Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Last Day

The new year brings enthusiasm, hope, and the potential for change. As a pastor of a church, I am beginning a series of sermons on New Beginnings – fresh starts. Like all my sermons, it comes with tremendous thought and prayer. Before I can utter a word, I know I must hear from the Lord.

This morning I was thinking about how we start over. How we undo what has been done, regroup, and start again. I thought of spring. Over the last few weeks, it has felt like spring in Northeast Georgia – not December! And we’ve seen more rain than we’ve seen in a very long time.

But you and I both know, in order for spring to come, winter has to end. I can’t have both seasons. The fresh green grass and spring flowers could not thrive and grow in this kind of weather. No, in order to start new, something has to end.

Really, it is more about ending than beginning. We have to let go of what we are holding on to so that we can start fresh. One cannot exist when the other is around. How do we let go so that we can start new?

The words “Love Me” came clearly to my heart. When we commit our hearts and lives to God fully, the love we have for Him overshadows the grip of sin and death. When we sell out to God, like the thawing of the ice upon the ground, new life pushes through, fresh and green.

When God spoke to Moses and instructed him to go to Pharoah, Moses asked Him, “Who do I say sent me?”

God responded, “Tell him, I am.”

I am ______________ (fill in anything you wish). He is more than enough. He is the answer to every problem. He is exactly what we need. He is our portion.

Make this year the year you commit daily to a loving relationship with God. Make this the year you study His word every day. Communicate with Him throughout the day. And make Him front and center in your home. Make this the year you end your former self and begin fresh and new in the love of God.

Happy New Year! May you love God deeper and experience the wonder of a fresh new start in Him.

 


Merry Christmas! Spread the News!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born like any other human. He lived within His mother’s womb for 9 long months. Mary labored to bring Him into the world. He probably cried out like all babies to the delight of His mother and father that first cry of life, telling all around He is alive and well. She probably pulled Him up to her breast to quiet Him.

But, He was no ordinary human for on this day, in the City of David, the Christ child was born.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” – Luke 12:12

He came to save a world. He came to deliver the lost, the lonely, the oppressed – He came as God in human form – and He came to set us free.

As Mary examined Him, I wonder what it was like to look into the eyes of God? To have those tiny hands grip her finger when she knew they had measured the depth of the sky. She must have wondered what this journey would eventually become. But for that moment, Mary was simply doing what all mothers do – she cared for her son.

Angels appeared in the night sky to shepherds in nearby fields declaring the good news.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” – Luke 2:8-11

The shepherds found the Christ child, with Mary and Joseph, and told them about the Angel who appeared to them and the “heavenly host” which sang in sky, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

As Mary and Joseph heard of this, I’m sure it was confirmation. Confirmation of what they knew to be true. Confirmation of the Messiah she held in her arms. Confirmation that all is well with them. Confirmation that He was exactly Who they believed Him to be.

Today, you have that assurance as well. It is the reason we celebrate. And while there will probably not appear a multitude of Angels declaring the good news in the sky above your home, we can be assured it is true. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

The prophet Isaiah declared many, many years before Jesus Christ actually came in 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

For Mary and Joseph, the prophecy, which they had heard many times, was fulfilled right before their very eyes. They had a part. They had a role. They had a purpose. And so do you…

Today, be a part of the heavenly host, spread the news, the good news, of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King!”

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 


When They Saw the Star…

Matthew 2:10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” 

We all know the story, the story of the Magi, the Wise men, the astronomers who came and worshipped the Christ child. These were men who knew the prophesies, knew what they were looking for, and had the resources to go after it. We do not know how long it took them to find Jesus, but we do know, it wasn’t as obvious as the artists make it in Sunday School books; for if it were, everyone would have known and been there – including Herod. The men (we are uncertain of the number) brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as it indicates in Matthew 2, “to a young child.” So it could have taken them a year or two to find Christ.

It isn’t a time line that is important in this story. What is important is the reaction to the star.

What do you do when you see the star?

