It’s no joking matter

Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Often we interpret this verse to mean “mourning” as in grieving the loss of a loved one. No doubt; when we lose someone we love, God comforts us; but mourning here also refers to the grief we feel for our sinful acts. It is a loss of fellowship with God – a separation of our relationship to Him. There are blessings in our conviction over the sin we committed. The blessing comes in the pardon of our wrong doing. Redemption comes because we seek God’s forgiveness; we mourn because we have wronged Him and by His blood we are made clean again.

Jesus was also referring to the sins of the world. Anytime we feel the depth and pain of sin, whether it be our own actions, someone else’s, or the malicious acts of a nation, the sorrow draws us closer to God. In our pain and grief, He extends His hand toward us.

2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

There have been times in my life when I asked God to forgive me for something that I did wrong. The attitude in my heart was almost nonchalant – I’d done something wrong, I’d asked for forgiveness, I’m done, right? What I was missing was the true meaning of this verse. God is very grieved when we lie, cheat, judge, steal, hurt others, have addictions, and any other mode of sin. He is hurt by it. When we casually make requests for forgiveness, it must grieve Him even more. The seriousness of sin is eternal damnation – it is no joking matter – and yet, at times we do not understand the seriousness of sin.

Jesus is saying to us, we are blessed when we understand our sin and we mourn over the separation that occurred between us and God when we sinned. This true repentance will bring to us the comfort of God’s forgiveness.

Today, search your heart; ask God to show you areas of wrongdoing to which you need to apply “Godly sorrow.” Sometimes we may need to ask God to give us a sense of sorrow over the sin we’ve committed and for which we are asking His forgiveness. We may need to feel the hurt we have put on others by our actions. We may need to understand how much we’ve hurt God by our sin. It is a privilege when we experience the true sadness for our sinful acts; the burden of death is lifted from us; we are redeem.


Blunders

What are words?

I often think about words and how they impact our daily lives. From what we read to what we hear, words have the ability to make or break our day

Have you ever just messed up? Said something stupid – something hurtful – and are left wondering how in the world those words ever came from your lips? I think we all have at some point in our lives. I used to wish my mouth was a vacuum and I got turn on the suction button at any given moment and just take the words back. But, we can’t.

Matthew 12:36-37, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Steps to guard your tongue:

1. Control your thoughts. Some of us feel free to think whatever we want. No one can hear, right? The reality is, what’s on our minds can sometimes pop out of our mouth unexpectedly. Don’t allow yourself to think harsh words. Don’t allow your mind to run crazy. If you start down a path mentally where you don’t need to go – STOP! Redirect your thinking.

2. Consider before you speak. Choose your words carefully. If you start to grow out of control, take a moment and regroup. Don’t strike out like a snake in a corner. Pause between comments. Run your sentences through your head first. Edit what you say!

3. Say what you meant to say. When you mess up, say you messed up. Tell the person what you meant to say or apologize for being stupid. It takes courage to say you are sorry. And some of us are good at it and some of us are not. When we consider Matthew 12:36-37, it is a wise choice to get it straight now.

Today, work on your language. Think about your words. Control your thoughts. And when you make a blunder, make it right.


He will guide you

The unexpected. There is no way to get around it. You’re running late for work – the car doesn’t start. You have family photos in the morning – your four-year-old cuts all her hair off. The phone call comes in the middle of the night – a loved one is sick. Your boss calls you in his office – you lose your job. You visit the doctor thinking your health is good – you learn about cancer. The unexpected, lurking, slithering across the floor, pouncing when you are not looking times.

Life is a journey of twist and turns and blind drive. Not too long ago, an unexpected happened in my life, and I found myself on a plane leaving the country. How do you handle when life throws a curve ball?

John 16:12, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you…”

The unexpected leaves us guessing where to take the next step; but He will guide you.For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12.

There are times when our ‘unexpected’ is a spiritual attack against us. We need to understand the rules of engagement. See, God does not want us to be troubled. We hold an incredible weapon – prayer and God’s word. It is not about what is happening to you that concerns God; it’s what’s happening in you and how you respond.

