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Posts Tagged ‘influence’

New Faith and a New Nature

October 11th, 2018

Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

“Given to us are exceedingly great and precious promises, that you may be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “new faith and a new nature.”

Salvation resolves the problem of your eternal destiny. Salvation does not solve all your problems in this life immediately. That is a process of grace. So, you are a Christ-follower now. Shouldn’t everyday life become easier? Do you ever wonder if you should be further along in your spiritual growth than you are? Should you be winning new battles instead of still fighting so many of the old ones?

Salvation reconciles your history and begins a wonderful new journey, but there is much more that God wants and needs to accomplish in you. God cares about your destiny. Remember when you finally realized that you could not save yourself by your good works? Paul wrote,  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. Titus 3:5 NIV.

Yet it is alarmingly easy to still assume that now you can take it from here. The Bible calls those, dead works. You can no more live your Christian life on your best behavior now, than you could save yourself by your good behavior previously. You know what the problem is? Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

I envision Paul rejoicing as he wrote the words, Because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Read Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV. You remain vulnerable to the relentless pull of desires incompatible with your confession and spiritual convictions.

And when that happens, feelings of guilt return and doubts cloud your confidence about salvation. You thought that battle was in the past, didn’t you? The Apostle Paul asked and answered the question our hearts ask, Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:23-24 NIV.  Here’s the good news! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NAS. I suggest that you cannot consistently and successfully walk in the power of the Holy Spirit until you request, receive, and realize that you have been filled with the Spirit.

By His Spirit, God Himself dwells within you to deliver you from your old nature, much the same as He redeemed you from your sins by Jesus Christ. See Galatians 2:20 NIV. You will be better, do better, and live better when you rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. I have heard this wonderful progression of spiritual life and growth explained this way.

At salvation, you were saved from the penalty of sin. In the ongoing process of sanctification, you are being saved from the power of sin. And in eternity you will be saved from the presence of sin. The old nature will then be eradicated forever; never again will you contend with its inclination toward sin.

To accomplish this, there is both an indwelling and an infilling of the Spirit. The indwelling is constant and occurs when the Spirit baptizes you into the Body of Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV. The infilling occurs at your invitation – anywhere, anytime, every time – as Jesus baptizes you with His Spirit. The Bible says, 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,18 be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-18 NKJV. The Greek word in that verse that is translated, “filled,” describes the influence of something rather than the quantity of something.

Consider this. A sail boat moves under the influence and direction of the wind when its sails become filled with the wind. Similarly, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us . .“ Galatians 5:22 NLT. Live full of the Spirit; the Spirit then gives you the power you lack to forgive, be patient in trials, be loving when mistreated, trust and obey when you don’t understand, break habits, and live as your heart for God desires.

As a child of God, the infilling of the Spirit does not give you more of the Spirit than already abides in you. Yielding more of yourself to live within His authority releases the Holy Spirit’s fullness and influence. See Galatians 5:24-25 NIV. Live every day, in and by the power and influence of the Spirit of God.

Today I pray for you to rely every moment on the power of God’s Spirit.

Christian Communications 2018

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The Power of Friendships

August 31st, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friends Influence Who You Become.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Power of Friendships.”

I said farewell to a dear friend. I have said too many farewells too many times. His suffering is over and for that, I am thankful. But the continued loss of his company and our conversations is painful to me. In that void, I find my thoughts today are about how friends shape one’s life. You are more the product of the people around you than you might realize. You give an awesome power of influence to each person invited into your life.

Friends with whom you spend time ultimately shape your opinions, values, choices, and activities. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV. Relationships impact your life’s direction, whether or not you mean them to do so. For better or worse, the friends you choose influence who you become. Think about that for a moment.

Friends are the people you choose to spend time with, and whose opinions really matter to you. By their friendship, they are allowed influence. Who are significant people in your life, whose voice and counsel you always regard? Are they Godly influences pointing you to Jesus and God’s Word, urging you to be better than you would have been, and lovingly requiring that you be better? That’s the kind of friends you need

My favorite story of a friend’s influence is David and Jonathan. Jonathan is the King’s son in Jerusalem, heir to Israel’s throne and groomed to reign. David is a teen, just a shepherd’s son from Bethlehem, apparently with no royal ambitions. After King Saul’s death, God sent the prophet Samuel to his humble home to anoint a new King. Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. David soon found himself chosen by God to lead a nation, when all he had led was his father’s few sheep.

Can you imagine the insecurities David must have felt, or the questions he had? Why? How? Why me? He would never make that journey successfully without others to encourage and help. You don’t have to make your personal journey alone. In fact, you shouldn’t try.

