Look UP!

Discouragement is inevitable. It isn’t about IF you will experience discouragement, it is about WHEN you will experience discouragement. Discouragement comes when what we EXPECT is different from what we EXPERIENCE.

Discouragement comes in all shapes and sizes. It does not distinguish between people who are intelligent and those that are not so intelligent; or people who are wealthy and those whose pockets are empty. It doesn’t bypass the most athletic or musically talented or most beautiful.

Discouragement is for everybody.

All of us have EXPECTED something that didn’t turn out the way we thought it should.

What do you do when discouragement creeps up on you? What do you do when you just don’t feel you are going to get “through” the day? What do you do when staying in bed seems to be the better answer?

Look UP!

God is not surprised by the struggles in our lives – He knew about them before they ever surfaced and He has already worked out an answer for you. Ask Him!

Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

We all have been discouraged by people – maybe your spouse has let you down; or your son or daughter; maybe your parents or a friend or a co-worker. When we place our trust in people, we will get discouraged because they will let us down. It is human nature.

Events in our lives can discourage us too. A job offer you thought you had; the closing of your business; a rejection letter from the college of your choice; a foreclosure notice; or health issues. When we place our trust in occurrences, we will get discouraged because things do not always work-out as we planned.

Sometimes discouragements are so big, people don’t even know how we are standing; sometimes discouragements are so small, no one even notices; but, you do.

Tim Irwin in his book IMPACT writes about the false beliefs we put in our minds – those voices that we hear in our heads. He tells us “Having an early-warning system can keep false beliefs from lodging in our core.”

Discouragement is the voice inside our heads that tells us WE ARE HOPELESS.

God is the voice inside our hearts that tells us HE IS HOPE and because of HIM we are not “less” but “MORE”.

If you are feeling discouraged today, know that God is the answer.

Psalm 54:4, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me“.

 

The hole in the fence

When I was a little boy, my mom and dad took my sister and me to the Christmas parade. It was crowded with people and being as we were late in arriving, it was difficult to find a parking spot. The parade had already started, and I just knew we were going to miss seeing Santa, the marching band, the floats, and the girls twirling fire. Finally, we found a spot on the parade route behind a fence. “It is the best we can do, Michael,” my mom reminded me. There was a hole in the fence, just the perfect height and width for me. I pressed my forehead against the wooden edge and like a pair of binoculars, I could see the action in front of me. But only in front of me through the hole in the fence.

I often think about that parade day when I feel uncertain about my future. We see life like I saw that parade. We have a limited view of what’s out there for us. God, on the other hand, sees the whole parade route. He isn’t limited by the hole in the fence. He knows just what is needed to get where He is taking us. He knows the next step.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Today, put your trust in Him. He knows where you are going – He’s already been there! Rely on Him to teach you what you need to know to get there. Don’t fret. Just do what you know to do today and give the rest to Him.

In the arms of God

Psalm 16:7-10, “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”

The other day I sat down at my computer, determined to write a Psalm, like David, to my Lord and Savior. It didn’t turn-out well. David had such an ability to use just the right imagery and say just the right words to speak wonderful praises to God and to fill our hearts with love for Him. My Psalm seemed quite shabby in comparison. There is such solace in his words to our Father.

This morning I am searching for a way to praise God as never before because my body is secure; I am confident He will not abandon me. Maybe it is my age, but I am realizing more and more the depth with which God loves us. He is not this Being who created us and left us to be. He is intertwined in our daily existence; more so than we could ever imagine.

I have a friend who designs buildings all over the world. He actually is the architect for commercial structures. Some of them are so amazingly breathtaking that I just want to stand before them and take it in. I asked him once if when he drives by them does he stop and get out and stare. Does he look at them and say, “Wow! I can’t believe I did that.” His response surprised me. He said, “You know Mike, God gives me images, visual pockets of how the buildings will fit into the structure of the city. When I drive by them I actually say aloud, ‘Wow God! That is a really good one!'”

