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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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Bizarre Behavior

July 26th, 2013

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped Him.”  Mark 5:6 NKJV

Regret apart from repentance and restoration will never bring you freedom.

My thoughts and comments today are about “bizarre behavior.”

People are capable of bad behavior, regardless of nationality, gender, geography, education, financial, or social standing. Common sense does not come automatically with any of those. People do unexplainable things, though it makes no sense to behave in destructive ways, typically hurtful to others and predictably harmful to one’s self. Some people do that all too frequently, usually unexplainable even to themselves. Everyone has had an occasion when you ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” Probably, your baffled explanation was, “I wasn’t thinking!”

Any person is capable of conduct embarrassing to themselves and bewildering to those who know them. Bizarre behavior is not as spontaneous and inexplicable as you might first think. Such behavior exposes an inner life lacking good judgment and little thought of consequence. The consequence is normally worse than previously considered. What begins as private thought can soon become public conduct. The bad news is that there is much damage that is irreparable; the good news is that all you have done is redeemable.

Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a man whose behavior was bizarre. You will find hope in this first tragic then triumphant story of God’s grace and power. See Mark 5:1-6 NKJV. Here’s his story – the very definition of bizarre. The source of his strange behavior was spiritual. Mark’s account does not suggest that all bizarre behavior is demonic, as was true in this instance. But there is always a spiritual dynamic to wrong pursuits and passions that are controlling and eventually uncontrollable. His behavior imposed estrangement from others, worsening his isolation and despair. His actions were unconstrained, even irrepressible, in spite of his own efforts and the best attempts of others. As a result, he experienced self-disgust which produced a spiral of self-destructive behavior. (Verses 2-5).

However long he had struggled and suffered, there was some vestige of his former self that longed to be free and could recognize that Jesus alone was his solution. Whatever you have done and wherever you have strayed, come running to the Savior. “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped Him.” Verse 6. Your wise response is to allow no regret over your past or present failures keep you from Jesus. Regret apart from repentance and restoration will never bring you freedom. Paul addressed this in these words, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NIV.

Your struggle may not be as extreme as his, but your need can be as real as his. Unbecoming behavior is not the private reserve of the worst among us. Jesus braved a violent storm at sea to meet a man with a tragic storm in his soul. To both, Jesus said, “Peace be still! . . and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:35-41. There was a happy ending for him, as there will be for you.

After his encounter with Jesus, “They came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon possessed . . sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” Mark 5:15 NKJV. Changed completely; freed absolutely; satisfied fully. See 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV/1 Peter 1:13 NIV/Colossians 3:1-3 NIV. New beginnings are available. “Great is His faithfulness; His mercies are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:23 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that your first response is always to come to Jesus.

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Beginnings Are God’s Specialty

January 1st, 2010

A note about next week:

I will be away from the office next week and unable to resume the usual devotional until Monday, January 11. May I suggest you browse the EveryDay Life archive at www.allenrandolph.com. Again, I thank you for the privilege of another year of sharing with you some practical thoughts of God’s powerful Word for everyday life.

As I write on this New Year’s morning, Gayle and I pray for a truly Blessed New Year, prosperous for you and your family, and that your life be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. Let’s begin well and finish strong in the new year and new decade of 2010. Allen Randolph

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“This month shall be your beginning of months.” Exodus 12:2 NKJV

“I wish there were some wonderful place called the Land of Beginning Again.”

My thoughts today are that “beginnings are God’s specialty.”

“Happy New Year” is just not a worthy objective for welcoming a new year. That greeting, however traditional and well intended, suggests that your enjoyment of the year just begun is tied to what happens in the year, and that is something that none of us can actually control. In fact, you know that along with the favorable things that will come your way and the kindnesses that will be shown you by others, you will also face challenges you do not anticipate and difficulties you do not foresee.

Instead, I have chosen to desire for myself and others “a Blessed New Year,” an upcoming season of God’s presence and favor upon all that is done in His Name, whatever any momentary circumstance may be. See 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 NIV. I love the resounding assurance of the psalmist, “You visit the earth . . greatly enrich it . . provide their grain . .  water it . . settle its furrows . . You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness and Your paths drip with abundance.” Psalm 65:9-11 NKJV. Now that is a blessed new year every year! That is the expectation with which I want to live my life every day; and that is also my heart and prayer for you.

Many years ago I learned a portion of a poem that suits this change of calendar, “I wish there were some wonderful place, Called the Land of Beginning Again. Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, And all of our selfish grief, Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never put on again.” (Louise Fletcher) That is the longing in every heart at each change of the calendar. Wherever in the world that crowds gathered last night with good cheer and optimism, they held one hope: that their life would be better this year – that they would do better; they would be better.

You can experience exactly that – forgiveness for every sin, healing from every hurt, release from every regret, hope in every situation, peace in every turmoil, assurance when uncertain, restoration of relationships, wisdom in every decision, alone but not lonely, and new beginnings every day! That place is at the foot of a cross where the Savior died for your sins long ago, and yet lives today to “crown the year with (His) goodness.” Read also Isaiah 53:4-6 NKJV.

New beginnings are God’s specialty. Who hasn’t needed them? He introduces us to Himself with the simple, yet profound words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. In preparation for delivering Israel from Egypt’s slavery, God reset their calendar to announce their new beginning, “This month shall be the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” Exodus 12:2 NKJV. Almighty God forever changed Israel’s history, as He can change yours.

Let me be clear, a new beginning does not happen because of the change of a calendar or anything that happens outside of you; a new beginning can only happen for you when grace and spiritual change happens inside of you. Only God can do that! “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for their old life is gone. A new life has begun.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT. God also specializes in finishing well what He begins. See Philippians 1:6 NLT/Hebrews 12:2 NLT/Revelation 22:13 NLT.

My prayer for you today is for a blessed year, crowned with God’s grace and goodness.

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