The Day Between the Days

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body.”
Mark 15:43

It was a toiling day and a grueling night. The Savior had died, confirmed by the Roman centurion. Jesus’ followers, distraught and scattered, had no plan, no focus, no unity, and little hope.

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Yet one unlikely man would be bold enough to lead out. Joseph of Arimathea, a man who Mark called “a prominent member of the Sanhedrin,” courageously asked for the body of Jesus for His burial. Pilate granted his request.

The place where Jesus was buried, a tomb cut in a rock, had never been used before. The clothing, linen freshly bought and carefully wrapped around Jesus, was His attire. Roman soldiers sealed the entrance and then guarded it against intruders. There was no doubt that Jesus was dead and there in the tomb He was buried.

This was the day between the days. It was a day of silence, a day of waiting between the first and the third days. For the disciples, it was likely the longest day of their lives as they waited and wondered about what was to come next in their lives. But God was still in control, His power ready to be miraculously displayed the next day. As we now know, the best was yet to come!

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Fire From Heaven

“When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Luke 9:54 CSB

What would cause these followers of Jesus to want to call down fire from heaven? Was it anger? Hatred? Pride? Yes, to all of the above. Add in the fleshly, prideful racism that existed at the time, and such a request was certainly possible, even likely.

They probably thought that those Samaritans, those “half breed” “semi-Jews,” well, they had no right to refuse to give a place to Jesus in their town. This ultimate insult, a violation of the courtesies of the day, was the worst possible slap in the face. Someone had to learn that this was unthinkable! Someone had to be taught a lesson!

Photo by Marcus Löfvenberg on Unsplash

Yet while the Sons of Thunder (that is, James and John) wanted fire from heaven to burn the Samaritans into submission, Jesus did something even more unthinkable: He turned the other cheek! He was not worried about the squabbles over protocol and custom, the blow to the ego, or the mean spiritedness of clueless people. No way! Jesus was more concerned about the work He was doing for the Father. He came to serve, after all, not to be served. And yes, to give a ransom for many, including those “pesky” Samaritans.

Today, let me encourage you to imitate Jesus in this way. Forget those petty, ego crushing words of poison from others or a perceived lack of respect from a person without a clue. After all, does all that REALLY matter in the big picture??

How Dare He?

“They laughed at him, because they knew she was dead. So he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’” Luke 8:53‭-‬54 CSB

This child was dead. They knew dead. They were well aware that the 12 year old girl in front of Jesus had passed away. So when Jesus proclaimed that she was only asleep, they laughed in mockery. How dare He say such a ridiculous thing?

Yet as they were chuckling and talking among themselves, Jesus focused on the girl. “Get up!” Jesus commanded. What came next was, well, miraculous: this girl, this dead girl in which all had been mourning over, this cold, ashen faced girl arose from the dead!

Luke, a doctor, knew full well that this type of work did not happen naturally. Dead is dead. Yet Jesus has the power over life and death, sickness and health, heaven and hell. He is God, and His power overcomes anything we see as an obstacle. We are not, and we need to trust Him for everything, from the seemingly impossible to the tiny things we think we can handle ourselves. It all belongs to Him!

How are you trusting Jesus with all things in your life? What do you hold back on?

7 Reasons Why You Need a Pathway for Discipleship

Although some churches do a wonderful job of discipling, I continue to be amazed at the number of churches that have no pathway for growth for their members to follow. Yet, we all know that spiritual growth is essential! And while we know that growth is a work of the Spirit, it is also healthy to have a plan to follow as you let Him do His work in you. I’ll share another time on how you can set this up, but for now, here are 7 reasons why you need a pathway for discipleship, both individually and collectively as a church:

