Reflections – October 31, 2009

Today’s Readings: Psalm 91; 1st Kings 22:41-53; Zechariah 4; James 4:1-10

Today’s first reading is a beautiful expression of confidence in God as our shelter, our refuge, our fortress, our shield and buckler (“a small rounded shield usually worn on the arm” -ISBE). The ESV study bible says of this psalm, “The psalm closes out by laying out what the ideal of trust looks like … and repeating God’s pledge to care for his faithful ones….”

As you read this psalm replace the third party pronouns with first person one and take the message to heart! God says to me, as I begin this day, “Randy, because you hold fast to me in love, I will deliver you; I will protect you, because you know my name. When you call me, I will answer you; I will be with you in trouble; I will rescue you and honor you. With long life I will satisfy you and show you my salvation.”

Our second reading tells of the last day’s of the reign of Jehoshaphat. History records him as a king who did right in the sight of God, following in the steps of his father Asa. One of the positives of his reign was that he removed the remnant of the male cult prostitutes. But history also records that he did not remove “the high places.” This is a term that in scripture refers to something that was substituted in place of the altar to make sacrifices. As I reflect, upon this passage it reminds me that, even when I do what is right, I sometimes fall short of giving my BEST. Help me Lord to always give you the best that I have!

Our third reading describes the fifth vision of Zechariah; the lampstand and two olive trees. The message to Zerubbabel and Joshua, who are given the task of rebuilding the temple, is that it will be accomplished by the power of God. How often this same message is repeated over and over again to different individuals in various circumstances throughout scripture! I have read and studied those examples and yet I still fall into the trap of thinking that a successful career, or a good academic record or a happy family life, depend upon my skills and my wisdom. Lord, help me to remember that you are the source of it all. Awesome is your name and mighty is your power to save me from all my troubles!

Our final reading reminds me that I cannot be both a friend of the world and a friend of God. I must make the choice. That choice requires me to be humble, to cleanse my hands and to purify my heart. I must resist the devil so that he will flee from me. James also remind me that even with the purified heart I must watch continually for passions that war within me. Constant attention to prayer and bible study is the answer to winning that battle.

Thanks for reading with me friends. May your walk with Him make your days brighter, your nights restful and your future secure! If you have comments about these reflections, feel free to leave them below or e-mail them to me personally at randy.sexton@achristiansvoice.com. — Randy Sexton

A Christian’s Voice From Raymore – October 31, 2009

Are You a Go-Giver?

Recently I was reading the account of Elijah’s interaction with the widow at Zarephath from 1st Kings chapter 17. As I read, it impressed me how Elijah was able to bring hope to a despondent woman who was ready to give up and die. It caused me to reflect upon being that same type of influence in the lives of others.

God commissioned Elijah to be fed by this woman as he prepares to powerfully defeat the prophets of Baal and to glorify God as the source of that power (see chapter 18). Elijah was able to turn that encounter into an opportunity to teach about God’s grace and to give her hope.

Elijah has asked the woman for a morsel of bread. Read with me her response from verse 12, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

She had given up hope. She was ready to lay down and die. Psychologists tell us that self-preservation is one of the strongest drives a person has, that we will do almost anything to achieve it and yet, this woman was ready to die and let her son die. Surprisingly however, when her son becomes ill and dies, she lashes out at Elijah and blames him.

Elijah’s response is “Do not fear.” He then put action behind his words and exercised the power of God to stretch those meager food supplies to feed her household many days and to bring life back into the child to revive him. The widow, who was ready to die, now expresses hope for the future, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in you mouth is truth.

Have you ever encountered a similar situation but failed to give hope?

In the foreward to DavidH. McKinley’s book The Life You Were Born To Give, Zig Ziglar said this, “Go-getters continually strive to achieve more and to accumulate more, but they are often not content with their lives, no matter how much ‘stuff’ they have…. The most joyful people were the volunteers who encourage, teach, love and train the residents to take what God has given them and use it for His glory.”

Thanks for reading with me. Please be a positive influence in someone’s life today!

–Randy Sexton

Reflections – October 30, 2009

Today’s Readings: Psalm 90; 1st Kings 22:1-40; Zechariah 3; James 3:13-18

Today’s first reading contains some memorable thoughts, ascribed to Moses, about God’s eternal nature and man’s fleeting years. As I begin my day, I pray, O Lord, teach me to number my days that I may have a heart of wisdom. May I be satisfied with your love, that I will rejoice and be glad all my days. Help me to seize the opportunities to influence others to seek you.

