Intelligence or Foolishness?

1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The other day I spoke with a young man who is a student at Harvard University. He laughed with me, “You think being a southerner isn’t tough enough at Harvard, try being a Christian on top of that.” He went on to describe the bantering he receives because of his belief. “At times, I don’t feel qualified to answer their questions, but somehow God seems to find a way for me to say what I need to say.”

It can be intimidating to be around people whose IQ measures the same numbers as my mortgage payment. The Bible tells us, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” To put it simply, God in His dumbest moment (which doesn’t happen, but for the sake of argument) is smarter than the world’s wisest man and God in His weakest moment (again, which doesn’t happen) is stronger than the world’s strongest man.

Some of the smartest people I know, do not “get” the Cross; and therefore, they are the dumbest people I know. If you are one of those people, I apologize for the insult but you are perishing.

There comes a time when we have to realize, people who aren’t with Christ; people who criticize the word of God; people who do not understand the power of the Cross; those people are perishing.

Paul adds that “God has made foolish the wisdom of the world.” Some of you today think you have all the answers. Some of you may even ridicule those who live by the Cross; those who are directed and guided by Christ. One day, I pray your eyes will be opened and the intelligence you profess today; the so-called ‘smartness’ you think you’ve gained from the world will become what it is in the eyes of God – foolishness.

The foolishness of the world masquerades itself as peer pressure, political correctness, book smarts, cultural norms, scientific knowledge, whatever you want to call it. It is, however, an inability to acknowledge and accept the truths of God.

Today, pray for God to open your eyes to any spiritual blindness you may have. Spiritual wisdom enlightens and redeems us; uplifts us; brings light into our lives. Ask God to help you know the areas you need to strengthen through the Word. Ask God to make you wise in Him.

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.

Against the current

Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Sermon on the Mount gave us a look at Christ’s character and His heart. He spoke to people in very practical terms, showing His understanding of real life situations and earthly relationships. In all His examples, He used the heart of His Father to teach us how we should respond. We are actually blessed when others are against us because of our devotion to God. It is our reaction to what the world throws at us that interests God; and it is this reaction that will bring us a blessing.

In giving us the Beatitudes, Christ is directing us through progressive steps to blessings: poverty leads to mourning which leads to meekness and so on. Christ was teaching us how to pursue blessedness in a world that directs us toward money and material possessions. At the end of the day, the world’s blessing can easily be taken away. You can lose your power, your money, your material goods, your fame; but the blessings from God are there no matter the circumstances of your life. They stem from an attitude in your heart. It comes down to an acceptance of a Christ-like life and whether we choose to walk in His shoes or the world’s.

There will be times in your life when you will face adversity because of your beliefs. Will you stand firm or go with the flow of society or political correctness? Sometimes it is hard to go against the current – peer pressure is relentless – but God asks us to do so. He also tells us we will be rewarded for doing so.

As you review the Beatitudes, review your attitude. In what ways do you need to change? How can you develop your heart to be more God-like. Today, take time to pray about your heart and ask God to help you to prepare it for the blessings He has in store for you when you choose to be the person He’s asking you to be.

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.

Fitting through

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There are times, more than I’d like to admit, that I really don’t want to do the right thing; mainly, because I don’t feel like doing it. Some days, I would rather stay in bed instead of getting up to read my Bible and have prayer time with God. Sometimes, I would rather respond in anger to someone who is out-of-place or rude instead of responding in a calm and appropriate manner; actually,  I’d really like to bop them in the nose! At times, I would rather not stop and pick up a head of cabbage on my way home from work as Connie has requested of me. Often, I’d prefer to watch television instead of mowing the grass; would rather eat lemon cookies than raw carrots; and would rather not listen to complaints about my sermons and just go to lunch. But, bottom line, the way to victory requires discipline and has nothing to do with our feelings. God requires us to do what is right in all situations, not just when we “feel” like it.

God has given us the freedom to choose the right way or the wrong way; but He expects us to choose the right way. To enter the narrow gate, we have to actively pursue God’s Word and live by it obediently. There are days when I don’t feel like living obediently; however, I’ve learned from experience and the school of hard knocks, that it is faith not feelings that leads to eternal life.

Today, choose to do the right thing. Choose God’s way. Be one of the few that finds the small gate leading to the road of eternal life.

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.

The whole path

Psalm  143:8, “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go for to You I lift up my soul.”

This morning as I prepared for my day, I thought of this verse. I thought of the words and the importance of putting our trust in God each and every day. The very first words that come from our mouths as we open our eyes should be these. There are times in our lives when we can only see the next step and sometimes, it is difficult to see even that; but God can see the whole path. He knows what’s up ahead and He will faithfully guide us through the terrain as long as we allow Him to do so.

