Serving Frank

Two weeks ago I received an email from a stranger. It was Thursday after a rather trying Wednesday. The email was from a daughter who had an urgent request. Her 86-year-old father was dying from liver cancer, living alone in Bradenton while she and her brother lived in other states. A few weeks earlier she and her husband had visited her dad and had brought him to church that Sunday.  I had spoken that Sunday; therefore her reason to reach out to a stranger with her request.

It was a simple request…Go visit her dad and talk to him about spiritual things. Truthfully, my first thought was, “I’m doing my best to keep up with what’s already on my to do list. I’m drained, but I’ll try to go by.” As it turned out, her dad Frank lived less than two miles from me. I told myself, “There’s no excuse to not go by on your way home.” 

Today, four visits later, I’m so glad I did. What a genuine, rich spirit! We could have visited for hours each time, but his strength required short visits. Thursday we said goodbye. His children came to take him with them for his final earthly trip before his eternal trip.

This interaction is on my mind for many reasons, but one has to do with the reading plan I started this week on @youversion. Author Brittany Rust penned a seven-day plan entitled Pouring Into Others When You Feel Empty. Day two’s devotional included this thought:

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are stronger than you know. Helping others isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to stretch the limits of your capacity to discover the limitless strength found in God. God has made you capable of bearing the burdens of others–will you open yourself up to be used by Him to do so?

The verse she connected to her devotional was from Romans:

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There are days we don’t feel strong. On those days, God often gives us an opportunity to meet a “Frank.” My prayer is that I don’t miss anymore Holy Spirit moments, that I choose to bear the weaknesses of those who need to be served, and that I reject to please myself in order to serve future “Franks.”

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The Power of Bold Praying

(Day 25 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. – Genesis 19:27–29

In this familiar passage, Moses describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from Abraham’s perspective. Abraham rises early on the morning God brought sulfur and fire down upon the evil cities, returning to the place he had stood before the Lord a day earlier. He then looks down on the valley where these sinful cities once stood. Instead of a crowded civilization, the entire region had filled with smoke and fire.

It occurs to me that even though Lot and his family are safe and sound, this scene had to be very sad, even crippling in a way. Abraham most likely does not realize his nephew had been rescued, so his initial look toward the valley probably caused him grief and pain. I think we can all identify with this. Who among us has not felt the pain and fear, at least momentarily, that something terrible has happened to someone we love?

I believe that Verse 29 gives us one of the most important lessons we can learn from Sodom’s destruction: “God remembered Abraham,” …, “and sent Lot out.” We can understand from the greater context that Abraham’s interceding prayer saved Lot. It was not Lot’s own goodness but rather Abraham’s boldness in prayer on the behalf of Lot that saved him. “God remembered Abraham.” Isn’t it wonderful that God remembers bold prayers?

Consider also that if God remembered Abraham, how much more will He remember the prayers of His Son? The Lord Jesus Christ can “save us to the uttermost” because He continually intercedes for all those with faith in Him. This makes me want to shout and sing praises to His name!

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

By Doug Hull

Embrace God’s Power

(Day 17 in a 28-Day series from First Bradenton)

“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” – Matt 6:11-13

When I read this section of scripture, where Jesus sets the example for us on how we should pray, I am always amazed by how perfect what He said is for us. Jesus is the Son of God of course, so it would not be any other way. Yet, it still always reminds me of how deep His understanding of our struggles is.

I also realize how much more often I need to remember these words and submit to God’s will over my own. It is not in our human nature to forgive those who have “sin against us.” For that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. We also need the Lord’s help in avoiding giving into temptation. I have found in my own life, as many others have, that if I try and resist temptation on my own the result is always the same. Failure.

I cannot resist the devil in my own power, but that is okay. God is with me. He has promised to always be with us (Hebrews 13), and He is far more powerful than the devil could ever hope to be. Through His power I really can be rescued from the power of the “evil one.” I just have to remember when I am tempted to do what Jesus showed me to-pray.

