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Treasures in Darkness

August 18th, 2016

Our apology for any inconvenience to some EDL readers this morning who did not receive “Treasures in Darkness.” A problem occurred with a Yahoo email server mistaking EDL for Spam and chose “returned to sender.” For those, we will resend before the end of the day, as this error is corrected. I was awakened before daybreak this morning and impressed to write more about the subject so everyone will (hopefully) receive the expanded, updated version – some of you for the first time today and some for the second time! So all are blessed! Thank you for you understanding . .

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Obedience welcomes light and banishes darkness.

We have the Word as a light shining in a dark place.” 2 Peter 1:19 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about treasures in darkness.”

As a young teen, I worked the night shift in a truck stop one summer. At first, it was exciting staying up all night; though I probably played more pin ball than I pumped gas. After the first few hours, the night just seemed too long and too dark before the first daylight edged over the darkened, eastern horizon. And while in college, I had a summer job at a steel mill, usually on the night shift from 11 pm to 7 am. I never liked going to work when others were going to bed, or going to bed as others were just waking up. It seemed contrary to some natural order of things. In darkness, you do not see as well nor as far.

Dark nights of the soul are neither where you expect to find the best nor where or when you would prefer. But God has His own time and place for everything. God says there are treasures there in the dark that can be found no other place, at no other time, and in no other way. There is a spiritual darkening of the soul that is not literal or physical. At those times, God promised, “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness.” Isaiah 45:3 NLT. There are many Biblical occurrences of God walking into the dark hours that people experience – physically, emotionally, or spiritually. God is present at distressing and difficult moments.

Gayle and I were newly married and I was just beginning my senior year in Bible college, when in a day’s time our future turned dark and uncertain. The darkest night of my soul may well have been that night after my father and sister died in a highway accident, and my mother was gravely injured and hospitalized in Sikeston, Missouri. After flying that same night from California, then driving several hours to her bedside, I fell wearily across the bed in a small motel across the highway from the hospital. Never a night felt darker. Treasure was the last thing I expected to find that dark night, but find it I did.

The last sermon I heard my Dad preach was about Solomon’s prayer that God would give him wisdom, “For I am as a child and do not know how to go out or come in.” Read 1 Kings 3:7-12 NKJV. As I prepared for ministry, feeling ill prepared, Solomon’s words became my confession and prayer. That night in a Sikeston motel room lit only by the motel sign outside my window, I opened my Bible and began to read. My eyes fell upon the words out of a dark night of the psalmist’s own soul, “From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth . . The Lord will preserve your going out and coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Read Psalm 121:1-8 NKJV. I had found my treasure hidden in the dark night of my soul. “My God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28 NIV.

There in my most difficult of tragedies, God’s Word became the quiet, clear voice of a caring, compassionate God assuring my heart that my “comings and goings” would always be safe in His hands. “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4 NIV. God is not unaware nor uncaring before nor during your circumstance so troubling to you. When you feel God has withdrawn from you (though He has not and never will, even when you sometimes wish He would so you could blame Him or someone else for your pain and bewilderment), and your dark feelings of discouragement and doubt are troubling and confusing to you there is a path to peace.

The Biblical remedy is simple. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8 NIV. God has not withdrawn from you; He never will. Your pain and confusion have gradually and unnoticeably created distance between you and your God, challenging your trust and convictions.

The next move is yours. Submit yourself, confessing your feelings (which means, “to say the same thing as God says”), doubts, fears, and all, then consciously draw near to God through your penitent decision to trust and obey His Word despite your emotions and fears. Rehearse a submissive posture daily, resume or begin spiritual practices such as: quiet times with God; childlike prayer; reading aloud and meditating on God’s Word, and quietly listening to the Holy Spirit in your heart and spirit. When hope is dim and help seems distant, you discover grace.

For some of you, this is a word of encouragement. For others, this is a word of instruction or correction while you are walking through puzzling, uncertain times, feeling alone and bewildered. There in the dark, when you have more questions than answers, you will find God near when you have a heart to trust Him and faith to believe Him. Peter wrote, “We have the Word . . you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:18 NIV.

God is your answer; God’s Word holds your answer. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life.” John 8:12 NIV. Light and darkness will not co-exist. Obedience welcomes light and banishes darkness with its doubt and disbelief.

Today, I pray for you to reach out to God; “He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 27:17 NIV.

I recommend to you a book I enjoyed by Ron Mehl, titled, “God Works the Night Shift.” The author examines the frequent, Bible references of God in the midst of people’s darkest hours, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The pastor and author knew of what he wrote for he had been dealing with cancer when writing the book.

