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Archive for May, 2011

History and Destiny

May 31st, 2011

“The bush burned . . yet was not consumed.” Exodus 3:2 Amplified

“Where destiny connects with your history you will find God there.”

My thoughts today are about “history and destiny.”

Wouldn’t it wonderful if every question had an answer, if every dilemma had a solution, and if every mystery had an explanation? Unfortunately, much of the time they don’t. You should seek answers; you should want solutions; you should desire explanations. But life isn’t always that simple. It’s a good thing that life does come with an instruction book – the Bible! The Bible may not answer every question you ask or solve every problem you have, but it will lead you to the One who will. Sometimes life can’t make sense apart from God. Why would you expect anything to make sense without God’s truth and wisdom?

An interesting incident occurs to Moses in the midst of his daily routine. He was just minding his own business, finally having put Egypt behind him with all its history, painful memories, and unexplainable events. His life wasn’t all that great but it was better than it had been, until that fateful day. “The bush was burning with fire, but was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see . . why the bush does not burn.’ So when God saw that Moses turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush . .” Exodus 3:1-10 NKJV.

Here’s what I observe from this Bible narrative: God knows your history and location; God wants your attention; God has something to say that gives direction and purpose to life; where God meets you is holy ground; God’s direction is about your future, not your past.

What Moses saw – a bush burning but not consumed – did not make sense. It was contrary to everything he had previously known. Drawing his attention with this confusing incident, God had some pretty important things to say to Moses about his future and the future of a nation. Where Moses’ destiny connected to his history, God was there.

Those things that don’t readily make sense are often the very instruments God uses to pique your interest and gain your rapt attention. As you read the burning bush incident did you notice that God seemed to be waiting and watching until Moses would stop what he was doing long enough to find out what God was doing? That’s a challenge for people busily running to anyone promising an answer. God “called to him from the midst of the bush.” Exactly in your bewildering moment and out of the thing you cannot understand or explain, God can speak clearly through the very situation that fills you with curiosity and uncertainty.

People often stay too busy to notice God around them and live lives too noisy to hear what God wants to say to them. Maybe your unanswered questions or unsolved dilemmas could be God’s invitation to discover truth deeper than every inadequate answer for which you would have settled. God may or may not answer your specific question, but He does answer the question you should have asked and provides the answers and understanding you really need to know. See James 1:2-8 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you place your past, present, and future in God’s hands.

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Finishing Well

May 30th, 2011

“That I may finish my race with joy.” Acts 20:24 NKJV

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

My thoughts today are about “finishing well.”

In life, beginnings are important, just as thoroughness and the diligence to follow through provides solid foundations for all future achievement. But most essential is the task of finishing well. A lot of people start things they have neither the persistence to continue nor dedication to complete. As a boy, I recall my Dad saying, “Allen, anything worth doing is worth doing well; don’t start something you don’t intend to finish.” Life one day comes to an end for one and all. At that point, what matters is your accomplishments, not your attempts or intentions.

Dad’s words were usually a reminder when I grew weary in a job not being done as well as I could. My Dad believed only a person’s best effort is worthy in God’s eyes, and His appraisal is what ultimately matters. You have fewer regrets when you have done your best. “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these – ‘It might have been.’” John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892).

I am no longer a young man, yet there is still more for me as God gives grace and opportunity, but not as much as lays behind me. When I was a younger pastor, my thoughts were of what I hoped to do and though there is yet opportunity for accomplishment, my reflection is more on what I hope was done and whether or not it was done well. In a few months, I will relinquish to another the ministry position and responsibilities that I have carried for nearly 48 years. I have some mixed emotions about that. It is not a regret of doing so; that was my choice and God’s direction. My heart is at rest that this is “the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.”

My concern is not whether I have done enough; the adequacy of my efforts I leave for others to evaluate. My hope is this: that what I have done by the grace of God has been done as well as I was capable of doing; that judgment I leave to God alone. The Apostle Paul had a practical approach to this. “Have I been faithful? It matters very little what anyone else thinks . . it is the Lord Himself who will examine and decide . . when the Lord comes . . then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-6 NLT. Did you notice? God examines with purpose and expectation to praise you!

