He Came to Serve

John 13:8-9, “‘No,” said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'”

It was the night of Jesus’ arrest. Satan had already prompted Judas to betray Him. Jesus knew His time on earth was coming to an end; yet, He must have felt there was so much more to teach them. Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist and knelt at the foot of each disciple. Lovingly, He washed their feet and dried them with the towel that was wrapped around His waist.

Understandably, Peter protested. Can you imagine if Jesus knelt at your feet and washed them? But, Jesus insisted and demonstrated to the disciples in a very genuine, heartfelt manner the act of humility.

I often wonder why one of the disciples didn’t wash Jesus’ feet in return. Did any of them offer to help Him wash the dirty feet of the 11 disciples? “I’ll take these 5, Master!” There is no indication that they did. It reads as if they watched Him wash everyone’s feet and dry them. Feet covered in all that could possibly be stepped in on the streets – from dirt to animal waste.

In the church I am privileged to serve, during Holy Week, our artistic team reenacts the Crucifixion of Christ. Our church sits on land next to a busy highway. Several men from our church hang on three crosses depicting Christ and the two thieves. The image is overwhelming at times. It is no easy task for these men either, as they stand on tiny blocks of wood and hold on to handles on each side, reflecting on the suffering of our Savior. I have seen them in rain and cold and sunny and dry weather working to honor Christ in this illustration of His sacrifice for us.

In the past, as I have witnessed the Crucifixion unfold, I take the time to notice the people behind the scenes – the ones who silently work; putting on the make-up; preparing the grounds; and making sure the day and the reinactment is Holy for our Lord. I often think about what Christ must think, looking down on us. I think about what it was actually like that day for Him. I think of  Him in the Upper Room, the night of the Last Supper, washing the feet of the disciples, teaching them what it means to be a servant.

Cars will stop and watch. Some people kneel and pray before the Cross. Some people watch from the parking lot. There are those who weep; some who take pictures; some who don’t really know what to do. Words are not spoken. Most people are lost in thought and reflection.

This Friday, March 30th, we will have the Three Crosses Illustration from 9:00AM to 3:45PM. If you live in our area, I hope you will come and spend time praying and reflecting on the reason for Easter.

The reality of Jesus is that He came to teach us to serve. It isn’t a lesson any of us can learn overnight because learning to be a servant of others isn’t easy.

This morning our church is buzzing with activities of preparations for Good Friday and Easter. It is exciting to watch. And as I watch our  teams in action, my heart is filled with Peter’s words, “…not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” When we serve others, we cover them with the love of Christ, from the bottom of their feet to the top of their head. We show them what it is like to be loved by our God, and we demonstrate that love in a humble way.


For His Glory

Ephesians 3: 20, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Everything we need from God has already been provided for us, the question is, how do we access it. God knows we couldn’t begin to handle all that He has in store for us, and so He distributes it in portions. There isn’t a word in the English language to describe what Ephesians is trying to express to us. In the Greek language there is a word which means “to an extent that we cannot imagine,” huperekperissou. Now that’s a word!  It’s one of those words that shows up and shows out, and it is fitting for this scripture. The wonder of God is, we have to come to a point where we understand that He has the ability to give to us and will give to us more than we could ever imagine – but in portions. And those portions  God gives to us, must be enough.

Because of the Cross, we have an opportunity to be a part of something so incredibly indescribable, we cannot fully understand it. Having faith in Jesus Christ is an inheritance. It is less about requirements and more about relationships – a relationship with Him that pushes us toward something more but forces us to accept what He gives.

For many, that is difficult to grasp and understand. There are many aspects about God that I do not understand and never will. In reality, I don’t want a God that I can figure out. I want a God Who is large and mysterious all the while being right beside me when I need Him.

We are approaching one of my favorite days of the year – Easter! And it has nothing to do with a fuzzy bunny or candy. Easter is all about defining who we are in Christ. It is all about knowing we cannot fully grasp what He has done for us; therefore, we willing accept Who He is. It is about being fully committed in service and in deed.

