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Connections

March 13th, 2015

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV.

When shared with a friend, sorrows are divided but joys are multiplied.

My thoughts and comments today are about “connections.”

ED pix connecting

Life can be lonelier than it’s meant to be. Loneliness results from a lack of meaningful and mutual connections with others. You can feel lonely in the company of a crowd but loved in the companionship of a friend. Godly companionship is nurturing to the soul in good times and nurses the wounds in difficulties. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17.

The Bible tells the story of Naomi. Read Ruth 1:1-22 NIV. In a famine, Elimelech and Naomi, with their two sons left Bethlehem for Moab seeking a better life. Elimelech died and their sons married Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah. Within 10 years, both sons died, leaving their Moabite wives as widows. Tragedy left Naomi and her daughters-in-law with a shared sorrow. As often happens, in their common dilemma they discovered a shared life. In Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep and the lost coin, each story concludes with these words, “When he has found it, He calls together his friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me.’” Luke 15:6-7. When shared with a friend, sorrows are divided but joys are multiplied.

Longing to return home to Bethlehem after her tragic loss in Moab, Naomi urged Ruth and Orpah to remain in Moab. But Ruth voiced her sense of Godly connection with Naomi. What began as incidental became personal and mutual. In their shared experience, God connected their hearts in a way they could not have anticipated. Ruth’s response to Naomi was definitive, “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay; your people will be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die.” Ruth 1:16-17 NIV. Their destiny became linked in Godly ways of mutual affirmation and blessing. Godly connections are engendered by recognition that God’s purposes envelop a common future. I love the providential occasion of their return to Bethlehem, “They came at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Ruth 1:22. Naomi left for Moab in a famine but in the loving benevolence of God they returned from Moab at the time of harvest. Maybe your harvest is just ahead also.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24. Ruth affirmed her conviction and personal commitment, in the most practical way. In Ruth’s words are relevant truths about mutual connections. (1) Connection requires proximity and priority of time. “Where you go, I will go; where you stay I will stay.” Self-absorption and busyness minimize meaningful connection. Make time to be together purposefully and take the importance of that seriously. (2) Connection includes room for others. “Your people will be my people.” Exclusiveness and possessiveness diminishes the life God means to flow freely. (3) Connections occur when God is at the center. “Your God will be my God.” Connections require a bond with spiritual orientation and purpose. (4) Connections require significant commitment. “Where you die, I will die.” Friendships can grow and deepen over a lifetime; stay committed to them. Value and protect meaningful connections where God is directing and blessing.

I am privileged to enjoy such friendships, and hope that I can be such a friend. Though there must be some things enjoyed in common, they are usually not the more superficial things you might think, such as age, social status, or personality. I cherish friendships with people both older and younger, of diverse personalities from mine, of both modest means and wealth, and of varied experiences and interests. But there is one very important thing that we share in common that strengthens the life connection we enjoy – our common faith and commitment to Jesus. Lasting connections will have a spiritual commonality with people on a journey whose destination is as yours.

I love the providential timing of Naomi’s return to Bethlehem, “They came at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Ruth 1:22. Naomi left for Moab in a famine but in the benevolence of God they returned from Moab at the time of harvest. Maybe your harvest is just ahead also.

Today, my prayer for you is that you provide others the company you enjoy.

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Better Together

August 11th, 2014

On a personal note: after this mailing of EDL, Gayle and I will be taking a few weeks to celebrate our 50th anniversary – though a year late! The importance of the occasion and the travel involved dictate that the writing of EveryDay Life be set aside, to resume in September. I will miss the discipline and enjoyment of sharing my thoughts from God’s Word, as well as reading your kind responses and comments, but anticipate resuming my joyful assignment upon our return. During these weeks, let me suggest that you use the option of browsing the archive of more than 1,100 previous devotionals available at the EDL website: www.allenrandolph.com. I look forward to our return and our visits together around God’s amazing and practical Word.

Blessings, Allen Randolph

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“That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:12 NIV.

Some measure of your success requires the cooperation and contribution of others.

My thoughts and comments today are about being “better together.”

