Finishing Well

April 18th, 2018

Your destiny is ahead not behind you.

“Straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal 

to win the prize for which God has called me.” Philippians 3:14

My thoughts and comments today are about, “finishing well.”

Life is about how well you finish, not how well you begin. In your endeavors, you will encounter challenging moments in the process of achieving successful conclusions. At the initiation of any worthwhile venture, you anticipate getting started and expect to experience profound satisfaction upon its completion. You have to continue with diligence and determination to achieve that end.

The Apostle Paul was clear. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NIV. Your destiny is ahead of you, not behind you. The problem is this. Somewhere along the way the hard work begins. Weariness and worry can become your adversary rather than friend. Midway, your will to proceed will be tested. You may feel like turning around or just quitting where you are.

Along the path, there will always be places where you feel tired and times when you feel like giving up. You can give up any time, but no time is a good time to quit. Tiredness and its resulting uncertainty rob you of success. The Bible describes people of faith and endurance, with which God is pleased to identify Himself. “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a Heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Read Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV.

I want to live so that God and others are not ashamed. At times when I feel I have made little progress and the end seems still too far away, I hear my Dad’s voice when he would encourage me, “Son, you shouldn’t start something that you don’t intend to finish.” There have been many times that his words helped me try a little harder and go a little further. The Bible says, “He who plows should plow in hope.” 1 Corinthians 9:10.   When hope wavers, the inspiring vision of accomplishment weakens.

Success awaits those who navigate life with joy and resolve. Be encouraged forward by your vision to finish well. Success is ahead for the one who who manages the less certain times and perseveres through the wearying challenges with courage and determination. Success is always harder than you thought, takes longer than you planned, but is sweeter than you hoped. Paul urges you, ”Don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for you will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” Galatians 6:9 NLT.  It is never a good time to quit doing a good thing.

Today I pray for you to never lose hope nor the vision with which you begin.

Christian Communications 2018

Website and archives: allenrandolph.com

facebook.com/everydaylife.allenrandolph

A Personal and Professional Update

April 12th, 2018

Thank you for the privilege of sharing EveryDay Life with you. For those of you, many of whom have been readers since the earliest beginnings of EDL in 20o7, as well as all who have journeyed with us in these recent years, Thank You!

You may have noticed an irregularity in my writing and sending EDL. At the first of 2018, the church where Gayle and I had previously served as Pastor from 1975 to 2011 asked us to again serve as a “Transitional Pastor” to provide pulpit ministry and shepherd the process of the congregation’s search and appointment of a new pastor for Trinity Church. Those responsibilities have not always allowed the writing schedule I previously enjoyed.

Thank you for your understanding and prayer for us as we walk through this important season with the church. Pray with us for the pastor God has been preparing for us. We hope this time to be brief and meanwhile I will try to write as often as time and schedule allow. In addition to the current mailings, you can always go to the EDL website and read previous devotionals in the library of EDL from recent years.

Again, thank you for your prayers, patience, and partnership. I look forward to again enjoying the added leisure for writing EDL in the near future.

Blessings, Allen Randolph

allenrandolph.com

 

 

 

Rules and Standards

April 12th, 2018

God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

 “[God’s] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace

for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “rules and standards.”

Life is better with rules. Rules are essential, establishing boundaries and measuring achievement. Yet, very few of us appreciate rules in the way we should. People seem to bristle when too many rules seem restrictive and imposed. We all tend to resist when we feel less free to do as we want to do. Consider this. Without rules, athletic competition would be havoc. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong, rewards and penalties.

I can’t imagine a world without rules. With no rules of the road, driving would be dangerous. In daily interactions, the bold would overpower the timid. The strong would take advantage of the weak. The wealthy would neglect the poor. For a clear reason, the Ten Commandments were not called the, “Ten Recommendations.” Nor were they meant to be. Out of His love for you, not His love for law, God commanded those rules to live by.

Marriages are best with mutually understood rules. Families need clearly stated rules. Friendships succeed with mutually accepted rules. Employers and employees require agreement on rules. Individuals need to establish standards by which they are willing to be evaluated. I am grateful that my Dad believed in rules. Admittedly, I didn’t appreciate those as much while a teen. But Dad’s rules were always clear and fair – and enforced or rewarded. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Rules establish safe boundaries for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you, except for your guidance and protection. Rules can protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of standards rather than rules. I see three occasions for rules and standards.

You need people in your life who help you learn and establish Godly standards. That is the value of parents, teachers, friends, civil and governmental authorities, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit. They establish rules that benefit all. The Bible reminds us that, “The authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Read Romans 13.3-6 NIV. Respect rules, embrace appropriate boundaries, and appreciate their practical need for making your life better, measuring your achievements, rewarding your efforts, and keeping you safer.