God brought Jonathan into David’s life. In Jonathan’s heart, God put an understanding of God’s calling and anointing for David to be king, and a love for David that provided an influential friendship that would groom David to rule. See 1 Samuel 18:1-4. Their lives were bound together in covenant love (1 Samuel 20:16), reaching even to the next generation. See 2 Samuel 9:1-13. David would not have reached his potential if not for the influence of Samuel, a person of authority who recognized David’s anointing, or Jonathan, a true friend who embraced David’s Godly destiny, and Nathan, a courageous prophet who spoke Godly correction and counsel to David. Those kinds of Godly friends are essential to your life.

Don, my dearest of friends since I was sixteen, once reminded me of an occasion when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” I do not remember saying that, but I hope I did. Because of the years we had spent together, I am different – my life, family, and ministry better – than would be true otherwise. And that is true of far more friends than him alone. God must have known how much I would need to be surrounded with such friends of Godly influence.

More than any one person, my wife and best friend, my mother and father’s loving examples, spiritual “fathers and brothers” sharing their lives with me, staff pastors serving alongside, and gracious families in the churches we served, are influences touching my life still today. Friendships are for mutual benefit and ultimately for God’s purposes. Choose them wisely; avoid those that might be detrimental rather than beneficial. Be wary of those who would subtly change you as neither God nor you intended.

Today, I pray for you to seek and welcome Godly and influential friendships.

Christian Communications 2018-212

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Culture Wars

February 19th, 2018

Cues from a wrong source are misleading.

“You ought to live holy and Godly lives, as you look forward

to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Culture Wars.”

There are things about the current, secular culture that disturb me. I am disturbed that we too often take our cues from unworthy and inappropriate sources, with neither discernment nor discrimination. Much of the surrounding culture has a far greater influence on the Church and its people than could ever be justified – whether speaking of morals, materialism, or immodesty as expressed in fashion, media, music, profanity, incivility, or self-centeredness. We seem to take our cues from those wrong sources without discernment that we are doing so. Apparently, we are afraid to look different as we mimic the surrounding styles of how we dress, how we talk, and to a greater degree, how we live.

The Bible provides clarity. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV. When I was a young teen, the Church seemed to take a reactionary stance to the culture that appeared imbalanced and in clear opposition. Conversely today, we are too concerned about fitting in with the culture and too comfortable when we do.

Then, Christians seemed to consciously try to look, act, and talk differently. It might be wiser to just confidently and comfortably choose to be who we are always called to be, “Salt and Light,” in a deteriorating and darkening world. In retrospect, However, I believe my grandparents’ and parents’ generations chose a safer margin for error with less consequences than may result from our indecisive course today.

The Bible’s counsel is wise, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father, but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NIV. Be advised and wise and live successfully and effectively now and eternally safe forever.

Today, we seem to feel the need to apologize that our standards and expectations are other than the surrounding cultural norms. Because we are unclear about how to be Godly people in an ungodly age, a generation of young “teens and twenties” are confused, and thereby easily succumb to the bombardment of media, movies, music, fashion, and celebrities’ lifestyles to determine how they should dress, talk, think, and live.

The nature of the culture is not what disturbs me most. That is neither surprising nor redeemable except on an individual basis, never collectively. I am concerned about the secular culture’s influence and our naive approach to the lure of their example. Why mimic the opinions and lifestyle of celebrities because they have wealth or fame, lavishly granted from those whom they merely amuse and entertain? Except for few exceptions, they are in graphic contrast and conflict with what the follower of Jesus is meant to be, never examples to be esteemed and followed.

The Apostle Peter asked and answered a reasonable, but probing, question to the young churches and new Christians. “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:11-12 NIV. You must ask and answer that question for yourself, “What kind of person ought I to be?” Life is best lived with a singular focus. As a follower of Jesus, I would suggest Paul’s words to you, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, Who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV.

Choose carefully the people you admire and emulate, or you will find yourself in a gradual decline and indiscernible process of becoming like them. There is a clear and right choice to make. “Christ, is your example. Follow in His steps: He never sinned, never told a lie, never answered back when insulted; when He suffered He did not threaten to get even; He left his case in the hands of God Who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:21-24 TLB. Yours and my goal should be to allow the Word of God and invite the Holy Spirit to make us a little more like Jesus every day.

Today, I pray for you to be a Godly example of a chaste and consecrated life of faith.

Christian Communications 2018

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Godly Generations

May 12th, 2017

The Godly impact of a life touches generations and reaches eternity

 “Telling the generation to come the praises of the Lord.” Psalm 78:4 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Godly Generations.”

Few track and field events are any more exciting than the relay race. Four athletes give their all for their assigned portion of the race, and then pass the baton to the next runner. If the baton is not handed off properly within the allowed space, or is dropped, that team is disqualified. Each runner gives their best effort until coming to where the next runner anxiously awaits. For a few brief steps, they run alongside each other until the baton is safely transferred and then a runner moves aside while the other must continue. One’s portion of the race is completed; another’s is begun.

Your life of faith is like that. We each have our assigned portion of race to run, cheered on by those before us, and responsible to those awaiting us. Read 2 Timothy 1:3-6 NIV. The Apostle Paul often used the metaphor of a runner. “If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 NIV. Read 2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV.

