Category Archives: Devotions on discipleship

The Faith Exam

Psalm 26:2 says, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…”
Often in scriptures the disciples referred to Jesus as “teacher”. In John 13:13 it states, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.” They knew Jesus instructed them on the way God intended for us to live, and they also knew, if He was the teacher, they were His students.

As students of God, you and I have lessons to learn, and some of those lessons require tests. God wants to teach us faith and His way of life.  Why? Because His way is the best way.  Simply put, it works.

In high school, I had a social studies teacher who was a young girl during Hitler’s regime. She often spoke of hearing him talk to the people of Germany; her father feared Hitler’s influence greatly. Her father believed the less educated a person was, the easier to persuade toward evil. She was one of the toughest teachers I ever experienced, mainly because she believed in learning the material not memorizing it. Her methods were tedious and often required more time than I wanted to spend on the subject. Her tests necessitated 100% understanding from every student, or we repeated the lesson until we got it. Our class not only learned it, but retained it for life.

God’s lessons are like that for us. He’s not interested in our cramming for His tests at the last-minute and regurgitating memorized garbage. If we don’t learn the lesson today, He’ll just teach it again and again and again until we get it.

I have a friend who often says, “When I face hard times, I get on my knees and ask God to teach me and teach me quick what I need to know so I can move on to something new.”

God is moving us from one level of faith to the next, prompting us to rely on Him, encouraging us to withstand the hardship and become more like Him. Passing those test with 100% correctness is crucial so we can move forward today. Study His word to ace your exam and move to the next level in faith.


Treasures

Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Have you ever been somewhere and felt really “out-of-place”? Recently, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of extremely accomplished individuals, world changers and shakers, people making a difference in big ways. We were listening to a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and as the man spoke, my mind drifted. How could someone like me make an impact when all of these more than capable people existed?

Have you ever felt like me? Wondered if what you do in life even matters?

I think we all experience feelings of inadequacy from time-to-time. We are struggling rock by rock to get up our mountain, and the person beside us seems to be running up his carrying a load twice the size of ours. Some days no matter our efforts, we go unnoticed, undefined, and unrecognized.

Do you know God is more interested in your heart than your resume? He treasures our hearts! It doesn’t matter if you are the hardest working person in your community, if you are not in line with God, your work is in vain. To God, it doesn’t matter how much money is in your account at the end of the month; it matters how you spent what you had for Him or for yourself? It doesn’t matter if your shelves are lined with ribbons and trophies. If you aren’t running the race for Him, those awards are only collecting dust.

God treasures our love for Him and each other. God treasures our attention to Him and to His people. God treasures even the smallest of acts if they are done to honor Him.

As I left the conference, a well-dressed gentleman called out to me. “Michael, Michael Franklin,” he said, extending his hand, “do you remember me?”

I have to admit, I did not; but I recognized him as one of the day’s speakers. He laughed slightly to himself, “I hoped you’d be here.”

My face must have looked puzzled because he continued, “You were the pastor of my church when I was young.  During your tenure, I received my call into ministry.”

After a lengthy, interesting conversation with a man eager to change the world, I walked slowly back to my car thinking of God and my earlier feelings of inadequacies. It really isn’t about us; how we look; how much education we have; how we talk; or even how we feel. God is looking for people with hearts He can use, no resume or references required. All it takes is a heart totally sold out to Him in sacrificial service.  When we provided sacrificial service with a pure heart, He will do the miraculous in spite of us.


Something new

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians:17

When I was in college, one of my friends had grown up an army brat. He had spent most of his life moving from one location to the next, one school after another, and one baseball team after the next. I remember him well because of his great personality. There wasn’t anyone in our dorm who did not like him. He was one of those guys who could adapt himself to just about any situation.

I loved to hear his stories: at one school he was on the debate team; another an athlete; another a chess player; and another a member of the band. He had lived throughout the world, spoke several languages, and had a grasp for geography like nothing I’d ever seen. The shortest period of time he ever lived somewhere was two weeks, the longest 9 months.

The secret to his success was simple; if he didn’t like who he was in one town, he’d change and be someone else in the next. A man of many personalities, he seemed to find his niche everywhere he went.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone new? Start over? Change directions? Maybe you are feeling it right now? Maybe there are aspects about your life you wish were different. Maybe it gets harder to be you with each passing day.

