The One-Two Punch

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In boxing, there is what is called a combination; a left and then a right. It's a one-two punch that hopefully delivers a knockout blow and ends the fight. I find such a one-two punch in the book of 1 Thessalonians 2, where it tells us that God has called us into His kingdom and glory.

First of all, let’s take note of the word “called,” which is better translated, “calls” since it is in the present tense. This means God calls you, and calls you, and calls you, and never stops calling you even when you have already answered the call and have come to Him and received Him and the abundant Life He offers. Why is that?

I believe that God is so infinitely good and wonderful that we will never exhaust the glory of His being – hence we are ALWAYS going to be coming to Him to draw from Him. A second thought I had is that we are continually being drawn to things other than God in this world and therefore are ALWAYS in need of being called back to Him as our only true source of Life.

The rest of the passage tells us what He is calling us to, and this is wonderful!

First, He is calling us to His kingdom. He, of course, is the King of this kingdom, but we are not called to be His subjects. Oh no! We are called to be His children (John 1:11-12.) We are called to be the sons and daughters of the King, which of course makes us princes and princesses.

I believe, with all my heart, that this is why He added that the second thing He is calling us to is His glory! We, as His sons and daughters, share in the inheritance of His glory. This is an amazing thought because throughout the Old and New Testaments God is revealed as a jealous God, who has a rightful zeal for that which is His own. He will not allow anyone or anything to rob Him of His glory; but He will, however, freely share His glory with His kids!

What an amazing Father we have been called to. We are very privileged kids!

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God is Good and Does Only Good

What do we do when the path that God has us on doesn't line up with what we know of God? May you be encouraged through this short video as Frank reminds us of the amazing truth that our God who has provided in the past, will provide again.

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“Preach Christ always, and sometimes use words.”

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I read of a man once who was pondering what Paul’s greatest sermon might have been.

Paul gave multiple discourses in the book of Acts; perhaps it was his first sermon in Damascus after his conversion? Or maybe the sermon Paul gave in Athens on Mars Hill, or the one he gave in Antioch in Pisidia? Two of his most powerful messages were when he gave defense before the Jerusalem authorities when he was falsely accused and arrested; were these his greatest?

It's an interesting question to ponder, and I love that in the end, the writer settled on Paul’s greatest sermon being not the message he gave with his lips, but the message he gave with his life.

Though he was always being persecuted, slandered, and ridiculed, Paul continued to pursue the spreading of the Gospel, and personally loving those who would hear his message and even those who sought to thwart his message.

The New Testament declares that Paul continued to be bold in his God.

He could have grown weary, he could have doubted his call from God, or he could have surmised that he had somehow disqualified himself.  He could have watered down his message and made it more palatable to men, or he could have simply ceased his efforts all together and decided to live a quiet life. But instead, Paul continued to love people and to serve his God. He continued to pursue his missionary endeavors, courageously pushing forward and continuing to herald the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of man because God loves man so very much.

St. Francis of Assisi said, so many years ago, “Preach Christ always, and sometimes use words.” Paul certainly fulfilled those words with the powerful message of the life he lived. May we likewise so live, that men are caused to stop and take notice of the lives we live.

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The Pearl of Great Price

What is it my friends, that God is calling you to surrender in your life? In this short video, Frank sites a beautiful parable from his good friend, Juan Carlos Ortiz, which reminds us that our Father wants to give us all of Himself. May we ask ourselves today if there is anything that we’re holding on to instead of the hand of Jesus?

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The Labor of Rest

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One of the charges frequently brought against me and others who teach the message of grace is that we teach "easy believe-ism” or “cheap grace.” I would like to address those thoughts.

First, let's talk about the thought of "easy believe-ism." When we teach the grace of God, we are heralding to humanity that there is a new economy of living made available through the finished work of Jesus. Yes, it is an "easy" economy to enter. I do not shy away from proclaiming that. If God wants people saved, and He does, why would He make it difficult?

I love that in the third chapter of John when Jesus heralds that eternal life is available through Him, He refers to the little brass serpent that was recorded in the book of Numbers. Remember the story? God sent serpents to deal with the rebellious children of Israel, but He also instructed Moses to make a little brass serpent and put it up on a pole as a remedy for anyone who got bit by the serpents. All they had to do if they got bit, was take a glance of faith to the serpent and they would be healed. Isn’t that glorious?! All it took was a glance of faith, and that is indeed all that God requires for someone to enter life. Glorious!

