Monthly Archives: July 2017

Hard Pressed

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

When I lived in Mississippi as a boy, every year in a nearby town a contest was held to find “the toughest guy”. In a makeshift boxing arena set up by a team of traveling professional boxers, the locals would fight one another in elimination rounds for the chance on the final night to duke it out with one of the professionals. At the end of three consecutive nights, the local left standing would fight for prize money and the title. I wasn’t old enough to enter; but if I were, I knew facing my mama when I got home would be worse than anybody they put in that ring with me.

One year a big ole boy named Rodney Chapman had beaten every fighter put in the ring with him. He was one of the local favorites and everyone wanted him to defeat the professional fighter on the last night. Rodney had a punch like Sugar Ray but was the size of Mohammed Ali. On the final night it was standing room only. We couldn’t wait to see who Rodney would be facing. To our surprise a guy twice his size entered the ring.  The room fell silent and the cigar smoke hung in the air like a thick cover of dust. My friend’s dad had taken his son and me to watch the fight. We were close enough to feel the moisture from the overheated men in the ring. And the excitement and anxiety of the audience made my heart pound. I really wanted Rodney to win. His challenger’s name was Goliath.

Sometimes in life we are hard pressed on all sides. Paul knew what it was like when he wrote the scripture in Corinthians. There are times when we can catch it from all sides: trouble, heartache, pain, sickness, worry. We might feel the pressure mounting from all directions; but, we will never be hemmed in or crushed.

Sometimes we do not know which way to turn. Nothing makes sense and there seems no real answer. Confusion surrounds us and no one can help. The best part is, although we don’t know what to do, God does. We may not be able to see the big picture of the plan, but God can.

Sometimes we are struck down – that “coming out of nowhere” blow which knocks us to our knees. The tornadoes of life which wipe us out. Leave us wondering where it all came from and where we go from here.

Rodney went 10 rounds with Goliath. Time after time, he hit the ground, but somehow found his feet before the final count down. Time after time, Rodney seemed boxed into a corner with no way out. His face bloodied from the fight, his breath shallow, sweat pouring from his body; and yet, he hadn’t been knocked out.

Finally, in the last round of the fight, Rodney caught Goliath with a left hook in just the right spot on the chin to knock that big guy to the ground. The crowd erupted. As he turned to greet the cheers with clenched fists of victory, I noticed a tatoo on the back of his neck, 2 Corinthians 4:8&9.

I wish God promised us an easy life, a life filled with more wins than losses; but He doesn’t. On the contrary, God says we will be surrounded by troubles but it will not overcome us. While we may be confused, we will not lose heart. And there will be times we are knocked down but never out.


In His Care

Psalm 3:3-4, “But you are my shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill.”

When I was a boy, often things did not work out the way I thought they should.  During those times of disappointment, my grandmother would say, “Hold your head up” or, “Keep your chin up.” In verse 3 of Psalm 3, David isn’t saying this; he is actually saying the opposite. In order for God to deliver us, we have to be willing to bow our head in humility and surrender so that He can lift it up.

Have you ever been in a situation where you just couldn’t turn it over to God? Maybe you did a little, but you held on to a piece of it? David is telling us in Psalm 3 that God is our shield – a shield all around us, front, side, and back. He will give us victory, and He will lift up our head; but in order for Him to do so, we must humble ourselves before Him, seek His help, and surrender to His will.

People in denial are some of the most interesting people I know. The outside world looks at them and utters, “How can they not see it? It’s so obvious!” Yet, they see only what they want to see. “My ex-husband, it is all his fault! I did nothing wrong.”  “Well, if I had just had a better childhood…” “If we just had stiffer gun control laws…” “It wouldn’t be right for me to speak about God in the work place…” “I can’t do what’s right, I want my friends to accept me…” Sound familiar?

God won’t step in until you move over, bow in surrender, and give Him access.

