A ripple of hope

Acts 6:7, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Many of us operate under the assumption that in order to change the world we have to do great and mighty things. The truth of the matter is: a simple act of kindness in the name of Jesus; a loving gesture displaying Christianity; an understanding word to honor Him can start a rippling effect.

How we interact on a daily basis influences others. Have you ever had your day interrupted by someone’s rudeness? Maybe you were grabbing breakfast on your way to work and the person in the car in front of you bought your meal. Or you are dropping your children off at school and someone holds the door for you. Maybe you are running 10,000 errands in a small amount of time and someone offers to help you. The way it makes me feel in turn causes me to respond to others in similar fashion. And the rippling begins…

Words and actions cross our paths every second of every day. Did you ever stop and think how your words and actions are impacting others?

I once read a church billboard which said, “Always testify to the goodness of Jesus Christ and when necessary use your words.”

Sometimes I see someone acting out in a loving way to another person and I think, “I know that makes God smile!” Other times I see someone acting in an ungodly way and I think, “I bet God is wishing he or she would just sit down and hush.”

As Christians we have a higher calling – to spread the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ – with our words and our actions. When we do so, the ripples start and make such a difference in the lives of others. Try it! You never know how God may use it to benefit His Kingdom.

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 Season of Giving?

I’ve always been fascinated by the television crews who go out on the street and ask every day people, living every day lives, questions. I don’t know, I guess I’ve always wanted to do it too. So, I decided to go into areas where people do not know me and propose this question, What does the Season of Giving actually mean?

My first stop, Race Track in Gainesville, Georgia; perfect spot to find an answer to my question. I pulled up next to a guy in an F250 and started filling up my tank. “Sir, could I ask you a question?” I began. (It didn’t seem as smooth as the television guys, but it was my first shot.)

“Sure,” he responded, spitting tobacco juice to the side of his truck.

“What does the Season of Giving actually mean?”

“Christmas,” he said, quickly and a matter-of-factly.

I realized I needed to rephrase my question. “Can you give me an example of what the season of giving means?”

“Santa Claus,” he answered.

I decided to drive further up the road to a McDonalds off I-85. There were two older ladies having lunch, and they seemed please to answer anything I asked. “Can you ladies give me an example of what the season of giving means?”

“Gifts. Every year I bake cookies for families in my neighborhood and church,” one answered.

“For me,” the taller, more serious looking woman responded, “It’s time with my grandchildren.”

At The Home Depot, a man answered, “Jewelry for my wife. She expects it every Christmas and I work for it all year-long.”

In the Mall parking lot I heard:

“I don’t really think about needy people being necessarily poor. Like, needy people could be people who need attention. So, I try to spend time with lonely people.”

“Time when you focus on others and not yourself.”

“The season of giving is about finding the joy of the holiday.”

“Getting toys and lots of them…”

“I’m not really into Christmas, but if I were Christian, it would be about giving to other people and not about getting from other people. That’s why I’m not really into Christmas.”

“I’ve been hoping all month my parents get me PlayStation 4! Yeah! That will definitely be the true season of giving.”

“Christmas parties, family gatherings, greeting cards, and packages.”

“It’s the season FOR GIVING. Get it? Forgiving others.”

There were some workers – a construction crew – taking a lunch break just outside of downtown Atlanta. “In Mexico, in our village, we used to go from house to house. We would bring food and our neighbors would offer food. It was a time of celebration for Mother Mary and the Christ child.”

“It’s about remembering why Christ came to earth and thanking Him for coming.”

And my favorite answer, which came from a little girl at Chic-fil-A, “‘For God so loved the world, that He GAVE His only Son…’ That’s it! That’s Christmas in a package, tied up with a bow.”

So, what does “the Season of Giving” mean to you? Maybe we all need to stop and think about it and start implementing what it means to us.

 

The Anxiety Counterattack

Psalm 20: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:     The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king!  Answer us when we call!

Anxiety hits all of us at some point in our lives. Some of us have learned to handle it better than others. God does not want us to be anxious about anything. When we find ourselves in distress, Psalm 20 can bring us the comfort we need. I used to have a friend who carried this Psalm around in his wallet. I often saw him pull it out before football games. The greatest part of this scripture is found in verse 7.

Some of us trust our cars more than God. Some of us trust our jobs more than God. Some of us trust our homes, our education, our friends, our looks or our money. We are putting our faith in the wrong things. None of those things can save you!

God tells us the way to attack anxiety is to trust in the name of the Lord our God. It is that simple.

Today, reflect on Psalm 20. Outwardly speak the words of affirmations – “I do not trust in chariots or horses…NO! I trust in the name of the Lord my God.” Try it the next time you feel worried. See what a difference it can make.

Your tent is gone!

“Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson went on a camping trip.  After sharing a good meal and a bottle of Petrie wine, they retire to their tent for the night.

At about 3 AM, Holmes nudges Watson and asks, ‘Watson, look up into  the sky and tell me what you see?’

Watson said, ‘I see millions of stars.’

Holmes asks, ‘And, what does that tell you?’

Watson replies, ‘Astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.  Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.  Theologically, it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant.  Horologically, it tells me that it’s about 3 AM.  Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day  tomorrow.  What does it tell you, Holmes?’

Holmes retorts, ‘Someone stole our tent.'”

Sometimes we miss the obvious.

Paul has an issue in the church of God in Corinth. There is division among the members. When he writes to them, it is obvious he knows them well. Paul has lived in Corinth for around two years according to historical records. The leaders of the church are vying for position.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” 

What point is he trying to make? If being Christian is about Christ – and it is – how can we be divided? Was Christ divided? NO! Then why are we?

In my prayer time this morning, I considered the main reason we are divided in the Christian world is because we don’t understand that Christ wasn’t divided. We don’t understand that Christ wasn’t divided because we are too busy interpreting the Bible to fit our own needs instead of accepting the Bible for what it really says. We are like Watson, “Well, Astronomically, it tells me this…and Theologically, it tells me this…and Meteorologically…” Some of us aren’t even reading the Bible. We are relying on what a sermon tells us or someone else tells us. No wonder we are divided!

Christ came to teach us His ways; to give us a direction; to help us navigate life. Many of us do not understand Christ because we don’t want to understand Christ. If you will allow the example, “We don’t want to admit our tent is stolen; instead, we find 100 other excuses to explain why we are uncovered.” When Christ – not human personalities or cultural situations or political correctness – is central, unity among the church and the Christian community will be demonstrated. What has to happen first is the simple admission that our tent is gone. Only Christ and the power of the Cross can bring us together under His covering (or, I can’t help myself, “His tent”).

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 robbing God?

Malachi 3:8-10,”“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

It is hard to imagine that we could rob God – the Creator of the universe – the King of kings – the Lord of lords – is there anything we could steal from Him that He couldn’t have at His disposal? The answer? Yes! His ability to bless you.

Many misinterpret this verse. They think it’s all about giving money and that God is angry when we don’t give – on the contrary. God doesn’t need your money because it is His anyway. When you fail to tithe; when you fail to give of your time; when you fail to serve Him, you rob Him of the opportunity to bless you. Like any good Daddy, He wants to give you the moon; but, it comes with a stipulation. You have to be faithful in what He has already place in your care. If you cannot be faithful with a small amount, He knows you will not be faithful with a large amount.

Be faithful in tithe, in time offerings, and in service offerings. Do not deny God the opportunity to bless you.