The second reading opens by describing the brief period of peace between Syria and Israel but then describes the desires of Jehoshaphat to fight against them for the return of Ramoth-gilead. We are also introduced to the prophet Micaiah and their love/hate relationship. This passage has always been a little difficult for me to understand; keeping track of who said what, who is a true prophet of God, who is a “lying prophet,” and what the message is for me today. Feel free to comment below to help my understanding of this historical record (Old Testament history is not one of my strengths.) One thing that has impressed me over the years, as I have studied the prophets, is how devastating it is when their is a failure of leadership. When those who are to be the spiritual leaders, the deliverers of the message of God, fail to lead, it is a great offense to God. I am reminded of Jesus’ words condemning the “scribes/lawyers” (experts in the law) of his day for “taking away the key of knowledge) (Luke 11: 52). As the ESV study bible says, “their distorted interpretations keep others from truly knowing God.” May I never be guilty of such hurtful actions and attitudes!

The third reading today focuses on the fourth vision of Zechariah in which he sees Joshua, the high priest, re-clothed. What a message of hope it must have been to hear these words of hope and restoration from the Lord. “Right of access” is something I value and the biographer John tells me that Jesus came to bring “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). I am so grateful that I had godly parents that introduced me to Him and showed me that access.

The last reading causes me to ask myself, “What type of wisdom am I seeking?” I should be seeking that wisdom that is from God and is characterized by good conduct. The other attributes of that wisdom is described in this passage. My daddy was a very wise man and he taught me much by his life of service. He was a self-taught man, who said quite often, “I hope to learn something everyday that I am alive.” But his true focus was on the things of God. I am a witness to the fact that he never let a day pass that he did not reflect upon how he observed God’s power and God’s wisdom being worked out inHis creation and in the lives of His people.

Continue your daily bible reading and have a blessed day, my friend! — Randy Sexton

Reflections – October 29, 2009

Today’s Readings: Psalm 89; 1st Kings 21; Zechariah 1:18-2:13; James 3:1-12

Today’s first reading celebrates the Davidic kingship and contrasts the promises of God to what this psalm’s author feels is His current treatment of David. As I reflect on what my life has become compared to what God has promised, I find that I am prone to complain that he is not living up to His promises. But as I pray about it, I hear God saying, “I was with you through those trials! The reason you only saw one set of footprints? I was carrying you through!”

In today’s second reading we find the account of Naboth’s misfortunes, at the hands of the evil Ahab and Jezebel, regarding his vineyard in Jezreel. As I read I reflect on how Naboth must have felt. It is only natural for a man to want to protect the inheritance of his fathers and yet Jezebel took it from him in an abuse of power. Religious freedom is part of the inheritance of my fathers that I protect for my sons. Should I be called upon to protect it to the death, may the Lord ever help me to stand firm to do so!

Zechariah’s vision of the man with a measuring line reminds me today that I am among the people of God who are the apple of His eye and that he will take retribution on those who abuse them and blaspheme His holy name.

James reminds me today of my obligation to mind what I say. How very tough it is to control our tongues! In fact James says it is impossible for us to “tame” it. How did I use my tongue yesterday and how will I use it tomorrow? Will I use it to build up, to encourage, or will I use it to tear down and riducule? Lord help me be a wise master of the tongue that you have put in my head! May my heart communicate to my brain, and my brain engage, before my tongue sends forth words that can never be recovered!

–Randy Sexton

Reflections – October 28, 2009

Today’s Readings: Psalm 88; 1st Kings 20; Zechariah 1:1-17; James 2:12-26

The first of today’s readings is a type of psalm known as a lament. I can empathize because there are times that I feel like crying out to God day and night, when I feel overwhelmed with troubles, and when I feel the subject of God’s wrath. God is ok with me expressing these emotions to him, petitioning him for relief and for a ray of sunshine in my life.

The second reading continues the history of Ahab’s wars with Syria and how he defeats Ben-hadad and all his army. Ahab was one of Israel’s evil kings. In fact he “did more than all who were before him” (1st Kings 16:30). In spite of this fact, God demonstrates the superiority of his divine battle plan, that defies human wisdom. God is the God of the hills and of the plain, contrary to what the over-confident king of Syria believed about Him! It does not matter where my battle is, God is there! If my battle is in the valley of pornography, God is there! If my battle is on the hill of materialism, God is there! Thank you, O God, and create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10)!