Sometimes those are the hardest moments to pray-when the temptation is so strong it is hard to think about anything else. And that is not just a coincidence. The devil does not want us to pray, for he knows that God’s power will always be victorious over him if we pray. So embrace that power today, God’s power!

Luke 12:32 tells us:

“Don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

God delights in blessing us and helping us resist evil and embrace His kingdom. So cry out to our loving God today with whatever you are facing in your life. He will embrace you and through His power you will live in victory over sin. This is not a one-time prayer though. Every day, when you face temptation over and over again do not lose heart, but pray! And see the mighty power of God work in and through you.

By Frank Welch

Fruity Fridays: Strength in Gentleness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Jeremy Nixon

Galations 5:23 – “the fruit of the spirit is…gentleness.” You know, my favorite thing about the Bible is the stories. There is literally a story about everything in the Bible. Over and over again the Bible shows us the importance of gentleness.  

I’m reminded of the story about the adulterous woman brought to Jesus in the temple in John 8. The scribes and Pharisees caught a lady in the act of adultery and wanted to test Jesus to see what he would do. I think the lady probably expected Jesus to blow up and get angry, while ordering them to stone her…but Jesus was as gentle as could be. He painted a picture of gentleness for us to know how we should act when difficult circumstances and problems come up.  

Most people equate gentleness with weakness, but it is far from weakness. How strong was it for Jesus to stand up to the Pharisees? Even though he is the Son of God, there were several of them and just one of Him. Jesus squatted down and wrote in the dirt. Without a raise of His voice he simply said, “If you are without sin, then cast the first stone.” One by one they left. He turned to the lady and said, “Go and sin no more.” Powerful and gentle, it was far from weak. Jesus didn’t excuse or pass over her sin; He gently called her to change. The same way Jesus was gentle with the adulterous lady is the way we need to be with the people we are around.   

You see, our world needs more gentleness. There is so much hate in our world, and everyone wants to be at the top of food chain. We’ll do anything to get ahead, even if it means hurting others. God doesn’t call us to that. He calls us to be gentle. In Philippians 4:5 Paul says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” A gentle person speaks truth, and true followers are known by their gentleness. The same way Jesus spoke truth into the adulterous lady is the same way He calls us to speak truth into this world. When we do this, people will see Christ in us. It’s definitely not easy, but God calls us to it; and we have to strive to be gentle, especially in our day and age. People need it. They desperately need to hear this message about Jesus and His gentle spirit. They’ll see it in us and our actions far before they’ll read it in the Bible.  

How will you show gentleness this week?

The Power of “May”

Today I heard a missionary talk about the power of blessing. She lives in a country where Islam is the norm, and she has learned that Muslims place importance on the practice of blessing a newborn. She was asked how Americans bless newborns. When she answered that people just say congratulations, she was told that congratulations is not a blessing. This made her think about the practice of blessing and how it could impact people.

As she read scriptures to find examples of blessings, the power of one word was evident. The word is may. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed hearing the use of this word by pastors, particularly when they are giving a challenge to their congregation. But when you read different scriptures that include may, you are reading some excellent examples of how to bless others. Here are three examples in Paul’s writings:

Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice. Romans 15:15-16

Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus-the great Shepherd of the sheep-through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

May we share the power of blessing through spoken and written word. May we experience the power of God’s word spoken to us and through us.

Fruity Fridays: Running to Do Good

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit, I’d guess this one to be the one most wrestled. 

Doing good is different from being good. You can be good on the inside. But to show the fruit of goodness it has to be seen, you have to do. That isn’t always easy. It’s downright challenging in many cases, on a regular basis.

  • It’s hard to do good to someone who views your decision as wrong.
  • It’s mind bending to do good to someone who intentionally undermines you.
  • It’s gut wrenching to do good for someone who knowingly lies about you.

These are examples that are difficult because they reveal where your power originates. If your power to handle wrong, undermining, and lying lies only in you, you will be less likely to do good.
No, we have to rely on a better source of power than ourselves. That power comes from the model of goodness. That model and power is described in Acts 10:38.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Instead of looking at yourself to muster the power of goodness, we must look to the Holy Spirit. No matter how hard the situation, he has the power to do good through you. So how do we look to the Holy Spirit?