The star is the symbol, the announcement, the ‘all points bulletin’ of the arrival of the Savior of the World. When it appeared in the sky, there were those who probably never knew it was there. Some saw it momentarily and went about their business. Some may have gazed upon it from a distance, realized its beauty, but never engaged in the wonder of it. And then, there were those who either knew of it or went after it. Where are you on this spectrum?

The Wise men saw it, went after it, and rejoiced. They dedicated their time and resources to finding the star. They put all that they had into seeking what the star represented. And although we don’t know from scripture, I’m sure in finding Christ, the lives of the Magi were forever changed.

This Christmas season focus on the “star” of the story, the One who came to change a world, the One who came to save you. When we make Christ the center of Christmas and the center of our lives, everything else finds its place.

 

 

 

 

 


Three Days Left

Today is December 21st. Three days left to prepare for Christmas. Driving home last night I could feel the tension in the air; the stress; the last minute details; the longings; the busyness. My thoughts raced with all the activities of this month and the days to come, and somehow, a picture of Joseph entered my mind. I saw him running from door-to-door, knocking, sweating, looking over his shoulder to keep an eye on Mary, shaking people, begging.

His wife was having a baby. They had just traveled from their home and family in Galilee to Bethlehem, the town of David, a town where he knew no one and had no support system. Those of us reading the story might wonder, “Good grief! He knew the baby was God! Why worry? God would take care of all the details!” But we weren’t in the middle of it!

Can you feel his panic? He didn’t just tap on doors, “Pardon me, Sir. Could my wife deliver her child in your home?” No! If it were me and I needed to find a place for my wife, you better believe I’d be fighting to find it and care for her.

The image I see, is a husband in dire straits because his wife is in pain and needs a place to have her baby. And it isn’t just any baby; it is the Savior of the world. He has been entrusted by God to keep them both safe. Can you imagine the pressure? And no one will help him! Talk about Christmas rush!

Some of you may be in a panic even now in your life. You do not know what to do or where to go. You may not know anyone who can help you. Like Joseph, you may be running from door-to-door, and there is just NO ROOM for you anywhere.

Just as God knew exactly where He wanted to be born, so does He know exactly where you need to be. Trust Him. Seek Him. Believe in Him. Keep fighting. Keep knocking. He has it all figured out, and He will get you where you need to be.

Sometimes we, like Joseph, have to knock on doors. Sometimes we have to sweat, run, fight, push, and press-in. God doesn’t do it for us, but He shows us the way to the right answer.

Luke 2:10-12, “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”

I laugh to myself when I think of the ‘what ifs’. What if Joseph could have read the story ahead of time? Then, he would know to find a stable since this would be the sign. He could’ve told Mary as they walked from Galilee to Bethlehem, “God has already told me you will deliver in a stable with livestock and the Shepherds will find us because the angels have told them that the baby will be sleeping in a manger. So that’s what we’ll do.” No sweating. No knocking on doors. No begging. Just a well-thought out plan. Whew! That works for me – but it does not work for God.

What would Mary have said in response to Joseph? Probably what my wife would’ve said to me, “Michael Franklin, I am not having my baby with livestock, and I am certainly not placing him in a feed trough.”

Even when we do not know, God does. And it’s all about the manger.


I Have Come to Save the World

Luke 2:6 tells us, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Corrie Ten Boom is the author of The Hiding Place and survivor of Ravensbruck concentration camp where over 90,000 women and children died at the hands of the Nazis. She and her sister Betsy lived there for a period of time. It was classified as the worst prison camp in all of Germany. A prayer found in the pocket of a dead child from Corrie’s prison area read:

“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Corrie and Betsy lived in an area infested by fleas. Corrie writes that one day she and Betsy were studying 1 Thessalonians and were reminded “to be thankful in all things, to pray constantly, and  rejoice in all things.” When Corrie insisted to her sister that she would not be thankful for the fleas, Betsy persisted. Corrie eventually agreed to rejoice for even the fleas. Months later Corrie learned the reason the soldiers did not bother them or harm them was because the soldiers were afraid of the fleas. She writes:

“During the months spent at that camp, we were surprised to find how openly we could hold Bible study and prayer meetings in our barrack without guard interference. Several months later we learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas.”

