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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Loving Discourse Lessens Discord

June 12th, 2018

Communication enables mutual understanding.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

My thoughts and comments today consider that, “loving discourse lessens discord.”   

Kind and sincere communication is a gift that we give to one another. Communication connects and unifies people. I love a simple, beautiful verse: “Grace is poured upon Your lips.” Psalm 45:2 NKJV. What would your life and relationships look like if grace poured from your lips? Loving discourse lessens discord. In contrast, our world is so torn because individuals persist in being right, however high the price is paid in their dearest relationships. Whether in a marriage, family, friendship, or church, the relationship is left the victim when loving communication breaks down.

Sadly and widely, both public and private discourse seem course today, evidencing less and less grace. Why do we choose dispute over concurrence? Conversations are essential for social interactions and profitable commerce. Communication enables effective collaboration to bring about mutually beneficial understandings. The interaction that communication requires is not optional. Sincere and meaningful communication offers significant benefits such as: proper discourse unifies people, decides purpose, defines progress, and produces greater achievements. Real community is possible only to the extent or limitation of real discussions.

Language is a gift, possessing the power to unite or divide us. A wise person considers their words. Words have potential for good or ill, can help or hurt, heal or wound, increase understanding or create confusion. Your words are always within your authority to speak or remain silent. Speak after forethought and prayerful reflection. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge.” Proverbs 15:1-2 NIV.

With clarity and authority, Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Read Matthew 12:35-37 NKJV. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” Read Proverbs 4:20-24 NIV. Ask yourself, “Are my words honestly intended, edifying to others, and glorifying to God.”

With King David, we should pray from our heart that our words and thoughts would be these, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NIV. And how can we keep our words and thoughts pleasing in the sight of God and others? Pray as David prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV.

Today I pray for you to choose your words to always be both true and kind.

Christian Communications 2018

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Waiting, Watching, and Ready

June 6th, 2018

Christ Will Come as He Promised.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”  Matthew 24:42

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Waiting, Watching, and Ready.”

Imagine issuing a grand invitation to many friends but when your invited guests arrived, they found you awkwardly unprepared. As your guests would feel less welcome, you would feel embarrassed. For some, Christ’s return for believers will be like that. Whether  prepared or not, He will return. And of that day, Jesus warned, “At the coming of the Son of Man, don’t let Him find you sleeping when He arrives without warning. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch for My return. Read Mark 13:34-37. When Christ returns you will not go up then, unless you wake up now.

God’s Word promises that Christ will give, “a crown of righteousness . . to those who have loved His appearing” 2 Timothy 4:8. On that day, the issue will not be about any differences about theological projections of when Christ will return for Christians. When He does, Then the Angel will declare for all the world to hear, “There shall be time no longer.” Revelation 10:6. Whatever your understanding of the things surrounding Jesus’ return in the calendar of Biblical events, this is certain. Christ will come as He promised. Of this the Bible faithfully testifies.

The real issue is whether you and I will be ready, or surprised and unprepared. The essential answer to that is that at this moment of eternal consequence we are found trusting Christ alone for our salvation and eagerly anticipating His return. “So, Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin unto salvation” Hebrews 9:28.

Are you looking for Him with joyful anticipation? “When Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:4. Do not be careless or doubting. Because Christ has not yet come does not mean that He will not come. It only means that the day is that much closer. Any day and any time, our Savior and Lord will return for those who are ready when He appears. This is wise advice, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:42 NIV.

On that day, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:42 NIV. What a day that will be. And that day will be as Heaven has promised for those who are prepared, as well as for those who were forewarned but not ready.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to be waiting, watching, and ready.

Christian Communications 2018

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Squandering or Sacrificing

May 25th, 2018

SQUANDERING YOUR LIFE ON YOURSELF IS WASTEFUL.

“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” Luke 9:24 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “SQUANDERING OR SACRIFICING.”

In the United States, we observe Memorial Day, an annual day to remember and honor those men and women who loved their country more than their own lives. The aging Apostle John wrote of such, “They loved not their lives unto the death.” Revelation 12:11 KJV. Every country values the men and women who serve in defense of their neighbors and fellow countrymen. Their sacrifices are immeasurable, especially those whose lives are required for the protection and safety of others. For all of those who serve in our military, or guard our borders, or protect our homes and cities, we give thanks.

But my thoughts today are for those of us who claim to be His disciples. Dare we value or be less committed to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God? Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you.” John 15:13-16 NIV. Imagine the honor of being chosen by the One Who died on a cross for your sins. There can be only one appropriate response – to give yourself completely to do His will.

The Apostle Paul embraced the price of obedience, “And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.” Acts 20:22-24 NLT.

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 your life on yourself is wasteful. “But mark this: People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud . . not lovers of the good . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of Godliness, but denying its power.” See 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV. That is a horrible but accurate description of anyone who lives for themselves.

Sacrificing your life for God and others is rewarded.  Jesus did not mince words, “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. Your answer to Jesus’ question will determine you eternal destiny. Paul implored the saints at Rome, “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. Sacrifice is every disciple’s obedience. Jesus’ own call to discipleship remains unchanged today, Those last words pose a haunting question for every one of us.

Today I pray for you to live a life in such a way that models eternal values and priorities.

Christian Communications 2018

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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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