The rule of law protects the lawful and restrains the lawless. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 NKJV. In your life, whose opinion and counsel offer you trusted guidance, Godly wisdom, and a spiritual haven in uncertain times?

True liberty is not without restraints, and never without limits. I had a fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who taught our class a simple principle about boundaries and liberties, “Your liberty to swing your fist without restraint ends at the tip of another’s nose.” What a great rule for fourth graders, as well as kids, teens, and adults of all ages. Friends and family help set standards of behavior for one another. Often it is more kind than cruel to say no. Choose wisely the bounds you will honor, and associate with friends who respect them, and thereby respect you.

At all times, you must require and embrace boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before any situation needing rules presented itself. The right decision is never too late, but it’s best when made early. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying.” I Corinthians 10:23 NAS. Choose what is profitable, in order to edify others and glorify God. God’s Word marks the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and where you and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me a very practical and valuable lesson about establishing non-negotiable, personal boundaries, for success in pastoral ministry. My Dad’s advice was invaluable, “Many who look to you for leadership will likely exceed the liberties you permit yourself; so be wise and measured in all you allow yourself to say and do. And others who follow you may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, always seeking to excel.”

There will always be others observing and following you. Jesus was clear, “I have set before you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. You are always safe when following Jesus’ example. Paul was clear as well with his instruction to young Timothy. ”Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV. Be sure that the rules you expect others to observe are a priority in your own life and relational interactions.

Even when you do not think so, someone is always following you, Many years ago, a man made this observation of me, “Pastor, you are not hard to follow because you do not make sudden turns.” I am not sure whether he meant that as a compliment, but I accepted it as one. I want to be easy to follow for my family and for those who trust my leadership. My objective is simple. I want my family and friends to know what my values are, where I am going, Who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

“God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, [His] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV. I like that. In your life, His rules produce a, “harvest of righteousness and peace,” for those who accept and follow the Father’s instruction and disciplines. Anything that God requires of you is for your benefit, not His. Embracing God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

Today I pray for you to establish Godly standards. His rules are given to protect, not confine you.

Christian Communications 2018

Website and archives: allenrandolph.com

facebook.com/everydaylife.allenrandolph

Good Ideas Are Not Good Enough

April 9th, 2018

Good ideas are no substitute for God’s ideas.

My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“good ideas are not good enough.”

Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to stop repeating the same ones. I have made my share of mistakes, and that’s probably just as true of others. Some mistakes I never recognized at the time. Probably there are still some I have not yet recognized to be mistakes. Some, I wished would just go away on their own. Some, I hoped no one would need to know about. And some, I tried to make up for in better ways. Thankfully, there are also those that I dealt with, and from which I learned. Mistakes can have a long shelf-life if not dealt with early and honestly. Mistakes, ignored and not dealt with, become more than they began. Repentance and confession is the proper way you do so.

My dearest of friends, Campbell, said, “Sin can only leave a person’s life one way, through one’s mouth, in honest confession of the wrong done.” There is good news. The Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 NKJV.

All mistakes are not sins – many are accidental, not willful. Others result from poor judgment, inadequate knowledge, or lack of experience. But every sin is certainly a mistake. Being truly free of them requires dealing with your mistake honestly and humbly. In confession and repentance, you can rectify sins before God, and with humility and apology correct mistakes with others. The Psalmist reminds us, “For [our Creator] knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14 NKJV.

Paul references an Old Testament story about Hagar and her son, Ishmael, a mistake that Abraham and Sarah made when their impatience became unbelief and disobedience about God’s promise of a son. Read Genesis 16:1-15. When Sarah was unable to provide a son, she proposed that her maidservant, Hagar, could be her surrogate. Abraham and Sarah wrongly assumed that her barrenness hindered God from fulfilling His promise. The child was named Ishmael. Ishmael was a terrible mistake. Sarah soon recognized and regretted her mistake, but too late to avoid or correct it.

God’s solution was clear and simple, but seems harsh though we know it was not. “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” Galatians 4:30 NKJV. The future required that Abrham and Sarah separate themselves from their disobedience, however well intended they meant it to be. Your good ideas are never an acceptable substitute for God’s idea. And your ideas are not always as good as you think they are at the moment.

At first, Abraham pleaded with God to accept Ishmael as the promised son and heir, but God’s plan was for Isaac, not Ishmael. Read Genesis 15:1-6 NKJV. Don’t waste your time trying to convince God that your mistake isn’t such a bad idea. God is clear, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV. God’s solution was clear and direct, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” Galatians 4:30 NKJV. That was not punishment. That was God’s protection and provision for their future, and ours.

