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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Life Is Not Fair

December 10th, 2019

God’s grace is Enough.

 “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “life is not fair.”

Have you heard the complaint, “Life is not fair!” Maybe you have felt like that on some occasions. But God is more than fair; God is righteous. Our God is always wise, unchangeably loving, and faithfully strong. No one can promise that your life will be either easy or fair. And when life is challenging and feels unfair, when things do not go as you plan, or develop as you hope, life will not seem very easy either.

Everyone prefers ease and comfort over effort and challenge. We all want the same. No problems. No worries. No troubles. No tears. But without those, there will be no growth and little if any development of faith. In uncertain times when life doesn’t seem to make sense, our faithful and loving God remains the same. The Bible confirms this truth, “Jesus doesn’t change – yesterday, today, tomorrow; He’s always totally Himself.” Hebrews 13:8 The Message.

Andrae Crouch, an amazing singer and songwriter, wrote the song, “Through It All.” The lyrics included this reasoning, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. Yes, through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” Lean on God. Learn to rest upon God’s Word.

Learning to know God through His Word increases your understanding of His righteous nature and loving character. The God of the Bible is even more loving than you have assumed or been told by others. You learn to know God by His Word and your personal experience of Him. Circumstances can send matters in directions that God’s love would not have chosen or wanted for you.

Due to the fallen nature of the world around you, bad stuff happens even to good people. For this moment in time, things may not yet be as God desires or designed them to be. At such times, your humanity is tempted to question, “Why God? Where is God? What will He do? What can He do? Read the Psalms for courage and assurance. The psalmist spoke frequently and honestly about the distress that can weigh on one’s heart and mind. The Holy Spirit – the Comforter – was with you in that moment and His power and presence will neither falter nor fail.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as, “distress,” described, “a pressure or narrowness of room.” Today, we call that stress. Stress surrounds and squeezes your joy from daily life. Distress is what you feel mentally, emotionally, and even physically. When life’s situations overwhelm, the Holy Spirit prompts you to turn to God. Why would anyone be reticent to run to the One who alone has abundant grace, abounding love, and unequalled power?

Paul found God and His grace to be enough, never lacking. The Apostle Paul debated with God until, ”[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV. There and then, you will find God is enough for you as well.

Could there even be times that God does not quickly deliver you from your distressing situation but allows circumstances to grow increasingly uncomfortable and confining until you will truly look to Him, and listen to Him, and embrace and obey His good will, and rest at peace in His care? “Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:1 NLT.

The Psalmist was distressed, “When I call, give me answers. . . Grace me! Hear me!” Psalm 4:1 The MSG. Grace provides opportunity to recover and regroup. David found the entry to such enlargement was, “When I call . .“ Maybe you are waiting for God, while God has been waiting for you. Call out to Him. The door into His grace awaits you.

Life is not always fair, but your God is righteous and just. I have found this true, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25. Life is not always easy, but your Father’s grace is enough. Your Father has promised, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV.

My prayer for you today is to call upon the Lord and be confident of His answer.

EDL Communications 2019

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Gratitude Is an Attitude

November 27th, 2019

Blessings Flow Through A Grateful Heart.

 “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” Psalm 107:1 NKJ.

My thoughts today are that, gratitude is an attitude.”

May you be graced with our God’s pronounced blessing and favor. I am thankful for your daily fellowship in God’s Word. Thank you for giving me the honor to share His practical truth. I am privileged that you welcome my thoughts and comments, as you share EDL with family and friends. I rejoice whenever and wherever His Word is published and received into hungry hearts. Thankfully, Allen Randolph

Giving thanks is a holy benediction. Benediction simply means, “a good word or saying.” It feels good when you can look at what you have done or made, and can confidently say, “I am proud of that.” Satisfaction is a good feeling for a fulfilled life.

In the Garden of Eden, God gave His superlative benediction. When God surveyed the mystery and mastery of Creation, He described the work of His hands as, “good.” God rejoiced when He created the world and all that is in it, and finished with His masterpiece, Adam and Eve. Then God pronounced confidently, “It is very good.”

On the Cross of Calvary, Jesus spoke the ultimate benediction. As He hung upon a cross to die for our sins, He declared to Heaven and earth, “It is finished.” The single Greek word from which that phrase is translated was literally a benediction announcing, “this is my best effort and finest result.”

When you were created by the hand of God, and again when you were redeemed through faith in Christ, Heaven heard the Eternal Creator say again, and just as true as at Creation, “It is very good.” Think about that. God looks at you and speaks a wondrous benediction of grace, “very good!” It is never your right to disagree with God, disbelieving or contradicting what He prophesies over you in grace and love.