King David lived through tumultuous times. At the time he wrote this scripture, the surrounding nations were after the blood of God’s people. During this time period and even today, Israel was constantly threatened by the countries around it who were eager to conquer the land and destroy its people. But David relied on a Warrior far more powerful than the current threat of the day. He knew God had the bigger picture, the whole blueprint. He knew in Whom to put his trust.

This morning, try it. Memorize this verse and commit to quoting it every morning as you start your day. Each day, God’s love for us is new and fresh. He is completely sold out to us. And His love is unconditional, borderless, never-ending. Openly profess that you put your trust in Him. This means ‘whatever’ happens in your day, you know God is with you. Whatever fire you need to walk through, He’ll walk through it with you. Whatever storm you need to ride out, He’ll ride it out with you. Whatever decision you need to make, He’ll help you make it. Whomever you need to see, He’ll make sure you meet with them. If you do not need to see them, He’ll make sure you don’t.

You simply need to lift up your soul to Him.

Guess who?

John 1:10 reads, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” Another translation of the verse says, “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him.”

If Jesus Christ knocked on your front door this morning as you are getting ready for your day, would you recognize Him? Would a huge smile come across your face and your arms quickly wrap around His neck? What would your children do? Would they jump up and down with excitement that the Savior of the world was standing on your front porch?

How well do you really know our Savior?

When I was a kid, a popular game we played in my elementary school was called, “Guess who?” Someone would sneak up unsuspected behind another child and cover his or her eyes with hands saying, “Guess who?” Usually, the child would reach up and feel the hands that covered his or her eyes and make a guess based on the voice or the feel of the hands. I always tricked my friends by having someone else say, “Guess who?” I’d get a girl to say it so that the hands and the voice didn’t match and it was a fun way to confuse someone.

Infants know the sound of their Mama’s voice. I remember when Daniel was born. He was screaming at the top of his lungs until he heard Connie’s voice and settled down. If I’m in a dark room, and my daughter walks in and speaks, I don’t have to question who is there, I know who is there. Do you know the voice of Jesus?

John 1:11 reads, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” He was born into the Jewish faith. He grew-up the son of a carpenter; yet, His people did not know Him. When He returned to His home town to preach to them, He was rejected. Scripture says, “they took offense of Him.” (Mark 6:1-4).

If you are uncertain what your reaction would be to Jesus on your front porch, it’s time to learn who He is. Start in the Book of John. After you have read it several times, move to Acts. Realize what Jesus says about certain aspects of life. Learn how we are to respond to people. Understand how to honor God in all things. Remember, if Jesus didn’t say it, it isn’t so. There are many people in this world putting words into Jesus’ mouth that are not correct. Be a true voice for Him. When you are finished with Acts, start in Matthew and read through the New Testament. Get to know Jesus at the most intimate level so that when He does knock on your door, you’ll know without a doubt, who He is.

Running on Empty

Tonight as I left the church I am privileged to serve, I noticed my gas gauge – EMPTY. If you are like me, going to the pump hurts. $3.50 a gallon isn’t fun in anybody’s wallet. As I pulled in to pump number 6, I recognized a face I hadn’t seen in a while. A young man who I used to see quite regularly at church. He tucked his head and hid behind a camouflage ball cap. I called out to him and inquired how he had been.

He smiled and shook his head, “I’m ok.”

“I haven’t seen you at church in a long time. I hope you are attending another church? I’d sure hate it if you missing out on church, ” I responded.

“No, sir. Just taking a break.”

He hurriedly finished pumping his gas and fumbled for his keys. I could tell he didn’t know where they were and he was in a panic.

“Then you are empty, aren’t you?”

He paused for a moment, “No. I just filled up.”

I went around to help him look for the keys. We looked under his truck; rechecked his pockets; in the seat; before finally, I thought, maybe he left them on the counter inside when he went in to pay. His face brighten, “I did. I remember setting them down. ” He thanked me and as I turned to go back to my car he asked, “Pastor, what did you mean by empty?”

There are consequences for ignoring God. He wants to bless us. He has a plan for our lives to prosper us and not to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11); but some are missing out because they have chosen to ignore God; to be too busy for God; to justify their absence from God; to take for granted His goodness. How tragic to allow one’s heart to become hardened or inattentive toward God.

What about you? Is your God tank running on empty? When is the last time you prayed to God? When is the last time you read His word or worshipped Him in church? Maybe its time for you to check your gauge. You wouldn’t want to run-out.