The Bible references dead works which can be anything born of your fleshly plans and desires, but not obedient to God’s instructions or dependent on God’s Spirit. The Bible contrasts, “repentance from dead works, and faith toward God,” when differentiating between immaturity and spiritual maturity. Read Hebrews 5:12-6:3 NKJV. I would describe a dead work as anything that God does not originate or will not sustain. What God did not originate, God will not bless. No matter how much you ask that He will, He can’t. Ishmael was a dead work, their bad idea that excluded faith toward God.

I learned that lesson some years ago. My “dead work” was a car I bought simply because I could, and I wanted to do so. I didn’t need it. I didn’t pray about it. I didn’t trust God to provide it. I just bought it. Very soon, my heart told me that I had made a mistake that God did not view lightly. Conviction of the Holy Spirit was very real. In my spirit, I felt that I had grieved the Holy Spirit by my casualness and carelessness. In my decision, there was no thought of prayer nor any consideration that my financial ability was the result of God’s provision and not my own to do with as I pleased.

I learned a valuable lesson. I learned the Biblical distinction between stewardship and ownership. We are not owners of what God gives. We are mere stewards. The Bible says, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:3 NKJV. I choose to be a good steward.

I violated a basic principle of stewardship. God is the Owner of all. We are to be His obedient stewards. When I recognized and confessed my mistake as ungodly disregard and asked God’s forgiveness, only then did I find peace of mind and heart again. It is painful to cast away what your flesh craves or creates, until your love for God is superceding – a love even more than your desire for what you want, lest you hold tightly hold such things to your harm, or the harm of others.

Today I pray for you to avoid any mistake that you identify as even questionable.

Christian Communications 2018

Website and archives: allenrandolph.com

facebook.com/everydaylife.allenrandolph

Clarity and Certainty

March 31st, 2018

The resurrection shouts truth with certainty.

 “That you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:4 NIV.       

My thoughts and comments today are about, clarity and certainty.”

You probably try not to think much about death, until something happens that does not allow that luxury. It seems more pleasant to ignore that undesired eventuality as much and as long as you can. But you are mortal; no matter how you suppress your feelings or disguise that fact. No one lives forever. And death is that unavoidable reality; you just don’t know how or when.

Until Jesus returns, the Psalmist’s words endure, “No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” Psalm 89:48 NIV. Now that sounds grim, doesn’t it? Death is grim and unpleasant because it is unnatural to us. But there is good news. “That by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-16 NIV. You were created to be eternal, in the image and likeness of your Creator. Sin introduced death, not God. Romans 5:12-19 NIV. The dread of death causes despair. That was true at man’s origin, and it is true now.

Days earlier, harsh realities replaced dreams and hopes the Christ-followers held, challenging everything they believed about faith and the future. Despair shoved hope aside. They stumbled, ”back home,” back to life as it had been; to pick up what little seemed left – broken, bewildered, and discouraged. Things they thought possible before, seemed impossible now. Things sure to them days before, now posed troubling questions. You will face times when life is hard and you feel like turning around. You might ask yourself, “What’s the use?” Something will seem to have erased your future, but your future is safe and secure in God’s hands.

Then came Easter morning! “All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by His boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3 NLT. Christ’s resurrection validates His power over death, proving that Jesus is the Lord of life, the conqueror of death. “God raised [Jesus] from the dead . . because it was not possible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Acts 2:24 NIV. Resurrection is the demonstration of God’s power, conquering your worst and last enemy; in comparison, everything else you will ever face is minor for God to do.

The amazing thing about Jesus is that His life began and ended with an impossibility. Earlier today, my friend, Amos, described the unique miracle of the Incarnation and Resurrection this way, “Jesus came into a world marked, ‘no entrance,’ through a virgin’s womb, and left our world through a door marked, ‘no exit,’ out from a borrowed tomb.”

How could we not celebrate such a supernatural and sacrificial life? Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27. Luke thought it important to establish for others what he knew to be true, “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:3-4 NIV.

Easter is far more than a date on the Spring calendar, even more than a fact of history. Easter remains forever a current event, more relevant to your well-being than anything in today’s headlines. Easter makes sense of everything that has not made any sense at all. The empty Garden tomb made sense of the agony of Gethsemane and the cruelty of Calvary. The Resurrection introduced possibilities beyond anything His followers had previously imagined when standing in the darkening shadow of the cross. Jesus’ birth, death, burial, and resurrection made impossibilities become possible.

Jesus’ Resurrection shouts truth with clarity and certainty over every question, doubt, and fear. And Easter offers the same for you today. Jesus’ Resurrection guarantees yours. Death will not be the last word. Life is the final word spoken over you, life now and life everlasting. “Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-27 NIV. Meanwhile, God gives you the opportunity to live with wonderful expectation.

Today I pray for you to live with certainty and expectancy that nothing is impossible with God.

Christian Communications 2018

Website and archives: allenrandolph.com

facebook.com/everydaylife.allenrandolph