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was born in such a lowly state? If He had come as He deserved, could He have influenced so many lives? Could He have professed “I am the Savior of everyone, not just the Jews and not just the wealthy. I have come to save the world!” Wouldn’t His birth have been more apparent to Herod and those who wanted to harm Him if he had been born into royalty?

Sometimes the discomforts of our lives are unwanted and undesirable by us. But just like the fleas, we must realize that even in suffering, God can turn it and use it for good. I have never given birth, but I have been there with my wife. Even in the most luxurious of places, it is no easy task for a woman. Imagine Mary, a young girl, giving birth in a stable with livestock and no one familiar to her but Joseph. But while they were there, our Savior was born.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”


How are you helping to raise children?

Luke 1: 76, from Zechariah’s Song, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him.”

Don’t you know Zechariah was proud the day his son, John, was born? He and Elizabeth probably spent hours staring at the bundle of joy envisioning his life. God had such plans for their John! He would be a man of honor walking before the King of kings! He was to be a man robed in glory, preparing the way for the Savior of the world. As Elizabeth pulled John to her breast to nurse, I can imagine her thoughts for this little boy. She may have seen him living with riches in fine clothing, mingling among important people; yet, their vision for John and God’s were quite different.

Perhaps one reason John grew up simply in the desert was to avoid being tortured or killed by Herod. Whatever the reason, he grew up apart from his father, Zechariah. Finally, he died a criminal’s death. The daughter of Herod requested the head of John the Baptist as a gift when John was only 30 years old.

We all have dreams for our children but very few include a sacrificial life such as John’s. Sometimes the plans we have for our children are not the plans God has for them. We want good things, safe things, financially stable things, prosperous things for our kids; yet, God may need to use them in a different way. Perhaps you, like me, find that a tough pill to swallow.

What Mary and Elizabeth knew, many of us must realize. Their boys were the property of God, given to them for a season that they could care for and raise these boys until such time as God used them to fulfill His purpose. That is how Mary could stand at the cross as her son was tortured. That is how Elizabeth could interrupt proper family order and raise John in the desert. Their sacrifice and love for the boys God entrusted to them is the example we must follow in raising our children.

Consider today the lives of children around you. Whether you are their parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, relative, or Sunday school teacher, how are you helping raise them? All of us are responsible for the children of God. Find ways that you can be a role model for the children He has entrusted to your care. Choose to be a steward of each child you are given the opportunity to influence.


His Words of Assurance

Time spent with Elizabeth strengthened Mary. In Luke 1:46-56 we learn that Mary stayed with her relative Elizabeth for three months before returning to her home to face Joseph, her family, and her community pregnant. In “her song,’ as the writer Luke presents it, Mary declares to her Lord, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant…”

Have you ever been in a humble state as Mary? Totally dependent on the Lord for every step? Unaware of what the future holds, but knowing full reliance is on Him?

What happens as Mary visits with Elizabeth?  She is fed spiritually and rejuvenated for what is to come. God knows how to give us the strength we need to overcome, but we have to put our faith in Him.

There is a movie from 1978 about a skater who leaves her home town and the people she knows to train for the Olympics. She becomes so lost in “the big time” that she changes who she is, suffers a horrific accident, and finds herself blind from a head injury. Back at home, brutally discouraged and defeated, she lays in the bed day-after-day longing for the past. An old friend and former hockey player teaches her to skate again. The final scene of the movie is a triumphant, perfect skate at the Nationals Competition. What moves me about the movie is when she is skating no one knows she is blind until the end when she falls on the flowers that are thrown at her feet.

Sometimes situations leave us frightened and seemingly alone. Yet, God calls us to be over-comers. He wants us to build our strength in Him and in the people who truly love us.  He wants us to rebuild and come back fighting for Him. Mary could  have stayed with Elizabeth until the baby was born. She probably could have stayed with Elizabeth and raised the child hidden from controversy and anguish. But God equipped her to fulfill the life of Jesus His way.

Gather your strength in the Word of our Lord and in people you can trust. Believe in His ability to move you forward with His plan. Remove the doubt, fear, and anxiety by speaking His Words of assurance. Overcome that which holds you back.