I Am With You

Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, delivered the Lord’s message to the people: “I am with you — this is the Lord’s declaration.” Haggai 1:13, CSB

The people were cut to the heart, ready to not only hear the Word of God, but to obey the Word of God. They were moldable, ready to be used by the Lord for a great and eternal purpose: to be a light to the world, a blessing to the nations.

It was at this point of conviction that God responded: “I am with you.” He was always with them in the past, but this declaration was very different. They took a step of faith and responded to God’s invitation to join Him at work. It was this step of obedience that brought a deeper intimacy with God, and so as they started a new, exciting, and yes, even dangerous journey, God reassured them: He would be with them. w

This presence was similar to when their ancient ancestors escaped the Egyptians and crossed the Red Sea. Similar to the battle of Jericho. Similar to the victories in the days of David. Similar to the night in Daniel’s lions den. God was with them then, and He was going to be with them now.

Today, if you are one of His, God is with you now. You may be fighting the spiritual battle of your life, but be reassured that He is with you. You might be overwhelmed with, well everything, but He is with you. Life is tough and difficult and a struggle sometimes, but He never leaves His own (Ps 55:22). Whatever you face and whatever God wants you to do, be encouraged: He is with you.

So dig a little bit deeper in your walk with Him. Listen to His Word, pray in the Spirit, be encouraged in Him. Have a posture to seek God’s will and join Him, no matter what you might face. Because He is for you. He is around you. He is with you.

Fran

Are You All In?

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27 CSB

The gauntlet is laid down here: for those who are to follow Jesus, there is a great cost. Jesus even gives two examples: first, a building (or tower), and second, a king going off to war. In both examples, they would consider the cost first. The same is true for following Christ.

This is not “easy believism” by any means. To bear one’s cross means to sacrifice all, to die to self, to completely change one’s life for Jesus. This means to be willing to do extreme things in extreme days, all for the sake of the call. This means that once Jesus has been received, there’s no turning back.

You are called to a life that is not your own because of the life given to you by Christ alone. This means not having a posture to love both God and the world. In order to serve God completely, you have to be all in. Simply put, it means that you must reject the ways of the world and receive the way of Christ. There is no middle ground here, according to Jesus.

For those in Christ already, are you all in, or are you still keeping a foot in the ways of the world? It’s not too late to change your ways and begin again to live for Him.

For those of you who need to trust in Him, this is a relationship in a new, abundant life! This is because it is Jesus who lived a sinless life, died on the cross for your sins, and rose from the dead. People who receive Jesus receive forgiveness for their sins. This begins a new life in Him, a life that is never the same again.

Where are you at here? Are you all in? I pray that you are.

Fran

All Tied Up?

Though the ropes of the wicked were wrapped around me, I did not forget your instruction. Psalms 119:61 CSB

What happens when people are hateful and attack you? This part of Psalm 119 brings an important point home: when these sort of things happen, we have a choice in how we respond.

Sometimes it’s people who attack, those who the psalmist calls the wicked. These are the arrogant, the proud, those who set themselves up above God, those who are judging Him in their corrupt wisdom. When these kind of people do such things, the natural, human, fleshly reaction is to strike back. Of course, Jesus taught us not to do repay their evil for evil, and instead to place our non-struck part of our face (the other cheek) before the attacker. So rather than attacking back, we are to respond in peace.

Another fleshly reaction, a very opposite one, is to withdraw, to get depressed, to believe their lies. Yet your value is not in what people say, or what the message of the culture might say, or even what you might say to yourself with your negative self talk. Instead, your value is in what God says, what God did, and what God does in you. If you are in Christ, your value is in Christ.

This is why instead of believing them and their fleshly message, it’s important that you listen to the Word of God. Rather than being discouraged, instead receive encouragement from the Scriptures. This is because while the world is chaotic and evil, you can have confidence that God is still in control. He brings order. He brings life. In fact, He is life, as well as hope, peace, and salvation. So rather than listening to the toxic message of the world, listen to God, for in Him is everything that the world will never be able to fulfill. Everything.

May you be encouraged in God and His Word,that you are strengthened by Him as you pour through His Scriptures. May His precepts pour into your heart and soul. Most of all, may you allow God to change you to react in a way that He wills while you live as a foreigner in a foreign world until He comes again.

