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Providence

April 19th, 2016

“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory.” Philippians 4:19.

In the sovereign plans of Almighty God ample provision awaits.

Lauren and Cody, my comments for you today are about, “providence.”

Life does not always happen as you planned. You assume life will give you what you earn, and to a great degree that is true most of the time. But there will be other times when what you receive is disproportionate to the effort you gave. It’s not always your turn or the time for your expectations to be realized. In such a time, be steadfast, “I trust in You, O Lord. I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” Psalm 31:15 NIV. Life will take some twists and turns that you will not have expected. But none are apart from God’s attention.

In the Old Testament, the story of Ruth recounts a remarkable instance of divine providence, “the foreseeing care and guidance of God.” It is my opinion that we often view as random occurrence what becomes truly providential. Because of a famine in Bethlehem, a Jewish couple, Elimelech and Naomi, with their two sons, moved to Moab. Read Ruth 1:1-3. Their misfortune is summarized in those few verses. Naomi’s husband died. Across ten years, her two sons married Moabite women. And then, her sons died.

Still, providentially, God was at work. “In the country of Moab, Naomi had heard that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.” Ruth 1:6 NKJV. Behind the scenes, God’s presence and providence are at work in your moments of disappointment, even despair. The best of life is not behind you because you experience reversals. God can reverse your reversals. Naomi and Ruth, “. . came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.” Ruth 1:22 NKJV. Harvest. God’s timing is impeccable – “the beginning of harvest.” Coincidence? I thing not. Divinely fortuitous? Definitely. God’s providence offers new beginnings for you.

After the years of famine in Bethlehem and the untimely family deaths while in Moab, Ruth and Naomi had nothing left.  They had come in the time of harvest, but they had no fields to reap. What would they do? How would they live? Are you asking questions like that? They accepted that they would be at the mercy of others’ kindness, but they did not yet realize their future was safely within God’s divine providence. After the reapers had harvested grain from the fields of Boaz, Ruth and others were allowed to glean what was left over, bringing home the meager result of their efforts. No longer leftovers, Ruth received what was providentially blessed by God and provided through Boaz’ generosity.

Ruth could not have foreseen the provision Boaz would release into her life. Boaz and Ruth soon married and a child was born, Obed, father of Jesse, father of David who would be, “a man after God’s heart,” and greatest king of Israel. Nor can you know all of the grace and blessing that God purposes for you – to give you something extra, providence beyond your efforts alone. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV. God can bless you in the most natural, everyday ways. God places people in your life through which He supplies your need. In the sovereign plans of Almighty God ample provision awaits.

My grandfather was a pastor. As a young boy, I was intrigued by a series of books in his study titled, “Handfuls of Purpose.” When I inquired, he opened his well-worn Bible and read me the story of Ruth, where this phrase is found. Boaz instructed the men harvesting grain from his fields, “Let fall some of the handfuls of purpose for her.” Ruth 2:16 KJV. What you might consider fortunate coincidence or the random kindness of others may just be the “handfuls of purpose” God intends for your life and happiness.

God’s provision is always, “handfuls of purpose.” He has the same for you; “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV. That is God’s wondrous providence. Our God is “Jehovah Jireh – the Lord who sees and provides.”

Today, I pray for you to know what comes from God’s hands will be enough, with extra.

Christian Communications 2016/EDL website and archives allenrandolph.com

EDL Ruth and grain

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Asking God’s Help

February 20th, 2016

 

“With thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 NKJV.

Ask for what will most give God pleasure to provide.

My thoughts today are about, “asking God’s help.”

Asking seems such a simple thing; yet people often seem reluctant to ask for assistance. We prefer the illusion of self-sufficiency. Maybe we think our own efforts – experience, abilities, and resources – should be adequate. I am not sure if it is being too proud to ask or if it is a misguided insistence on self-reliance, trying to take care of ourselves before we “bother God” with our needs. God is never bothered by sincere requests for His help. “He who comes to God must believe . . that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV.

It is foolish to presume that God can’t provide your needs, or worse yet, that He won’t. Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11-12 NIV. Love chooses the practical expression of generosity. Giving finds its greatest joy in providing what is needed, or even most desired. Let God be your first resource rather than your last. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Your Heavenly Father is saddened when you fail to ask Him for what you lack and need. James, the brother of Jesus, framed the problem with words of both counsel and caution. “The reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.” James 4:3 NLT. James saw the problem of unanswered prayer as either failure to ask or selfish motives; both are easy to correct. Ask for what you believe will most give God pleasure to provide.

