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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Beware of Temptation

September 19th, 2018

Temptation Is a Doorway to Regrets.

“One who perseveres under temptation will receive the crown of life.” James 1:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that you, “Beware of Temptation.”

Days earlier, Gayle and I were having a late lunch at an oriental restaurant. I enjoy fortune cookies for their flavor, not so much for their advice. Occasionally, I am amused by a clever insight about life contained inside a fortune cookie. This was one of those times. What I read made me ponder. “Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.” Those few words were worth the cost of the meal. Know this. Temptation parades in the disguise of an irresistible opportunity. How often have we all been misled and tempted, and to our eventual regret, have embraced a temptation that we incorrectly saw as an opportunity.

Be wary of temptation. Temptation lures you to places unprofitable to be, takes you further than you expected to go, and can cost you more than you can afford to pay. Paul was concerned when he wrote about people being led astray, “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV.

Because you are offered something, or want to do something, or can do something doesn’t mean you should. The Bible is filled with examples of those who lacked self-control: Satan himself, Adam and Eve, Samson, Jacob, Esau, Saul, Demas, and a host of others stretching from then to now.

As always, the Bible offers guidance and encouragement when temptation exposes its strength and source. God’s Word is clear. “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man. And God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:12-13. NIV. Yes, God is faithful. Self-control is a virtue, and a fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23.

It is wiser and far better to seek an exit from a temptation in the guise of an opportunity. Don’t look for a way in. Look for the way out.Blessed is the one who perseveres under temptation because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 NIV.

But there is good news. Others like Joseph, who at the cost of prison, fled from the allure of his master’s wife rather than defile himself and his God. The supreme example is Jesus, who when tempted to circumvent the cross, refused to succumb to such a temptation. Read Matthew 16:21-26 NKJV.

Because you want something, and what you want is available to you, should not be an indication that what you want is best for you. Reflect on that for a few moments. I expect that we have all made that mistake and always to our regret. Know this.”‘ When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” Read James 1:13-15 NIV.

If we were not commonly vulnerable to temptations due to our fallen nature, there would have been no necessity and priority for Jesus to teach His disciples, as well as us, to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:13 NAS. Temptation is always a doorway to regrets.

It appears to me that Jesus’ concern for us was and remains primary, rather than secondary. Temptation is an intruder because our common enemy, the devil, is the Tempter. Wisely, we are cautioned, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!” Matthew 26:41 NLT.

Even Jesus was tempted by Satan, until He commanded that enemy, “Get behind Me, Satan.” From where did Satan, that evil Tempter, come? Read Genesis 3:1-3 NIV. His tragic story of rebellion, disobedience, and deceit began long before the Garden of Eden, when and where the devil tempted Eve to ignore God’s clear instruction, who in turn tempted Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit.

Adam and Eve were lured by the false promise that, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” See Genesis 3:4-8. Temptation never turns out well. Too late, they both learned more about, “good and evil,” than they ever wanted or needed to know. Obedience is better than curiosity.

Pride exposes you to temptation, while deceiving you to believe that you are invulnerable to it. The Apostle Paul was concerned for the Corinthian Christians, and his concern is relevant to us, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV.

Here is the great news! “God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13. NIV.

Today I pray for you to live free of regrets.

Christian Communications 2018

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Whatever It Takes

September 7th, 2018

The Best of Your Past Is the Boost To Your Future.

“Then David chose five smooth stones from the stream.”

1 Samuel 17:40 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about, whatever it takes.

Who doesn’t enjoy the story of David and Goliath. Read 1 Samuel 17:45-51 NKJ. Against all odds, David achieved a monumental victory. Who doesn’t love a story like that? Would you be helped if you knew what David knew? Well, actually you can. It would be easier if there were just one secret that could be uncovered and applied. Presto, and like magic you could have every success that you ever wanted. But life doesn’t work that way, does it? There is no single key to success, but there are practical elements for victory and achievement.