Even in our occupations; our education; our health; our children; our friendship; our day-to-day tasks; God is there. We cannot be shaken because He’s got us with His strong right hand. No matter what our earthly life dishes out to us, the Creator knows how to fit us into the structure of His plan and purpose. Let your tongue rejoice and your heart be glad today because you rest in the arms of God.

Hell shakers

One morning last week I jumped out of bed, literally shaking the floor boards under my feet. Connie joked with me exclaiming, “Mike, I think Hell shook when your feet hit the floor!”

While I know she was teasing me, it made me think. Hell should shake when my feet hit the floor. Satan should worry that I am awake and ready to start my day focused on the Lord; changing lives; benefiting God’s Kingdom. I want Satan to say, “Oh no! Mike Franklin is up again spoiling my plans!”

How many of us wake up to prayer? Of those who do, how many of us pray about ourselves? Humans are very self-centered beings. We focus on the here and now and most of our focus is upon our needs, desires, and wants. Satan knows if all we are worried about is ourselves, he is going to have a pretty good day.

But, what if we changed it around. What if we focused on God and His wants and desires? What if we started the day asking Him what He wants us to do? Hell would start shaking with fear.

God has called us to be movers and shakers for Him. There is 0 unemployment in Christian service – there is always a job for someone – always – and when we put our attention toward His Kingdom – can you imagine how different our lives can be?

Today, pray about God’s plans for your day. See how different the day can truly be.

Are you hungry?

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Most of us do not know what it is like to be truly hungry. We’ve probably been thirsty after working in the hot summer Georgia sun all day, but being hungry is uncommon to most of us. This verse uses the physical sensation to help us to understand the depth of hunger and thirst He expects us to have in pursuit of righteousness. He’s not talking about someone who kind of wants righteousness, He’s talking about someone who is seeking righteousness in almost desperation.

I remember being in Haiti several years ago and being around people who had not eaten in a week. Their stomach’s ached with the pain of emptiness. A teenage boy bent over in agony because the pain was unbearable. I’ve never experienced that kind of hunger, but I’ve seen it. The yearning for food overwhelms the brain. The mind can think of nothing more than finding food to fill the stomach. It is this desire Jesus is talking about but it isn’t a desire for food or water but for God.

When Jesus speaks of this hunger and thirst for righteousness, it is about an insatiable desire to please God, to honor Him, and to be close to Him.  It is about an all-consuming passion which burns within us to be filled with His presence. Just as one would search out food and water in desperation to survive, so should we search out God in order to live.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Do you realize, your thoughts and actions directly affect your relationship with God? Without the Word in our lives, we cannot function. It is similar to going three days without food or water. Could you work? Could you take care of your family? Could you even communicate with people? Three days without food or water would definitely leave you weak and lethargic. How then do we think we can function without the Word of God – the nourishing food of our soul?

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When we put God first, seek Him first, we can’t help but be hungry for Him. Blessings follow those who want more than anything to please God. Reflect today on how you can put God first above all else in your life.

Blessings for doormats?

Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Ahhhh! the humble…the meek… the world will run right over them, correct? They are doormats! Wimpy, pitiful folks who cannot take up for themselves much less others.  They probably need the blessings of God, pitiful little creatures. Is that what you are thinking?

Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Is this what Christ is talking about?

There are great and tremendous blessings for those who are meek and humble because their inner strength relies on God and not the world. God wants us to be humble and meek so much, He declares we will inherit the earth!

When our strength comes from our dependence on God and not upon money or power or ability, God blesses us. It is our faithfulness in a God who will right the wrong; heal the sick; judge the wrong-doer; provide; give us direction; give us hope; that brings us to this blessing. Being meek shows the world we know who is in control and we rely on Him.

The word Paul uses for humility is not exactly the word used in Matthew 5:5, but I believe the idea is the same. Humility is defined as “the selfless regard for the needs of others over your own.” Jesus was the ultimate example of humility because He put us above Himself in suffering and dying on the cross for our salvation.