  1. Work through your anger, jealousy, selfishness, etc., before responding. (HINT: This may take more than five minutes.) Start doing good by not doing wrong by allowing destructive emotions to control you.
  2. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Ask Him what goodness will look like in your situation, for that person. Only move when you have peace and commitment to the action.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice. You only get better at something by doing it. Start with a simple good thing that you know the Holy Spirit wants you to do. Example: Pray that God would bless your offender rather than praying God would convict them. (HINT: Conviction isn’t our job.) A staggering baby step like this will lead to steady walking which will lead to strong running.

Running isn’t easy. Certainly not to do goodness. Surrender to the Holy Spirit to help you run to do good.

The Value of Bible Translations

Taking a short break from the 31 Proverbs series to share a personal observation. 

The words of Proverbs 17:5 are stuck on replay in my mind. Actually, one word is. Well, one word from the HCSB translation is. If you read yesterday’s post, you can probably guess which word. 

As I’ve meditated on that word and the message of that verse, these questions came to me: How have I missed this verse for so long? Why did it stick out to me unlike any other time I’ve read it before?

One answer to that question is this: I’m reading the book of Proverbs in a translation that I don’t recall reading it before.

Some people devalue this practice-reading the Bible from various translations. I value it. To give you an idea what I’m talking about, compare this verse from these four translations: 

He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker; He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished. Proverbs 17:5 NASB

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. Proverbs 17:5 NKJV

Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished. Proverbs 17:5 NIV 

The one who mocks the poor insults his Maker, and one who rejoices over calamity will not go unpunished. Proverbs 17:5 HCSB

With just one word highlighted, a Bible student could learn deeper truth and understanding, enough to stick with them for days, maybe even a lifetime. So here are some questions to consider regarding the value of Bible translations: 

  • What if we trusted man’s God-given gift of language and words to deepen our understanding of God?
  • What if we allowed various colors and imageries of words to deepen the convicting power of God’s truths?
  • What if we let go of trying to control God’s word and surrender to God’s message?

For some reason, the word insult went beyond my eyes and mind and reached my heart. I felt that word. 

That’s powerful. That’s lifealtering. That’s invaluable. 

31 Proverbs Highlights: #16-Character Pleases God

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him…Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city.  Proverbs 16:7,32 HCSB

God is more concerned about your character than your position. These two verses reveal a few things about character that pleases God:

  • God is pleased with those who pursue peace rather than picking fights or insisting on their position.
  • God is pleased with those who aren’t ruined by the pursuit of power but rather patiently surrender to his power.
  • God is pleased with those who discipline themselves even when capable of achieving rank or position.

The Why of Lean

The story of Gideon is rich. Judges 7 is one example of this richness.

In this scene Gideon is instructed to get lean by reducing the size of his army from 32,000 to 300. Sounds counterproductive. Here’s the “why” from verse 2:

“The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭7:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God directed Gideon to purposefully get lean. Why? So the nation wouldn’t boast in their power but in his, wouldn’t rely on their own hand for salvation but on his. The army of Israel was about to learn a lesson in who should receive the honor for their salvation.

For a life application, consider these “whys” for any leaning God has allowed in your life:

  • Is this possibly why your bank account has been depleted?
  • Is this possibly why your company has lost accounts?
  • Is this possibly why your church has gone through a financial or membership purge?

Whose hand are you looking to for salvation? Ask God about the why of your lean.

Authority is in the Name

“In that day you will not ask Me anything. I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”‭‭John‬ ‭16:23-24‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Because of this teaching by Jesus, believers pray in the name of Jesus. The early church leaders drew their authority in the name of Jesus; they knew what it was like to attempt things in their own power and had witnessed the power only available in the name of the Son of God.

Through His name…

  • …we access the power of the Creator and acknowledge our weakness
  • …we receive victory over sin and resist temptations
  • …we connect to God the Father and overcome this earthly kingdom
  • …we give honor to our King and bow in submission to His kingdom
  • …we give thanks for the Son’s sacrifice and admit our need for salvation