Pastor Fran

Loving the Unlovable…

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. Luke 6:32 CSB

Love is never meant to be kept in comfortable, familiar places. Love changes hearts, changes lives, pierces the dark, pierces dark hearts. Love conquers all.

When we love each other, there’s no greater blessing. But when we love those who are difficult to love, there’s no greater glory for God. In a disposable, throw away world, it’s our willingness to take chances with loving others that changes the world. It’s when we risk our hearts that we see that love never fails.

How are you doing in this area? Are you just staying “safe” with who you associate with? Instead, love people well, even those hard to love. Love them so they can see God’s love in You.

Pastor Fran

“I Am So Angry!”

It seems like everyone is angry about something these days. Just yesterday, I was angry about rising gas prices. Over the past two years, people have been angry about masks (pro and con). In fact, just spend a few minutes on Twitter and you are bound to find someone angry about something, somewhere.

But what happens when anger gets the best of you? God’s Word gives us many examples, but here’s one:

“Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will not enter the land I have given the Israelites, because you both rebelled against my command at the Waters of Meribah. Numbers 20:24 CSB

In this case, Moses and Aaron both participated in the sins at Meribah. First, was the sin of anger, where the two were tired of the complaining and rebellion of the people—the two brothers had enough, and it showed. Second was the sin of disobedience. The two were given specific instructions (speak to the rock) but they also struck—twice. Eventually, both received their due consequences of their sins, missing out on dwelling in the promised land of the covenant.

Today, God speaks to us through His Word, prayer, circumstances, and the church, but primarily through His Word. This is why we should pay attention to what He have us and listen to Him carefully. Even more, we should listen to Him obediently. He warns us against the folly of anger and how destructive it can be for the soul.

Why? Because God calls us to love and obey in love. He has a mission for every believer. In fact, He calls us to both the Great Commandment (loving Him and people) and bearing fruit through the Great Commission (making disciples). His desire is that we both share fruit and bear fruit, seen both through our conduct the fruit of the Spirit (like love, joy, patience, etc.) and our commitment to the ministry of the gospel. Through both, God advances His Kingdom. Through both, God is glorified.

Are you angry? Maybe it’s time to really focus back on His Word and prayer. We all struggle in our walk from time to time, but as you turn to Him, He will give you strength and power to overcome even the things that anger you the most.

Fran

A word on worship…

Just a random thought this morning as I read some scripture passages about worship (Leviticus 5 and Romans 9:30-33):

First, let’s remember that the actions of worship are not about what is perfect but about the One who is perfect. In other words, the sacrifices mean nothing if the faith isn’t there. We can do everything right technically, but still miss out completely on a worship that is rich in spirit and truth.

This impacts us today. The worship in the New Testament church should be more about purpose than the pursuit of the perfect. The music might be dated, or loud, or off beat, or the preaching might go long, or the reader might stumble on a word or two, but none of that matters. What does matter is the audience, the true audience, the audience of One. The focus of all worship is to be on God Himself and the declaration that He is sovereign and His people trust in Him by faith.

My prayer this morning: God, do not let me stray in my focus on You, whether in my personal, private time of worship or in a corporate setting. Focus me on You. Keep me set on the beauty and the sacrifice of Christ, His resurrection, His return one day, all for His glory. Amen.

That time that I was banned from Facebook…

So I got banned from Facebook.

Yep, the guy who posts nothing but pictures of grandkids and Bible verses. And no, I didn’t do anything offensive, nefarious, or otherwise. I just don’t do that.

So I was surprised when my account got deactivated suddenly for violating the Terms of Service for Facebook. And because of the connection between Facebook and Instagram, I lost access to that, also. Denied. Locked out. Gone.

All at once, I lost connections with family, friends, and ministry contacts. I had no idea how dependent I was on this platform for staying in touch with so many. Not to mention all of the pictures, videos, and memories that I had recorded since I first joined in 2005.

So, I needed to try again. After trying several different ways to get back in, I finally got a chance to disagree with their decision. And then I got this message:

Over two weeks after appealing my deactivation, I decided to try something creative. I bought a Facebook Portal from Amazon Warehouse Deals at a great price, used the serial number from my new device to be able to connect with their tech support by chat, and got my case escalated. Just a few days after I contacted them, Facebook finally let me back in. Success! I received an email from Facebook that my deactivation was a mistake (as if there was any doubt) and that all was restored.