Living that life, however, is a different story; it requires saying a loud and resounding “No!” to our resources, so that we can instead trust the resources of God and that is no EASY thing to do! It requires hard work, as the writer of Hebrews says, to enter into rest. It is hard work to trust God’s resources instead of our own, especially since all of us were birthed into the lie that we shall be as God and therefore inherently think that we can do just fine apart from Him. So yes, it is easy to believe and find life with God, but it is hard work to experience life with God. We must labor to enter into the rest that Jesus has secured for us.

Oh, and by the way, how did He secure that rest for us? He laid down His life on our behalf. He died so that we could be set free from the law and restored to God instead, and there is nothing cheap about the grace that He secured for us. In fact, if you really understand the economy of grace, how dare anyone call it cheap! It cost Jesus His life, and it requires on our part the laying down of our lives in order for us to find His life.

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Taking Hold of God

In this powerful, short video, Frank walks us through the story of Abraham and Isaac; their thoughts, their feelings and what their loving and compassionate God was saying to them as they walked with Him down an impossible road. May you take hold of God today as you let go of the gift and take hold of the giver.

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Walking By Faith

What does it mean to walk by faith? Find out in this short video, as Frank gives us the inspiring example of Noah’s choice to walk by faith and not by sight, and explains that faith must be tested so that it can be proven so that we can continue to trust God for even bigger things.

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A Heart's That Good

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I want to tell you one of my favorite stories.

A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning, while eating breakfast, the young woman noted that their neighbor’s laundry, which was hung out to dry, was not very clean and added that the poor woman must not know how to wash clothes properly. Her husband looked on but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang out her clothes to dry, the young woman would make the same comment that her neighbor’s laundry was not very clean and that the poor woman must not know how to wash clothes properly.

One morning, however, the young woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look at those clean clothes next door! Someone must have taught her how to wash clothes. I wonder who got to her?” The husband responded, “Actually, I got up early this morning and washed our windows.”

Unfortunately, this is all too often a very common experience. We as human beings spend so much time thinking negatively about our neighbor, that we fail to see the negative in our own lives. This is something we should especially avoid when thinking of our Christian brethren.

In the first letter to the Thessalonians Paul, who had to leave Thessalonica because of persecution, wrote to them that he wanted to get back to them but was unable to do so. It would have been very easy for the Thessalonians to listen to the negative voice of the enemy and think that Paul did not value them, or did not have the time for them, or perhaps that he was too busy for them.

Timothy, who had been sent to Thessalonica when Paul could not go there, returned with the news that the Thessalonians ALWAYS had good remembrances of them. They knew that Paul had a new heart and a good heart, (Ezekiel 36:25-26) and so they chose to believe that Paul had the best in mind for them always.

If only we would choose to believe the best about other people. How much needless conflict might we be able to avoid if we chose to believe that the heart of a believer is always good, instead of giving in to negative imaginations? Remember, Paul said in 1 Corinthians that love believes and hopes all things!

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The Balance of Love

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The great American entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller stated, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.” The most powerful leadership tool available is the ability to get along with other people; to be able to relate to people and not only to understand people but encourage them. The apostle Paul certainly fit this bill.

In the second chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul states that he cared for them like a nursing mother gently cares for her own children. There is nothing so dear as the love of a nursing mother. Paul also went on though, to declare that he was like a father to the Thessalonians. In that context, he affirmed that in the role of a father he exhorted the Thessalonians; simply put, he spoke the hard words, the strong words that we all need to hear sometimes.

I love that he chose the word "parakaleo," which literally means to "come alongside." What a great lesson for us to learn! When we have to speak those hard words to the ones we love, those words are best spoken not with a finger in another’s face, but instead with an arm around them, communicating our love and acceptance of them, even if we do not necessarily accept their behavior.

Further, Paul instantly added that he encouraged them. It is not enough to just exhort others. If all we do is exhort people, we will soon have very few friends because they will run when they see us coming. Paul, however, balanced his hard words with loving words; words of encouragement. It is the same word used when Jesus comforted the family of Lazarus. It is the word "hekostan," and it means the "tender, compassionate, restorative empathy given to one who is struggling, burdened, or heartbroken."

Paul knew that in a very harsh world it's easy for someone when they hear a negative word, to become discouraged. He was quick to add words of encouragement, quick to play the role of a cheerleader and stress that he believed in them and anticipated that the best would be expressed by and through them.

Paul is a great example for us in terms of dealing with people. May we love others enough to say the strong words, but care enough for them to speak the encouraging words as well.

