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Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’

Unashamed

January 13th, 2016

“Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Hebrews 11:16 NIV.

Live so your family and friends have no cause for embarrassment.

My thoughts and comments today are about “unashamed.”

As a teen, I recall occasions when my father wisely reminded me, “Allen, remember; you are a Randolph.” His words were not of distrust, but of his trust and expectation of me. From his words, I understood that my conduct and conversation should reflect positively or would reflect negatively on others as well as myself.

Shame is a negative, but healthy, emotion you feel when you behave in a less worthy manner than you or others should expect. I am ashamed of some things I have said and done across the course of my life, and thankful to God and others who have shown me love and grace in spite of that. Along the way, I hope I have learned to do better. Though admittedly as human as the next person, my aspiration is to live so my family and friends have no cause for embarrassment.

Though not an exhaustive list, the twelfth chapter of Hebrews describes multiple people of exemplary faith in these words, “They were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Read Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV. To me, that is the most incredible description of grace and the confident power of God.Grace includes you in that noble company of saints. Read Ephesians 2: 4-10 NIV.

I know that  my name is linked to His in grace. Imagine the power of that and personalize the Bible’s affirmation; read it aloud right now; “God is not ashamed to be called my God.” It is neither pretentious nor presumptuous to affirm that as true. Let its transforming truth sink deeply into your heart and spirit.

Dare you and I believe, that in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in a manner that God is not ashamed to be called our God. How dare we not believe what God has said to be true? Paul had every expectation of that truth, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20 NKJV. “Both the One who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Read Hebrews 2:10-12 NIV.

It reassures and comforts me that God chose to identify Himself to Moses affirming, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Exodus 3:15 NKJV. The record of each was less than sterling. But God was not ashamed to be called their God. At the end of my life, it will be satisfaction enough to hear my Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want to live in the strength of my Dad’s belief in me and my Heavenly Father’s grace toward me. Read 2 Timothy 1:12-14 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to live as honors Jesus, with neither shame nor regret.

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Essential or Expendable?

December 6th, 2013

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul?”  Mark 6:36 NIV.

Everything ever needing to be done for your salvation was done on a cross by a Savior.

My thoughts and comments today ask a question, “essential or expendable?”

Life is filled with questions. Some arise from mere curiosity; some, however, are of eternal importance. There are many things you might like to know, but there are a few things about which you absolutely must be clear. Distinguishing between “want to know” and “need to know” is basic. Reading the Gospels, you notice that Jesus asked, and was asked, quite a lot of questions. Since my youth, I have pondered Jesus’ probing question, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37 NIV.

In Jesus’ estimation, the vastly disproportionate value between the “whole world” and one’s “own soul” is no exaggeration at all; your soul is of eternal significance. And yet every day, people sell their soul for things of marginal value temporally and no value eternally. Linger over the word, “forfeit,” in Jesus’ question. I suggest such a forfeiture describes, “The voluntary surrender of something invaluable by deliberate choice or benign neglect.” Who would be so foolish as to regard the eternal so casually?

I think benign neglect is the more common and the least understandable. Little wonder that the Bible warns, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation . .” Hebrews 2:1-4 NKJV. Drifting, like neglect, is usually incremental, unnoticeable until time is past and opportunity lost.

In the matter of your soul, it is wise to distinguish what is essential from what is expendable. The account of Esau and Jacob, Abraham’s grandsons, is among the tragic stories of the Old Testament. Weary and driven by his appetite, Esau traded his birthright to Jacob, his brother, for an immediate and enticing bowl of stew. How impetuous; how shortsighted; how tragic; how irreversible. Read Genesis 25:27-34/27:1-38 NKJV.

Jim Elliott (1926-1957), a young missionary martyred by a savage Ecuadorian tribe, had written in his journal years earlier, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Your brief life and all you have, however valuable, pales in comparison to the immeasurable worth of your eternal soul and destiny of living forever with God. See 1 Tim 2:3-5 NIV.

The eternal question which must be asked and answered by each individual is, “What must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30 NIV. There seem to be as many answers to that as there are religions. This is an area where opinion, however sincere, is just not enough. You need to know God’s Word. The Bible’s answer is, “’Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ Then they spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house . . he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.” Acts 16:31-34 NIV.

Your own efforts only make salvation elusive – more about what you don’t do, or earned by your best, but futile, efforts such as: religion, good works, charitable deeds, and such like. God makes it this simple: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Read Romans 10:9-13 NIV. Everything ever needing to be done for your salvation was done on a cross by a Savior. “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 . .” Titus 3:4-5 NIV. See also Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.

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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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Spending and Investing

August 3rd, 2012

“I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJV

Prize life only as invested meaningfully in service to God and others.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spending and investing.”

There are a few people who would not give a moment of their time that was not convenient, nor a nickel that wasn’t required of them. They may have more time and things than they otherwise would, but they will have a lot fewer real friends. I was recently with a friend who is exceptional in his generosity. He is generous with what he has, but even more importantly, he is generous with who he is. When I grow up, I want to be just like him!