Jesus tells us when we come to Him, He makes us a new creation. We get a fresh start, a do-over.  Take time today to change what needs changing in your life. Start a new commitment with God to live according to His word. Let Him make all things new.


Prayer

Matthew 6:7-8, “And when you pray, do not heap up phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking…For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

It was my senior year in high school and a baseball buddy of mine invited me to a fundraising event for world hunger.  He had been asked to deliver the invocation. Typically a timid guy by nature, one can only imagine the anxiety he was experiencing at the thought of standing before hundreds of people and praying. “Do you even know what you are going to say?” I asked him a few days before the big moment would occur.

“My dad wrote out a prayer for me. I’m not allowed to read it so I have to memorize it,” he responded. Even then, days before he would recite the oration his father had prepared, I could feel the heat emanating from his body, and the throat closing fear he felt.

My mom pressed my best pants and shirt and made sure my shoes shined. The drive to Birmingham, Alabama passed as slow as Christmas coming. The atmosphere in the automobile felt like an imminent execution.

We arrived less than an hour from prayer delivery.

“Dad, I just need to read over it one more time,” he pleaded; his dad just confidently patted his shoulder. I tried to reassure him, but my insides were so nervous for him that I believed anything I said would cause him more anguish.

His name was called. To him, hundreds of eyes became thousands of eyes as he cleared his voice. Heads bowed. Silence filled the conference room of rounded tables filled with people ready to share a meal. I could hear my watch tick, tick, tick, tick and then, “I had a little tea party this afternoon at three. It was very small, three guests in all…”

I opened my eyes slightly. Some people lifted their heads in astonishment, others reverently held their pose, probably thinking there was a point, in time.

“…I, myself, and me. Myself ate up the sandwiches, while I drank up the tea.”

His dad’s leg began to bounce nervously. His mom tried to stand but thought better of it.

“…it was also I who ate the pie, and passed the cake to me. Amen.”

No one moved for what seemed hours but probably amounted to a few seconds. He was thanked by the announcer and the program continued. As he took his chair, I wondered what would be said. Would his dad blast him now? How would the car ride be on the way home?

His mom broke the uncomfortable silence simply with the reply, “Son, that was your Kindergarten graduation poem.”

Sometimes we get so carried away with what we are going to say that we forget to simply pray.

“…And when you pray, do not heap up phrases…”

As we exited the building, a well-dressed lady stopped my buddy, “What a beautiful way of expressing our human self-centeredness. Sometimes we do try to make it all about us, huh?” She smiled at his parents. “I know you are proud of your young man.”

“…For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Today, enjoy a conversation with God. One-on-one from your heart. He already knows what you need; what He longs for is to hear you talk to Him.


Turkey Day

Even as I am typing these words to you, the aroma of turkey coming from the smoker consumes me. I can almost taste the crisp outer skin and moist dark meat: warm, flavored, and juicy. I hear Connie opening the oven door to check on her famous cornbread dressing, and I know soon the pumpkin pies will be cooling on the racks by the window. Thanksgiving Day!

Today, I am in Norman, Oklahoma, visiting my son Daniel and his wife Chelsey.  Abby, my son David’s wife, and my daughter, Renee, are setting the table, laughing about a television show about a duck call maker. David and Daniel are fighting over the remote – some things never change – and I am writing to you.

I’ve often had mixed emotions on Thanksgiving. Some years I am focused on my blessings. Some, memories of holidays past. And some, looking toward the future. But today, I am grateful for the voices of my family.

I hear Connie discussing how she can’t remember if she put cinnamon in the pumpkin pies. Chelsey is certain she saw her do it. Abby is giggling over something Renee has told her. And my boys have quietly settled in watching a ballgame. Life is amazingly grand; I couldn’t love them more.

How much more does God love us? As He listens to us, His people, laughing in our kitchens with family; playing in the yards of our homes; walking the long corridors of hospitals; weeping in the corners of our rooms; hiding in the gutters of the streets; kneeling beside the cold stone of a grave; He couldn’t love us more…or less.

Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, be aware: wherever you are, whatever you are doing,  you are loved more than you can ever imagine by the King of kings and Lord of lords.  God Himself loves you. So be thankful.

Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Happy Thanksgiving Day!


