Posts Tagged ‘new creation’

New Life

January 1st, 2016

“We too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 NIV.

Your choices today shape your life tomorrow.

My thoughts and comments today are about “new life.”

A New Year always seems a brief but welcome invitation to a fresh start. In the change of calendar, an opportunity is presented to change what has been and what can be. The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome that their faith in Christ provided the possibility and power that, “we too may live a new life.” Read Romans 6:4-11 NIV. In my spiritual journey, the beginning of a year has often been pivotal.

When just ten years old, I made a life-long decision to know and serve Jesus. In a New Year’s Revival in my father’s church, Mrs. Rice, a Sunday School teacher, asked to pray with me. In the first days of 1952, I committed my young life to Jesus and found the “new life” the Bible promises.

Years later as an adult and pastor in San Jose, California, and in the first minutes of January 1975, an elderly church member, Mrs. Eaton, was going home from the New Year’s Eve service when she asked her husband to turn around and return to the church. God had given her a message for me. Everyone but the janitor and I were already gone as she walked down the center aisle of that semi-darkened church, straight toward me. She told me how God had spoken to her, took my hands in hers, looked deep into my eyes, and said, “Pastor Allen, God asked me to tell you, ‘He loves you, and He is not finished with you.’” With that, she turned and left me alone with God.

Everything changed inside my heart. Apart from God, she could not have known what I had told no one. With the New Year, I would seek a career in business. That would have been a tragic mistake, forever altering the direction of my life and diminishing the destiny of our family. When I think of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren today, I am grateful for the mercies and faithfulness of God. In those earliest minutes of a New Year, God’s personal word to me of His care and calling continues to shape my life and our family today. Again, I found a fresh measure of “new life” in Christ.

Only God could have known that in the spring of that same year, the invitation to pastor Trinity Church here in San Antonio would be extended to me, where Gayle and I continued to serve joyfully for more than 36 years. God’s faithfulness in those first moments of a new year protected me and our family from an error of judgment that would have changed everything about our lives since. Remember. The choices you make today shape your future as well as the future of others. Choose prayerfully and carefully. Being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing is more consequential than you can foresee.

The world anticipates this New Year in hope of things being better, their lives being different than they were. A change of calendar changes nothing without a significant, spiritual change in your heart. You will not embrace new life fully until you are sick and tired of who you’ve been. The problem is that things once done are not easily undone. You alone cannot alter the past; the good news is that with God’s help, you can. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal . .” Read Philippians 3:13-14 NIV.

Real change is not cosmetic; it requires a different course and transformed character. My friend and mentor, Kenny, always reminded me and others, “You won’t have a New Year without becoming a new you.” These earliest, beginning moments of a new year offer an opportune time to lay old things aside and begin anew, experiencing a fresh start and lasting change. What do you need to change for you to be new again?

The church and every Christ-follower can celebrate the New Year, grateful to God that He has taken away the old mistakes and sins of your past, and given forgiveness and a fresh start in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. You can embrace God’s promise and power for “new life” any time you are ready and willing.

God’s Word gives good advice for your transition into the New Year, “Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of faith . .” Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS. I bid farewell to the year just past, grateful for God’s faithfulness and provision; I embrace this new year anticipating God’s gracious providence and wondrous possibilities.

Today, I pray for you to release anything that hurts or hinders your spiritual progress.

Christian Communications

Family picture Nov 2015 EDIT

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Nature and Nurture

August 11th, 2015

“Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

My thoughts and comments today are about “nature and nurture”

This morning, comments from my friend, Shane, prompted some reflection on the origin of behavior and development of character. It seems the debate ultimately centers on the influences of nature or nurture. Both are influential. Nature forms who you have been, expressed by what comes naturally to you for better or worse – your habitual reactions, possessive inclinations, prejudices, self-willed, or self-centered.

My friend cautioned about trusting nature over nurture, “Leave it to nature and you leave a blank canvas [for yourself and] others to paint on.” We were all conceived in sin, meaning that we were born into a fallen world, possessing a fallen nature, and separated from God and Christ. Paul accurately described life apart from Christ, “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Read Romans 7:18-25 NKJV.

Conversely, nurture instructs and guides your values, traits, convictions, and conduct, therefore determining who you become. Paul understood our common dilemma but also God’s gracious redemption, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Read Colossians 3:6-10 NIV.

In Christ, you have the hope and promise of becoming more than you are. “To all who believed Him and accepted Him, [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn!” John 1:12-13 NLT. Paul elaborated further on this remarkable transformation of your old nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV. Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

The Word of God nurtures Christian growth and Godly character, “[God has] given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature . .” Read 2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV. Especially note verses 5-9.

The Holy Spirit nurtures discipleship and obedience, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Read Romans 8:1-11 NIV.

Spiritual discipline nurtures firm resolve, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Christian Fellowship nurtures spiritual life and growth. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV.