  1. You are tempted to sin. Sin has been here for a long time, and temptation is not going to stop.
  2. You need a far off view. A big picture view is an important part of objectively tracking areas where you are growing and where you need to grow in.
  3. You are tempted to be passive. There are more tools for spiritual development than ever before, but there is a great irony that biblical illiteracy is so high. It is very easy for you to sit back and not get intentional with your spiritual growth.
  4. Accountability is needed. The rugged individualism of the American culture tends to shy away from accountability, but there are many passages in Scripture that call us to submitting to each other in Christ.
  5. You can avoid an unbalanced diet. Having a strategy for study will help you develop a healthy, balanced diet for discipleship and avoid doctrinal “hobby horses.”
  6. You’ll study topics and books that you might not normally study. It’s natural that we tend to avoid the areas we are unfamiliar with, but a properly implemented pathway will stretch you a bit.
  7. You can be humbled and challenged. You might see growth in some areas and a lack of growth in other areas of your life. This is a great opportunity for you to be further challenged!

Hope this helps. Next time, I will write on the “how” of creating a discipleship pathway.

Fran

Devotion: The difference between meekness and weakness…

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 KJV

There are plenty of people who confuse meekness with weakness, but very simply, meekness is similar to humbleness. What I often find is that people who lack meekness tend to display a weakness in their character. They might lack discipline, morality, a love for others, or something else, but one thing is clear: No matter the reason, while the meek will inherit the earth, the weak will not. God, who knows their hearts, won’t give His inheritance to the sort of person who lacks of humility and only cares about self.

Instead, look at Jesus as our example. Sure, Jesus was meek, but He wasn’t weak– He did not surrender in any way His strength, His abilities, or His power. Instead, He willingly chose to set aside His abilities in order to save others. Paul says as much in Philippians 2:8:

“he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.”

Think about it, how many of us would attempt to save ourselves in the sort of situation that Jesus faced before a cross? That’s the difference between meekness and weakness: the desire to lay aside self to lift up others. These are the meek, the ones who would be considered worthy of inheriting the earth. And this is the goal of the Christian life: to die to one’s self, take up the cross, and follow the One who gave it all for us.

Fran

The Dark Side of Facebook: How to Redeem It

Facebook, as we all know, has a dark side. In fact, it’s interesting to see how destructive it can be. We can all cite multiple examples of over dramatic, overindulgent attention seekers who want nothing more than to get “likes” or even “loves” to their postings.

FB cross outPersonally, I’ve seen people create fake realities on Facebook that in no way resembled their reality. I’ve counseled married couples in which one or the other engaged in an adulterous affair with an old flame that they became friends with on social media. I’ve seen countless debates over the issues of the day, multiple shares of “fake” news (the Babylon Bee is NOT a real news site, people), and drama, drama, and more drama over situations so they could try their case in the court of Facebook opinion. Selfies rule the day, and for some, selfies brutally altered by filters are, well pathetic. And, yes, whether it’s the snarkiness of Twitter or the drama of Facebook or anything else pertaining to social media, it’s ugly, it’s awful, and it’s, well, just not really social.

Yet I can’t help but want to dig deeper to find out the reason for this continuous move to the dark side by so many on social media platforms. And when you look at it, the true root cause, the core issue, is because we naturally desire to be fulfilled in something other than God. We are idolaters, fallen and depraved, lost without Christ. All of our self-righteousness, justification, name changes, and even new filtered images of ourselves will not change anything about us in our nature and our corrupt desire tries to replace God with a god. What we find, however, is that nothing will satisfy us, ever, except what we can get in our satisfaction in Christ.

This is why anything we touch, we have the potential to destroy it. That’s what sin does, it corrupts, and we need to remember that without Christ we are “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3) rather than God. Our nature comes back from time to time and fools us, wrecking our lives. This is why we can “play church,” or act as if everything is “fine” when it isn’t, because phony is easier to deal with than our harsh reality of our depravity. Our brokenness, then causes us to put on masks wherever we are, whether on social media or in front of others in real life. And the only way to mend this broken state is through a true, deep, growing, commitment to the truths of the gospel. We must have a committed relationship with the Savior of our souls.