I was talking with a young lady recently who is on a different path in life and struggling. The beliefs she was taught as a child have left her and she is searching for the meaning in Christianity. She has a great deal of anger and disregard for Christians. She is not alone. Many people struggle with truth. I’ve learned over the years often it has to do with accountability. We’ve raised a generation of people who believe at the end of the day, because they showed up, they’ll get a trophy! People deny Christ because they do not want to have to be accountable for the things they do. It is easier to piece meal the Bible and separate it into parts that make sense and disregard the ones that do not. It is easier to keep doing what they are doing, and apologize for it later. It is much easier to show up at the end and expect a trophy. The problem with this mentality is no one knows when the end will be. There are others who blame Christ for the actions of people. If you want to know about Christ, read about Him in the Bible. If you are confused, study His Word. Christ is very clear. Don’t rely on other people to feed you – feed yourself!

He will do more than all we ask or imagine – by His power working within us – for His glory!


21 Again?

A friend recently joked that he would love to be 21 again, “Man if I could go back and do it all over again!” 

At the time I didn’t have much to say to his revelation because the first thought in my mind was, “There is NO WAY I’d go back and do it all over again.” 

On my drive home I contemplated being 21 again but knowing all that I know now – Hmmmm…now that’s worth going back and doing all over again. My thoughts took it even further – “What do I know now that I didn’t know then that would make a difference?” I’m sure there would be some rules when I stepped into the time machine, strapped on my safety belt, and jolted back 37 years – YIKES! – like, you can’t invent the internet or the iPhone 10 plus or Microsoft. You can’t take the winning lottery numbers for the biggest jackpot ever. You can’t alter history. 

But what could I do? What would I change about my 21 year old self to make a difference?

  1. Winning isn’t everything. At 21 I believed it was. There were no 2nd place trophies that matter. If I didn’t win, I lost. I refused to be a loser. The reality is, we learn more from the loss than the win. Success/failure are actually one and the same. Find me a successful person who hasn’t failed repeatedly – it is impossible. It is through brokenness that God repairs and heals us. Without the loss, the failure, the pain, the stress, we would never learn empathy, compassion, understanding, devotion, commitment, or wholeness. 
  2. Be Real. At 21 I wanted to be the best at everything I touched. I wanted to know more, do more, see more, live more because in doing so, I could confidently stand before people and win their favor. The reality is being real with people – showing vulnerability – speaking truth – accepting myself and accepting people as they are – is the key to fulfilling the purpose God put on our hearts. Fake never fills anything. Mother Teresa once said, “Love to be real, it must cost – it must hurt – it must empty us of self.”
  3. Learning is more important than Graduating. At 21 it was all about the steps to graduating – getting my Bachelors – my Masters – who cared about learning? That was a fringe benefit of the all important Diplomas to frame on and hang on the wall which NO ONE sees or cares about. I’d love to take classes I would get no credit for simply to learn something I was curious about. I’d read more; think more; write more; listen more; review more; study more. Education is so important – no doubt about that – but it is a waste of time if learning is not the main objective. 
  4. Inner Self trumps Outer Self. It may seem a cliche and a grandmother’s advice; but couldn’t be more true. You might choose the most beautifully wrap Christmas present under the tree but the contents within might be something NO ONE would want. So many of us avoid the problems of our heart. We try to cover them instead of working to change what is going on in our character. Sweeping it under the rug might make the house looking momentarily tidy but eventually the dust will overtake the house. It is all a matter of time. 
  5. Christianity is about Service.  Servanthood. Giving. Mercy. Grace. Christ came to care for people, not to be cared for. Christ came to serve, not to be served. Christ came to give, not to receive. Christ came to lighten loads, carry burdens, and love the unlovable. I’d help people more. I’d cut the grass for my elderly neighbor. I’d volunteer more. I’d let others go first more. 
  6. WORDS ARE WEAPONS. Recently, I read a hurtful Social Media post directed at one person towards another.  In actuality, it is a daily occurrence for most people. The noxious words blared as others commented with hearts and retweets – but the acidic, bitter, detrimental Tweet disregarded the person who was being discussed. It was as though he/she wasn’t a human being. While at 21 I wouldn’t have to deal with Social Media for quite some time, I would make an effort to educate as many people as possible to the potentially harmful nature of Social Media. 