The Bible records the story of a young, shepherd boy and his encounter with a fearsome, angry warrior of giant stature. And then the Bible adds a small and seemingly irrelevant detail, except it is not. “Then David chose five smooth stones from the stream.” 1 Samuel 17:40 NIV. Let me share five truths that accomplish victories.

The first truth. Remember every victory. Let the best of your past be the boost for your future. David reasoned, “God who delivered me from the lion and the bear will deliver me from this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37.  Different situation. Same God. Be careful, your focus may well determine your direction and expectation; make sure those move you upward and onward.

The second truth. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small, and use it as a confidence booster for the future. Read Psalm 78:1-7 NIV. And never forget your previous successes, so you can be encouraged and build on them. Understanding those is key to not repeating the same mistakes.  People are usually prone to do just the opposite. Never dwell on your failures, except to learn from them.

Do not  allow a previous or momentary disappointment to discourage you from trying again. You may find yourself recalling every painful and trivial detail of past failures, while discounting every triumph God helped you to achieve. Rehearsing disappointments and failures over and over will not alter them. Remembering past victories strengthens expectation and reinforces resolve.

The third truth. Concern yourself with God’s honor more than your reputation. Like everything else in your life, success is not about you, nor your enrichment or acclaim. Success occurs when you bring glory to God’s name and nature. David declared to Goliath, “I come to you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied.” See 1 Samuel 17:45-47.

The fourth truth. Success does not come to those content to watch from the sidelines. See 1 Samuel 17:24-25. When others would not, David was willing to join the battle. He was impassioned even indignant, “Who is this that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?. . Is there not a cause?” See 1 Samuel 17:26/29. He became personally involved. Success does not come to you until you set yourself for success.

The fifth truth. Never give up short of your goal or God’s promise. I have read this statement, “Success is about 10% ability and good fortune, and about 90% perseverance.” You have what it takes, and God will give you what you need, when you persevere. Someone has observed, “It seems that the harder I work, the more fortunate I become.” What often seems like an overnight success story usually involves a history of effort, assurance, and especially perseverance.

Ever wondered why David selected five stones, or why the Holy Spirit included that seemingly irrelevant reference? Apart from God and against a fearsome giant, five stones are not all that more confidence building than just one. The Bible does not really answer that question for you, which allows me to consider why David might have done that. Here is my assumption. If you are serious about succeeding, you will choose more than one way to accomplish your success.

Choose the attitude that says, “Whatever it takes!” Maybe David chose five stones because he didn’t know which stone God would direct to its mark. He just knew that Goliath was no match for his God. David gave God whatever he had at his disposal, with persuasion that God would take care of the Goliath in his path. Your God will do the same for the obstructions in your path.

Today I pray for you to know God has everything you need for victory.

Christian Communications 2018-(09507 keys to success)

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The Power of Friendships

August 31st, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friends Influence Who You Become.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Power of Friendships.”

I said farewell to a dear friend. I have said too many farewells too many times. His suffering is over and for that, I am thankful. But the continued loss of his company and our conversations is painful to me. In that void, I find my thoughts today are about how friends shape one’s life. You are more the product of the people around you than you might realize. You give an awesome power of influence to each person invited into your life.

Friends with whom you spend time ultimately shape your opinions, values, choices, and activities. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV. Relationships impact your life’s direction, whether or not you mean them to do so. For better or worse, the friends you choose influence who you become. Think about that for a moment.

Friends are the people you choose to spend time with, and whose opinions really matter to you. By their friendship, they are allowed influence. Who are significant people in your life, whose voice and counsel you always regard? Are they Godly influences pointing you to Jesus and God’s Word, urging you to be better than you would have been, and lovingly requiring that you be better? That’s the kind of friends you need

My favorite story of a friend’s influence is David and Jonathan. Jonathan is the King’s son in Jerusalem, heir to Israel’s throne and groomed to reign. David is a teen, just a shepherd’s son from Bethlehem, apparently with no royal ambitions. After King Saul’s death, God sent the prophet Samuel to his humble home to anoint a new King. Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. David soon found himself chosen by God to lead a nation, when all he had led was his father’s few sheep.