Being meek and humble doesn’t mean we just sit back and let the world pass us by for fearing of stepping in front of someone. It isn’t what we do in our lives; it’s all about how we do it and for whom we do it. God wants us to be active and participate. He wants us to excel in life. He wants us to have victory. It is how we excel and who we give the glory to that counts.

Confidence in God to do in us and through us what we could not do otherwise is the blessing of meekness. Ask God today to work through you. Give Him all honor and glory. Experience God’s blessings when you do.

Lifting the burden of death

Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Often we interpret this verse to mean “mourning” as in grieving the loss of a loved one. No doubt; when we lose someone we love, God comforts us; but mourning here also refers to the grief we feel for our sinful acts. It is a loss of fellowship with God – a separation of our relationship to Him. There are blessings in our conviction over the sin we committed. The blessing comes in the pardon of our wrong doing. Redemption comes because we seek God’s forgiveness; we mourn because we have wronged Him and by His blood we are made clean again.

Jesus was also referring to the sins of the world. Anytime we feel the depth and pain of sin, whether it be our own actions, someone else’s, or the malicious acts of a nation, the sorrow draws us closer to God. In our pain and grief, He extends His hand toward us.

2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

There have been times in my life when I asked God to forgive me for something that I did wrong. The attitude in my heart was almost nonchalant – I’d done something wrong, I’d asked for forgiveness, I’m done, right? What I was missing was the true meaning of this verse. God is very grieved when we lie, cheat, judge, steal, hurt others, have addictions, and any other mode of sin. He is hurt by it. When we casually make requests for forgiveness, it must grieve Him even more. The seriousness of sin is eternal damnation – it is no joking matter – and yet, at times we do not understand the seriousness of sin.

Jesus is saying to us, we are blessed when we understand our sin and we mourn over the separation that occurred between us and God when we sinned. This true repentance will bring to us the comfort of God’s forgiveness.

Today, search your heart; ask God to show you areas of wrongdoing to which you need to apply “Godly sorrow.” Sometimes we may need to ask God to give us a sense of sorrow over the sin we’ve committed and for which we are asking His forgiveness. We may need to feel the hurt we have put on others by our actions. We may need to understand how much we’ve hurt God by our sin. It is a privilege when we experience the true sadness for our sinful acts; the burden of death is lifted from us; we are redeem.

God’s regrets

1 Samuel 15:10-11,”Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.”

Regret is painful. I do not know anyone who does not have regrets in some form or another. “If I had just taken a different path…if I had not spoken those words…if I had studied harder…if I had not gone that day.” Regret for humans is a belief that if we had not done something, the outcome would be different. Regret for God is not the same.

In this scripture it appears the all-knowing, supreme being of God made an error or a bad decision. We all know that God knows the beginning and the end. He holds our future in His hands. Nothing surprises God; but by our definition of regret, this scripture might make us wonder.

God’s decisions are made perfectly and righteously; however, it doesn’t say He enjoys seeing the trials and struggles we have because of those decisions. It was probably disheartening for God, to see the actions of Saul; even though He knew those actions before Saul ever made them.

Remember, when Jesus faced Pilot, He had no doubts as to what would happen. He knew the pain He would endure. He knew the anguish; but, He went through it anyway because of His deep love for us.

God, knowing how Saul would turn-out, chose him to be king anyway. 1 Samuel 15:29, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

God, the Glory of Israel, does not change his mind – He isn’t like us in that regard. What is difficult for Him is seeing the result of the decisions that He made; because of His great love for us, it is hard to watch us mess up. It’s hard to view our choices.

There’s also more to glean from this scripture. When we are disobedient to God, as Saul was, we hurt Him. Many times we don’t think about that. We are caught in the middle of sin and are either trying to hide it from God (impossible) or repenting of it. Either way, we are so self-absorb in our doings, we fail to realize what we are doing to our Savior.

Today, take some time to thank Him for the love He has for you. Apologize for hurting Him with your sin. Rejoice in knowing the depth of love God has for you. Spread that love to those you encounter today.

Who are you pulling for?

Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

When I was in Elementary School, my class won the Tug of War game. We clobbered all our opponents. Our secret? My teacher would yell out, “Pull! Pull! Pull!” We would pull and release on her command, unified. We defeated people older and stronger than us because we pulled together and we won every time. The other teams simply pulled individually at different times. Our strategy worked!

I often remember those Tug of War days and our victory when I read this scripture. By carrying one another’s burdens, together we present a unified front against the struggles of the world. Together we pull! pull! pull! And burdens are lifted.

Jesus came to bear our burdens, to carry the weight of our sins, and to die on the Cross for us. It was His purpose so that we might have salvation. It was the choice He made for our redemption. We must do the same. If someone you know is in trouble, whether it be from his or her own sin or a trial or a difficult season in life, we need to do something. We need to help carry his or her burden. Don’t stand back and watch. Don’t allow them to go down a path of destruction. Come to their aid and come quickly.

I’ve often heard, “Well, it’s really none of my business!”

God didn’t ask us to meddle, He asked us to love and make lighter the burdens of others. He didn’t ask us to judge or punish, He is asking us to carry the burdens of others.

A few years ago, a lady in the church I serve was fasting for the salvation of her marriage. Because of infidelity, her husband was preparing to file for divorce. The lady became overwhelmed with grief and sickness but she wanted to be committed to her fast. Another woman in our church went to the lady and said, “I will fast for you.” She continued the fast for the lady. Miraculously, the marriage was saved.

In another incidence, a woman in our church worked for another woman for several months while she was out sick and gave her the pay-check. A man in our church kept up the yard of his neighbor when his neighbor fell off the roof and was bedridden for several months. I know of a lady who watches over a child with a severe handicap so the parents can go out every Thursday night for alone time.

God asks us to carry the burdens of one another. He is yelling down to us, just like my teacher did that infamous day of Tug of War, “Pull! Pull! Pull!”

The question is then, who are you pulling for? Today, be aware of those around you, those you love, your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers. Offer your help to them. Be consistent. Carry their burdens.

Messing up the Cosmos

1 Corinthians 13:5, “It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

I spoke to a young man recently searching for his soul mate. He gave me very specific characteristics he wanted in a mate. “The perfect woman for me,” he began and somehow my mind drifted off into 1 Corinthians 13 – the LOVE chapter. I’ve read it thousands of times at weddings and read it thousands of times more in marriage counseling sessions. There is nothing easy about love; but even tougher is living without it.

“I mean, how do you know if you are marrying your soul mate?” he asked. I realized I had left our conversation and quickly attempted to pick up where my mind exited.

I gave him a comical description I recently heard of the whole soul mate dilemma. “Do you realize,” I started, “if you choose the wrong person, let’s say for the sake of argument, and you do not marry your soul mate, then whose soul mate did you marry?”

The fellow stepped back a moment and crossed his arms. “Well,” I continued, “then the person whose soul mate you married will then marry the wrong soul mate because you married her.”

“Makes sense,” he nodded.

“Soon, the person whose soul mate you married, who married the wrong soul mate, who married the wrong soul mate, is forced to marry the wrong soul mate. Before long you are completely responsible for throwing off the entire cosmos all because you chose the wrong person. I don’t think God would entrust our ability to choose a soul mate for this simple reason.”

The young man laughed, “I never thought of it in that way. I was only thinking about myself and my soul mate.”

“Exactly. And LOVE is not self-seeking,” I answered. “You find the person who you can be the perfect mate for. Stop looking for the person who is perfect for you.”

The simple answer to love is to be who you need to be for someone else and stop insisting people be for you what you need them to be. Honor people. Treat people with respect and of value. Stop seeing what you can get out of a relationship and start seeing what you can give to the relationship.  When you have a conflict, pray with the person about it; if that isn’t possible, pray for God to help you resolve and forgive. And when someone hurts you, give it to God and move on. The lists piling up inside you are doing you no good. Don’t keep records of wrong, move passed them.

Today, pray about how you love people. Ask God to help you in your relationships. Honor God by loving the people around you as He asks us to do.