A runner intent on finishing well does not slow his step nor slack his effort with the finish line in sight; runners are coached to “run through the tape.” You and I are running a far more consequential race and you must cross the finish line. See Hebrews 11:1-4 NIV. Paul’s later years were spent in prison, so he used his confinement to write much of the New Testament. “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 20:24. Boundaries do not determine your potential. Finishing well means to live in such a way that the touch of your life extends well beyond the reach of your lifetime. The good news is this: as long as there is life, it is never too late to do better and finish well.

Paul finished well, as must you. “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness . . I eagerly expect and hope I will . . have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8/Philippians 1:20-21 NIV. My hope and heart’s intent is that I finish well with God’s approval. The applause of just one, the Just One, is enough for me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you live a life pleasing to God and satisfying to your soul.

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Hindered and Entangled

May 13th, 2011

I will be out of the office for about two weeks, and will probably be unable to send EveryDay Life until the first week of June. I invite you to browse the archives of previous devotionals – 570 of them now at www.allenrandolph.com! – and maintain your daily devotional time in God’s Word. I will miss writing them; I hope you will miss reading them. I appreciate your doing so and the privilege of sharing my thoughts and comments from the practical truth of God’s Word . .

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“Let us throw off everything that hinders . . and entangles.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

“Always know the difference between what needs to be kept and what needs discarded.”

My thoughts today are about “hindered and entangled.”

One of the problems with everyday life is all the stuff you accumulate and keep along the way. The older I get the more I have, but some of it is unused and of minimal value. To air out the garage yesterday (due to the untimely demise of a field rodent among the stuff there), I opened the windows in spite of the day’s warnings of thunderstorms and heavy rain. With the foreboding weather forecast, I took time to move my golf clubs safely away from the open window, just in case. Of course, by my disuse they are allowed to gather dust and rust, yet there I was worrying about their getting wet. Really, like other things where my truck should be, they are allowed to take space that could be used more beneficially. People’s lives can be like that.

Does your life feel that way sometimes? Life is better without stuff that hinders more than helps – remembering every slight suffered, holding old grudges, vividly recalling every mistake, indulging sins that grieve you, reciting every complaint, clinging to unhappiness, being constantly critical, worrying about the unknown, believing your doubts, regretting your wrong without changing, hurting people, making promises you won’t keep, wanting friends but being unfriendly, having friends that make you worse not better, and the list goes on and on! So much unnecessary stuff deserves no place in your life; such things are unprofitable.

The Bible picturesquely describes some things, “as useless as dried grass burning in a fire . . as useless as dried up springs of water or as clouds blown away by the wind – promising much but delivering nothing.” Isaiah 47:14/2 Peter 2:17 NLT. God advises you to, “throw off everything that hinders . . and entangles.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV. What hinders your being your best? What entangles your thoughts and emotions until you are dismayed and stuck where you are?

You know the stuff you have stored in and around your life that hasn’t been useful for a long time, if it ever was. When something or someone continually complicates your spiritual progress, you have to make a change. You have to be forceful and specific, “throw off . . run with perseverance . . fix your eyes on Jesus . . consider Jesus . .!” Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV. Don’t find a place to keep such things out of sight or out of mind; rid yourself of them! Refuse to tolerate what is unprofitable. Anything that doesn’t help the development of spiritual life can hinder it.

Paul gave good advice, “Those who have trusted in God must be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” Titus 3:8-9 NIV. Be sure to always know the difference between what needs to be kept and what needs discarded.

My prayer for you today is that life is enjoyed, not encumbered with needless things.

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Contentment

May 12th, 2011

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11 NIV

“If you do not have what you want, learn to want what you have.”

My thoughts today are about “contentment.”

Contentment is not easy to come by in a world where people always want something more, something else, or something they don’t already have. If it’s small, we want it big. If it’s old, we want it new. If it’s theirs, we want it ours. A man of vast wealth was asked, “How much money does it take to make a wealthy man happy?” His answer? “Just a little more!” And then people wonder why they are not happy! The reality is that most people’s wants far exceed their needs. Contentment is knowing when enough is enough. Why are we not happy with what God provides?