Can you imagine the insecurities David must have felt, or the questions he had? Why? How? Why me? He would never make that journey successfully without others to encourage and help. You don’t have to make your personal journey alone. In fact, you shouldn’t try.

God brought Jonathan into David’s life. In Jonathan’s heart, God put an understanding of God’s calling and anointing for David to be king, and a love for David that provided an influential friendship that would groom David to rule. See 1 Samuel 18:1-4. Their lives were bound together in covenant love (1 Samuel 20:16), reaching even to the next generation. See 2 Samuel 9:1-13. David would not have reached his potential if not for the influence of Samuel, a person of authority who recognized David’s anointing, or Jonathan, a true friend who embraced David’s Godly destiny, and Nathan, a courageous prophet who spoke Godly correction and counsel to David. Those kinds of Godly friends are essential to your life.

Don, my dearest of friends since I was sixteen, once reminded me of an occasion when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” I do not remember saying that, but I hope I did. Because of the years we had spent together, I am different – my life, family, and ministry better – than would be true otherwise. And that is true of far more friends than him alone. God must have known how much I would need to be surrounded with such friends of Godly influence.

More than any one person, my wife and best friend, my mother and father’s loving examples, spiritual “fathers and brothers” sharing their lives with me, staff pastors serving alongside, and gracious families in the churches we served, are influences touching my life still today. Friendships are for mutual benefit and ultimately for God’s purposes. Choose them wisely; avoid those that might be detrimental rather than beneficial. Be wary of those who would subtly change you as neither God nor you intended.

Today, I pray for you to seek and welcome Godly and influential friendships.

Christian Communications 2018-212

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Questions and Doubts

August 23rd, 2018

Questions Are Inevitable. Doubts Are Avoidable.

“All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Questions and Doubts.”

To any honest heart, there are times and occasions in life that produce questions. With our limited perspective and imperfect knowledge, many times and many things don’t appear to make sense at the moment. Times and things introduce uncertainty. At one time or another, everyone has questions. If you haven’t, you either have not lived long enough or faced anything tough enough if life has not made you ask why on occasion.

Maybe you have felt guilty and swallowed your questions rather than ask them. Know this. God is not threatened by your questions nor surprised by your bewilderment. In the agony of the Cross, Jesus cried out to His Father, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His words came from the depths of His humanity. He had questions, but He did not yield to doubt. Before Jesus breathed His last breath on that cross, He turned His face toward the future and His Father, and said, “Father, I entrust my spirit into Your hands. And with those words Jesus breathed His last.” Luke 23:46 NLT. His final words were faith- filled.

Whatever the circumstances of my life or death, I choose to submit my feelings and fears to truth and trust. If Jesus can find peace and faith in such a moment as He faced, He will empower you and me to do so as well. Preparing for the cross as Jesus prayed to His Father, His future was secured by His words, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done!” Jesus had questions, but He did not succumb to doubt.

Questions are inevitable. Questions can play a vital role in learning. Questions push you beyond the known and understood to what has not been previously considered. Great discoveries and advances in technology advances have happened because someone asked questions no one else bothered to ask. A person does not have faith because they have no questions. If you had no questions, why would you need faith? Faith looks at the hardest questions, and though often without answers, simply trusts God’s love, wisdom, and sufficient grace.

You may struggle to resolve your questions. But you must choose to deal with your doubts. You can be without doubts while wrestling with the toughest questions, maybe even unanswerable ones. Paul did not say that was easy to do, but he does show that it is possible to do. Read the context of today’s verse. “None of these things move me.” Acts 20:24. Paul knew he was facing, “jail and suffering.” Read Acts 20:22-23 NKJ and 21:10-14 NIV. For any thinking person, that would raise some unsettling questions. I would expect Paul had questions about that. I would; you likely would as well.