Speaking of common, everyday concerns, Jesus said, “These things dominate the thoughts of most people, but your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Luke 12:30-31 NLT. He expects only the simplest thing of you. All you have to do is ask, “anything according to His will . . and you know you will have what you asked.” 1 John 5:14-15.

Do not be hesitant to ask, but trust His sovereignty and goodness, and then rest content. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to feel free to ask, confident to trust, and grateful to receive.

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Spiritual Discomfiture

May 20th, 2015

“Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4 NKJV.

God permits situations beyond your custom and convenience.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual discomfiture.”

“Discomfiture,” is defined as, “a feeling of unease, uncomfortableness.” At times, God will permit spiritual discomfiture to dislodge you from comfortable places for more than you could accomplish if you remained as you were or where you were. Unwanted or unexpected changes are discomfiting. Since Pentecost, the Church at Jerusalem had seen noticeable growth, and with that came a notoriety that was not so favorable. “At that time a great persecution arose against the Church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions . . therefore, those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word. Comfortable people don’t make inconvenient changes, except by necessity.

Their dispersion was involuntary, prompted by circumstances contrary to their wishes or control. What was previously comfortable for them was presently in contrast with God’s purpose. There were eternal plans of which they were not yet aware. Before His ascension, Jesus specifically instructed, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

Content within their current boundaries, the Jerusalem believers could not fully accomplish God’s will for the extension of the Gospel, “to the end of the earth.” And consider, this persecution and geographical disbursing of believers would ultimately result in the unparalleled conversion of the Church’s primary persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, who would become an apostle and most prolific author of the New Testament. Read Acts 9:1-6.

God was serious about His intention for those first century Christians. Apparently, God is just as serious about orchestrating your life into His purposes and plans. His promise remains sure, “The plans I have for you are plans for your good . . to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. A future without hope is empty; hope without a future is futility. I add my Amen to David, “As for God, His way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.” Psalm 18:30 NLT.

(1) God is more invested in your eternal contribution than your current comfort. Jesus warned, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven . . for where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 NIV. God will make every effort to include you in what has eternal significance and enduring fulfillment.

(2) God permits situations beyond your custom and convenience. God allowed circumstances that stretched those early disciples beyond their customary routines and into the direction of His purposes. The uncomfortable experience for those Christians was persecution. Fleeing Jerusalem for their own, and their family’s safety, they discovered unforeseen opportunities. Everywhere they went, they were preaching about Jesus.

(3) God purposes only what will be for your good, and the good of others. Closed doors can be the Lord’s protection; open doors can be the Lord’s provision. Today, persecution is not likely to be the impetus to push you or me to new horizons. More likely that may be an unexpected disruption of carefully made plans, or inexplicable discontentment that opens your heart to new possibilities, or a turn of events you had not foreseen that introduces a new and fulfilling direction.

Until discomfort where you are becomes greater than the anxiety of moving onward, you will remain where you are, doing what you’ve done. That is not at all what God wills for you, providing neither progress nor growth.

Today, I pray for you to embrace any temporary discomfort to gain an enduring satisfaction.

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Up to Nothing But Good

January 14th, 2015

“Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4 NKJV.

God’s plans are bigger than where you’ve been and better than what you’ve done.

My thoughts and comments today are about being up to nothing but good.”

Sometimes God has to allow unfavorable circumstances that dislodge you from your comfort zone in order for you to accomplish more than you would have, had you remained where you were and as you were. You will be flooded with a myriad of questions. “Why this? Why me? Why now?” That is rarely a comfortable process. “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4 NKJV.

Scattered! That description tells you their relocation was involuntary, forced by circumstances beyond their control and contrary to their wishes. Persecution had come to the Christians in Jerusalem. They seem to have forgotten Jesus’ parting words to them. “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NKJV. God’s plans are bigger than where you’ve been and better than what you’ve done.