The third reading begins the words of another prophet who spoke during the reign of Darius, King of Persia. Continuing the work that Haggai began two months earlier in exhorting the people as they began to rebuild the temple, Zechariah begins to tell them of his vision and God’s plan to use natural powers to carry out his divine plan of restoration. As I reflect on how God dealt through the prophets of old and of how his message was delivered, I marvel at the completeness of the picture I have of God’s plan fillfilled through Jesus. Though at times I wish he would speak more directly with me, I am satisfied that my God knows what is best for me. I will spend time with him today in His word and in prayer and allow him to speak to my heart.

The fourth reading continues James thoughts about one doing more than just believing the word but being a “doer of the word.” My faith must move me to action. Help me today, O Lord, to reach out to provide food to those “lacking in daily food,” to provide comfort to the downcast (2nd Corinthians 7:6) and to strengthen the weak hands and feeble knees of your servants (Isaiah 35:3; Hebrews 12:12)!

Have a blessed day dear friend.–Randy Sexon

Reflections – October 27, 2009

Today’s Readings: Psalm 87; 1st Kings 19; Haggai 2; and James 2:1-13

I am sad this morning because I have lost a dear friend. I am reassured however, as I relfect upon the hope that he has as a child of God. The 87th Psalm reminds me, “…the Lord loves the gates of Zion … Glorious things of you are spoken, o city of God.” As the song (“Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” words by John Newton, 1779) that is based upon this psalm reminds me, “See, the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love, well supply thy sons and daughters, and all fear of want remove. Who can faint while such a river ever flows their thirst t’assuage(to satisfy)? Grace, which like the Lord the Giver, never fails from age to age.” I look with hope to the day that I stand in that city of God with my dear broher Larry Vaughn!

The second reading, of Elijah’s fleeing and cowering in fear from Jezebel’s threat after so valiantly standing against the false prophets of Baal, reminds me how difficult it can be to continually stand firm in the faith without wavering. I can certainly expect to encounter priods when it will be more difficult than at other times. But the key is to continue to listen to the voice of God and to respond appropriately when he asks, “What are you doing here, Randy?”

Haggai has a probing question for me to consider, “Is the seed still in the barn?” His obvious conclusion was that in his day the vine, fig tree, pomegranate and olive tree yielded nothing, because of where the seed was. The seed was still in the barn. By his previous analogy, God had explained that mere ritual and service will not please Him. Their hearts had to be right before he will bless them. Now that they understand this principle he promises, “…from this day on I will bless you.” As I start my day today, where is my seed?

And finally, James reminds me how easy it is to fall into sin by judging others by their outward appearance. I have been guilty of this and need to pray for help see others through God’s eyes . God’s expectation is that I will love everyone (even my enemies) and share withthem what I have. The most important thing that I can share with everyone is the message of the hope of the gospel and to share it with a spirit of meekness. Have a blessed day dear friend.–Randy Sexon

A Christian’s Voice From Raymore – October 24, 2009

Fireproofing Your Relationships

My wife Linda and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to attend, last weekend in the Lake of the Ozarks, an uplifting marriage retreat with forty-three other couples. Mark Broyles, who preaches for the Nashua church of Christ in Kansas City, masterfully lead us through several classes focused on our marriages. Built around the themes from the movie Fireproof. we were encouraged to never leave our partner behind.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of these weekends, I highly commend it to you. I know that you will come away having been built up in the faith and drawn closer to your God and to your spouse! Mark and wife Judy have been conducting similar weekends since 2000. Linda and I have attended three of those. They now conduct these workshops under the banner of non-profit corporation, InLight, Inc. Through InLight, they have undertaken the ministry of preserving and strengthening traditional marriage as it continues to face attack from our culture and media. Their goal is to conduct two of these seminars per year in different regions of the country. Upcoming scheduled events are: Chattanooga, TN on March 12th-14th, 2010 and Howie-In-The-Hills, Florida on July 30th – August 10th, 2010. Please support this worthwhile ministry through financial support of their work and/or attendance at their marriage retreats. For more information, visit their website at www.inlightwalk.com.

If you have not seen the movie Fireproof, I would recommend it for the important message that it delivers about the importance of relationships in our lives. Though the film focuses on the marriage relationship, the principles apply to all of our relationships. May we get personal now, dear reader? Let’s consider a few of these.

Are you fireproofing your relationship with your God?

There are “forces” at work to attack your relationship with your Creator. Led by him who is identified in scripture as “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), these forces (Ephesians 6:12) seek to undermine the influence that God has in your life. He will use anything in his power to draw you away. He utilizes the same avenues of presentation to you that he used with Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride in posessions.” (1st John 2:16)

He uses those things that are impure within and of themselves to drain your energy, waste your time and divert your attention. Dabbling in internet pornography, gambling, “carousing,” (NKJ) and “revelings” (NASB, ESV) (2nd Peter 2:13), and a host of other things fall into this category. But when those things fail to bring you down, Satan uses activities that are pure and upright in themselves, and based in motivation to serve God, to cause you to place more emphasis on these than you should, to the neglect of service to Him. Working to support your family, pursuit of sports for yourself and your kids, vacation travel and other things can all fall into this category.