When you are uncertain, and questions trouble your mind and rob your peace, concentrate on what is certain and unchanging and rest your questions there. That place is the Word and character of God. When there seems too much that you do not know, be sure of what you do know. Paul wrote, “Now we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is complete comes, what is partial will be done away  . . now I know partially, then I will know fully just as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 NIV. Dwell on what you know. Deal with what you don’t. Rest in what God says.

What leaves more unanswered questions than death, and resurrection? After Paul’s expansive defense of the Resurrection, he summarizes this way, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58. Those admirable character qualities – “steadfast, immovable, and always abounding” –  evidence a mature Christian who has asked their questions and chosen to move beyond their doubts to rest peacefully in God and His character and Word.

Even when there are serious questions, you can still live and trust with no doubts about God. Paul is a prime example. From prison, he wrote to young Timothy, “I am suffering here in prison . . but I know the One in whom I trust, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.” 2 Timothy 1:12 NLT.

Today, I pray you will submit your questions and surrender your doubts to God.

Christian Communications 2018

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A Holy Endeavor

August 16th, 2018

Your daily work can be a holy endeavor.

 “Work with enthusiasm, as working for the Lord rather than people.” Ephesians 6:7 NLT

My thoughts and comments are about, “A Holy Endeavor.”

People often describe their job as, “work.” Your job should be work, requiring your best efforts and the bulk of your time. For the better part of your lifetime and a substantial portion of each day, work will occupy your time, attention, energy, and effort. Your attitude can make that time pleasant as well as productive.

Work can be little more than a necessity, something you have to do so to provide for yourself and family. Or work can become a drudgery, something you have to do but really don’t want to do. Or you can make your work a fulfilling joy, an activity and place where you discover the privilege of meaningful service. On different days, your experience will likely be a variety in differing proportions of all of those.

The Bible is clear. “The Lord God took [Adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’” Genesis 2:15-17 NIV. Work was the privilege of being stewards of God’s ample provision and care. But that privilege was accompanied by a responsibility. Adam was to work and take care of the garden, free to eat of any tree in the Garden, except one, described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Contrary to what most people suppose, work was Adam’s assignment rather than God’s punishment for his disobedience. The punishment was the added labor that would be required. The difference was this. At the initiative and insistence of Eve, Adam chose to ignore God’s warning, eating of the fruit of the single tree that had been forbidden to them. Adam’s failure resulted in disobedience entering into God’s creation as they had been forewarned.  

“And to Adam He said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day.” Genesis 3:17-19 NLT. The sweat and toil of work was the horrible price of man’s minimal regard for God’s provision being enough.

God appointed work itself to man earlier than his disobedience. Notice where man was to be employed? The Creator placed Adam and Eve in a garden, a picture of provision, plenty, and beauty – a fruitful place created by God, blessed by God, and frequented by Him.

It seems that the difference is whether you are in God’s employ or simply trying to put bread on the table. Since God first ordained His creation to know and enjoy meaningful employment in partnership with Him, would He not provide a way for you and me to redeem our daily work and discover it a holy endeavor, rather than a lifelong struggle? The proper answer is, “Of course.” Let me share a few simple, practical truths.

Choose a Godly attitude about work. Let your daily work be a holy service to God and man. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do.” Ephesians 6:7-8 NLT.

Consider the purpose of work. “Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need” Ephesians 4:28 NLT. Honest work provides for your needs, and supplies a surplus for sharing generously with others. The goal is not merely to get more, but to have more to give.

Value those who employ you or work alongside you. You accomplish that by thankfulness for the opportunity you are given and by offering only and always the best of your effort and diligence to serve. “Obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ” Ephesians 6:5 NLT. In your work, you also serve Christ. Be realistic. The workplace is not a perfect place with perfect people. But you can be diligent in your work as a service to the Lord. Be the best boss or employee that you can be, and do so as, “unto the Lord.”

Consecrate your work to God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 NIV. Do not depreciate those for whom you work. They are God’s point of supply for meeting your daily needs. But look above and beyond them to the Lord, Who is your Source. To Him be glory.

Today I pray for you to dedicate your life in joyful service to God and others.

Christian Communications 2018-8319

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