EDL LIGHT John 8.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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Matters Eternal and Essential

August 12th, 2016

Simplifying options simplifies life.

“Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Matt 28:37 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about “matters eternal and essential.”

Doing what you would rather do instead of doing what you should do is a waste of time. Distraction from truly important matters happens too frequently. We easily procrastinate while busily engaging our time, talents, and resources with too much that is temporal and optional. That behavior may be typical but it’s not particularly profitable. We need Godly wisdom to guide us.

Wisdom is not about having all the right answers, because sometimes you won’t. Wisdom is about asking the right questions to the One who holds all truth. Know where to turn when you need to know what to do. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NIV. Life is simpler and success and satisfaction are possible when you seek answers from the right source. Jesus was asked, “Which is the most important commandment?” Matthew 22:36 NLT. In spite of the questioner’s deliberate attempt to embarrass Jesus, his question allowed Jesus to identify and clarify authentic love for God.

Jesus’ answer was clear. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. A second is equally important Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NLT. Love God with the entirety of all you are and possess; love others as you love yourself. Those are the foundation for all obedience.Jesus clarifies what is eternal and essential.

Commandments – truth you accept as essential and non-negotiable – determine the commitments that govern how you live every day. Your commitments should rest on the greatest commandments. Commitments reveal what you consider important. Your life is the sum total of your commitments. There is no higher nor more worthy commitment than to love and serve God with all you are, do, and have. Your values, priorities, and expenditure of time and money should be chosen accordingly.

Life becomes complex and choices get messy when you haven’t clarified what is eternal and essential. Simplifying options simplifies life. Ultimate commitments are things and matters that are not easily changed, nor should they be. I think those involve promises that you make to God and others, in your spiritual life and in your relationships. Pray diligently; think carefully; obey faithfully.

Today, I pray for you to know that the eternal is ultimately all that is important.

EDL Love Matt 36 8-12-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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Why Are You Afraid?

April 27th, 2016

You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26 NIV.

Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “why are you afraid?”

Life is full of questions. And questions without acceptable answers are discomfiting. However, questions can be beneficial, prompting a sincere search for truth and knowledge. Sometimes, finding the right answer depends on asking the right question. As Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples became frightened by a threatening storm. In fear for their lives, they awakened Jesus and He asked His disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Read Matthew 8:23-27 NIV. Without understanding a question correctly, you can’t answer the question accurately.

As I read those verses, my thoughts were captured by the simplicity and specificity of Jesus’ question. Had He asked them of “what” they were afraid, their answer would have been obvious. The suddenness of the storm, the strength of the winds, the severity of the waves, and the uncertainty of their safety were legitimate cause for alarm. But Jesus asked them “why” they were afraid. They knew what they feared; they did not know why they feared. The disciples had no answer and seemed even more puzzled by Jesus’ subsequent rebuke of the winds and waves, and the immediate, resulting calm. Fear is a wasted emotion.

Rather than ask the obvious and very real origin of their fear, Jesus questioned them about the underlying reason for their fear. They were alarmed by the elements that produced their fear – the storm with its dangerous winds, threatening waves, and imminent danger. Much like you and me, the disciples were caught in circumstances they did not create amid consequences they could not control, and they panicked. Faith or fear? Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking. Fear is a wasted emotion. It changes nothing for the better. See 1 John 4:15-19 NKJV. Fear erodes faith; faith banishes fear.

On this occasion, Jesus accurately defined the disciples as having, “little faith.” Exposing their fear, Jesus addressed their insufficient faith. God does not demand more faith than you have but life will compel all the faith you have.  Disproportionate fear diminishes faith in God’s character and promises; where there is substantial, steadfast faith in God’s care and sufficiency, fears are subdued. Maybe there is a situation in your life right now that engenders difficult questions, troubling thoughts, or fearful emotions. Why are you so afraid? There are more than enough moments when life is confusing, even frightening. Be practical. Refuse your fears. Read Luke 12:22-32 NIV. Declare your faith. “If you have faith as [the smallest of seeds] . . nothing shall be impossible for you.” See Matthew 17:20-21 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to embrace faith tenaciously and lay aside all fear willingly.

Christian Communications 2016

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EDL Backhuysen,_Ludolf_-_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1695 (3) cropped

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Prosperity and Adversity

February 12th, 2016

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “prosperity and adversity.”

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same . . Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son.”
“If” – Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

When I was a young teen, I questioned my Dad, a pastor, about a young husband and father I had admired in our congregation. He had such a heart for God and an expressed interest in ministry. He was personable, eloquent, enthusiastic, persuasive, and diligent. His natural gifts and spiritual passion were well suited for success in ministry, until he experienced rapid and unexpected success in his construction business.

