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Stress and Distress

October 31st, 2017

When Life is not easy God’s grace is sufficient

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“stress and distress.”

You and I live in a world of unceasing and increasing stress. Stress is harmful. Stress does a lot of things, none of which are helpful. Stress accelerates your heart rate, increases blood pressure, manufactures anxiety, creates mental and emotional exhaustion, steals peace of mind, and destroys health. Stress is from the emotions you feel when the pressure seems overpowering. Hurry and worry result.

The eventual consequence is distress. Naturally, everyone would prefer no problems. No worries. No uncertainties. But no troubles equal no growth and result in little or no faith. Written years earlier, these lyrics provide a faith perspective about problems, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” (Through It All, Andrae Crouch).

The Psalmist, David wrote, “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 NLT. God’s Word and truth is where you find wisdom. Don’t wish your problems away. Learn from them. Learning brings enlargement. The truth you learn by personal experience is truth that you will not soon forget. Life is better when you experience truth firsthand rather than trusting secondhand opinions from others.

Whenever David experienced distress, he also discovered something more about his God. God was there and His love did not wane, nor were His grace and power diminished. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as, “distress,” describes, “pressure or narrowness of room.” Trouble narrows your view, appearing to lessen your options and exaggerating your distress.

The Psalmist cried out to God, “When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, You gave me room; now I’m in trouble again. Grace me! Hear me!” Psalm 4:1 MSG. A more current expression would be this, “between a rock and a hard place.” Today, we call that stress. You won’t find rest and understanding until you turn to God. Why does it take us so long before we look to the only One who is all-knowing and always has sufficient grace and power?

Could there be times that God does not quickly deliver you from your distressing situation but allows circumstances to grow increasingly uncomfortable and confining until you will look to Him, and listen to Him, and embrace and obey His good will? “Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:1 NLT.

Even when in distressing times or circumstances, be confident. God can enlarge you in your distress. “God, You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress.” Psalm 4:1 AMP. His grace can give you needed relief, providing room to breathe and believe again. His power can push back the realities that press too tightly upon you, allowing you room to recover and regroup.

Life is not fair, but God is eternally loving and just. When life is not fair, God is righteous.  God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV. When life is not easy, God’s grace is sufficient. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to call on God in your distress and lean on Him in your weakness.

Christian Communications 2017-0707

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A Sacrificial Life

May 26th, 2017

Squandering life is wasteful. Sacrificing one’s life is noble

“If you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 CEV

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“A Sacrificial Life.”

This weekend our country will observe Memorial Day, remembering and honoring the men and women, and their families, who have served our nation and the lives sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. I live in a military city with multiple military bases and hospitals. A significant number of the families of our community are either veterans or active duty military. When I meet veterans or see the faces of young soldiers serving bravely in far-flung reaches of our troubled world, I am humbled by the courage of the men and women who pledge their lives for the safety and sake of others.

They do not regard life as expendable or to be cheaply sacrificed. In contrast, more than most, they clearly see the incalculable value of life and yet are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for others. Only the person who would willingly sacrifice their own life has truly realized how precious life really is. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 NIV.

A few months ago, I received treasured, family heirlooms from my cousin – faded news clippings and the Purple Heart my uncle received while serving with the United States Marine Corps in WW II. Like so many young men, my Uncle Ralph was wounded in battle in the Mariana Islands, and after months of recovery was then a casualty in the assault of an enemy island, and was ultimately listed as, “missing in action.” He was my Dad’s older brother. For his sacrifice, he was revered in the Randolph family and his loss impacted my Dad, grandparents, and my uncle and aunt for their lifetimes. I only knew him through his picture as a Marine, displayed in a place of honor in my grandparents’ home.

If men and women will sacrifice their lives for freedom, love of country, and the safety of their families, should we who are called by His Name and redeemed by His sacrifice not give our lives in His service and the advance of His Kingdom? Squandering life is wasteful. Sacrificing life for God and others is noble. “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV.

Jesus’ call to discipleship remains the same today, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:23-25 NIV. Those last words pose a haunting question for every soul. The reward of your sacrifice in His Name by far exceeds the cost. Jesus was clear and His promise certain, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29-30 NIV.

Jesus issued a monumental challenge that still resonates within hearts where He dwells. Sacrifice means living for something, and Someone, greater than yourself. In Christ’ name, we are all asked to lay down our lives in service to others. This weekend, as you recall the price others paid for your freedom, remember the price the Savior paid for your salvation.

Today, I pray for you to value your life as a gift to be given back to God and others.

Christian Communications 2017

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Sacrifice

April 28th, 2017

Squandering life is a terrible waste,

while sacrificing one’s life is a noble gift

“I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as

living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God;

this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “sacrifice.”

Life is a precious, priceless gift. Never regard life as expendable, insignificant, or to be cheaply given. Yet Jesus issued a crucial call to discipleship. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 NIV. In 1956, Jim Elliot, a 28-year-old missionary pilot, was one of five missionaries martyred by Huaorani Indians in Ecuador. In his personal journal, he had written, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” How very true!

Jesus issued a monumental challenge that still resonates within the heart that He created, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” Luke 9:24 NIV. Jesus does not depreciate your life as unimportant or without supreme value. But what did Jesus mean when He required that you, “lose your life”? Would it mean to trade a few years here for an eternity with God? Could it mean to live for something and Someone much greater than yourself? Yes, that must be it, sacrificing something you treasure for something that you would treasure even more, as well as forever.