Long ago I heard some simple advice expressed this way, “If you do not have what you want, learn to want what you have.” “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with what you have. For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV. Wouldn’t you be happier if you could do that, or maybe it’s more like, if you would do that?  That would suggest to me that covetousness is the seed of discontent. When you strongly want what someone else has even if that would leave them with less, you become discontent with what God gives you. Jesus never taught against wealth; He did, however, teach against greed and ingratitude. See Luke 12:15-21 NKJV.

I confess; I grew up in simpler times. As a child, we didn’t have a lot of things wrongly considered necessities today, but we didn’t seem to know that. Maybe that was because few if any people we knew seemed to have much either. We had enough, not much extra, but certainly plenty. More importantly, my Mom and Dad never talked or acted like that was inadequate. Our family was happy and content.

Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances . . I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance.” Philippians 4:11-12NIV. Notice Paul’s accent? “I have learned . .” Those verses tell me several things about contentment. (1) Contentment is a process. It doesn’t just happen; it isn’t learned overnight. Each day you can learn a little more about how to be content, but along the way there are tests so you can gauge whether or not you are learning.

(2) Contentment is independent of circumstance. Paul wrote some of his most joyous words from the confinement of a prison cell. Settle this once and for all: you don’t have to have more to be happy. “Now Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV.

(3) Contentment accepts the rhythms of life. There will be times when you have more and times when you have less. Both are valuable. In times of plenty, you learn to be thankful and share; in times of less, you learn to trust and appreciate.

(4) Contentment is confidence in God’s provision. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength . . and My God will supply all (my) needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:13/19 NIV. With God, you will always have enough; enjoy all God provides and be thankful to Him and others.

My prayer for you today is: let living better, rather than having more, be your goal in life.

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Too Soon to Quit

May 11th, 2011

“We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” 2 Corinthians 4:9 NLT

“What happens to you is not what matters most; what happens after that matters more.”

My thoughts today are about, “too soon to quit.”

Everyone feels like quitting sometime. If you haven’t yet, you will; just don’t quit permanently.  That’s not negative or pessimistic; that’s just reality. Things don’t always go well. Things won’t always go in your favor. It’s not always what happens to you that matters most; usually, it is what happens after what happened that matters more! Don’t give in to your feelings to give up. Dust yourself off, and get ready to resume the journey. You will heal. Neither your frustration nor your failure is final, just inconvenient bumps in the road. Wow; that sounds like a lot of clichés. But I think that’s good and practical advice.

Do you wish your situation had happened differently? Of course you do, but it didn’t; deal with the reality. Examine your situation honestly but positively. Lay it out before the Lord, asking His wisdom and direction. Don’t waste the experience; learn something useful to help you in the future. Resume life quickly; continue forward as soon as you feel capable of doing so. Expect things to be better not worse. If Paul, writing from prison, was able to say “the things that have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:12 NKJV), then you and I can trust God to rule in the events and circumstances of our everyday lives.

The Bible puts disappointments, disruption of schedules, and minimal inconveniences in perspective by comparing your experiences in contrast to Jesus’ sacrifice for your salvation: “Let us run with perseverance the race . . fixing our eyes on Jesus . . who endured the cross, scorning its shame . . consider Him that endured such opposition from sinful men . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV. That clarifies the context for times when things don’t go well for you. Jesus didn’t quit on you; don’t lose hope in Him. I guess my Dad did not support quitting. He said, “It is always too soon to quit, especially when you feel like it.”

Resisting reality won’t change it. Sitting in the midst of a mess will not make anything better. Everybody struggles occasionally; not everybody quits every time. Some people don’t quit anytime! Paul describes such fateful moments of decision this way, “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 be we get up again and keep going . . that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT.

Pressured, perplexed, pursued, or punched? Whatever your situation right now, you are in a good company of overcomers. “To Him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21 NIV. Overcome or overcomer? I choose the latter for both of us.

My prayer for you today is: don’t give up on yourself or on God, however tough the moment.

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