And parenting is like that also. This weekend holds a special day when more phone calls are made, more flowers sold, more restaurants crowded, and more greeting cards purchased than any other day of the year – Mother’s Day. My thoughts today are shaped by family events in past months. Our family welcomed two Great Granddaughters, Caroline Renee and Riley Madison. That struggle of birth and the gift of life are fresh in my mind as I write. I marvel as I watched our granddaughters with their helplessly dependent infants. They have counted their joyful sacrifice of self in the time and care given as privilege, not sacrifice.

The Bible commands, “Telling the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done . . That the generation to come might know them. Read Psalm 78:1-7 NLT. A mother’s influence is immense, far greater than she may presume during the busy years of mothering. A mother’s life is not lived for herself, but with a vision for the lives of the children and families who will follow her. She does not count herself to have succeeded until her children and their children’s children have prospered. And a mother’s influence is not limited to her lifetime. Moms are always with you even after they are gone. And Moms will always be in the hearts of their family.

My Mom is no longer with us, but she is forever in my heart. When she lived, I wanted to be with her; now, I wish I were more like her. Before, I enjoyed her company; now, I remember her character. Before, I enjoyed our conversations; now, I value the clarity of her words and wisdom. Before I admired the faith and values she taught me; now, I treasure the convictions she held steadfastly.

For a season, God gives Moms and Dads to us to impart values, example, life experience, character, convictions, priorities, hopes, and faith. Moms know others must run further than she could, while yearning for us to do so with less pain and more pleasure than her own, and with fewer struggles and more victories. Godly generations, behind as well as ahead of you, depend on your doing so.

Unless you understand that your brief life is a timeless connection of influence with those generations both before and after you, you may fail to live your life with a similar, Godly influence that is consequential and eternal. Man or woman, young or old, be God’s love wrapped in a human heart, so the Godly impact of your life will stretch well beyond your lifetime, even beyond the lifetimes of those whose lives you touch, “That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” Psalm 78:7 NKJV. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to prize a Godly heritage and provide the same to those who follow.

Christian Communications 2017

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Sincere Faith

May 7th, 2016

“Your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother and mother.”  2 Timothy 1:5 NIV.

Faith must be sacredly held, sincerely lived, and successfully shared.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “sincere faith.”

Everyone has influence. The impact of some is beneficial; the effect of others is less so. Nowhere is there the greater opportunity for enduring influence than in the home. Since this weekend is Mother’s Day, let me share some thoughts about moms. Certainly, in the home and family they are not the only influence; but for this occasion, Moms deserve the spotlight. Knowing me, God knew I would need a Mom that was especially patient, generous to a fault, immeasurably kind, and extravagantly loving. My Mom – Mildred Florence (McGinness) Randolph – was exactly that kind of Mom, and more.

She was the eldest of thirteen children, the daughter of a pastor, and an exceptional pianist. She was raised in a very modest home. My grandad always worked to support his family in addition to what the small churches of southern Illinois could provide in the 1930s and 40s. They were poor in comparison with others but rich in the things that truly matter – family, love, character, loyalty, and faith in God. They never thought of themselves as poor; they considered themselves fortunate. My Mom was raised in a Christian home.

My Dad had not even been inside a church until he was seventeen. His personal conversion resulted from my grandmother’s miraculous healing, when he was a teen. My Dad, a young Bible School graduate from Buffalo, New York, held a revival in southern Illinois and discovered this pastor’s beautiful and talented daughter playing the piano. Soon she was his wife, and then she was my Mom. For that, I am graced and blessed. My Dad died a young man, just 44 years old. My Mom died about 15 years ago at the age of 80. Even long after their deaths, my parents and grandparents still influence my personal faith. My parents were both significant, spiritual influences in my life, shaping who I am as a man, husband, father, and minister.

Church and home were one and the same in our family. My Dad from his pulpit and my Mom from her piano, taught me the inestimable worth of a personal knowledge of God and a life of faith and service. Every day of my life has been blessed by their words and personal example. Our marriage, ministry, and family of four generations have a Godly heritage that could not have been earned or learned in a lifetime without them. Read 1 Peter 1:3-5 NAS.

My Dad taught me the rare value of faith and friendship, and the loyalty and integrity required in those. My Mom taught me a generosity and care for others that I am far from having mastered yet. My parents left me an inheritance counted in the very real currency of the lives and faith of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. “A good man [or woman] leaves an inheritance to their children’s children.” Proverbs 13:22 NAS. You will afford your family a Godly example or allow them a perilous exemption. Sincere faith must be sacredly held, sincerely lived, and successfully shared with the next generations. Make your practice and profession of faith honest, and especially, consistent. A Godly, family heritage that touches future generations can either continue or begin with you today.

Today, I pray for you to highly value the faith entrusted to you.

Christian Communications 2016

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