Monthly Archives: December 2016

You! In 2017

Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When I was a young teen, I had a buddy whose father’s occupation moved him around quite often – sometimes 2 to 3 times per year. Riley could make anyone laugh. He was the type that made friends easily and quickly. One night at a sleep over, he told us his secret. With every move, if he didn’t like who he was in the last school, he would just change. Sometimes he was an athlete; sometimes a band member; sometimes a debate team member; he simply became a new person wherever he went.

Tomorrow, we will begin a new year. It doesn’t take January however to become a new person in Christ; it only takes a willingness from us to start fresh and new in Christ. We are told we can have a new attitude, a new self, and that we have the ability to throw away our former self.

2017 gives us an opportunity to change; to make a fresh start; to have new relationships; to renew old relationships; to get healthy; to be organize. For me, it is an exciting time of renewal.

I hope you will make it a habit to join us online LIVE at http://www.thetorch.net or in person on Sundays. See what opportunities God has in store for you this year.


Merry Christmas!

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 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.” The resurrection, one of the most documented events in human history, proves it is true.

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!


A Used Toy

When I was a young boy – 8 years old – my classroom had a gift exchange. We were instructed to buy a gift for under $5.00. If a student was a girl, she would buy a girl gift. If a student was a boy, he would buy a boy gift. My mom found the note from my teacher in my book bag and took me to Sears Department Store. Basically, Sears was the local “everything” you need store from shoes to hammers. In front of the store was a chocolate cover peanut machine. For $.05 I could buy a whole bag of my favorite treat. I loved going to Sears for simply the peanuts!

Mom and I purchased a gift – I can’t even recall what we bought – wrapped it and marked it strategically with the words “BOY.”

The gift exchange took place during our Christmas party. Several of the moms – including mine – brought homemade cupcakes and cookies. We had red punch, and we each got a candy cane from our teacher.

Each student held a gift and our teacher did a count down for us to rip into our packages. Paper, ribbon, and tape flew as 27 4th graders hurriedly opened presents. The reality of a $5.00 gift to children in the 1960’s was exciting, fun, and a big deal!

One of my best buddies, Michael,  looked carefully at his gift. The gift was not new. It had been wrapped in brown grocery bag paper. It wasn’t in a box and had no ribbon. The toy he held was worn from hours of play – a yellow Matchbox Superking Capri toy car – with most of the yellow paint peeling off.

The teacher paused. The moms looked around the room.

All the other children had new toys, but this gift. It was a used, old toy. We all stared.

Michael smiled really big and turned to one of the other little boys in the classroom, “Wow, Steven! But this is your favorite car of all times! I can have it? Really?”

The value of the gift is in the heart of the giver.

No one would have expected a King to arrive in a manger, born in a stable with livestock. And probably if we had unwrapped baby Jesus and viewed Him simply by the appearance of His surroundings, would we have known His value to us? Would we have known His sacrifice? Could we have understood the depth of love God shared with us in giving His only Son?

Take a moment to cherish the gift …” lying in a manger.”

 

 

 


He has it all figured out

Today is December 23rd. Two days left until 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. 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 the moment!

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.

The image I see: a husband in dire straits because his wife is in pain and needs a place to have her baby; not just any baby; the Savior of the world. He has been entrusted by God to keep them 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 He knows 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 not 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. Even when it involves a manger.


The Opportunity to Influence

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.


The Leader of the Reindeer Herd

Since I was a little boy, I loved watching the Christmas Classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Even now, as a grown man, I still love watching it.

Rudolph is the son of Donner, one of Santa’s best reindeer. But, Rudolph has a problem – a bright, red, shiny problem. No matter how hard his parents try to cover it up, eventually, the issue is disclosed. The other reindeer call him names; they don’t include him in reindeer games; and even Santa turns his back on the young deer because he is different.

Do you ever feel like Rudolph? Different. Awkward. Excluded.

I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I am sure every one of us have felt exactly like the Red-Nosed Reindeer at some point in our lives.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Rudolph, Herby (the elf who wants to be a dentist), and Cornelius, (a prospector who had never found gold) end up on the “Island of Misfit Toys.” Everyone on the island believed they were outcasts, misfits, fish out of water, and odd. Maybe you’re reading this sentence and thinking, “I need a one way ticket there!”

The reality of Rudolph? He took a journey which changed his heart, his way of thinking, his insides. Because of that journey, others changed as well. When Rudolph returned, his nose stilled glowed; his outward appearance had not been altered; but, who he believed himself to be had changed.

You’re not a misfit. God created you with great intentions. Phil 1:6, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Each one of us is unique, special, one of a kind, handmade by God. Embrace who you are – even if you find yourself with a bright, red shiny nose! See how God can use it to make you the leader of the reindeer herd.


Making it different

Unnoticed people. They are everywhere. The teenage girl struggling with her weight, her skin covered in acne; or the teenage boy, skinny, ADHD, non-athletic. Maybe it is the elderly woman sitting by the window in her wheelchair, watching the world pass by. That co-worker behind the cubbie wall – what was his name? He was the one who spilled the coffee on the boss’ white Berber rug at the last Christmas party. You know them – maybe you are one of them. At some point in all our lives, maybe we’ve all been unnoticed, overlooked, shunned, and treated as invisible.

I was walking the street of downtown Atlanta recently and noticed a blond-haired boy sitting next to an older black-haired, dark-skinned man. The two leaned against the marble type wall, talking. It seemed odd until I realized it was a group of home schooled kids with their moms passing out blankets, warm coffee, and breakfast for the homeless on this particular street.

Unnoticed people are everywhere; and yet, we don’t see them…but we know who they are.

This Christmas make it different. We really don’t know what a difference noticing people might make in their lives and our own.