The Fragrance of Joy

January 31st, 2018

Your life should express the fragrance of His presence.

 “Thanks be to God, Who through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Fragrance of Joy.”

Life is not perfect for anyone, and every moment is not filled only with wonderful things. Life changes dramatically, and for the better, when you realize that your circumstances do not determine your experience of life; your attitude does.

I admire people who have faced more struggles and disappointments than most, but who have nevertheless found grace and grown an attitude that reflects who they are, instead of what happened to them. I have met others who have a fairly easy life with few challenges of any consequence, and yet they find little for which to be joyful or thankful. Occasionally, it is a good thing to ask yourself, “Does my life reflect to others what is going on around me, or what is really true inside me?” That significant and substantial difference is the product of the choices you make.

Since a child, I have loved the dramatic Bible stories in the Old Testament, like Samson finally triumphing over the Philistines and himself, or Daniel in the lions’ den whose quiet trust in God humbles an arrogant King, or the three Hebrews delivered from Babylon’s fiery furnace (modern day Iraq). I find a most intriguing comment, easily unnoticed, tucked into this story of the three believers tossed angrily into a furnace intended to destroy them. Read Daniel 3. When the fire could not destroy them nor even harm them, the amazed, befuddled king calls them out of the fire.

The Bible says, “They saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected – not even the smell of smoke was on them.” Daniel 3:27. There was no discernible residue of their frightening experience, no lingering emotional trauma, nor need for healing of memories. Only their new and stirring testimony of God’s greatness and faithfulness persevered.

If you are not careful, you will allow your past or present circumstances to determine your attitudes, dictate your feelings, and dominate your conversation. When your story could be a persuasive testimony that glorifies God, it will be only about you and your problems. Read Daniel 3:28-29. In Daniel’s story, a king’s heart is changed; God is glorified; a nation is impacted. The simple difference is that they were with Jesus, joyfully in His company and safely in His care. See Daniel 3:24-25. Attitude really is crucial, having the power to change everything and anyone, and that all begins with the choice you make.

Paul prayed for these Christians and for you, ”We pray that you will be strengthened with His glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, Who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:11-12 NLT. Whose joy is to fill you? “Always be full of the joy of the Lord!” Like a thermometer, happiness merely measures the surrounding climate and adjusts accordingly. The joy of the Lord resembles a thermostat, regulating and governing the surrounding temperature.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God, Who . . through us spreads everywhere the fragrance  of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved.” Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV. Some years ago, I learned to pray, “Let my life express the fragrance of Your presence, not the smell of my problems.”

Today, I pray for your life to be a joyful testimony of God’s grace and sufficiency.

Christian Communications 2018-(807)

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Wants and Needs

May 17th, 2018

What you have or Want Is Not What Life Is About.

God will supply all your needs from His own glorious riches.” Philippians 4:19 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“WANTS AND NEEDS.”

As I look at our increasingly secular culture, the culture of my generation was very different. We were taught old fashioned values such as: know the difference between your wants and needs, live modestly within your means, always be a good neighbor, put others before yourself, be grateful for God and proud of your country, value faith and family first, use cash not credit, save for the future, be thankful and content with what you have. The Apostle Paul is a good example, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Philippians 4:12 NIV. “Godliness with contentment is great gain . . . if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” See 1 Timothy 6:6-11 NIV.

In stark contrast, the current culture seems to entice you in subtle and not so subtle ways to want more than you can afford, to have more than you need, and to crave everything your neighbor has. In the subtlety and practical application, current values are seductive. Material possessions can become a little too important, as well as becoming an inaccurate measure of success and importance. Do not believe that what you have is who you are; you are so much more.

How has this cultural change come about? There is a false philosophy that started as early as man’s origin in the Garden of Eden, a false philosophy that proudly claims that you can have it all, and you can have it now. Read Genesis 3. That was exactly how the devil seduced Eve and deceived Adam. They had it all in abundance, except for one small thing. The fruit of every tree was theirs to enjoy, except one. Somehow, she was lured to believe that without that, God was withholding something from her that she could get on her own. Well, you know how the story goes from there.

Too many people have financially bankrupted themselves trying to have it all now, and at an even higher cost have bankrupted their souls in the process. You were never intended to have it all. It is not possible to have it all now. Listen to what Jesus advised, “Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 NLT. Following the counsel of the Word of God will spare you a lot of needless grief and worry. Meanwhile, be content and faithful with what you have.“ Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Read Luke 16:10-12 NIV.

The things that you have or want are not what life is about. Nor are those where true happiness and contentment can be found. Here is some Godly counsel. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Hebrews 13:5.Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5 NLT. The problem is your wanting things before God provides them and acquiring them without regard to their cost, now and or later. Best to live with this conviction born of God’s Word, “God Who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His own glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NLT.

Greed is an inordinate, unholy insistence of wanting more than God has yet provided and attempting to gain those things however you can as quickly as you can. That never works out the way you hope. “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs,  and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matt 6:32-33 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to trust your Heavenly Father for what you need and be grateful for all you have.

Christian Communications 2018

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Sincere Faith and Spiritual Influence

May 13th, 2018

Faith must be sacredly held, sincerely lived, and successfully shared.