I don’t think I want to be 21 again and don’t believe I’d take the adventure of going back if given the chance. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy where I am right now. Maybe there is a 21 year old out there who just might come across this devotion and could benefit from those of us way passed the 21 mark. If not, these are words to live by wherever you find yourself – whatever your age. 


And Life Goes On…

I was doing just fine until that moment I was not.

Have you ever been there? Life is flowing – small bumps – daily struggles and successes – and then

The wonderful part is even in the and then God isn’t surprised. He isn’t caught off guard – stressed  – gnashing His teeth – or calling a meeting with His executive teams.

Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.

Losing someone you love alters your life. It is just the way it is. And nothing will be the same again because of the loss. One moment everything is fine and the next they are gone. And in the frenzy of funeral arrangements, family arriving, friends and casseroles, there is the comfort of time stopping. Reality takes a backseat and for a few days nothing is normal. And that’s a good thing.

But then Monday morning comes. You find yourself sitting at the Drive-Thru at McDonald’s ordering coffee and a biscuit and the reality of just how your life will never be the same hits.

God is close to the brokenhearted. He knows how we are feeling and as only a Good Father can do, comforts us. He brings into our lives others who understand exactly how we are feeling. And somehow, while life is never the same, it becomes a different normal again.

Grief takes time. It sheds tears. It gets angry. It feels alone at times and at other times it feels surrounded by love. It smiles again. It enjoys the sun once more…all in time.

It is the Divine Hope of the Lord Who holds and comforts us through every moment until we are able to move forward again.

I challenge you to reach out to God. He is an ever-present, loving, forgiving, supportive Father. Whatever you are going through today – however life finds you as you read this devotion – know that God is for you. You only need to reach out to Him.

 


What I Learned From My Dad

My Dad passed away Wednesday morning. As pragmatic as I am, it is difficult to write those words let alone say them.

Several days before Dad left for Heaven, a tree was down on the property, and I needed help clearing it. Since he and I spent many a day with chainsaw in hand moving limbs and clearing brush, I asked him to help me. Some of our best conversations were made over the rumbling of a chainsaw in between cuts. But on this day, Pop was tired. I joked with him that he was just getting lazy in his old age; but something inside of me knew, this was the last time we’d work outside together – and it was.

Arrangements are being made. People are visiting the house, calling, bringing food, and sending love. Friends are so crucial at times like these. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard my Dad say that to those who were grieving and even more, how many times I have repeated his words. And now more than ever, I want to remember all that he taught me.

My Dad was a preacher, but he was a husband and father first. There weren’t two James Franklin’s – what we saw and heard preaching on Sunday mornings was what we saw and heard in our home. He preached what he believed, and he lived it even more. I can’t say I always willingly accepted my Dad’s profession, on the contrary. There were times I hated going to people’s houses. I hated waiting in the car while Pop listened to yet another person’s troubles. Funerals, hospital visits, domestic disputes, loss and sadness – growing up our days were filled with everyone else’s problems – and at times, I resented my Dad’s dedication to it all. While my Dad played baseball with me, taught me how to tie my shoes and ride a bike, bought me my first razor, and kicked my tail when I needed it, he was different from all the other dads. His job called him to do things other dads didn’t have to do.

I asked him one time why he chose that job. He chuckled at me, and with that spark in his eyes which always popped up when he had a point to make, he answered me firmly, “I didn’t choose this, God chose me to do this, and I just obeyed…just obey, Mike.”

And he did obey, living his life in service of others, loving everyone he came in contact with.

I’ve often watched my Dad as he walked in and out of the house, the church, to ballparks, and into his favorite restaurants. Never once have I doubted Who walked beside him. My dad walked with Jesus Christ everywhere he went.