Three things to remember when the unexpected hits your life:

1. Thank God that He is with you. Praise Him that the solution is on its way or that He will give you grace to endure. Know God is not surprised by the unexpected; He’s many steps ahead; He will see you through it.

2. Use your authority. The blood of Jesus Christ gives you the privilege to petition God to deliver you. Exercise your faith. Push those doubts aside. Walk boldly, knowing you carry the sword of the Spirit – His Word.

3. Use your weapons. Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon forged against you will prevail.” You have insight and discernment through the power of the Holy Spirit – use it.

1 John 4:4 tells us that with Jesus, living in us, we are greater than any power at work in this world.  Don’t let your unexpecteds throw you off-balance. Fight the good fight of faith. Don’t give up and don’t give in.


Your strengths

Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around  like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. “

I used to believe it is our weaknesses that cause the most damage in our lives – the idea that evil prowls around and strikes when we are at our worst or unprotected or weaken. I have come to think differently over the years. It is not necessarily our weaknesses  but our strengths that cause the most damage. It is the areas we don’t feel we have to watch over because they are “strong.” I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard in my office, “I thought my marriage was good;” or “I guess I thought I would always be healthy. It wasn’t something I worried over;” or “He was such a good boy growing up, I would’ve never believed he could do something like this.”

Strengths. A lion waits in the tall grasslands of Africa, studying his prey as they roam unexpectedly, living life, drinking water, eating grass.

How many of you today are unaware of areas of your life because you confidently have pushed them aside as “sure things.” It isn’t your weaknesses that the enemy of your soul is after, it is your strengths. It is the areas in your life that you are not protecting. The areas you’ve left unattended.

Today evaluate who you are in Christ. Ask God to show you where you are vulnerable and start today to assure a hedge of protection.


Trust in His faithfulness

Whether it is financial, relational, or physical, we are often in the middle of a battle. When we are there, our faith in God’s delivering power may be the very element He is trying to teach us. We know God honors faith; and Jesus challenged us to maintain faith and a willingness to put our trust in Him regardless of the situations of our lives.  

Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Matthew 17:20 – “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’”

Yet, there are times in our lives when God is teaching us other lessons.  Sometimes the emphasis isn’t upon our activity, but God’s.  Often the focus isn’t our faithfulness but God’s showing His faithfulness. Sometimes, the focus is on someone else, and God uses our circumstance to teach lessons others need to learn.

In the end, we learn to rest in Him, whether by difficult times, joyful occasions, storms, droughts, sunny days, or prosperous events. The manner in which our lives have been designed and molded forms us in God’s purpose and plan for our personal lives.  In short, we become the people God intends us to be as we respond in faith regardless of the situation. We come to a point where we see His purpose for our lives fulfilled. And in each situation, God wants us to see His faithfulness.

One of my favorite Bible stories is a story of ordinary events, typical humanity responding to circumstances of life. As with our lives, the events of this story mold the lives of the persons involved. It is a story about people like you and me, facing life circumstances and finding God’s faithfulness in the midst of life.

A famine strikes the land of  Israel and a Hebrew family, Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, move to Moab in hopes of finding better conditions. Moab, a nation on the east side of the Dead Sea, was just next door geographically but was light years away philosophically, religiously, and morally. While there, the sons marry two women from Moab, Orpah and Ruth. Tragically, Elimelech and both the boys die; Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws are left as widows in a land foreign to Naomi. She decided to return home to Israel. Orpah, one of the daughter-in-laws, returned to her family in Moab; but, Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, committed to stay with Naomi.

Ruth 1:16 – “But Ruth replied, (to Naomi) “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’”

Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem together. They were accepted by Naomi’s family there. A prominent land owner named Boaz noticed Ruth and asked his workers to be kind to her and her mother-in-law. He left extra grain for Ruth to pick up, glean, in the fields. Boaz took Ruth as his wife, bought Naomi and Ruth out of debt, and provided the two ladies with loving care. The result was provision in their lives though they had both been widows.