“Your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother and mother.”  2 Timothy 1:5 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, Sincere Faith and Spiritual Influence.”

Everyone has influence, positively or negatively. The impact of some is beneficial; the effect of others is less so. Nowhere is there a greater necessity of sincere faith, and the opportunity for spiritual influence, than in the home. Since this weekend is Mother’s Day, let me share some thoughts about moms, especially my Mom. Certainly, in the home and family they are not the only influence; but for this occasion, Moms deserve the spotlight. Knowing me, God knew I would need a Mom that was especially patient, generous to a fault, immeasurably kind, and extravagantly loving. My Mom – Mildred Florence (McGinness) Randolph – was exactly that kind of Mom, and more.

She was the eldest of thirteen children, the daughter of a pastor, an exceptional pianist, and the wife of a pastor, and best of all, my Mom. She was raised in a very modest home. My grandad always worked to support his family in addition to what the small churches of southern Illinois could provide in the 1930s and 40s. They were poor in comparison with others but rich in the things that truly matter – family, love, character, loyalty, and faith in God. They never thought of themselves as poor; they considered themselves fortunate.

My Mom was raised in a Christian home. My Dad had not even been inside a church until he was seventeen. When he was a teen, his personal conversion resulted from my grandmother’s miraculous healing. A few years later, my Dad, a young Bible School graduate from Buffalo, New York, held a revival in a small church in southern Illinois and discovered the pastor’s beautiful and talented daughter playing the piano. Soon she was his wife . . and then she was my Mom. For that, I am graced and blessed. My Dad died in 1963, a young man, just 44 years old. My Mom died about 18 years ago at the age of 80. Even long after their deaths, my parents and grandparents still influence my personal faith. My parents were both significant, spiritual influences in my life, shaping who I am as a man, husband, father, and minister.

Church and home were one and the same in our family. My Dad from his pulpit, and my Mom from her piano, taught me the inestimable worth of a personal knowledge of God and a life of faith and service. Every day of my life has been blessed by their words and personal example. Our marriage, ministry, and family of four generations now have a Godly heritage that could not have been earned or learned in a lifetime without them.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5 NAS.

My Dad taught me the rare value of faith and friendship, and the loyalty and integrity required in those. My Mom taught me a generosity and care for others that I am far from having mastered yet. My parents left me an inheritance counted in the very real currency of the lives and faith of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. “A good man [or woman] leaves an inheritance to their children’s children.” Proverbs 13:22 NAS.

You will afford your family a Godly example or allow them a perilous exemption. Sincere faith must be sacredly held, sincerely lived, and successfully shared with the next generations. Make your practice and profession of faith honest, and especially consistent. A Godly, family heritage that touches future generations can either continue or begin with you today.

Today, I pray for you to value highly the faith entrusted to you and pass it on.

Christian Communications 2018

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Plans and Steps

May 8th, 2018

LIFE IS BEST WHEN GOD IS FIRST.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Plans and Steps.”

A life that is lived without a plan does not work very well, and a plan that is not clear, and manageable on some daily basis, will not lead to success. A plan is like GPS. You first choose your desired destination. Then a plan is formulated as the best way to get there. That could and should be applied to everyday life. A life that is lived without a plan does not work very well. And any plan that is not clear and manageable on some daily basis will not lead to success. Some years ago, a simple yet practical strategy became popular, “Plan the work; work the plan.” Solomon learned that, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 NLT. That remains wise advice in any circumstance.

When you plan, you visualize the priority and time required for the various matters requiring your efforts. When you neglect those moments to think through a day’s responsibilities, you find yourself busy but less productive. Without a plan for the day, energy is misspent, and efforts are less effective. Attention is easily divvied and distracted. Time is poorly allocated. I have learned that important things are often replaced by alternatives that seem easier and more immediately enjoyable.

Direction is necessary for production. Now, let’s look at this on a larger scale with more eternal consequence. This principle especially applies to your spiritual life, as well as your daily life. Those two are inseparable, by the way. You will be more successful at the latter, when you succeed at the former. You cannot successfully compartmentalize your life into differing categories, seasons, or circumstances, in some of which you retain operational control while in others you are expecting God to direct and bless. Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. Jesus made this clear, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

Often, my Dad reminded me, “Allen, first things first!” It’s very simple really. First, you work, then you play. First, you save, then you spend. First, you seek God’s plan, then you follow His plan. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Read Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT. You and your wellbeing have been in God’s plans from the beginning and continue to be.

Life is best when God is first. God has the definitive plan for your life. Scripture is consistent. “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your good and not harm, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV. “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.” Psalm 18:30 NIV. Through prayer and Scripture, let God plan your work. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT.

That being true, then devote yourself to knowing and following His plan. That is called obedience, a priority to God and a necessity for your success. Obedience will supply you with the necessary focus and ability you do not otherwise possess. Obedience will produce opportunities you neither earned nor expected. And obedience will yield achievement you do not imagine. God’s direction is always accurate; His timing is always exact; His results are always abundant.

Today I pray for you to discover God’s purpose in all you do and with all you have.