And the gospel is where it begins. The life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ will transform your thinking and your desires. You desire the things of Christ, not the things of the earth. This is how I believe that social media can be redeemed, not for the sake of being known, but so Christ can be made known in you. To be real on social media is refreshing, to be patient and kind in an anonymous environment is, well, unexpected these days. Jesus told us in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Maybe it’s time to kill that temptation for fakeness and honor Christ even in this environment instead.

Fran

Dad, here’s your legacy…

Years ago, my dad had a deeply life changing experience. He was at a small church in a new community that he had just moved to. There to see my sister get baptized, he heard the gospel, responded to the invitation, and received Christ. He was baptized that same day, along with my mom and sister.

I thought he was crazy. I knew it wouldn’t last. I figured he’d be back at his usual routine, shopping the flea markets on Sundays. I was wrong. Dad loved Jesus, and Jesus was clearly his center point of his life for the rest of his life. He was being changed daily before my eyes.

As time went on, the prayers and the faithful witness from my mom and him had an effect on my wife and me. Though I had learned religious things as a child, still, I knew of Jesus but didn’t know Jesus. Teresa received Christ before me, but I was so hardened and stubborn, I just could not see how Jesus wanted a relationship with me, not for me to merely change my religious traditions. Again, I was wrong.

God got a hold of me at that same small church in that new community in Central Florida. The gospel spoke to me and I was forever changed. My wife and I were babes in Christ, and over time, God grew us. Long story short, our entire family was changed, forever changed because of the gospel. And yes, though we’re not perfect by any means and flawed in every way, we see that we are loved by the Creator and forgiven through His Son. My kids know this and I pray that my grandkids see this as well.

Dad, this is your legacy. Your first faith steps to respond to the gospel change this. You showed me and other men that when a man follows Jesus, his family sees his example and can be changed as well. We’re not perfect, we’re flawed, yet we show them that we’re loved by the Creator and forgiven by His Son.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven, dad. You are missed but your legacy of faith in Christ lives on.

Fran

Relief is coming

This morning, I continued my reading through Nehemiah and one thing that stuck out to me was his complete dependence on prayer. When he dared to approach the king of Persia, he prayed. When people tried to discourage him, he sent up a short prayer. When he saw injustices by the nobles towards the people of Jerusalem, he prayed a simple prayer that he is righteous with God and not self righteous. And when he called the people out on their sinfulness, he prayed a long prayer of confession and repentance. Nehemiah was one of the most successful leaders of his time and his prayers to the Lord are consistently recorded. The prayers were often nothing fancy, but they were usually simple, direct, and meaningful to his situation on a daily basis.

Even more, we can see how much he depended on God’s leading through his time in prayer. Praying for him was like breathing. As he prayed, God led, and as God led, he followed in prayerful obedience. As others attacked verbally and politically, he stayed focused and firm on the calling God had burdened on his heart. His principled leadership was only going to move in a different direction IF God moved him. Nothing more, nothing less. Either way, he knew that as he followed God, relief was coming to him in some way, shape, or form.

photo-1448550603489-a7e43b0da4d2Today, we have church leaders all over who are facing attacks. Some attacks have come from persecution and through threats. Others have come from some of the supposed sheep of the flocks they shepherd. I too have experienced this sort of man-centered garbage, yet I know that any response less than biblical is amounting to repaying evil with evil. Pastor, leader, deacon, friend, don’t respond with evil, respond to evil with good. Relief is coming, and it’s coming through the workings of the Lord.

You have a calling that God has burdened on your heart. Stay focused, stay firm, and stay prayerful constantly. The greatest tool you have is not your own words of wisdom or cunning man-centered politics, but your dependence on the One who fights your battles for you. Relief is coming, relief to continue your calling as you fight the battle for the souls of men. Stay encouraged, my friend!

Fran

What Does God Even Want??