Have you ever met someone who is just determine to get even with those who wronged him or her? Bitterness and anger become front and center in their lives. The sad part is they can’t see it. God won’t deliver justice when we are walking around like peacocks validating ourselves, justifying our every move, and playing as if we were Him. David knows, until he cries out for help, until he acknowledges God’s ability, until he bows his head before Him, God will remain silent. But when, “I cry aloud…He answers.”

Some of us need to bow down before God in humility, recognizing our need for His help. Some of us need to turn the reins over to God and get ourselves straightened out. Understand this, there is no power capable of plucking you from the hand of God when you entrust yourself to His care.


He has the Blueprints!

Do you play video games? That seems a nonsensical question. In American culture, in particular, is there anyone who hasn’t played a video game? That is the better question. The basic rules of the video game, whatever you are playing, is to get to the next level – to eat the right berries, or pounce on enough white rabbits, or speed passed enough cars, or kill enough creatures. In video games, winning the battle is all about advancing to the next level; without advancement, you are stuck right where you are.

Do you know the same is true with God? God knows how to get us to the next level. He knows how to orchestrate our lives in such a way as to prepare us for Level 10, Level 50, Level 101. The problem arises when we don’t want to do what it takes to advance.

Here are some keys to help you get to the next level with God:

1. Know who is in charge. You’re not and God is.  As one of our church ladies puts it, “God is large and in charge.”

2. Praise and worship Him even when things are not working out as you planned. Understand, He’s got a better plan! Follow it!

3. Accept that God can fix the messes in your life if you let Him. So, let go of the reigns.  He will steer.

4. Don’t allow Satan to taunt you with discouragement. Press forward. Do what you know to do and let God take care of the rest.

5. Be bold. Never say never. Everything seems impossible until its done. God is the God of impossibility. He has a proven track record. He will pull you out. Believe in Him.

Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

He’s got the blueprints! Trust Him!


More Mistakes than Successes

Mistakes. We all make them. Some of us several times a day. Mistakes are as big a part of life as are successes. For some of us, mistakes are more a part of our lives than successes.

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

I have three children: David, Daniel, and Renee, and I couldn’t love them any more if I tried. There are days, especially in the teenage years, that I might have struggled with just how much I wanted to love them that particular day; but, I have adored them since the first day I held them in my arms. Connie and I have, like all parents, faced challenges and rewards in raising them. If you are a parent, you know it comes with the territory. But not once, when they made a mistake, did I decide they were no longer mine. David Franklin, Daniel Franklin, and Renee Franklin all go to bed with the same last name and wake up with the same last name, because they are my children.

Do you know how much more God loves you and me? Do you really believe that there is any mistake out there that would change who you are in God’s eyes?

I can remember my dad telling me as a boy, “Son, I may not be happy with the way you are acting, but that doesn’t change who you are to me.” I am sure we disappoint God with our choices, but He hears us when we repent of our sins and He loves just the same.

When sin plays a part in your daily life, seek the forgiveness of God; then, accept His forgiveness and grace, move on with your life, and don’t repeat the sin again.


Living by Faith

Galatians 2:20, “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Most of the original 12 disciples were crucified because of their ministries. But when Paul wrote this, he wasn’t suggesting the same for us obviously. He wanted us to realize that in order to have spiritual victory over the evil of this world; in order to live as Christ lived; in order to allow Him to move and work in and through our lives, we had to be crucified with Christ. No longer do we have the right to control our own lives. In being crucified with Christ, we find the power to live a life filled abundantly with the joy, power, and abilities of Him.

Christ left so that the Holy Spirit could fill us and live in us. This gives us the ability to do “what Jesus would do.”  Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whatever we encounter, we have the ability to conquer because Christ lives and works within us.

Today, in your prayer time, talk with God about living through you. Here are some guidelines to help start a dialogue with Christ:

1. Express to Him that you want very much to be a person of God. There are times when you feel defeated and inadequate. There are times when you do not know how to deal with certain people or do certain things. Admit to Him, you need Him.