For me, these words sum up any debate about nature versus nurture, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV. The remedy for all you have been and the potential for all you can become is found ultimately in Jesus as Lord and Savior. See 1 John 3:2-3 NLT.

Today, I pray for you that you are nurtured in your faith and an encourager to others.

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Image and Identity

May 21st, 2014

“The Lord does not see as man sees . . but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV.

Integrity is more important than image.

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

Appearances can be deceiving; not everything, nor everyone, will be as they always appear to be. It is said that any person is an amalgam of three identities: “the one others think you to be, the one you believe yourself to be, and the one God knows you to be.” Obviously, the latter is the most accurate and important. Establish your identity in Christ and the Word of God, independent of the opinions of others. Appearances are superficial, only the public face by which you reveal only what you intend to reveal. Inevitably, judgments of one another are largely made by appearances.

You will have expectations of others, as they will of you. Though first impressions are important, we are told, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Sad but true, the graphic design and marketing of a book can be as important to its sales and success as is its content. Similarly, sometimes a person may be more than they appear, sometimes less. Occasionally, you may be disappointed at apparent inconsistencies in yourself or others. Reality does not always correspond with the image another projects or the impressions you form. Jesus said, ”Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” John 7:24 NIV.

That’s why it is important to value integrity, yours and others’ – being the same, at all times in all situations. The prophet Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king from the family of Jesse.  Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13 NKJV. Samuel examined the eldest to the younger – except one was missing, the youngest, David, who was busily tending his father’s sheep. As Samuel surveyed the choices and presumed to anoint the eldest son, Eliab, God spoke, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV. Read that verse again slowly and thoughtfully, “The Lord looks at the heart.” Solomon advised, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Read Proverbs 4:20-23 NKJV. Let your life truly reflect your heart.

Appearances may impress but God searches and knows every heart. Jesse was mistaken for depreciating David, his youngest son. Samuel was mistaken for overly appreciating the age and physical appearance of Eliab, the eldest son. God makes no such mistakes; He looks at the heart to find and affirm what is irreplaceable and invaluable. Integrity is more important than image. Read Psalm 78:70-72/Acts 13:21-23 NKJV.

Jesus’ strong indictment against the proud Pharisees was: “You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:28 NLT. See Matthew 6:5 NKJV. Paul warned of, “. . those who boast in appearance and not in heart.” 2 Corinthians 5:12 NKJV. Paul then concluded with these words, “No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 TEV.

My prayer for you today is that you recognize the difference between image and identity.

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The Last Word

April 23rd, 2014

“I am God . . declaring the end from the beginning.” Isaiah 46:10 NKJV.

Be wary of allowing a presumption to become your conclusion.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the last word.”

There will always be a few people who always need to have the last word. They propose to be the final authority on all matters. They must be thought right and others wrong. They expect their opinions to be generally accepted as the best ones. Life doesn’t really work that way in lasting and meaningful relationships. In life, I have learned that the final word is rarely, if ever, yours or mine to give. Life works better, and you and others are happier, when you are content to trust God to have the last word. He does, and will, so why not rest in His righteousness and wisdom?

“For I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’” Isaiah 46:9-10 NKJV. God alone knows and declares the end from the beginning. He alone has the last word in your life and over your circumstances, past, present, and future. “According to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will.” Read Ephesians 1:3-12 NIV. What God says matters most.

Leave plenty of room in your life and circumstance for God to do as He will, and be as generous to allow the same for others. “From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh . . if anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation . .” Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 NKJV. You are not yet a finished project. Until God speaks, the last word has not been spoken about what you can be or do.

Others may remind you of your failure; God affirms you are forgiven. You may know what you can’t do; remember what God can do. Until you include God, people and things may not be as they could be. Likewise, others do not have the last word about you; God reserves that privilege for Himself. To be encouraged, look up every Scripture that includes, “But God . .” There are plenty.

David ran from King Saul’s evil intent for harm. “Saul sought David every day, but God did not deliver him into Saul’s hand.” 1 Samuel 23:14. David confessed his own weakness, “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart.” Psalm 73:26. Joseph’s brothers abandoned him; he was wrongly imprisoned on false accusations, “But God was with Him.” Acts 7:9. Listen to Joseph’s own testimony, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result.” Genesis 50:20.

In your lifetime, there may be a lot said to you, about you, or against you. But all that does not matter because your Father will have the last word. Easter is a timely reminder that nothing is hopeless, no circumstance final, nor distress unchangeable. “They took Jesus down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.” Acts 13:29. His disciples saw His cruel and public death, watched his lifeless body being buried and the tomb sealed and guarded.

Some disciples headed back home. Others returned to their former pursuits. Some felt too lost to do much of anything yet. Be wary of allowing a presumption to become your conclusion. “But God raised Him from the dead.” Acts 13:30. No one expected that. But God had the last word; how appropriate for the One who declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you not confuse presumptions with conclusions.

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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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