In humility and wonder, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Long ago, even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 NLT. Will you be able to speak a similar benediction over your life, appraising what you have done with your time, talents, gifts and opportunities, and how you have lived your life for His pleasure and glory?

Your attitude is a choice only you can make. Gratitude is an attitude you choose. Gratitude is far more than a feeling you have; gratitude is a choice you make. This Thanksgiving look past your struggles and challenges of the moment and see the full measure of His grace, and the abounding nature of His love, and the generous supply of His daily provision. And simply be thankful. You will find more for which to be grateful than things about which to complain or regret.

When you count your blessings, life is best, and praise is loudest. The sincere and simple giving of thanks that I learned from a long-time mentor and friend is an affirmation of faith, “God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.” That can be your fitting response for God’s goodness to you. Really, it is this simple, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you are grateful for all God has done for you.

EDL Communications 2019

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The Great Exchange

November 19th, 2019

Optimism Is The Better Choice.

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace that you may overflow with hope.” Romans 15:13 NIV.

My thoughts and comments are about, “the great exchange.”

Good things are wonderful when they occur, and many times they will. But life cannot always be accurately predicted. Everything that happens to you will not always be good in that moment. It seems presumptuous to assume otherwise. All things do not go well all the time for any of us.

In such a time, trust your worries and fears to your Heavenly Father’s character and will. Paul was assuring that our Father, “knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 MSG.

Optimism is always a better choice than pessimism. But optimism alone cannot change a present reality. Your present path may feel challenging, harder rather than easier. Hopes you have had may seem blurred by the moment’s doubt. There have been, and will yet be, times when your best efforts fail to accomplish what you hoped. You were diligent yet experienced what then seemed a reversal of fortune by no fault of your own.

Such situations can become befuddling, and you may feel tempted to cut your losses and just try to get through it. In disturbing times, it is better to seek and find a Biblical anchor. Truth brings healing and hope. Hope produces solid footing. No one can live well or long without hope.

Hope was the Apostle Paul’s desire and confidence for every believer. ”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV.

Hope overflows from your heart, and flows to God’s heart, and from God’s heart to your faith, and from your faith to your circumstance. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure . .” Read Hebrews 6:17-20 NIV.

Our Savior will hold you safe and secure when you remain anchored to His Father’s Word by faith and obedience. If you bring it all to Jesus – your broken dreams, your plans that went awry, your best efforts that failed, your heart full of questions, and your disappointments and things not understood – He will restore what was stolen from you.

The process of true freedom requires your voluntary exchange. You give God what looks and feels to you like nothing more than ashes, the residue of yesterday’s reality and tomorrow’s uncertainty. In return, God gives you, “comfort, beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Isaiah 61:3 NKJ. Now that is the great exchange. Trust your Heavenly Father with all that causes you regret, sadness, and worry. Ask and allow the Holy Spirit to anoint you with His oil of gladness.

My prayer for you today is to fill your heavy heart with the joy of the Lord.

EDL Communications 2019

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BE YOUR BEST SELF

November 9th, 2019

BE AN ORIGINAL.

 “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right

to become children of God.” John 1:12 NKJ.

My thoughts and comments today are, “be your best self.”

Have you ever imagined being someone else, or at least being more like someone you admire? I think a surprising number of people wistfully think about such a possibility. God has a better idea. Be an original. Just Be your best self. Why be content to be a copy instead of a divine original? The best of copies never duplicates an original creation. Don’t settle for less than the unique person God designed you to become.

Copying others is an inadequate path to achieving your personal potential. Envy of others whose popularity you lack, or whose talents you don’t possess is not a foundation for your own success. There will always be someone who seems to have less worries, better skills, more money, easier paths, or clearer plans.

Consider this. Be practical. If you could, what would you change about yourself? When asked, most people’s answer would likely identify some cosmetic aspect of appearance, or something outward, superficial, and ultimately inconsequential. Imagine if you and I would simply apply ourselves to be clear and more confident about who we are, and more diligent in achieving what we can be.

As a younger man and minister, I found it beneficial to memorize and recite this affirmation. ”I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.” That is a way to  be your best self. The surrounding culture offers empty claims that you would be better off, happier, or more satisfied, if you would just be more like the images advertisers project for the products you must buy, cars you must drive, homes you must have, and celebrities you should mimic. What this world sells are hollow promises.