Jesus told the story about a merchant trading in pearls. Fine pearls were admired by him, acquired by him, and prized by him until the day he saw a pearl unlike any other, more magnificent than any he ever hoped to own. In all his life and journeys, nothing could compare.  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46 NIV. Its price to some would have seemed extreme, but not to him. Everything he possessed and valued was an inconsequential sacrifice for the priceless thing he would receive in exchange. Jesus Himself and His Eternal Kingdom are that “Pearl of great price.”

Jesus was unapologetic when He said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29-30 NIV. Squandering your life is a terrible waste, while sacrificing your life for God is a noble gift. Heed Jesus’ warning, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:24-25 NIV. The Great Exchange is when you joyfully surrender what was formerly most precious to you to receive what you never imagined could be yours.

Today, I pray for you to surrender your life as a worthy gift given back to God.

Christian Communications 2017

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Distress

October 13th, 2011

“You . . enlarged me when I was in distress. Psalm 4:1 NIV

“Life is not fair, but God is righteous. Life is not easy, but His grace is sufficient.”

My thoughts today are about “distress.”

“Life is not fair!” I have heard it said to me many times in counseling. No one promised you that life would be. And when life is not fair; when things do not go as you planned or occur as you hoped, life will not be easy either. Everyone would prefer ease and comfort: no problems, no worries, no troubles. But then there would be: no growth, no faith! Distress has an upside; you learn the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Andrae Crouch wrote these lyrics, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” Learning brings enlargement. That kind of learning is not from what others tell you; enlargement is personal, from your own experience with God.

Sometimes your distress is because of choices you, or someone else, has made that turn matters in directions God would not have chosen for you. Sometimes stuff happens and distress is because of the fallen nature of the world around you. Things that happen  are not always as God designed or desires them.

The real question in your heart at those times may be, “Where is God?” What can He do, or will He do? The Psalms speak frequently and honestly of the distresses common to us all. Every time David experienced distress he also discovered God; He was there and His love, grace, power, and purpose were not diminished in the least.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “distress” describes “pressure/narrowness of room.” Today, we call that stress, when something is squeezing you in ways that are very uncomfortable. Distress is what you feel when the pressure seems too much to bear, when life’s situations seem limiting, until you turn to God. Why does it take us so long before we look to the only One who always has sufficient grace and power?

Could there even be times that God does not quickly deliver you from your distressing situation but allows circumstances to grow increasingly uncomfortable and confining until you will look to Him and listen to Him, and embrace and obey His good will? “Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:1 NLT. The Psalmist cried out to God, When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, You gave me room; now I’m in trouble again. Grace me! Hear me!” Psalm 4:1 The Message.

Be confident even when in distressing times or circumstances. God can enlarge you in your distress – your vision, your faith, your understanding, your peace. His grace can give you needed relief, giving room to breathe, and believe again. His power can push back the realities that press too tightly upon you, giving room to recover and regroup. David found the door into such enlargement was, “When I call . . “ Often you are waiting for God, when God has been waiting for you to call out to Him! That same door into enlargement is waiting for you and it offers, “Welcome!”

Life is not fair, but God is righteous and just. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25. Life is not easy, but His grace is sufficient. “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:8.

My prayer for you today is that you will call out to the Lord in your distress.

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Compelling Direction

July 6th, 2011

“I am compelled by God . . how terrible for me if I didn’t!” 1 Corinthians 9:16 NLT

“Ministry is what you do at God’s direction, in His name, by His power, and for His glory.”

My thoughts today are about “compelling direction.”

Life without a compelling direction is far less than God meant your life to be. I read a business quote that advised, “Find a job that you love and enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” In that sense, work would be described as what you have to do to earn a paycheck and pay your bills, in contrast to what you would prefer doing and someone is willing to pay you for doing so.

When I was fifteen, I knew that God was calling me to professional ministry. However, I had other plans. My plan was a desire to be an architect, and in my senior year of High School, I applied and was accepted to Washington University, College of Architecture, St. Louis, Missouri, to begin studies that fall. That summer I experienced a sovereign direction from God.

Into my heart, God put His compelling desire and my corresponding delight. The experience was compelling but was neither coercive nor audible – just a quiet but sure sense in my heart of God’s invitation to embrace His highest and best for my life. Just a short six weeks later, I was a Pastoral Theology major at Bethany Bible College in Scotts Valley, California, and have not looked back. Our marriage, family, and life-long ministry are the fruit of that simple choice to obey God.

Paul wrote this declaration to the Corinthian church, “I am compelled by God to do it (preach the Good News). How terrible for me if I didn’t do it . . God has chosen me and given me this sacred trust, and I have no choice.” 1 Corinthians 9:16-17 NLT. I think Paul was testifying that what another might consider mere work; he considered his act of worship. “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV. When you give yourself to God as worship, everything you do becomes your “spiritual act of worship.”

For Paul, God’s call was to teach and preach, but I see a broader principle that can apply to every person whatever your task or talent. Do you have a compelling direction from God for your life? When you have that, everything you do in service and obedience to God – any career or profession – becomes your worship, and is holy to the Lord. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ . . Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:23-24/4:17 NKJV.

Ministry is not a particular occupation, nor is it limited to religious activity alone. Ministry is anything and everything you do at God’s direction, in His name, by His power, and for His glory. For the Christ-follower there should be no distinction between things sacred and secular. All you do in faith and obedience to God’s compelling direction is sacred when it is offered in devoted service to God and man. Your work is your worship.

In a few months, I will conclude almost five decades of pastoral ministry, and begin a further chapter of His compelling direction for my life. I have never regretted the decision I made fifty years ago. In fact, I would not want a different life no matter what its path or rewards may have been.

My prayer for you today is that you invest your life in eternity, not spend it in mere time.

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