Are you fireproofing your child-parent relationship?

If you are not careful your family relationships may go up in fire as well. Fathers have you taken seriously your role as spiritual leader of your family? Have you paid as much attention to the spiritual development of your children as you have to their physical and academic development?

The “Promise Keepers” message to the men of America, who have abdicated this role, is right on! Though I would not agree with all of their methods, I wholeheartedly agree with this message, that we as men must rise up to our challenge to protect our kids from Satan and his devices and to lead them, as positive spiritual role models, to Heaven.

Young people, do you value and appreciate the sacrifices that your parents make to bring you up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”? Do you understand that they often agonize with concern for your welfare? Do you express to them your love and allow them to express their love to you?

As a side-note, you can demonstrate that you have a servant’s heart, as a young Christian, to be a help to your friends who do not have such parents. You probably have friends who have very dysfunctional families, who come from broken homes, and who may have been abused by one parent or the other. You show great love for your friends by sharing your godly parents with them.

Are you fireproofing your relationships with your spiritual family?

You neglect a powerful resource for living the purpose-driven life, when you do not cherish and tap into your relationship with your spiritual family. Local church membership was designed by God to provide the support structure that Christians need to grow and develop as they should. The Apostle Paul talks much about this in his epistles. Ephesians 4:11-16 talks about the role of evangelists and teachers and others in the spiritual family in equipping us to withstand the schemes of false teachers. 1st Corinthians 3:1-3 and Hebrews 5:11-6:6 describe the growth process that should characterize all Christians.

Why do some Christians never progress beyond spiritual infancy? There are a number of factors and many of those relate directly to their relationships in the spiritual family. Failing to assemble with Christians at every opportunity that you have is a subtle way of beginning this downward spiral. But continued assembly in only a public way does not “make the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” to which Paul refers in 1st Corinthians 4:16. We must get to know each other if we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and if we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Beloved, none of these relationships will be what they should be unless they are “cultivated” with great concern, effort and love on our part. Brother Broyles encouraged us to fireproof our marriages. He urged the husbands to not allow the “parasites” of sexual temptation, overcommitment and overconfidence to consume our marriages. Sisters Judy Broyles and Sherri Clegg urged the wives to not allow the parasites of nagging, interfering relationships and lack of sexual fulfillment to consume our marriages. Both husband and wives were encouraged to complement, commit, and show clemency to fireproof our marriages. Just like the relationship between husband and wife, that between brothers and sisters in Christ requires constant attention. We must fireproof our relationships if they are to survive.

My dad would always remind his readers, through the words that he wrote, that he was attempting to be an influence, using his “voice” as a Christian, in a secular culture. This recurring message appeared in the masthead of his electronic bulletin, A Christian’s Voice from Van Buren, “ Man uses his voice and pen to convey thoughts. Paul mentions using words that by his voice he might ‘teach others’ (1 Cor. 14:19). John says, ‘And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ (Rev. 22:17). My aim is to challenge, inform, and invite – us all to Listen to the VOICE of God. Editor: Bill Sexton.” I agree whole-heartedly with that aim! Thanks for reading with me dear friends. Please resolve to today be a positive influence in the life of others.

–Randy Sexton

A Christian’s Voice From Raymore – October 16, 2009

Does Your Heart Burn Within You?

Recently, as I was doing my daily bible reading, I reflected upon the account in Luke 24 of Jesus walking on the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples. After these disciples finally recognized that it was Jesus that they had been talking to and he “vanished” from their presence, they made an observation to one another. Verse 32 contains the words they spoke, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

As I reflected on that verse, I engaged in a little self-analysis. I asked myself, “How long has it been since my heart has burned within me as I have contemplated Jesus and my service in His kingdom? Consider with me, dear reader:

Does your heart burn within you when you open the Scriptures?

There are many sources of information in our world today. With the immediacy and breadth of the internet, you can “google” anything, it seems, and receive back tons of information in a matter of seconds. Some of this information is reliable and some is not. If one is not careful, he can allow the internet’s abundance of data to stymie him and hinder productive investigation and growth.