Christian Communications 2018-1308

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Trust Is a Work in Progress

May 1st, 2018

Obey fully. Work diligently. Trust God’s process.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today explain that, “trust is a work in progress.”

Immediacy is prized above delay. Instant gratification is a common goal. Patience does not seem to be our natural virtue. Experience should teach us that life is better when you cultivate patience. Patience encourages appreciation for what you gain, while promoting wiser use and better care of what you have. Patience is beneficial, promoting the necessity of effort, the importance of time, the reality of cost, and the satisfaction of accomplishment. In contrast, impatience generates unbelief, and unbelief interrupts God’s procedure by causing costly delays. Have you noticed that quick and easy accomplishments seem to hold less intrinsic value?

At the moment, having what you want right now may seem more satisfying than waiting, but that satisfaction will be only temporary. The process of affordable sacrifice teaches anticipation. Anticipation fosters appreciation. Instead, we prefer immediate gratification. People readily defer cost and sacrifice till later, if they can acquire what they want now.

Most of us are not content with process. We want what we want when we want it. And we want too much now, regardless of the real cost known or unknown to us. Credit is deceitful. Debt stresses marriages, divides homes, weakens families, and destroys lives. Our nation’s debt is a reflection of our spending addictions, as much as our politicians’ misbehavior.

Process has beneficial elements. Paul echoed God’s principle of process this way, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV. God provides what He promises. He finishes what He begins. Trust God to provide what you need when you need it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT. The final product is not seen until the full process is accomplished. You are wise to trust God. “As for God, His way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30 NKJV. His ways are righteous and just, yours and mine are not.

Trust is always a work in progress. Trust grows when exercised. Trust grows by practice. Using the example of nature’s process, Jesus described the perfect ways of the Kingdom of God. “A farmer planted seeds in a field . . as the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew . . because the earth produces crops. First a leaf pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. When the grain is ready, the farmer harvests it.” Mark 4:26-29 NLT. Jesus was describing the processes by which the Kingdom of God progresses and prospers in your life.

Desire precedes effort. Effort creates anticipation. Anticipation encourages trust. Trust sees development. Development engenders growth. Growth produces a faithful harvest. Where do you see yourself in that process today? Harvest comes in God’s time through God’s process – after you Obey fully, Work diligently, and Trust God’s process.

Today I pray for you to learn to cooperate with God’s purposes and processes.

Christian Communications 2018

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The Secret to Success

April 27th, 2018

Jesus is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today discuss, “The secret to success.”

Someone or something must be first when you have more than one choice or consideration. Who, or what, will be the priority and first consideration in your life? That question is one that every one of us need to answer for life to work as it should. You can try to make life work on your terms, but the Bible consistently declares this eternal principle for success in life, “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” Proverbs 3:6 TLB.

Each day requires you to ask and answer this all-important question, “Is Jesus Lord of my life in the most practical, everyday ways?” More than any other single factor, your sincere answer determines how you will live your life, and therefore the measure of real and lasting success that you can achieve. Your truthful answer to the single question predisposes your answer to other questions that will arise during your life.

Jesus’ words teach several, simple truths. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Read Matthew 6:25-34 NIV. No success is true success until God crowns your efforts. Your best is still inadequate without God’s blessing added to it.

Whatever you achieve, and however many voices loudly acclaim and admire your resulting rewards, there is only voice that matters eternally. God’s estimation of your work is all that matters eternally. At the end of your life, only His “Well done” will be all that matters in eternity.

In this life, success requires your best efforts, consistently and long term. No halfhearted attempt, no working when you feel like it will do. You must give God something deserving of His blessing. To do that, there will be many lesser things for which you will not have time. There will be cost and sacrifice. Success cannot be bought cheaply, nor does it come easily. Most importantly, in every day and in everything, you have to, “put God first!” I learned a simple reality. If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.

When Abraham left all he had known to follow God to a place he did not know, he was putting God first. See Genesis 12: 1-8 NKJV. When Joseph fled from the seductress without regard to the consequences, he was putting God first. See Genesis 39:7-21 NKJV. When Moses stood before Pharaoh demanding the release of Israel, he was putting God first. See Exodus 5:1-3 NKJV.

When David placed his faith in God when facing the defiant Goliath, he was putting God first. See 1 Samuel 17:40-51 NKJV. When the three Hebrew slaves would not compromise and bow to worship the King’s image, they were putting God first. See Daniel 3:1-18 NKJV. When Daniel could not obey the King’s command, he was putting God first. See Daniel 6:3-23 NKJV. When Jesus embraced the cross to die for yours and my sins, He was putting God first. See John 12:23-28 NKJV. True to His Word, God crowned their obedience and faith with success, as He will yours.

The secret to success is found in knowing and obeying God’s Word and always doing what’s right, even when success may appear to be found in a different direction. “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8 NIV.

Again, I pose the question with which I began, “Who, or what, will be the priority and first consideration in your life?” The only One that can ever be first and foremost is Jesus, your Lord and Savior. Triumphantly, Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV. He reigns, and He is Lord of all!

Today I pray for you to seek the success that God alone can provide.

Christian Communications 2018-708

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