So, if this happens to you (and I hope it doesn’t), you may want to try getting a Portal, or, if you want to spend the big bucks, an Oculus. Or create another account. Or, well, wait for Facebook to somehow get back to you.

Now, let me get back to posting about my grandkids…

A Reflection…

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:18, CSB


A simple truth: Jesus changes people. And when a believer comes to Jesus, he begins a journey in becoming more and more like Jesus, being slowly sanctified through the Spirit. Of course, this journey is not easy or fast, because it is a daily process. And it’s not a matter of self help or self improvement, because this is a supernatural work in the believer. Even more, the goal is to be less and less like the former self and more and more like Jesus Christ, so that the believer does not merely look like a better reflection of himself in the mirror, but instead something much, much better and permanent: the believer becomes a God-shaped reflection of Christ.

The point is this: stop trying to do it alone. You can’t do it without the Spirit’s work within your soul. This means that instead of trying to be a better version of yourself, focus on the One who is perfect already. In other words, instead of trying to make the imperfect, perfect, let the Perfect One, the Sinless One, the Savior, God-man, Jesus, do His work in you.

Is that impossible? Yep. In natural terms, it is. But with God, all things are possible, and when we mess up and blow it and sin and sin again, we can have confidence to ask for forgiveness and press forward after that. God is like that, both disciplining and forgiving those He loves and pressing them to conforming to His image more and more. He is in the restoration business, a business we all need every day.

So let the Spirit speak and work in you. Be changed in Christ. Come to Jesus for your salvation and forgiveness for your sins. Grow by reading His Word, by worshipping with other believers, by praying to the One who created all things. And look forward to the future in Christ, the day when we will all see Him as He is, the day when the mirror is no longer cloudy and the full knowledge is no longer veiled.

May your journey go well and your focus remain on your Savior, Jesus.

Fran

Jesus is Better

For they loved human praise more than praise from God. John 12:43 CSB

The message about Jesus Christ was heard by the people of Jerusalem, and there were some who believed in Him. However, they did not make it public because they were afraid of being tossed out of the synagogue and of being cast out of their society. Being a part of the Jewish society meant that there was a powerful stronghold that was hard to break. John might have judged them harshly here, but truthfully, he is right: their secret faith showed that they loved the praise from man more than the praise from God.

We are no different today. Sure, we all know how toxic our society is, but can be difficult to break past the culture of today. Yet we are called to a gospel that is counter cultural, a gospel that is disruptive in the natural man’s life. Those who believe in Christ are different, and those who follow Christ will see a sacrificial change from the status quo of the present. This is why Jesus told us to count the cost of following Him, because everything changes. And this can include friends, family, preferences, and, yes, our daily lifestyle. All of these are affected because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again, breaking free is not easy, but Jesus is better. This means that our life of faith in Christ should be known and not hidden, shared and not kept secret. We believe, not to hide Him away, but to allow Him to change us and to change the world. And yes, while this makes us different, the truth is that we are foreigners in this planet, citizens of heaven, ambassadors who have an assignment to tell others about our place of paradise. This is also why, when we think about this, it makes no sense to try to still hold on to the present day when we have so much better to come in the eternal future. Again, Jesus is better.

Praying that God speaks to you about this. May we all be open to others around us with our faith, and may we be salt and light to others as we share the love of Jesus!

Fran

An encouragement: Keeping the Word

He said, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Luke 11:28, CSB

Jesus did not want hearers only, those who sat and listened without ever taking action. Nor did He want people to work without listening to Him, as the Jews blindly did in His day. Instead, He called for faith followed by fruit, or faith with works as James wrote in his epistle.

Believers are called to faith in Jesus Christ, and called to serve Him out of that faith. Those who come to faith in Jesus have a new life, a life that has purpose, and meaning, and excitement as they share their joy with people around them. A life in Christ, a true relationship with Jesus, is contagious.

Don’t be one who merely wants to hear from the Lord and never do anything with it. Serve and share Jesus daily out of your faith in Christ. Be contagious with your spirit, your joy, and your biblical wisdom. Be ready to explain the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done for others.

Be on mission. It will make an eternal difference to others around you.

Encouraging believers to love and serve Jesus, one day at a time.

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