You will be confident and content when you learn to be who God created you to be. Your life is neither random nor accidental. You are an original creation of God’s genius and grace. Don’t choose to be a second-best copy of anyone. You are a bundle of potential and possibility yet to be realized. You are graced with gifts and abilities that are wonderfully your own, distinct from all others.

God was clear, “I know the plans I have for you, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. Isn’t that exactly what we are all looking for? God blesses what He creates and accomplishes what He intends. You are made in His image and likeness to be a unique expression of His nature. Paul describes us in this way, ”For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV. Like our English word, “poem,” the Greek word, “poema,” describes, “a creative work of expressive thought.” That is what you and I are in God’s eyes.

Your life and mine are to express God’s creative work of grace as being available to one and all. The source of a successful and satisfying life is your becoming God’s creative work of expressive thought with all you have, in all you do, in all you say, and all you are.

Jesus was clear and consistent. “I do nothing on My own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. 29 The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” John 8:28-29. He only did what He saw the Father doing and only spoke what He heard His Father saying.

My assigned course is the singular plan and path that God has thoughtfully chosen just for my life, uniquely different from any other. “For I know the plans that I have for you . . plans for good . . to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. A future without hope is discouraging. Hope without a future is wishful thinking.

My prayer for you today is to live for the praise and pleasure of your Creator.

EDL Communications 2019

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EMPTY HEARTS AND STARVED SOULS

October 31st, 2019

 

Superficiality Produces Shallow Lives.

 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom

and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“EMPTY HEARTS AND STARVED SOULS.”

 Life should be rich in experience and satisfying of heart and will be if you will not content for less. Superficiality is quicker and simpler but never provides the depth of satisfaction and fulfillment you are meant to enjoy. Too often, people live small, boring lives lacking both depth and breadth.

Empty hearts and starved souls produce shallow lives. Those words aptly describe too many of us. I find it unfortunate when a person casually regards matters they should esteem greatly, yet highly value things they should regard casually. Some people could be described as, “a mile wide but only a foot deep.”

Your number of Facebook friends is not equivalent to meaningful friendships. Relationships necessitate mutual time and attention to appreciate and nurture. You can Google an endless volume of information and yet lack knowledge and wisdom. Those admirable qualities require a learner’s heart as well as life experience.

Traditional media offers quick sound bites about global complexities for people who would rather be told what they should think than to deliberate about how they should think. Deliberation requires reliable information and thoughtful reflection. In “Christian America,” there are many people who know a lot about God, but far fewer who personally know God in ways that govern their lives and shape their lifestyles.

Dabbling in spiritual matters never satisfies your soul. Shallow lives result in surface relationships with spouses, children, friends . . . and with God. The result is fragile marriages, struggling families, shallow friendships, starved souls, and empty hearts. Superficial lives usually result from lack of clarity and direction more than lack of effort.

People work hard for a productive life, a healthy family, and meaningful relationships. The problem is this. Effort alone does not equate with effectiveness. People really haven’t changed much since Jesus walked the dusty roads and shores of ancient Palestine. Read Luke 5:1-11.

When a crowd pressed to hear Jesus, He chose an empty boat from which to teach. Men who knew well this sea had fished all night, but had little but weariness for their efforts, just a wasted day leaving them to beach their boats, clean their nets, and try again another day. Life can be like that, large investments of time and energy with little return. Jesus not only has the answer to meaningful and profitable lives. Jesus Himself is the Answer! “I am the Way, the Truth, and the life.” John 14:6 NKJ. You will be lost without Him.

Jesus offers an invitation to people exactly like that – “weary and burdened.” See Matthew 11:28-30 NIV. Jesus’ advice to those tired fishermen remains the same for today’s dissatisfied lives, left at the end of the day or week with only a few dollars, tired bodies and empty hearts. Jesus’ encouragement to you and me holds great promise when embraced with faith and obeyed, “Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.” Luke 5:4 NLT.

When life is empty for you in the shallows, God offers you satisfaction and success, a little further out and a little deeper. Imagine their amazement. Those seasoned fishermen were, “awestruck by the size of their catch, as were the others with them.” Luke 5:9. God has bigger and better things for those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Matthew 5:6 NIV. Casual seekers need not apply.

A large, fulfilling life is not found by the overly cautious, perennial doubters, or those wanting to live without some measure of personal investment, sacrifice, and risk. Paul best described our gracious, generous God, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!” Romans 11:33 NIV.

The deeper and richer things of God are reserved for the sincere, non-superficial inquirer. Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NLT. God’s best is kept for people unwilling to live in the shallows. Read Ezekiel 47:1-10 NKJ.

My prayer for you today is to cultivate a sincere heart for God’s best.

EDL Communications 2019

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