But therein lies the problem. Most of us never grow up in this grace, because generosity appears costly. Too late in life we learn it is the lack of generosity that is really expensive. Solomon wisely observed, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV. Saving yourself for your own benefit doesn’t work out so well.

Listen to Paul’s words, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJV. Prize life only as invested meaningfully in service to God and others. What you spend is gone; what you invest returns. I have not regretted any investment of myself in the Kingdom of God or into the lives of others. I notice a small but significant distinction in Paul’s words. There are occasions when you simply choose to live liberally – “very gladly spend” – but there are also times when necessity dictates sacrifice for the benefit of others – “be spent.” Paul spoke of experiences when “necessity is laid upon me” to preach the Gospel. Read 1 Corinthians 9:16 NKJV. Making a difference is the greatest joy in life.

The Apostle Paul understood the spiritual virtue of self-denial. “I do not count my life dear to myself.” Acts 20:24. Paul did not discount the importance of his life; he lived life and loved life to its fullest potential. His life was dear only within the purposes of God. There is a principal of self-denial here that is applicable to everyday life. Self-denial is not top of the list of desired lifestyles.

Self-denial embraces sacrifice without regard to price or personal cost. Self-denial prefers others before self. Romans 12:10. Self-denial seeks the interests of others before your own. Philippians 2:4. Self-denial does what is right instead of wrong. James 4:17. Self-denial may well be the defining mark of a true disciple. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24.

In the Old Testament, Jacob could be a case study of the need for this humbling work of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart. See Genesis 25-33. Jacob lived by his wits – manipulating, deceiving, and negotiating for his gain. You didn’t strike a fair bargain with Jacob; you settled for his leftovers. It was a lifestyle, until he wrestled with an angel. What he had once gotten by guile from his brother and father, he now sought by insistence from God. Genesis 32:24-31. “[An angel] touched the socket of Jacob’s hip . . [Jacob said] ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’ . . and he limped on his hip.” Genesis 32:25/30-31. You will walk differently after an encounter with God like that.

My prayer for you today is that you learn when first place is not the best place.

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Godly Fathering

June 18th, 2012

Fathers . . bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 KJV

Godly blessing can be transferable from one generation to another.

My thoughts and comments today are about “ Godly fathering.”

Yesterday was the weekend our nation celebrates Father’s Day. Sunday began in Church with some of the family leading the worship and teaching, some beside us and others seated in front of us – multiple generations worshipping and serving together. That is a privilege Gayle and I do not take for granted. In our mobile lifestyles, the generational family together in worship is often a rarity and I think families and congregations are the poorer for that.

Out of a consumer mentality, many have made their choice of churches from individual preferences of style of service or geographical convenience, rather than a sense of spiritual placement. A generational family together in church has become a geographical possibility less commonly, and a lessening family priority too frequently, although I think there is a remarkable strength and blessing whenever worshipping and serving together is achievable.

But let me talk a little about fathers on this occasion. There are some responsibilities that should not be left to others. Godly fathering heads that list. Being a father is a privileged role; Godly fathering is a sober and holy responsibility. “Fathers . . bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 KJV. Important things happen best within a family, and Dad you have a vital responsibility in that. Civility and citizenship are best learned at home not school. Behavior is better taught and disciplined within a family than by society. Morality and lifestyle must be learned at home, not through popular culture and entertainment. Becoming a mature and loving adult, friend, spouse, and parent are best learned at home rather than assimilated from societal mores.

Godly fathering imparts God’s blessing. A Godly blessing is transferable from one generation to another. That is called legacy and spiritual heritage. You must have God’s blessing to bestow that in your family. After Joseph was reunited with his father and brothers, his aging father, Jacob, called for Joseph and his sons, “Bring them to me, and I will bless them.” Genesis 48:9 NKJV. Fathering is not only biological. If your dad didn’t bless you, there is a remedy. Your Heavenly Father will, and there are spiritual fathers God provides who will! Now, give that blessing to your family. Let your life bring blessing to this generation and leave Godly blessing for generations to come.

Godly fathering includes Godly instruction. Your family’s character and convictions are your responsibility. Don’t let responsibility seem complicated; view it as response-ability, your ability to respond to God and share that in your home. “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen . . teach them to your children and to their children.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV. Personal experience forms personal example; personal example is your authority for Godly instruction. Dad, your spiritual passion should be as the confidence and conviction those early disciples felt, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20 NKJV. Perhaps you  have seen and heard too little of eternal consequence; if so, you can and need to remedy that now.

Godly fathering involves Godly correction. Instruction without loving correction is not helpful and usually ineffective. “Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV. Correction can feel like a full time job because it is, when done “to encourage, with patience and carefulness.” Always discipline in love, never in anger.

My prayer for you today is that you value Godly heritage and purpose to provide it.

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