Sometimes the focus isn’t on our ability to demonstrate faith, but God’s loving faithfulness to us in tragedy. The story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates God’s interest in our lives. Simple women living in Godly ways are noticeable to God. All He requires is a willingness to serve Him as our God. Just as He cared for the details of their individual lives, He cares for all the details of our lives.

You may be in a situation through no fault of your own; it may simply be tragic circumstances. Be assured God will show His faithfulness to you. He will restore, renew, and care for you. Trust in His faithfulness.


To truly be “His”

Acts 17:28, “…in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Some time ago my son David called me. He had run into an old friend of mine and the first words out of my friend’s mouth to David were, “Boy, there is no denying you! If you aren’t Mike Franklin’s boy, I’ll buy you dinner!”

David laughed on the phone later with me, “He actually bought me lunch anyway!”

I’m proud my son is similar to me, and I’m also proud he is the type of man I want people to relate to me. As we hung up the phone, I thought of God. God must be everything in our lives. As we go throughout the day, we need to ask Him what He thinks we should do. The decisions we face, the conflicts, our direction, the people we meet - any and everything - we need to bring before God. In actuality we should hear, “Boy, there is no denying you! If you aren’t God’s boy, I’ll buy you dinner!”

On my way home from Serbia and I encountered a young man serving as a missionary. He hadn’t been home in two years and was feeling apprehensive about reconnecting with his family. As I listened to his story and heard not only the struggles but the miracles of his work, he told me his parents were not Christian; in fact, his entire family thought him to be a religious nut. He smiled sheepishly at me, “That is the last thing I am.”

“What?” I quizzed.

“I’m not religious. Religion predetermines what God wants me and you to do. No, God has written on my heart what He wants me to do.”

He attributed his salvation to his neighbor who was a mechanic. As a young teenager, his car broke down. He didn’t have any money so he asked his neighbor for help. The deal was, the neighbor friend would fix his car at no cost, if he would help him and listen about Jesus. “It was the best deal I ever made.”

What about you? How do people identify you? How do you want them to identify you?

In Him we live and move and have our being.”

To truly be “His” we need to pay attention in all that we do. Listen to our inner conscience and what He tells us to do.

Throughout the day today, stop and connect with God. Ask Him if there is anything He specifically wants you to do. Strive, as I am striving, to hear the words, “There’s no denying Whose you are!”


He goes with you

1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

I once heard someone say that “do not fear” was written in the Bible 365 times – one for every day of the week. I loved that; but then I realized it wasn’t true and after studying the subject further, found that ‘do not fear’ is commanded a little over a hundred times. Still, God says it quite a significant amount of times.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. 

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Scriptures such as these encourage me. You and I have nothing to fear because God’s love casts out fear. He is the protector, the provider, the rock. With Him, we have nothing to FEAR.

Deuteronomy 6:13, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”

Joshua 24:14, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.”

Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

The very instructions not to fear in the Bible, which is found some 100+ times; the very same word is used in the context of God to fear Him. To take these scriptures and rationally lay them out – we are told “do not fear;” “love God;” “perfect love cast out fear;” but, “fear the Lord.” Looking at it this way, it seems contradictory and confusing.

Perfect love casts out fear but the fear of the Lord brings wisdom. When we sin, we fear the consequences. When struggles come our way and hardships surround us, we fear the outcome. Because of the love of Jesus Christ, He took the burdens of our sins and trials and hardships and conquered them on the Cross. The only thing to fear is being without God; being away from His presence; being outside His protection. The fear of the Lord is being outside of Him; but His perfect love for us forces our fears away. He is BIGGER than anything we could ever encounter. He is STRONGER than anything that could ever harm us. He is more POWERFUL than any evil force that could influence us. What we have to do is stay in His perfect love and fear has NO hold on us.

Today, pray about your fears. Understand that your faith in God doesn’t prevent scary things from coming into your life; your faith in God equips you to handle them.


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