June 2021 Dear Friends,
This unusual collection of diverse and unique men gives me immense joy and satisfaction every Tuesday evening at Central Care Orlando.
These flawed and damaged men have a surprising appetite for Bible study and refreshing enthusiasm for Jesus that results in the visible transformation of their minds and hearts. I often smile when they excitedly search for the book and verse to read as they are still unfamiliar with, but respectful of, the Bible in their laps. I am convinced that this spiritual hunger and growth is because of their admitted brokenness and repentant spirits and humility. They remind me of the tax collector in Luke 18:9-4 who was in direct contrast with the self-righteous pride of the Pharisee. One knew of his sins and repented. The other was blissfully ignorant of his own sinful heart. The Pharisee’s pride condemned him, but the tax collector’s humble faith saved him.
A significant biblical principle that has resulted in trust and friendship with these men is our common ground. (“…Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”) I Cor. 9:22b, 23 NLB
Coincidentally, some of the men are from Detroit! They lived in neighborhoods near mine, are around the same age as me, played basketball, survived the ’68 riots, the violence in the streets, and disintegration of our homes and neighborhoods. And ironically, some of the men and I have the common ground of being arrested and imprisoned.
The same grace of Jesus that led eleven of my fellow inmates in cell block 1 in Manila is the same grace I share with these men. The nightmares of prison then have become a tool of evangelism now! (“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”) Genesis 50:20a
Another unusual common ground on Tuesdays is the men’s love for chess!
It so happens I have always loved playing chess. I love the non-contact competition of the game! So, after Bible study we play until lights out. The trash talk amongst players and the kibitzers is stimulating. I play slow and talk fast and constantly!
And coincidentally, again, my Filipino Godson just passed his citizenship test and celebrated by becoming the reigning US Open Chess Champion! Wesley So sent our Tuesday group a signed chess board and tournament pieces. The men encased it in wood and glass, and it has become the championship board for our tournaments.
Jesus was flexible and adaptable without compromising. He found common ground with the highbrow Jew Nicodemus, the lowly Samaritan woman at the well, and he stood before kings and was hung with criminals. He lifts up the humble and sets himself against the proud.
I find great joy using common ground to win trust and friendships so I can tell them about Christ and let Christ save them!
Finding common ground for Jesus,
Tom and Karen Randall
PS Karen and I are happy to celebrate 44 years of marriage this month. It has been quite the ride!