Let me journey a little further on our recent theme of encouragement. The Bible is clear, “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV. Human nature is a bundle of contradictive inclinations; for example, a person can long for meaningful closeness with others, while at the same time requiring privacy from others. Relational intimacy can seem threatening; isolation can feel discomfiting.

At every level of personality, our fallen natures conflict with the Creator’s intention. At creation, God observed all that He had made, then declared, “It is not good that man should be alone.” God’s solution was, “a companion who will help him.” Genesis 2:18 NLT. God’s assessment is unchanged and His solution remains the same. People need other people.

Jesus chose His disciples, “to be with Him.” Mark 3:14 NKJV. Much of God’s intention for you begins with a call to divine companionship. I think the mention is significant that when Jesus gave His disciples power over unclean spirits and all kinds of disease, He sent them, “two by two.”  Mark 6:7 NKJV. Jesus knew they would face challenges and feel rejection, and partnered them for the mutual encouragement they would require. Together is a better option.

The Bible is full of such examples: Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, and others. In prison, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life . . bring Mark when you come, for he will be helpful to me.” 2 Timothy 4:10-11 NLT. It is a wise individual who recognizes his or her need for others.

“I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:9-12 NIV. The encouragement of each other’s faith provides a mutual strength.

Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one . . pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV. Solomon reasons that your efforts together are more productive; help is more readily available; comfort is found in company; strength is compounded. Some measure of your success requires the cooperation and contribution of others. You will not reach your full potential without the meaningful fellowship of others. And some measure of others’ accomplishments and fulfillment requires yours. Encouragement is neither complicated nor extravagant; it can be as simply expressed as a genuine interest, a sincere inquiry, an affirming word, a heartfelt prayer, an overture of assistance, or an act of generous benevolence.

Today, my prayer for you is to be as encouraging to others as someone has been to you.

Christian Communications, Inc.

 

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Belonging and Blessings

January 18th, 2012

“There is no condemnation to those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 NLT

“The emptiness you try to fill with others’ company is a misdirected reach of your heart for God.”

My thoughts today are about “belonging and blessings.”

Everyone wants to belong somewhere and to someone. People were not made for isolation; by our Creator, you were designed for community, with God and with others. People love to belong to groups – book clubs, health clubs, fan clubs, business circles, civic groups, service organizations, charities, Bible studies, churches, and nameless others. Who could count the number of affinity groups worldwide of every stripe and kind, small and large circles of people who share a common interest? A person’s interests are encouraged and reinforced by their common experience and shared enjoyment with others. Who would enjoy sitting in an empty stadium to watch their favorite sports team if there were no others to share their enthusiasm? What team would enjoy playing with no one watching? Some experiences just aren’t the same without someone to share them. Good news never seems the same if you have no one with whom to share your joy.

Man’s history began with God’s pronouncement, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him,” and later the Bible adds, “God sets the solitary in families.” Genesis 2:18/Psalm 68:6 NKJV. That longing to be joined meaningfully with others is really the outward expression of a person’s heart to experience personal fellowship with God. The emptiness of soul you try to fill with others’ company is the misdirected reach of your heart for God.

The problem? As we were, you and I are incompatible with God. Since God does not change, you must if you are to enjoy a meaningful, personal relationship with a holy God. But how does any of us change our nature? God’s solution? The very things that would separate you from God have been removed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for every wrong and evil thing you’ve ever done. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ, (who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit/NKJV). For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2 NLT. For those belonging to Christ, no condemnation! You can be assured of this, “The Lord knows those who are His.” 2 Timothy 2:19 NIV.

Condemnation is that miserable feeling inside that everything is not right with God; His forgiveness and your faith is the only remedy. “If we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from every sin . . if we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong.” 1 John 1:7/9 NLT. Upon the truths of forgiveness and grace, your comfort and confidence as a child of God rests.

With this powerful announcement, the Apostle Paul sums up the guaranteed result of a life that truly belongs to Christ, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life . . nor things present nor things to come . .  nor any other created thing, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NKJV/NLT. Here’s the key to your release into that glorious truth. The certainty of God’s love now and forever rests in the heart that holds the firm conviction of the sufficiency of God’s grace. No condemnation; no separation!

My prayer for you today is that you live in God’s love, ever secure in His grace.

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