Maybe they had grown comfortable in doing what they were doing and being where they were. They failed to extend their boundaries, not fully accomplishing God’s intent for His Kingdom until God permitted situations that stretched them beyond their customary and convenient routines and in the direction of His purposes. God will have something higher and better in the uncomfortable things He allows into a person’s life. God is neither protective of your comfort nor worried about your discomfort. He is committed to your usefulness In His Kingdom and your personal fulfillment.

In this instance, the uncomfortable experience for those Christians was persecution. They fled Jerusalem for their own and their families’ safety, and in doing so they embraced God’s higher purposes – everywhere they went, they were preaching about Jesus. It is better to fully embrace what God wills than to need natural events to spur you to do so.

Until my discomfort at remaining as I am becomes greater than my discomfort at becoming what I could be, I will remain content to stay where I’ve been, doing what I’ve done. That provides neither growth nor progress. God has a privileged assignment for your life that only you can do for His glory. Your Father loves you too much to allow you to shortchange yourself by reluctance or resistance.

What do you do when things get uncomfortable? Whine and complain? Hold on to the status quo? Blame God for not removing your difficulties? Joseph saw God’s hands in things much more than uncomfortable. To his brothers, Joseph “What you intended for harm, God intended for good . . to accomplish what now is . . the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 NIV. You can trust God’s loving hand upon your life, and believe that nothing God allows will ever be for your harm or loss. God is always up to nothing but good. Read Jeremiah 29:11 NLT.

Sometimes the closed door is the Lord’s protection, and sometimes the open door you avoid may be the Lord’s provision. The answer is to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14 NLT), confident in His Word (Matthew 4:4 NIV), and familiar with His voice (John 10:2-5). I love that when the Jerusalem Christians were scattered, ”they went everywhere preaching the Word.” Every circumstance can become your opportunity to share the Good News.

Today, my prayer for you is to see the eternal purposes of God behind the momentary problems.

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Righteous and Gracious

November 20th, 2014

“The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works.” Psalm 145:17 NKJV.

Life is not always fair but God will always be righteous.

My thoughts and comments today are about being “righteous and gracious.”

Children seem to possess a heightened sense of what’s fair or unfair. They have not yet learned that some circumstances and some people are neither righteous nor gracious. It is assumed that if you do what is right all will be well, but that is not accurate. As a pastor and counselor, I have heard many people say, “Life’s not fair!” Of course it’s not; get over it. Life is not always fair but God will always be righteous. “For God is not unfair. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other Christians.” Hebrews 6:10 NLT.

Jesus is your example when life seems unfair. “It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering . . if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:19-24 NIV. “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Read 1 Peter 3:14-18 NIV.

On occasion, suffering is the natural result of what you have done or left undone. At other times, suffering is not related to your decisions or actions. Asking, “Why,” is seldom productive. I think there is much to be learned from the experience and examples of Daniel’s companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Read Daniel 3:1-30 NIV. They obeyed God; they did what was right; yet they suffered unjustly; but God was with them from beginning to end.

(1) Good people are not exempt from trouble. Truth takes the confusion out of trouble and unfair circumstances. David declared God to be righteous and gracious, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works.” Psalm 145:17 NKJV. Life is not always fair but God is always gracious.

(2) God will be with you at all times, in all situations. King Nebuchadnezzar was furious by their refusal to bow to his golden image, and committed them to a fiery furnace for their destruction. But they had company they never imagined; the Lord was with them. Astounded, the King saw, “four men walking, unbound and unharmed, in the midst of the fire.” Daniel 3:25 NIV. They experienced God’s company, special fellowship in the worst circumstance possible.

(3) Blessing will be found in suffering, and afterward. “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace . . will Himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.” 1 Peter 5:10-11 TEV. God will turn your pain into gain.

(4) God will redeem your suffering. People are watching to see if your life and faith work; for many of them, their life does not work and they have little or no faith. God will take the worst that happens to you and create the best result. Everyone has a story to tell. Let your story be a testimony of the goodness and faithfulness of God.

“Then the King promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” Daniel 3:30 NIV. Grace will write your testimony. Your story is not just about your struggles and circumstances; the real story of your life is about God’s provision, protection, and promotion. Even when others are not, God is ever righteous, always gracious. Imagine if others found us more like our Father in Heaven.

Today, my prayer for you is to trust God in every situation and rejoice at all times.

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