The Spirit God Gave Us

2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”

Matthew 10:31, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

What makes you afraid? What do you worry about? What keeps you up at night? Over the years, I’ve heard many answers to those questions and I’ve answered them myself in various ways. Fear is a very real emotion and one that God is very much aware exists in our hearts.

Maybe you fear getting old; having an empty nest; getting sick; losing your job; not being accepted by others. Maybe you fear public speaking; flying on airplanes; being in crowds; losing your home; losing your money. Whatever it is, God has the answer.

Psalm 56:4, “In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Psalm 91:4-8, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.”

Isaiah 44:8, “Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

Pick any one of these verses and commit them to memory. When you are afraid, speak it aloud and claim it in your heart. Pray today about your fears and ask God to help you fight the fears within you. Seek the Word. God has a great deal to say about our fears.

Psalm 34:4, “I sought (prayed to) the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”

Isaiah 35:4, “say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution; He will come to save you.'”

I love these scriptures because I know I serve a God who cares about me and wants to protect me. What I have to do, is trust He will do what He says He will do.


What are you giving?

Those of you who know me, know I love sports. I loved playing football and baseball, and I love watching any game the remote finds on our television. When I think about sports, I often think about marriage. My wife may not like the analogy; but, it is how I relate. Many people go through married life believing it is a 50-50 relationship. On the outside it sounds pretty good; however, when you dissect that 50%, it falls short.

Biblical love calls us to meet much more than 50% of our obligation in a marriage. It isn’t about you giving your 50 and your spouse giving his or her 50.

Have you ever heard a coach call out from the dugout, “Hey! Sanchez! Give me your 12% or I’m pulling you off the mound!” If you consider there are 9 members on the team, following the marriage model of 50-50, that’s what each player would contribute. 12%? I don’t think it would be a winning season, do you?

When we get into the “you do your part and I’ll do mine,” expectations are never met. You start thinking your 50% is tougher or you’re giving more than 50 and your spouse is giving less.

Biblical love asks, “How can I be what you need me to be?”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Now that sounds more like a team, doesn’t it? When such words as never and always are used, there is no other way except through 100% of self. Love is sacrificial; love is customer service at its very best; love begins with the question, “What can I do to make your life what you need it to be?”

Today, pray about your marriage. What percentage of yourself are you giving? It may be time to turn up the service meter inside you to 100%.


Push Through to Victory

Romans 15:4-6, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In this scripture Paul emphasizes two necessary ingredients in our Christian walk – endurance and encouragement. Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us…to teach us endurance through scripture. Several people in the Bible come to mind when I think of endurance – Joseph (sold into slavery, imprisoned, 2nd in command in Egypt); Moses (at one point he asked God to show him mercy and kill him Numbers 11:15); Job (lost his children, his home, his livestock, his riches); and the author of this scripture Paul (suffered with an affliction which he referred to as a “messenger of Satan”).

The trials of life teach us to endure, to push through, to depend upon God for strength and an answer to the situations we face.

Encouragement comes in the scriptures, in comfort from God, in people who have battled similar battles, and in the promises that God is always near. The two go hand-in-hand. Endurance cannot exist without encouragement nor encouragement without endurance. Every time you reject the temptation to quit it stems from some form of encouragement.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident) said it best, “To endure the cross is tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ.”

When Jesus Christ faced the Cross, He faced it with courage beyond anything we can imagine. He faced it with love for us and for His Father so that in His suffering, God would be glorified. Through His endurance in suffering, we find hope, love, joy, and encouragement because the outcome was victorious; therefore, in walking with Christ, we are victorious in our sufferings as well. Simply put, He won for us. There could be no greater encouragement than to know in the end – WE WIN!!!

No matter what you are facing today, I want to encourage you. Don’t give up. Don’t feel you are alone. God will see you through it all and provide you with the encouragement you need to push through to victory.


Is There Hope in the Dark?

Close your eyes. What do you see? If you answered darkness, you are correct. You see nothing.

If you are in familiar territory, you can probably find your way to the kitchen, open the refrigerator, and pour a glass of water. But if you are in unfamiliar areas, it will be very frightening for you to even take a step. After a few hours, you might even become despondent, vulnerable, and disheartened.

One of my favorite caves in Israel is in the Avshalom Nature Reserve on the western slopes of the Judean Hills. It is called the Soreq Cave. 150 steps down, the temperature drops at least 20 degrees as you descend into the beautiful wonder of this cave. A lighting system has been put into place using limited parts of the color spectrum to prevent the growth of algae and moss.  The stalactites and stalagmites give the cave a magical, mysterious look. During our tour, the lighting system shut down. There were probably 25 to 30 tourists with me and we were all unable to see our hands in front of our faces. The darkness was indescribable. If I hadn’t been able to hear the panicked breathing of others, I would have believed I was alone. I had never experienced that depth of darkness before – a thick, opaque, crippling blackness – which left us in an immovable state. 

Some of you may feel that way right now. You have lost hope in the darkness. Life has dealt a blow from which you do not believe you will ever recover. The questions which flood your mind push you to doubt Who God is. And the dark just seems to get darker. You may think a good God wouldn’t have made your life this way. The world around you is crumbling, and God appears silent, disengaged, unavailable. The pain within you is real. You do not understand the loss, the grief, or why God could let this happen to you.

