Tag Archives: Encouragement

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

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

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

What God Loves…

I’ve been in ministry for over 23 years now, and I can say that I have never been more encouraged to see God’s work than ever before. I have seen first hand several churches explode in worship attendance, in their disciple-making, and in ministry to the world around them. And there is a clear pattern: regardless of style, flavor, or culture, the churches which have a high view of the Word, challenge one another to holiness, and focus on discipling others in the Word are the ones that are healthy, stable, and growing. It’s amazing that I see very few exceptions to this rule. Yet these thriving churches exist all around as the light of Christ to the Midwest. This is so encouraging because it is clearly what God loves!

Of course, I also see the opposite, and yes, when I see this, I do grieve. Obviously, God doesn’t want unhealthy and declining churches. And unfortunately, just like I see a pattern in healthy, growing churches, I also see a pattern for unhealthy ones. In these churches, there are misguided people who focus not on the Word but on procedures, legalism, and even politicking. They place unceasing attention to the crisis of the day. They draw attention to the negatives and create divisions. They stir up trouble in the shadows of the hallways. And disciple making is reduced to an afterthought. The Gospel is secondary. The Word becomes a manipulative tool to attack others versus a revelation from God to live by.

And as we see in this text from Proverbs, God despises this practice:

“The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16‭-‬19 CSB

These are tough words,yet this is a truth we need to be sober about: God doesn’t want discord or strife from within. He doesn’t want His Bride disgraced, destroyed, and disgusted. He doesn’t want the Family of God to be distracted, from the Great Commission and the work of making disciples. He doesn’t want hateful strife and stressful hate. He wants none of that. For those in the church that practice this, it’s kind of hard to differentiate them from those outside the church. And this certainly grieves God the Holy Spirit as it should grieve His godly saints. And if it isn’t grieving you right now, then, well then that’s just messed up. Sorry, but that’s true.

The good news is that there’s always a better way, a much better way. That way is a way of grace, truth, and love. Since the Bride of Christ is not to be a place that is focused on power, a focus should be on Christ, because, after all, power should be completely in the hands of the Lord who we worship.

And we as members of one another should do what is opposite of our fleshly inclination: a practice of full and complete submission in love. This means to follow the biblical pattern to lift up one another, to love one another, to believe the best in one another, and to build up one another. That is a way of grace. That is the way of Christ.

Want to see others come to Christ, grow in Christ, serve Christ, and share Christ in a way like never before? Then repent, get out of His way, submit to His leading, live for Him and help others to do the same as an act of worship. Love, and love some more. And then love again. Yes, even those who are hard to love. No ands, ifs, or buts.

Because that, my friend, is what God loves.

Fran

The God of the Possible

The fruit and potential of the land was amazing:

When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut there.” Numbers 13:23‭-‬24 CSB

Now think about it: The vine of grapes was so big, two men had to carry it! The land was beautiful, rich, and flowing. The Lord had promised it, and He came through big! All they had to do was follow God and do His will. No enemy, no inhabitant would stop God’s will for His people. They simply had to take a step. A step of faith.

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But they didn’t. They forgot the God of the possible, and instead created a god of the impossible. They ignored His miraculous work of the past and looked at the obstacles before them. But seeking to save themselves, they lost it all. They made a horrible, deadly choice and in a business meeting, individual by individual voted a resounding, faithless “no.”

Their “no” would change some of them forever. All if that generation would never see the promises of God fulfilled. Death would follow them when they could have had life and loss abounded when they could have seen gain. Most of all, the chance for God to be glorified by all Israel would be delayed for 40 years.

Have you been voting “no” to God’s work in your life? Has God challenged you to step out in faith? A year ago, I did something that made no sense to people (still doesn’t) and God has amazed me as I have seen Him working in many places I visit. He gets the glory!

And so, let me encourage you to do the same, to walk by faith, to fear nothing, to step out…and let God get the glory!

Fran