 

The Top 20 Things He Taught Me –

20. Before you open your mouth to give someone advice, listen to what he or she has to say.

19. The hardest lesson in life to learn comes just after you choose NOT to tell the truth.

18. Scraping up your knees comes with learning to ride a bike – it is in the process.

17. When you mess up, go back to the basics. Fundamentals are just as important in life as they are in baseball.

16. When someone is laughing at you – laugh with them.

15. Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.

14. Check the fluids in your automobile or suffer the consequences – it’s a good idea for life too. There’s something to maintenance.

13. If you use someone’s tools or anything from the kitchen – put it back where you found it.

12. Always return something you borrow from someone better than when you borrowed it.

11. Regret is more about what you didn’t do than what you did.

10. You can be the best tasting piece of chocolate in the box, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like chocolate

9. Be the man you would like your daughter to marry.

8. When things are going well, a person’s true character is evident. That’s the time you learn what a person’s priorities are.

7. You don’t always have to start at the beginning, but you do have to start somewhere.

6. It isn’t about impressing people, it is about connecting with them.

5. Life doesn’t happen. Life is…

4. The most powerful name in the universe – JESUS – call on Him.

3. Don’t ever give up on anyone, especially yourself.

2. Forgive, forgive, forgive, and forgive again.

1. Love people – there is something of value in everyone – sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find it.

 

I love you, Pop. You will be missed. 

 

 

 


Your Step Up

Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. It is so hard to keep a positive attitude in the midst of failure. None of us like to fail. We are judged based upon our performance. We are applauded when we win. We are paid when we are successful in our jobs.”

How do you view success and failure? Is it based on money? Gold medals? Status? Power?

Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

God knows the importance of goals. He knows that as human beings we need to have plans and desires to strive to be better people. Sometimes though, it is our failures that make us the people God wants us to be. How we handle failure is more important to God; in fact, how we handle failure may be our success.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, and an incredibly intelligent man stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We need to understand sometimes when our plans do not work out the way we wanted, it brings us closer to where God wants us.

Oral Roberts, an evangelist, used to open his sermons with, “Something good is going to happen to you today!”

All of us have expectations and when those are not met we feel weary and disappointed. But God tells us in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If we do not give up… the key to success…the answer…

Nelson Mandela said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

Do not give up. See what the world deems as failure as your step up to what God has for you next. Rely on Him when you feel weary and know that He will deliver in His time.


King’s Highway

Psalm 119:44-45, “I will always obey your law,  forever and ever. 45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

Sometimes, I hear people complain about how confining the restrictions are which Jesus puts on our lives. People who feel the Bible inhibits them from fun, from expression, and from freedom of choice; however, such a thought process is actually just the opposite of following Christ.

Romans 6:17 tells us, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.”

The word “slave” doesn’t sound like freedom to me. When I think of the word slave, I see chains, bondage, sweat, and tears. I see individuals who are not individuals but owned as livestock and herded from place to place. I see desperation and grief.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King’s Highway for freemen.”

Obeying the laws God has set before us allows us the freedom to be the people God intended for us to be, giving us an open door to paradise.

As Americans, we value our freedoms. From the authors of the First Amendment we are guaranteed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government for redress. These guidelines, these parameters, these structured laws have given us something no other country has as fully as we do – FREEDOM.

Spiritual freedom is like skydiving. Have you ever wanted to jump from an airplane? At 13,000 feet the skydiver will have 60 seconds of free-falling fun, breath taking views, and pure thrill! At 2500 feet the diver will pull the parachute and guide the ropes to land safely on the landing pad. To jump without the parachute would mean death – you might get 60 seconds of pure exhilaration, but when the minute is up, the ground is going to come pretty fast and hard.

Freedom comes when what we desire to do comes to fruition through the ability to do it, by a given opportunity, which will leave us with no regrets or harm.

Living under the obedience and guidelines of God gives us the freedom to live abundantly.

John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Study the Word. Know what His guidelines are for your best life. And live life freedom under His protection.