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

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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

Want to be Close to God?

Let me start by saying that we have rebellious hearts that make closeness with the Creator of the Universe just flat out hard to do. Oh sure, I know that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, that we’re not coming to the Father except through the Son. Our prayers mean nothing until we know Him. I get that, and if you don’t know Christ in a personal relationship, you need to.

The closeness I am wanting to discuss is the way that a Christian interacts with the Father on a constant basis. I mean, is your intimacy with God a consistent, growing walk, or is it at an arms length, cold almost as, say a Facebook friend or work acquaintance? God did not intend for you to say “yes” to Him yet wave at Him from afar. To use some biblical metaphors, God wants the seedling faith He gave you to grow to be a tree planted by the water, with roots deep in the ground and fruit being produced.

And this happens through an intentional, intimate relationship with Him. So how? How can this be done?

To start, get close to Him through His Word and prayer. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, you can stop what you are doing (like reading this) and take a moment and pray. It’s okay, this blog post will still be here. 🙂

Let me also mention this: Prayer is to be based on the Truth, the knowledge of Christ. We cannot have intimacy with the Father if we are not in His Word. Our prayers would be based on ignorant ramblings of a sinful, fallen heart rather than focused petitions of the Spirit. Therefore, start reading the Bible. Again, nothing fancy- read a Psalm a day as a start, then work up to a chapter or two of a gospel, or a reading plan available online. Start small, work to more intake and prayer.

Let me encourage you: Know Him, love Him, talk to Him, and interact with Him. Fruit will come of that. Your mind, heart, and spirit will be changed in Him daily and the wisdom of God will convict and change you. I am with Paul in the encouragement that you are strengthened in Him:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles —  to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ — to him be the glory forever! Amen. Rom 16:25‭-‬27 CSB

Even not knowing who would read this, I prayed for you before I posted this. My prayer was simply that you will be closer to God today than you were yesterday. Let’s start there and see what He can do. To God be the glory!

Fran

The Breakfast of Champions

I had a friend who loved to say years ago that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” He was and is right- but to get good feedback is to become very, very vulnerable. In fact, it takes a good deal of humility to receive honest critiques of the state of things all around you, even about you. It’s common and natural, in fact, to be defensive when hearing some things that might even be less than desirable. This is because pride, ego, and even fear keeps us from hearing the sometimes painful truth. We shut it down because we don’t want to be brought down. 

However, Dr. Eric Geiger put it well when he wrote,

“Feedback fuels your leadership development. It helps you adjust what needs to be adjusted, builds confidence, and confirms areas of strength. Without feedback, your growth as a leader is stunted” (https://ericgeiger.com/2017/04/take-responsibility-for-your-own-feedback/).

baseball

Basically put, you need feedback, and in fact, this only makes you better. Take one example from a sport that I love, baseball. A pitcher cannot possibly develop by only relying on his raw talent. He must be coached, analyzed, pushed, guided, and pushed even more. Those who respond to critiques from pitching coaches and more experienced players have a better chance of success. The best pitchers are the best listeners. Good feedback is how champions are built. 

Paul wrote in 1 Cor 9:24“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize” (CSB). Strive to be better, run the race with all you got, and keep your eyes on Jesus. If it’s all about Him, then feedback from someone you trust only makes you better for an eternal purpose.

Until He comes,

Fran

The Harvest

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2, NIV).

harvestJesus saw what we are now seeing- that the fields are ripe for harvest. Millions of people are coming to faith in Christ annually and the mission fields of places like central Africa are now fully reached with the gospel. In fact, estimates show that almost half of all Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2060. Needless to say, the gospel is exploding around the world!

What does this mean for you? First, you can see your life differently. What you are doing can be a part of the Kingdom work! Whether you are a shoemaker or a carpenter or a doctor or a manager of a sales team, it doesn’t matter. What matters is your willingness to claim it for the gospel.

Second, get involved through your local church. Your Kingdom work should be done through the Bride of Christ. Pray for your pastor and for more workers. Be active in your church, serve others, and look to do things not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of His gospel.

My friend, you can be a part of the harvest. You are a part of the work of Christ. Now, take ownership of that and use whatever you do, for the glory of God.

Fran

Five Simple Tools For Planning Disciple Making in Your Church

I spend a lot of time talking and interacting with pastors. One of the most common issues that I run into is that pastors often are so busy with so many things, they often overlook one of the most important and fundamental aspects of what they do: making disciples of all people. I get it. There’s a ton of things to do on the front burner, and planning a comprehensive discipleship process takes time, work, and energy. However, there’s no more important thing a Church leader could do than to establish a strategy disciple making. I’m always available to visit Church in the Midwest, but here’s some great tools from LifeWay that can be useful for you as you plan your discipleship strategy for the fall and beyond:

  1. maxresdefaultThe Balanced Discipleship Wheel: this is a free tool that can help make sure that you are covering a wide variety of discipleship studies during the course of a year. Just click on one part of the wheel and it will take you to some of the studies that might be of interest. Best of all, it’s free!  www.lifeway.com/balanceddiscipleship
  2. Gospel Foundations: this brand new study is a foundational one year chronological exploration of the Bible for all ages. It comes with short, five to eight minute videos and is perfect for small groups or any other setting. It has 42 sessions during the course of the year to allow for off days and fellowship days. Released June 2018.  www.lifeway.com/GospelFoundations
  3. Disciples Path The Journey: ever want to take a new believer through the basics of the Christian faith, help train them in the essential doctrines, and then help them to become a fruit bearing disciple of Christ? Of course you have! This resource is designed to take a believer or a small group of believers on a journey through what it means to follow Jesus in a significant way. They’ll learn about the essentials, go through some doctrines found in Scripture, and then study about what it means to be on Mission. It’s a very inexpensive resource that could be used in a variety of settings. Here’s the link: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product-family/disciples-path/the-journey
  4. MinistryGrid.com: newly redesigned, this video training tool is for anyone who serves in a church. There are excellent courses designed for teachers, deacons, team leaders, greeters and more! There are plenty of free videos, including the training video on each week Sunday school lesson. Best of all, it’s mobile-friendly! If you are not using Ministry Grid, you’re missing out on a really good tool for your church. www.ministrygrid.com
  5. Smallgroup.com: ever wanted to study a particular text of Scripture or a topic for your small group? Then smallgroup.com is perfect for you! You can type in a text or a topic and one or more customizable Bible studies will show. The studies will include some exposition as well as a full teaching plan. Some of the studies even have video. This is not a “push play” shallow type bible study, but is a full study by a trusted resource that can take small groups to a new level of customization. It’s also perfect for churches that want to do a church-wide campaign on a particular  topic or text. There’s a free trial with it and the cost is very inexpensive on a monthly basis. www.smallgroup.com

Hope this is helpful. Again, if you live in the Midwest and want me to help consult with you on developing A discipleship strategy for your church, just let me know. I’m here to serve the church in her mission of making disciples!

Fran

Helping God's church make disciples

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