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.

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”).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Running with horses

Jeremiah 12:5, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”

Most of us want God to use us in some capacity. We want to feel valuable to society. The majority of the people I know are striving to do ‘something’ with their lives that makes an impact.

I remember in the fourth grade I didn’t do my homework. I was just coming out of a long fun summer and the routine of school and homework hadn’t quite settled in with me. My teacher walked around the room with a red pen. We were to put our math assignment on our desks and she would put a big red check on the papers that were complete. I had nothing to put on my desk. The night before, I made the decision that math homework was a waste of my time. I needed something harder.

When she came to my desk, and there was no paper, she stopped, “Michael Franklin, where is your homework assignment?”

In the most convincing argument I could muster, I answered, “It was all review. I want to work on something harder.”

She did not respond and continued on to the next row. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or worried. After class, she instructed me to stay after school.

Sometimes God has simple task for us to do, on a regular basis, for Him. We may long for something more important; but, He wants us to do this or that faithfully and with a cheerful heart. Many of us refuse to do it. We think our time can be better utilized. We think we have a better plan.

Really?

After school, I found myself sitting in a desk waiting on my teacher. On the board was line after line of a math problem. I’d never seen such work. It was a problem in Linear Algebra, one I could easily do while studying mathematics in college, but in fourth grade, it looked like a foreign language. My teacher came into the room and asked, “Have you solved the problem?”

“No, Ma’am! I don’t even know what those symbols are!”

She pulled out her Bible and read the above scripture to me. Jeremiah 12:5. And I understood.

God is always preparing us for something just up ahead; but we can’t get there if we aren’t willing to do the steps needed to be victorious. See, God is a winner and through Him, so are we.

If you want to run with horses, then start running with men. If you want to go into other territories, then start living right in your own.

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.