As he prospered, his plans adjusted as his interests, time, and attention shifted. I well remember his words, “My goal is to make a million dollars by the time I am thirty; then I will become a minister.” The first part of his goal was met and exceeded; the latter intention was neither attempted nor realized. My Dad’s response to my disappointment was specific, “More people can stand adversity than those who can handle prosperity.”

I didn’t fully understand it then, but across decades as a pastor, I have learned the wisdom and accuracy of my father’s words. Adversity is difficult; prosperity can be deceptive. Be careful, riches will be deceitful. In His masterful and practical Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned, “The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word and [a man] becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 NKJV. Both prosperity and adversity have unique hazards. In the best of times, you may easily forget your need of God’s daily provision; in the worst of times, you can incorrectly assume God will not meet your needs.

Uzziah was a young king of Judah who enjoyed great success during his fifty-two year reign. He beautified and fortified Jerusalem. His armies were victorious. He was feared and respected by surrounding nations. His land was fruitful and his people prosperous. “As long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.” 2 Chronicles 26:5 NKJV.

Ominously, the Bible says, “So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped [by God] until he was strong. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God.” 2 Chronicles 26:15-16 NKJV. Prosperity without humility and gratitude is destructive.

Far from the prideful height of acclaim, success, and sufficiency, Uzziah died a leper under the judgement of God, ostracized from others. For me, Uzziah illustrates the practical wisdom of my Dad’s counsel, “More people can stand adversity than those who can handle prosperity.”

Here is the simple truth Solomon understood, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 NKJV. The Apostle Paul gave invaluable advice, “Everywhere and in all things, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Read Philippians 4:11-13 NIV. 

Today, I pray for you to “prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NKJV.

Christian Communications 2016
Website and archives: www.allenrandolph.com
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Suffering

August 21st, 2015

“What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later.” Romans 8:18 NLT.

Job’s story was written to show God’s faith in Job, not Job’s faith in God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “suffering.”

First let me say, I do not presume to know all the answers about suffering. But this I know, God sorrows when we suffer. For any of us, suffering presents more questions than provides answers. In the Bible, a whole book is about the suffering of Job, a man the God described as, “blameless, a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” Job 1:1 NLT. Very few, if any, have experienced the breadth and depth of loss and pain that Job suffered. Read Job 1:13-2:10 NLT.

And therein is the dilemma for most of us. We assume suffering is the natural result of our own wrongdoing or the fault of others. Admittedly, those often do cause suffering. But how do you explain suffering where there is no fault to be assessed? Amid the pain of suffering there are questions and uncertainties. In the truth of God’s Word and His righteous character, you will find rest for body, mind, and soul. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, [produces] character; and character [produces] hope.” Romans 5:3-4 NIV.

This week, a pastor and friend, Dennis, shared an inspiring insight about the sufferings of Job. Let me share an excerpt with you. “The patriarch Job had lost his possessions, family, friends and health, Satan himself tried to take his mind. Chapter after chapter, Job anguishes over the hopelessness of his life. He asked the question we all ask, ‘Where is God in all of this?’ Unlike you and me, Job really had lost everything. He really was hopeless. Even his wife and friends’ advice was, ‘Give up, curse God and die.’ So where was God?

You have to go back to the beginning of the story. The devil had presented a challenge to God, saying he could destroy the faith of God’s servant. God accepted the challenge and allowed Satan to attack everything that Job had, except his life. Read Job 1:6-12 NLT. In a nutshell that is the story.

But underneath the story is a truth that is missed by most. A casual glance would say that God was testing Job’s faith to see if he could stand in the crisis. That is not the case. Job’s life-story was not written to show his faith in God, but written to show God’s faith in Job. Think about it. Satan challenged God that he could destroy the righteous believer’s faith. God chose one man to be tested, Job.

In essence, God places all of His faith in that man to stand in the day of trouble. God believed the very best in Job – in fact, He believed in Job more than Job believed in himself. Since God has faith in you, maybe it’s time to put your faith in Him.” Dennis Gallaher, ActLikeMenBlog.

If you could hear the conversation about you in Heaven, you would not doubt your strength in Christ to persevere. This is the perspective God honors, “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later.” Romans 8:18 NLT. Your story is being written to show God’s faith in you, not your faith in God. Stop trying to have faith that impresses God. Start living a life that pleases God; give God reason to have faith in you. “Praise be to the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our troubles.” Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 NIV.

Here is Peter’s perspective on righteous suffering, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” 1 Peter 2:19-21 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to persevere in suffering, assured of the character and faithfulness of your God.

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