Do you know it is normal to feel this way? Even though you may have 100 people around you supporting you, it is normal to think you are alone.

But you are not. 

There is an enemy of our soul who wants to use the tragedy, the grief, the heartache in our lives to force us to question God’s goodness. Don’t fall into that trap. Comfort is not found in WHAT you know, it is found in WHO you know. The WHO is God. 

God can and does turn what was intended to harm us to good (Genesis 50:20).  Know that He is committed to you. Trust Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those Who love Him, Who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Find hope in Him. 

 

 

 

 


How Do You Wake Up?

Have you ever thought about how you wake up in the morning? Maybe the alarm comes from your cell phone which is strategically placed next to your bedside table. As you lift your phone to turn off the “chimes’ or “by the seaside” or “chirping birds” (whatever the sound you chose for the day), do you immediately start to scroll? What has happened on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?

Maybe you check your bank account. What transactions have cleared? What is your balance? Email may be your target…you need answers from last night’s blast of messages you sent just before bed. You may look at your calendar – what does your schedule look like today?

Some of you may jump right up, get the coffee going, and hit the treadmill, while others take a moment to stretch, yawn, and roll back over for a 5 minute snooze.

There are so many ways to wake up; so many things to see and do; and it appears, sooooo many choices.

The reality is, we have two choices: all the aforementioned and a litany of others…or…God.

Our schedules, our to-do-lists, ourselves become our priority. It is easy to do. And somewhere, God gets pushed further and further down the list until He is nondescript and insignificant in our daily routines. He becomes our “Sometime Sunday“.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:5, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” 

How might our day look if we chose God first? Set our minds and hearts on Him first, instead of all the other distractions which are before us?

Make it a practice to start your morning by thanking God. You have been given a new day! A new start! A fresh look! Acknowledge to Him that He is in control of your day, your week, your month, your year, your life. Spend time with Him in His Word to allow Him to speak in and through you, to give you the answers you need for the day. Your day – my day – belongs to Him. It makes sense to start it with Him.


Do you want to run with horses?

Jeremiah 12:5, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”

Most of us want God to use us in some capacity. We want to feel valuable to society. The majority of the people I know are striving to do ‘something’ with their lives that makes an impact.

I remember in the fourth grade I didn’t do my homework. I was just coming out of a long fun summer and the routine of school and homework hadn’t quite settled in with me. My teacher walked around the room with a red pen. We were to put our math assignment on our desks and she would put a big red check on the papers that were complete. I had nothing to put on my desk. The night before, I made the decision that math homework was a waste of my time. I needed something harder.

When she came to my desk, and there was no paper, she stopped, “Michael Franklin, where is your homework assignment?”

In the most convincing argument I could muster, I answered, “It was all review. I want to work on something harder.”

She did not respond and continued on to the next row. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or worried. After class, she instructed me to stay after school.

Sometimes God has a simple task for us to do, on a regular basis, for Him. We may long for something more important; but, He wants us to do this or that faithfully and with a cheerful heart. Many of us refuse to do it. We think our time can be better utilized. We think we have a better plan.

Really?

After school, I found myself sitting at a desk waiting for my teacher. On the board was line after line of a math problem. I’d never seen such work. It was a problem in Linear Algebra, one I could easily do while studying mathematics in college, but in fourth grade, it looked like a foreign language. My teacher came into the room and asked, “Have you solved the problem?”

“No, Ma’am! I don’t even know what those symbols are!”

She pulled out her Bible and read the above scripture to me. Jeremiah 12:5. And I understood.

God is always preparing us for something just up ahead, but we can’t get there if we aren’t willing to do the steps needed to be victorious. See, God is a winner and through Him, so are we.

If you want to run with horses, then start running with men. If you want to go into other territories, then start living right in your own.


Learning to Courageously Live

One of the toughest journeys of life is grief – whether it be from the loss of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of health, or a tragic occurrence – grief is tough to handle. Outwardly we can walk into a crowd and no one knows the pain we are feeling inside. I’ve stood in the check-out line at Walmart and just noticed people, wondering how many are dealing with unspeakable pain within. The outward journey of grief is difficult in and of itself, but the inward journey is even harder.

I once heard someone say, “To heal it you have to feel it.”

The quote is partially true. When we deny the pain and suffering of our loss on the inside, we are avoiding the inward journey of healing. As a pastor, I have spent countless hours talking with people about grief. It isn’t a subject anyone enjoys. The pain is very real and at times, I feel as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 22, “My strength is gone, gone like water spilled on the ground. All my bones are out of joint; my heart is like melted wax.”

Help comes to us when we reach out for the help of God. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. It is a natural instinct to want to protect that which hurts. I remember as a boy having a bicycle wreck and not wanting my neighbor to even look at my knee it hurt so bad. She would say over and over again,”Mike, you have to let me see it in order to help you.”

I was a little boy and believed if I kept it covered up, I could protect the injury and the pain. We are like that with God as well. As long as we cover the pain and suffering, we are pretending to be self-sufficient, isolating ourselves from God and the world.

But when we open our grieving hearts to God, allow Him to touch our pain, give Him the freedom to move in and through us, the healing begins.

Tragedy does alter us. No one can ever “be the same” after a tragic event, but we can learn to courageously live with what has occurred. We can begin the process of moving forward, of healing, of accepting what has been done and believing in God’s ability to turn what was meant to harm us to good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”  Genesis 50:20.