As I have enjoyed moving from winter to spring, I have been thinking a whole lot lately about the way that God has revealed Himself to us over the time line from His Creation to His New Heaven and New Earth. One question comes to mind: as we know God, what does He want from us? Let me explain…

He began with His general revelation, that is, the heavens and the earth. He spoke to and through the patriarchs, gave the Torah to Moses, and corrected the people of God through the Prophets. Finally, God spoke through Himself incarnate in the person of Jesus, followed by His Spirit-breathed Words from the Apostles and the early church. And what is remarkable is that every time He spoke, He spoke of the gospel, that grace from Him that is available to us all. The world and the Word reveals the glory of God! What a wonderful thought!

So what does this mean for you and me? Again, what does God want? Well, it means this:

  • Even though we cannot see Him fully, God desires our obedience.
  • Even though we may not understand Him fully, God desires our obedience.
  • Even though we are unable to live life Christ fully, God desires our obedience.

Get the picture? The key is that God wants us to operate on what we know. Jesus said,

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected” (Luke 12:48).

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We grow, and we obey even more with that in mind. We grow more, and we are expected to do more. It’s called sanctification, and this is an important part of being a follower of Jesus.

So grow. Grow in the Word, in prayer, in serving, and in sharing your faith in a real way.  And remember, as you go into worship this weekend, take what you hear and see and follow Him even more. Let His light shine from you to others as a sweet sacrifice of praise to Him. And as you do that, He will get all the glory!

Have a great Sunday!

Fran

 

4 Lifehacks to Form Good Habits

I never got it. I tried and tried and tried to learn how to juggle, but I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. photo-1502144696405-e84600828d73

For those of you who are able to do it, well good for you. But me, I just can’t seem to juggle anything- whether handkerchiefs, pins, or (gulp!) swords.  I’m told that to juggle, that it’s all about muscle control and concentration. Easier said than done, I guess.

I write this because there’s a spiritual application here. For example, I think that we all want to be healthy, effective, and God-glorifying in our lives. And to do that, we need to develop godly habits to help us to grow and stretch in our walk in Christ. Yet, I know, sometimes it’s like juggling, or spinning plates, or herding cats. It’s just hard.

But it’s not impossible. This is the time of year when New Year resolutions (remember those?) have long since been gone and guilt or denial has set in because we often missed the mark. It might have been goals spiritually, physically, socially, or something else, but it didn’t happen.

Now, I’m not writing this as a guilt trip but as an encouragement. You see, large goals cannot be done unless small, short term changes are made. I would even submit that this begins with your relationship with God, that it is to be growing and flourishing. Therefore, your time with God comes first, then the other areas can follow. When we are thankful for Christ and His goodness, then other things help work together as a way to worship him. Paul the Apostle wrote, for example, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

So be thankful, and as you approach life with that in mind, consider these four lifehacks you might want to use to form good habits on a daily basis:

  1. Start with a quiet time. I know that this is difficult to maintain for some, but this is an essential to your day. There are some great resources available to you from LifeWay where you can go deep in your study. I even recommend using electronic resources such as the YouVersion Bible app, where you and a group of friends can go through short devotions together.
  2. Schedule exercise and log food. Your physical health is key to a happier, effective day. Put exercise in your calendar and stick to it, and log your meals on an app like Noom, MyFitnessPal, or another program. And by the way, some exercise (even 15-20 minutes) is better than no exercise.
  3. Keep track of your spending. Yep. That discipline is also important. I live by the 80-10-10 rule. I save 10 percent, give 10 percent (or more), and live on the 80 percent. I use apps to help me keep track of my spending and I try to watch where I am on an ongoing basis.
  4. Reevaluate your long term goals. You need to have goals in your life to remain on task. Whatever your goals are, write them down and revisit them every month on the same day. It’s a good thing to check your progress that your short term habits are going in the direction you want to go.

Most of all, have fun. Fun should come in whatever you do. When you have fun, you’ll be more relaxed, effective, and God glorifying. It doesn’t have to be a stressful set of tasks and it’s not impossible (like juggling is to me!). Try these and see what they can do for you. And if you have any other ideas, share them here.

In Christ,

Fran

Serving the church by helping her make disciples

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