Ernie

Psalm 100:3, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

I recently watched a documentary about a farmer who raises sheep in Scotland. Right down to the amazing Australian shepherd dog who literally responded to his master’s whistle calls to herd the sheep, I was overwhelmed. As I absorbed the information, my mind raced. How did David or Moses or Joseph do it? Here this farmer has state of the art equipment to manage his herd, and the shepherd of the past had a staff?

The farmer instructed the dog to bring from a herd of about 165, one particular sheep. “That’s Ernie,” he spoke to the camera man with his Scottish accent. “Ernie’s a mite poorly these days, a slight tear to the back of the leg. Been watching it closely for infection, don’t you know.”

With a few whistles and clicks of his mouth, Ernie and his dog, ‘Shep,’ stood in front of him. “Aye, Ernie,” he said. “Good, Shep.” He ruffled the nape of Shep’s neck and knelt down to examine Ernie’s leg. After administering ointment, the shepherd stood, whistled again, and Shep returned Ernie to the group, all within a few minutes time.

“That one there, Ima. She was born a wee bit early but blossomed fine, don’t you know,” he continued. “And there, Robush. Mi grandson named him after one of the cartoon characters.” The farmer laughed.

We are His people…we are the sheepwe dwell in His pasture…”

God created each and every one of us with His own hands in our mother’s womb. He doesn’t make mistakes. No where in the Bible have I ever read the word, “Ooops!” We are His Ima; His Robush; His Ernie. He knows our names and every intricate detail about us.

The camera man asked him how he can possibly tell the sheep apart. I smiled. The look on the farmer’s face said it all, “Goodness lad. How can I not tell them apart? They are mi sheep!”


A few gray hairs

“A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31

I like to keep my hair cut close to the scalp. Supposedly, from what I am told, it shows fewer gray strands and makes me look younger. Oh, the effort and money we spend to keep ourselves looking young and fit; covering our grays; reducing our wrinkles; fighting our waistlines. But what if we saw our age as a crown of glory? A way of righteousness? Ah, the billions of dollars spent every year for agelessness could be put to much better use.

Respecting our elders is not only honorable but necessary.  God instructed us to do so.  Lev. 19:32, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord;” and, Proverbs 20:29, “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.”

Age should reflect wisdom, a Godly example, a righteous lifestyle, and a love for God; however, sometimes it doesn’t.

Have you ever noticed it? When most teens turn sixteen, they feel entitled to an automobile. My dad thinks differently, “Son, to turn 16 simply means you  breathed every day for 16 years. You are entitled to nothing but an opportunity.” His philosophy has led to few entitlement expectations in my life, and few Chevys parked in the driveway with a big, red bow on top.

Our focus should be on how we live, how we take advantage of our opportunities.  Some of us will live in such a way that the wrinkles and gray hairs will show a crown of glory. Some of us will not.

How do we prepare a life that God deems righteous, that others see filled with wisdom, and that our children find a Godly example? Can our grays symbolize that which God intended?

Proverbs 17:6, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.”

Start today to live a life of discipleship by involving God in your day-to-day activities. Commit yourself to interaction with God through prayer and scripture, not occasionally, not just on Sunday, not just when it is convenient, but as an integral part of your daily life.

In Revelation 1:14, Jesus is described as having hair on His head  ‘white like wool, as white as snow.’ No one would deny His crown of color!

Don’t be the person who reaches 80 years simply by breathing; be the person who reaches 80 years robed with the glory of righteousness.


Discipleship…one day at a time

John 8:31-32

To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Have you ever wondered how He did it – how He put together a team of 12 men to minister to the world by spreading the gospel?

The disciples were Jesus’ core group, and the group Jesus knew would continue His message after the resurrection. They were fishermen, a tax collector, political activists, and travelers. A few of the names we know; others, like Simon the Zealot or Bartholomew, are rarely mentioned. Were some less important than others? Perhaps. Yet, interestingly His disciples were ordinary people, just like you and me, living ordinary day-to-day lives. We do not know too much about them because the purpose of their existence was to tell about Jesus, not themselves.

We too are called to discipleship. Some will be well-known while the impact others make will be understood by God alone.  However, each individual’s purpose is just as important today as it was for the disciples when Jesus walked the earth.  The call is simple; obey.

Join me on a journey to discover how we can impact God’s Kingdom and spread the message of Jesus Christ. Delve into the words of our Father as we explore how to turn our ordinary lives into extraordinary worshipers of Jesus Christ.

Together we will learn discipleship…one day at a time.


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