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Rules and Standards

April 12th, 2018

God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

 “[God’s] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace

for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “rules and standards.”

Life is better with rules. Rules are essential, establishing boundaries and measuring achievement. Yet, very few of us appreciate rules in the way we should. People seem to bristle when too many rules seem restrictive and imposed. We all tend to resist when we feel less free to do as we want to do. Consider this. Without rules, athletic competition would be havoc. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong, rewards and penalties.

I can’t imagine a world without rules. With no rules of the road, driving would be dangerous. In daily interactions, the bold would overpower the timid. The strong would take advantage of the weak. The wealthy would neglect the poor. For a clear reason, the Ten Commandments were not called the, “Ten Recommendations.” Nor were they meant to be. Out of His love for you, not His love for law, God commanded those rules to live by.

Marriages are best with mutually understood rules. Families need clearly stated rules. Friendships succeed with mutually accepted rules. Employers and employees require agreement on rules. Individuals need to establish standards by which they are willing to be evaluated. I am grateful that my Dad believed in rules. Admittedly, I didn’t appreciate those as much while a teen. But Dad’s rules were always clear and fair – and enforced or rewarded. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Rules establish safe boundaries for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you, except for your guidance and protection. Rules can protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of standards rather than rules. I see three occasions for rules and standards.

You need people in your life who help you learn and establish Godly standards. That is the value of parents, teachers, friends, civil and governmental authorities, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit. They establish rules that benefit all. The Bible reminds us that, “The authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Read Romans 13.3-6 NIV. Respect rules, embrace appropriate boundaries, and appreciate their practical need for making your life better, measuring your achievements, rewarding your efforts, and keeping you safer.

The rule of law protects the lawful and restrains the lawless. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 NKJV. In your life, whose opinion and counsel offer you trusted guidance, Godly wisdom, and a spiritual haven in uncertain times?

True liberty is not without restraints, and never without limits. I had a fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who taught our class a simple principle about boundaries and liberties, “Your liberty to swing your fist without restraint ends at the tip of another’s nose.” What a great rule for fourth graders, as well as kids, teens, and adults of all ages. Friends and family help set standards of behavior for one another. Often it is more kind than cruel to say no. Choose wisely the bounds you will honor, and associate with friends who respect them, and thereby respect you.

At all times, you must require and embrace boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before any situation needing rules presented itself. The right decision is never too late, but it’s best when made early. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying.” I Corinthians 10:23 NAS. Choose what is profitable, in order to edify others and glorify God. God’s Word marks the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and where you and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me a very practical and valuable lesson about establishing non-negotiable, personal boundaries, for success in pastoral ministry. My Dad’s advice was invaluable, “Many who look to you for leadership will likely exceed the liberties you permit yourself; so be wise and measured in all you allow yourself to say and do. And others who follow you may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, always seeking to excel.”

There will always be others observing and following you. Jesus was clear, “I have set before you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. You are always safe when following Jesus’ example. Paul was clear as well with his instruction to young Timothy. ”Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV. Be sure that the rules you expect others to observe are a priority in your own life and relational interactions.

Even when you do not think so, someone is always following you, Many years ago, a man made this observation of me, “Pastor, you are not hard to follow because you do not make sudden turns.” I am not sure whether he meant that as a compliment, but I accepted it as one. I want to be easy to follow for my family and for those who trust my leadership. My objective is simple. I want my family and friends to know what my values are, where I am going, Who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

“God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, [His] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV. I like that. In your life, His rules produce a, “harvest of righteousness and peace,” for those who accept and follow the Father’s instruction and disciplines. Anything that God requires of you is for your benefit, not His. Embracing God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

Today I pray for you to establish Godly standards. His rules are given to protect, not confine you.

Christian Communications 2018

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Priceless

March 21st, 2018

Many things are prized; Christ alone is priceless.

 “Everything is worthless when compared with knowing Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:8 NLT

My thoughts today are about things that are, “priceless.”

Priceless things do not always come with a price tag. Yesterday, I received a few digital copies of old family photographs. The originals from which they were copied were tattered by time, but immeasurably valuable to me. They were glimpses of our family history and heritage, my paternal grandparents, including my sister and I with our New York cousins. And a photo of my uncle Ralph, a proud marine who never returned from WW2. Another was of my parents as a young couple, apparently taken before I was born.  And one of my sister on her first birthday. Those pictures would be noteworthy to no one other than our family and myself. But to me, they are priceless.

Everyone has some things that hold special meaning tucked away safely or secretly somewhere. Such objects are rarely viewed as costly or valuable to anyone else. But to that one to whom they belong they are prized possessions. Usually, our valuable things are tucked securely in safe deposit boxes or may be paraded proudly and publicly before friends and neighbors as signs of our success, such as houses, cars, jewelry, college degrees, awards of recognition, expensive recreational toys, and things like that. None of those are bad on their own; none of them good enough on their own.

The Apostle Paul listed many proud achievements about which he could brag and boast. “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Read Philippians  3:7-8 NLT.

Paul successfully checked off all the required boxes of religious, social, and political success. Those prized accomplishments identified who he was, how well he had done, and how important he was. But when he added it all up, he saw the inadequacy and emptiness of all that. “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” 2 Corinthians 10:18 NIV.

“Breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” Saul asked for and received letters of authority from the High Priest to imprison those troublesome followers of the recently crucified Jesus. Read Acts 9:1-5 NIV. While enroute to Damascus, Saul dramatically encountered the Risen Christ and viewed everything that he once counted as his life’s net worth, as worthless. Many things are prized; Christ alone is priceless. After his traumatic encounter with Christ, Paul’s singular, surpassing purpose became his passion to know Jesus personally and intimately.

Paul wrote, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-10 NLT/NKJV. While in college, “That I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection,” became my life-verse; it still remains so today.

What prized possessions do you hold in a tight grip, or those that hold you in an even tighter grip? There are things that money cannot buy. Can anything at all actually compare with the true wealth of knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord? “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV. Christ alone is priceless.

Today I pray for you to allow nothing and no one to become as important to you as Jesus.

 

Christian Communications 2018-4610

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Purity Produces Clarity

November 16th, 2017

Walk uprightly with conviction and clarity.

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

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“Purity Produces Clarity.”

I am assuming you have read my most recent comments on, “Clarity or Ambiguity.” If not, take a few minutes to do so at: allenrandolph.com. I would like to continue a bit on this important theme – the necessity of purity as the basis for moral and spiritual clarity. In a confused, uncertain, and less than clear world, clarity is a rare but valuable commodity. Too many people live in a relational, moral, and spiritual fog. Not much seems clear about matters that are vital.

Our culture, media, and popular opinions offer mixed assumptions and confusing answers, of which Jesus warned, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” Read Luke 6:39-42 NKJV. The answer is obvious; the results are debilitating. Without purity life is confusing. Too many people are sorely burdened by their past and woefully uninformed and unprepared for eternity. Too many marriages and families struggle without enduring truth as their foundation. As a result, far too many marriages stumble forward with increasing dismay and the resulting disarray.

Making sense of daily life and finding purpose and meaning require God’s truth, not man’s opinions. God’s Word provides the answers you lack and the wisdom you need. Jesus taught eight simple, practical principles for a life that God promises to bless. Among those, Jesus affirmed that, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 NIV. Do you see the connection? Purity is necessary for spiritual clarity.

I am inspired by the clarity of Daniel’s conviction. In a hostile culture and with every pressure to conform,“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 NKJV. As Daniel did, set the Word of God as foremost in your heart and daily practice. Walk uprightly with conviction and clarity. Jesus directly connected the purity of your heart with your ability to recognize truth and comprehend God.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV. The principle applies broadly. The more your heart is cleansed by God’s Word, the clearer your understanding and the more consistent your obedience. The Psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul . . The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Read Psalm 19:7-10 NKJV.

Jesus often used stories, examples, or analogies to present a practical truth. On one such occasion, He asked, “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? . . First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Read Matthew 7:3-5 NIV. Clarity about Who God is, what His Word says, and who you are in Christ are essential and invaluable. But from where does such clarity come?

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 NIV.  Writing to Timothy, his young protégé, Paul summarized God’s calling and expectation, “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV. That’s a big order, but not too big for the Holy Spirit to reproduce in you. Read Galatians 5:22-23 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to be sure about the things that need to be clear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2017

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Patience and Perseverance

July 14th, 2017

 Perseverance promises blessings but includes trials and trouble.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, Patience and Perseverance.”

Worthy goals and great dreams come true when you determine to do more than endure; choose to thrive! Good things come to those who continue steadfast and faithful. Success comes to those who prevail over obstacles and challenges. When things get tougher than planned and they will, or take longer than hoped and they do, or cost more effort and sacrifice than anticipated and it does, plenty of reasons to give up and quit will be found. Many people won’t persevere, and then they wonder why life doesn’t work as they hoped.

Though the words are used somewhat interchangeably, there is a practical distinction between patience and perseverance. Patience deals with delays. Perseverance deals with problems. Few enjoy waiting through unwanted delays and unexpected difficulties. I have heard it said, “Good comes to those who wait.” I would add this qualifier – if you stay busy, hopeful, and faithful meanwhile. Consider God’s testimony of faithful Job in his travail and triumph. “Even in all this suffering, Job said nothing against God.” Job 2:10 TEV. Patience has to be exercised in the middle of a mess. No whining. No blame. No regret.

It is always too soon to quit. Being patient is difficult enough, but perseverance introduces the added elements of trials and trouble. From experience, Paul wrote, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us. They help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.” Read Romans 5:3-5 NLT. Both patience and perseverance require the added discomfort of enduring some troubling circumstance during an inconvenient time. In such times, don’t lose sight of your goal, nor lose faith in your God.

The Bible tells inspiring stories of people who exemplify today’s verse. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 NIV. Abraham persevered, waiting for God’s promise of a son. See Romans 4:18-25 NIV. Daniel persevered righteously while captive in Godless Babylon. See Daniel 6:25-28 NIV. Paul persevered for years while imprisoned for his faith. See 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV. Paul’s example underscored his counsel, “Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:11-12 NIV. Perseverance promises blessings but includes trials and trouble. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 NIV.

Jesus sacred life and ultimate sacrifice is our supreme example. “Never quit . . keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 MSG. Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NLT.

If Jesus could, and would, persevere for you, won’t you do that for Him? His promise is that you will be blessed, when you patiently persevere. “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person receives the prize. You must also run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to value eternal blessings above earthly difficulties.

Christian Communications 2017-0937

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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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