shared. My Dad wanted me to not be confused about my identity, nor irresponsible toward it.

Occasionally, anyone can “forget” who they are. In words spoken or actions unbecoming, a person can say and do what is uncharacteristic. Those moments make you wonder to yourself, “Who am I really?” Disappointments and difficulties can confuse your own sense of identity, but humility and confession release grace and forgiveness that restore who God made you to be, in Christ. We are each painfully aware of our own failings and foibles, and wrongly assume they, or the opinions of others, or the accusations of the Accuser, define who we really are, but they alone do not define you or me.

You are made in the image and likeness of God however diminished that may sometimes become. The Bible proclaims, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. For God . . chose them to become like His Son.” Romans 8:28-29 NLT.

God’s Word and His Spirit within you affirm you are made in His image and likeness. “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” Him we preach . . teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man [mature] in Christ . . Till we all come to . . the knowledge of the Son of God, to a [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Colossians 1:28-29/Ephesians 4:13 NKJV. In Christ, yours and my destiny  are sure.

God and His Word are where you begin. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” See 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV. Stay true to the truth. Consider how this works in your spiritual life. The objective of the devil, your adversary, is to make you doubt God; in doing so, his tactic is to make you unsure of your true identity in Christ. Read 1 Peter 5:8-11 NKJV/2 Corinthians 2:11 NIV. Identity confusion is not something new; it is as old as human history.

Many people mis-identify themselves, or allow others to do so, by inaccurate comparisons. Your true identity is in your potential, not your history; your knowledge and wisdom, not your education; who you are, not what you do; your stewardship of things, not your ownership of them; and most importantly, who you are in Christ, not in and of yourself. You cannot really know who you are until you understand who Christ declares you to be.

In his adult years, Don, my life-long friend, legally changed his name. Emigrating from Greece years earlier, his father and uncles anglicized their Greek surname. Choosing to lay aside the name he had known all his life, he reclaimed his father’s surname to honor him and to choose to be who he was supposed to have been. Don fully embraced his heritage and its cultural identity. In Christ, you find your true identity – liberating and empowering.

As an Angel struggled with him, Jacob was asked, “What is your name?” Read Genesis 32:24-31 NKJV. His name, Jacob, meant “supplanter, deceiver,” correctly describing who he had been and even what he had done, but not predicting who he was destined to become. God corrected Jacob’s identity confusion; “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for [as a prince] you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Vs. 28 NKJV. In Christ, you are more than you ever could have been.

”It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption . . If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV/2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. “In Christ!” What a place to be.

My prayer for you today is that you never forget all that you are in Christ Jesus.

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Popular Culture – Timeless Kingdom

June 14th, 2010

“In Christ . . we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” Romans 12:5 NLT

“Popular culture prizes success; God’s timeless Kingdom values service.”

My thoughts today are about “popular culture and a timeless Kingdom.”

We belong to each other . . need others? Today’s verse is difficult for most of us because of our addiction to independence and self-sufficiency. We are willing to relate to others, even help one another, but “belong to each other . . need all the others.” Really? Yes, the Kingdom of God does not operate on the same basis as today’s culture. Popular culture prizes success; God’s timeless Kingdom values service. “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge (yourself); rather serve one another in love. The Law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14 NIV.

The world’s value system is much the same as in Jesus’ time. Success and greatness seem to be measured by how many people are at your service, dependent on your favor. That kind of power and supremacy is intoxicating. Jesus turned the natural order of things upside down and taught that true greatness is measured by how many you are willing to serve, not because you have to but because you choose to do so, in Christ’s name. Read Luke 22:33-37 NIV. “If any one wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” – not many ready volunteers for that usually. Here’s why that is so difficult.

Committing yourself to belong to each other requires a relinquishment of independence, in a lifestyle of unselfishness that many struggle to embrace. From one’s earliest years, “me first” is the normal order – get to the front, gain the spotlight, have the most, and be the best!

What will you do with the Bible’s clear teaching on belonging to each other? “In honor, preferring one another . . in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others . . love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 12:10 NKJV/Philippians 2:3-4 NIV/ Galatians 5:14 NIV. Apart and on your own, you cannot be all you are meant to be.

Admitting that you need others requires a heart of real humility, that many people fear will leave them vulnerable and dependent. We have all seen people a little too needy and clingy and do not want to seem like that. In truth, you, along with every one of us, need other people in one way or another all the time. You cannot retain the right to choose who you need and when you need them; that is not an option that you have “in Christ.”

Jesus’ way is this: when your life is “In Christ,” Jesus chooses who you need and who needs you. You will often have to swallow your pride on both counts. Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 NIV. The Bible asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God..” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV. When you fully belong to God, you find it easier to give to, and receive from, others.

My prayer for you is this: recognize yours and others’ incompleteness without one another.

Love you, Poppa

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