Keep on Pedaling…

Philippians 3:13b–14 (CSB), “…but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

It was a muggy, hot summer day in South Florida. I can feel the sweat dripping off of my forehead and my legs felt like rubber. I was pedaling on my 10-speed bike up the Old Cutler road bike trail, going from my neighborhood to my destination almost 25 miles away. My best friend was riding with me, and there we were traveling up the trail, side by side.

To get where we needed to go, we had to get off of the trail at some point and make our way around town. A few things amaze me about that: 1) we had no GPS and 2) we had no cell phones, and 3) we had no clue! All we had was the desire to get to our destination, the energy to keep pedaling, and the happiness of our journey. Yet somehow, we got there!

In the Christian Life, we have very few goals other than to live a life completely and fully dedicated to Christ, making disciples along the way and glorifying God through our words, actions, and deeds. We do these things out of love, a love we have for both God and people.

Why? Because of God’s example of love. He created the world and the people in it, and His heart is for His creation. And despite our fall, He sought to redeem it. He sent His Son, knowing what price He would pay on the cross, and yet did it. Out of love. He did it.

And God’s heart should be our heart. His desires, our desires. His goal, our goal. We love what He loves and we pursue what He pursues.

That said, pursue Him daily. Follow His calling. Seek an intimacy with Him that you’ve never had before: a close, personal, prayerful, focused journey with Him. Not dwelling on the past, but joyfully pedaling in the present and excited for tomorrow.

Fran

Taking joy to a new level…

Over the past week, I started to read through and meditate on the Book of Philippians. My time in the book was so encouraging, and I am thankful that God led me in this direction for my devotion time as I was reminded of the joy that I have within me. There’s so much that Paul wrote that applies to us today!

Now for some news: just a few days ago, I found out that the team that I have led had been eliminated due to the negative impact of COVID19 at the ministry where I serve. Sadly, many of my coworkers also felt the effect as the cuts were widespread, painful, but needed. In a few weeks, I and many of my friends and coworkers will be looking for God’s next assignment to serve Jesus.

So I have, on the one hand, this incredible, fantastic dive into God’s Word and the reminder to be joyful no matter what the circumstances, and on the other hand, a radically changed circumstance which demands that I apply what I read. Wow, thanks, God!

So with that said, here’s what I see that God is saying to me as I apply this magnificent letter from Paul. First, despite my circumstances, despite a changing world, I have a God who does not change. This is a God who has made me His own, who has begun a good work in me and who has promised to complete it until Jesus’ return. Who has called me to His gospel, something to be preached through me, no matter what situation and no matter what the outcome might be. And even more, this God gave me an example for me of His humble obedience, an obedience that for Him, took Him to the point of death.

This a God who is present in my thoughts as I meditate on what is pure and holy. A God who knows my heart and speaks to it, even when I deceive myself. Who takes care of me so that I can be content because, most of all, I have Him, and even so, He will still supply all my needs.

And through it all, above it all, my heart fills with a joy that comes from my Savior. This joy, which serves as a reminder that Jesus is preeminent in the universe, and that the least that I can do is to point to Him as I demonstrate my life that has been changed by Him.

This is what I learned and continue to learn. I know that I am right where God wants me to be, dependent on Him. I am excited about the now and the future, and I am happy to do His will, whenever and wherever He will take Teresa and me.

Until next time,

Fran

The Answer to the Why

When crisis happens, “why” questions often begin. These are fair to ask, things like: Why would this virus, any virus, be allowed? And why the earthquakes, the tornadoes, the locusts, or even a set of asteroids whizzing by so, so close to earth, and all this week? And where is God in all of this?

The truth is, no event surprises God. Wars don’t. Famine doesn’t. Pestilence, earthquakes, even weather related events are known, seen, and allowed by God. Yet we have this wisdom from God in verses such as Proverbs 3:25–26 (CSB), “Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.”

So why the tragedy, the heartbreak, the fear? Why the wickedness?

The simple answer is that the world is fallen. Sickness, sorrow, and death are all conditions that we have experienced ever since the first day that sin had entered the world. Cataclysmic phenomena, wars and rumors of war have always been with us, even if we have closed our eyes to it. The truth is, pain is a part of our fallen world, and we hate it.

But so does God.

This is why God brings hope in a fallen world. That in spite of the sin which introduced all of this, He has provided a way to eternity where “Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (Rev 21:4, CSB).

God is here, with us, comforting us, leading us to a better way. Yet we can’t miss the fact that the events of today are a reminder that there is hope for tomorrow. That all who trust Jesus and His free offer of salvation will receive eternal life and the guarantee that all will be well one day, that soon and very soon, we are going to see the King. King Jesus awaits!

So let me encourage you to have hope, because Jesus brings hope. In fact, He is hope. His love for you and for the world will never fade, even when things look bleak. Hold on to His promises that He is with us, even to the end of the age.

For those who don’t know consider yourself a Christian, let me tell you: come to this hope. No matter where you have done, He lovingly forgives you and invites you to a better way. He proved it when He paid the price for you on the cross, becoming a substitute for your life, exchanging His death for your life. Your response is to ask Him to be your Savior, your Lord, your God. That begins your new life in Him, a life that is all about Him, a life of worship to Him.

And that new life is freeing from the circumstances of today or any day. When you live in a closeness to Him, He is your guide. So that even in the midst of a confusing time or a cycle of seemingly endless tragedies, Jesus is your “why,” your new purpose in life. He is here. Always.

Stay holy and healthy, my friends.

Fran

Making the Imperfect, Perfect

Life is messy, at least it is this side of glory. We as sinful humans are really good at making a mess of ourselves. We blow it. We screw it up. We step in it. Well, you know what I mean…

And while life isn’t perfect, it’s perfectly imperfect. Nobody is perfect. We’re full of imperfections. We are broken, and we as broken people in a broken world need that perfect, merciful Savior who can take us just as we are and make us new in Him. It’s all grace, and it’s wonderful, and it’s offered to us freely.

This is why I’m so grateful. I mess things up and Jesus forgives me when I repent. I deserve nothing, but God offers me everything. And it cost Him everything, because it was on the cross that Jesus died, all to make the imperfect, perfect in Him. It’s all Jesus, all the time.

How about you? Have you received that gift Jesus has bought for you? If not, it’s never too late: “for all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13).

Fran

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.

congerdesign / 2682 images

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!

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

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

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