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.

Put away the machete

John 10:1-4, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

This morning as I type this devotion to you, I’m thinking of the words, “he goes on ahead of them…” I know God is an intricate part of my day. I ask Him to control who I meet with each day. I ask Him to help me as I speak to others and put the words He wants to come from my mouth. I pray for His guidance in decision-making and His ability to love others unconditionally; but today I’m focused on that particular group of words. “He goes on ahead of them…”

Isn’t it a comfortable feeling to know someone is blazing the trail for you? The feeling that there is someone up ahead taking in the issues; covering the difficult parts; preparing the way? The reality of it all is most of us really don’t believe that. After our prayer time, some of us shower, get the kids to school, walk the dog, maybe jump on the treadmill or go to the gym. We start our work days with coffee and fruit. We open emails and answer texts and somewhere about mid-morning we have totally forgotten Who is making our path. We’ve forgotten because we are making our own. Does that describe you?

I remember hiking with my children, and we came up to a cave. My daughter grabbed my hand and whispered, “Daddy, you go first.” She wanted to know everything was OK inside that cave. If I went first, she would follow because I would never lead her into harms way. If something bad happened, she knew I’d get her out of there. My daughter knows, I’d kill a tiger with my bare hands for her. That’s how God is for us – only so much more. And when we take control of our day; when we pass Him on the trail; we open ourselves up for trouble.

Today, put the machete away. The trail you’re cutting is going nowhere. Stop trying to make your own way and let God lead. Use God’s GPS for a change.

The sin that started all sin

Proverbs 19:5 “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”

When a hurricane hits the shores, the damage is indescribable. I’ve seen it firsthand. Homes destroyed. Trees broken in half like twigs. Cars turned upside down. People’s lives blown away in an instant. The destruction is real and visible; and everyone around it knows exactly how and when it happened.

But a lie…

Lies are like snakes. They slither around in the tall grass or hide under rocks. You find them unexpectedly in a water can or next to a peaceful brook. When they strike, it is with little warning.

Lies float around in the air like a deadly virus. They grow and spread like cancer. It is hard to control or contain them.

There are several times in the Bible that God mentions lying and the impact it has on our lives.

Psalm 101:7, “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.”

Luke 8:17, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Proverbs 12:22, “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”

Satan lied to Eve regarding the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and the fall of man began. Talk about destruction – no storm has ever made an impact as great as one lie from the lips of a snake to Eve. Lying is a BIG deal.

We do it on a daily basis. We lie because we don’t want to tell someone the truth. We can’t make an appointment or we’re too tired to spend time with someone. We didn’t get the work done and our excuse couldn’t be as good as a lie. We cheat others; damage property; can’t admit our faults. And so we use the sin that started all sin, and we lie.

Our children see us lie and they lie. Our government lies. We lie at work, at church, in the grocery store. We even lie to God. Lying has been “in” since Adam and Eve. Sometimes, we don’t even remember what the truth is because we’ve lied so much to cover it.

I want to challenge you today to stop the destruction of mankind. Stop lying. It isn’t easy. Commit today not to tell a lie. Be honest with your kids; be honest with your spouse; be honest with your parents, your boss, your teacher, your friends. Honor God today and make it a LIE FREE day. Maybe if today is LIE FREE, tomorrow will be too. Try it.

When will the blade fall?

Micah 7:18-19, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression  of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot  and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Forgiveness is without a doubt one of the toughest aspects of Christianity; and yet, it is one of the most important aspects of it. We often hear the phrase, “Forgive and Forget;” but, the reality is, while we may “forgive” it is next to impossible to “forget.” Forgiveness gives us the freedom to no longer be controlled by the actions of others. The pain, bitterness, and anger no longer infiltrates our hearts and minds daily. We are given relief from it through forgiveness. Some of us have sin in our lives, and we need to discuss it with God. We walk around as if no one will catch us or God won’t see it.

When I was a boy, I wrote a letter against one of my teachers to a buddy of mine. I drew a picture of her with horns and a tail with a red cape and pitchfork in hand. The character of my drawing was standing at a chalk board and there were students in desks around her. Fire came from her mouth with the bubbled words, “I snack on little kids like you!” My buddy passed it around the room and of course, she confiscated it and tucked it away in her desk drawer. I didn’t like her because she gave a lot of homework and taught a subject I didn’t enjoy.

All through class, I thought about my parents. Any moment my mom and dad would walk through the doors, and I’d be in hot water. The end of the day came – nothing. I went home – nothing. I came to school – nothing. I went home – nothing. My mind couldn’t grasp it. What was going to happen? When would the blade of the guillotine fall? By the end of the week, I could not stand it any longer. I waited while all the other kids went to recess and approached her desk.

“Yes Michael, is everything ok?” she asked, her eyes glaring above the rim of her glasses.

“Yes, Ma’am. I mean no Ma’am; I mean, about that letter… I’m really sorry,” I managed to mutter.

She simply stared at me. My palms began to sweat. I felt my brow bead-up with perspiration.

There was a large jar behind her. I never knew what it was or why she kept it behind her desk. It was half-full of tiny pieces of paper. She turned in her chair and lifted the glass jar to her desk.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s my forgiveness jar. When I need to forgive, I write it on a piece of paper, talked to God about it, tear it into shreds and put it in here.”

She opened her desk drawer; tore the letter into a hundred pieces; opened the lid of the jar; and raked the paper in the jar.

My eyes swelled up with tears. I didn’t know what to say.

“I think your classmates are waiting for you on the playground and I have papers to grade.”

And that was the best lesson any teacher ever taught me.

God is waiting. He wants to hear from you about what you’ve done to someone or Him; He wants to hear about the sin you are committing. He wants to tear your transgression up, stomp all over it, and fling it into the ocean. He is waiting on you to talk with Him about it.  Stop wondering when the blade is going to fall on your head and start communicating with God. His forgiveness jar is somewhere at the bottom of a very deep ocean. Wouldn’t you rather your sin be there than in your heart? Make it right with Him today.

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.