The Scriptures provide for us “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3). They do not contain all that Jesus did or said (John 20:30-31; 21:25) or all of the acts of all of the apostles or even all of the issues of all of the churches. In the Scriptures however we have the account of man’s fall and man restored. From Genesis to Revelation we have the greatest story ever told. We have many treasures to uncover that bring us to know our wonderful God, the tremendous love he has for his people and how “longsuffering” and patient he is when we turn our backs on him. We read of the wonderful place that he has prepared for us to inhabit once this life is over. Truly our hearts should burn within us as we read. Our hearts should burn within us as we set our daily agendas to prioritize the reading of those uplifting, growth-encouraging, faith-building words of Scripture.

Does your heart burn within you when you contemplate opportunities to serve?

God has given us a heart to serve (Matthew 20:26-28; 24:36-40) . There are those around us who are hurting. There are those around us who are looking for direction and guidance in their lives. There are cultural factors that create stress that have an impact on the happiness and well-being of people. If you are a young person who was raised in a two-parent home, where God’s word and His model for the family is respected and followed, you know that you have friends who do not have those benefits.

Does your heart burn within you as you look upon the lost condition of those who do not place their faith and confidence in Jesus? Do you weep like Jeremiah did over the sin of his people (Jeremiah 8:18-9:3; 13:15-17)? Do you empathize with Ezekiel in his concern for that his people were profaning the holiness of God among the nations around them (read such passages as Ezekiel 36:22-38).

I encourage you to seek out these opportunities to be a listener, a friend, a counselor, and an encourager. You will receive blessings for “giving” in this way. You will feel a sense of satisfaction and you will be a source for “spreading the “fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.“ “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Does your heart burn within you when you anticipate the greatest of all family reunions?

Have you gone to family reunions where you felt like a stranger? A couple of factors may have caused you to feel this way: you had not associated with these people regularly and you did not have a lot in common with them, other than the family tie. And so it may be that as the time of the family reunion approaches, you dread the prospects of attending.

Contrast this bond with physical family to the bond with your spiritual family. Jesus expressed it this way, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50).

As you anticipate that greatest of all reunions in heaven, does your heart burn within you. Death may have separated you from loved ones but you can take joy in the fact that you will see them again in that wonderful family reunion in heaven. I am comforted by the words of the song I AM a Poor Wayfaring Stranger, “…I am going there to see my Father, I’m going there no more to roam …” I lost my dad to bladder cancer in 2006 but I can rejoice in the fact that he has gone “there” and I will be reunited with him, (my small “f” father) and with God (my capital “F” Father).

I encourage you to read often the descriptions of heaven in the Scriptures and allow it to move you and motivate you to greater services. Allow your heart to burn within you as you identify those in need of encouragement and reach out to them. Allow your heart to burn within you as you consider how “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15) and all the wonderful depth of meaning in the statement.

Thanks for reading with me and please resolve to be a positive influence in another’s life today.

— Randy Sexton


A Christian’s Voice From Raymore – October 7, 2009

He Restores My Soul

One of the things that the Psalmist reminds me about my relationship with God is that “He restores my soul.” I quite frequently give more emphasis to that which precedes and that which follows this great blessing. Indeed, I can be confident that he “makes me to lie down in green pastures … and leads me beside still waters … and leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

But, dear reader, please ponder the greatness of the thought that he also restores your soul. I love what the author Terri Blackstock says in the afterword to her book, Trial By Fire:

“He’s restored my soul when I’v beaten it and bruised it through my careless actions and terrible choices. He has restored my soul when I’ve allowed it to run empty, and he’s restored it when I’ve filled it up with things it wasn’t made to hold. He has restored my soul when others have crushed it. He has restored my soul when there was no hope of restoration.”

Terri Blackstock is one of my favorite authors in the genre of literature that is commonly called “inspiring fiction.” In this book, she describes the transformation in the life of Issie Mattreaux, a young lady who is 24 years old as the events of the book unfold. Issie struggles to keep her nephew, 16-year old Jake, from repeating some of the same mistakes that she made as a teenager. Issie also fights to overcome the effects of previous poor life-choices and finds herself being drawn to an unlikely romantic interest in the town’s single preacher, Nick Foster. Eventually Issie allows Nick and other godly friends to penetrate her tough exterior and she begins to experience God’s restoration in her life.

There are many things that can influence you in your life. You will control whether the positive influences prevail or the negative ones. My prayer for you is that you will seek the counsel of God and of godly people as you make choices, as you fill up your soul, when others attempt to crush your soul and when there appears to be no hope of restoration.

Thanks for reading with me, beloved. Be a positive influence in someone’s life today!

–Randy Sexton