2. Accept the authority of Christ to give you exactly what you need, whether it be in words or actions, believe you can overcome every obstacle because Christ is directing you.

3. Surrender to Him. Give Him express permission to live His life through you. Release the controls. Be crucified in Him.

You may have to pray this prayer on a daily basis until you can freely surrender to Him. Discipleship begins when we allow Christ to live in and through us.

 


Understanding Our Part

In the New Testament, Christ gives us promises; yet, almost always the promises are conditional. Often, in fact almost always,we must do something to receive the gift of His promise. I like to read the scriptures and underline my part – highlighting what I have to do to experience the fulfillment of His promise in my life.

John 6:35 – “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Many years ago, I worked with an incredible leader whose philosophy of “Team” was simple: if you have a problem, bring with it a solution. His expectation in meeting with one of his team members required a presentation of the problem and a presentation of an answer. He would then contemplate both and come up with a resolution. That way, we all had ‘skin’ in the game. We couldn’t just come to him and complain expecting him to answer all our problems.

Christ is presenting a similar platform for us to follow. He wants us to bring our problems to Him but in doing so there is something expected of us. We must understand His requirements. He gives this, we give that. Salvation is a “TEAM” effort. Christ requires us to live in accordance with His words so that we become a part of His Team.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!”

Salvation is not about works; it is about the mercy and grace of God. When we are saved, we become new creations in Christ. A transformation occurs in our lives. We are no longer our old selves and our new selves long to obey His commands.

Luke 6:35, “But love your enemiesdo good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Luke 9:48, “Then He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.'”

Walking in the Promises is a two-way street. Many people miss what they have to do and see only what Christ has done for them. If it were simple, why the sacrifice? Why suffer humiliation in the hands of evil? Christ died so that we might live – because He knew what we will face every day here on earth; because He believed in our ability to remain faithful to Him; but above all, because He loved us enough to give all so that we might live with Him in eternity.

Understanding your part in receiving the Promises of our Lord and Savior is a key element in our daily walk with Christ.

John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Luke 11:28, “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'”


Obeying God’s Commands

There are times when obedience to God is overlooked. Many people have become nonchalant about the importance of following the Word of God. It’s a “if it applies to me” kind of generation; and “if it doesn’t apply to me,” or “isn’t in line with my thinking” kind of mentality. Why is it so important we obey God’s commands? Why is it so important we do what God asks us to do?

Consider Noah, his obedience to God’s direction saved the extinction of mankind. Abraham’s willingness to be faithful built nations from which we are descendants. Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Esther, Ruth, Elijah, Elisha, Gideon, Elizabeth, Mary and the list goes on. Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan gave us salvation. It is amazing to consider how it just takes one person’s willingness to listen, to change a world.

What about partial obedience? There are some of you who obey a portion of God’s Word but disregard the part you think is impractical or not of this culture. King Saul couldn’t agree with you more. In 1 Samuel 15, God instructed him to completely destroy the Amalikites, their livestock, and all their possessions. Saul thought it a good idea to spare the best of the sheep and cattle, and he wanted to parade the king of the Amalikites through the town. He reasoned it was good PR for him. Partial obedience is the same as disobedience; only in a different flavor. When the prophet Samuel questioned him as to his reasons, Saul assured him, he had saved the sheep and cattle to sacrifice them to God. Even if our motives are good, disobedience to God is disobedience to God.

John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

John 15:10, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

When obedience becomes a habit in our lives, God can trust us. God honors obedience and rewards those who obey His commands.

Revelation 2:26, “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations…”

The question then remains, can He count on you?

Today as you go to God in prayer, ask Him for direction. Consider the actions in your life that are disobedient. Ask God’s forgiveness and help in not repeating the sin. Start today, fresh and new, walking obediently in the Word of God.