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Never Alone

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The worst test I ever went through was when Avery was born, and she fought for life for three and a half months. When we finally got her home, she went right back into ICU and fought for another couple of months until they finally found out what was wrong. They were able to treat it but it depleted things in her body, and some of the meds they were giving her had to be replaced. They gave me her medicine at 6:00 PM on Tuesday night. We were bringing her home the next day. Finally, she was coming home! I gave her the medicine, and instantly she was nauseousness and crying; something was wrong. I complained three times to the nurse saying, "Something’s wrong, something's wrong, something wrong!” They said, “Oh no, everything's fine just the way it's written.” But we knew something was wrong. They said they would give her the next dose and if anything was wrong, they would call us.

We drove home, and I'll never forget my bride; her head hit the pillow, and she said, “I've got a really bad feeling.” It had been a gruesome couple of months it was just raw emotion. We fell asleep.

We woke up an hour later with a call from the hospital. “Mr. Friedmann, get here as fast as you can.” There was no time to talk as they quickly informed us that we might not make it in time. As we're driving, I'll never forget, Janet reached her hand over to mine, and she said, “Is this all the time we get?”

We walk in, and Avery's out, her heart has stopped, and they’re working on her. The doctor came in, and he said, “What's wrong?” I said, “The medicine you gave her, that’s what's wrong!” 

He came back twenty minutes later and let me tell you again, to his credit, this was a man. He walked up to me and said, “It's my fault. I was in a hurry, and I miscalculated the dose, and I gave her five times what she was supposed to have.”

You’ve got to understand that at that moment, everything in me wanted to take this guy and put his head through the wall. But... “No test has overtaken you. Every test is common to man. It is showing that you're not up to the demand, but there's Someone who is. Lay hold of that Someone, and you will overcome.” 

Trusting Jesus, I reached out, and I grabbed that man, and I said, “I love you. I forgive you. Forget about us and go do whatever you need to do to make her better.”

She was out for twenty-two minutes in a coma. Five days later she woke up. And this summer, this child, is going to go work in the burn ward in South Africa at the Red Cross hospital and add more gray hair to my head and for that too, He is sufficient. 

I don't know what you're going through, but I know the world we live in, and that means you're either going through it, coming out of going through it, or you're going into it. But you don't have to go into it alone, and that is such good news because you're not up to the demand, but there's Someone who is, and all it takes is faith to say, "Lord, I'm not up to the demand, I need you." And He's there. Isn’t that wonderful friends?!

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The Way of Escape: His Life Inside Us

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But God is faithful! Did you see the words, “But God”? “We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God who is rich in His mercy and grace.” It's all over the New Testament. Whenever you have this horrible negative reality, there’s a “But God,” and this great opportunity on the other side of that available at the moment of faith, praise God!

"He will not permit you to be tested or tempted beyond that which you are able, but with the test or temptation will make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it." And the way of escape my friends is His own life inside you! God will provide, God will provide.

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How Far Will You Go With Your God?

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Nick was just your average ordinary guy in Communist Romania, and then he found the Gospel, and this is what he said to the guy who led him to Christ, “I will serve God, but I can't go into the ministry. God don't push me that far.”

It took only a couple of years, and Nick answered the call to go into the ministry. Nick thought, “Well God, I'll do the ministry, but don't lead me away from my kids. Don't push me that far.” Pretty soon he's travelling around the country. How many of you know that it was dangerous to be a Christian in a communist country? Nick thought, “Oh God, don't let me get arrested. Don't push me that far.” Can you guess what happened? He got arrested, and they said to him, “Stop preaching in Christ or you don't know what we can do to you!” 

“Oh God, don't push me that far,” Nick thought. He continued to travel all over the country and teach Christ. So they arrest him again, and this time they tell him, “Don't you know where you are? Don't you know who we are? We have the power to kill you!” And out of Nick's mouth came these words, “Even if you kill me, my messages are on tapes all over this country. My blood will be sprinkled over those messages, and the power of Christ to transforms lives will magnify!” The Communist officer said, “We are not so stupid as to give you your wish.” Later, one of Nick's friends spoke to him and said, “What happened to “God don't push me that far?” Nick replied with these words, “We need to go all the way with our God.”

My friends, how far will you go with your God? May we all go all the way!

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God Will Provide

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In my own faith journey, my greatest spiritual weakness is: my God is too small, and I am too big. When we see ourselves as too big and God as too small, we'll trust ourselves instead of Him. So this is what I try to put into my brain, “God will provide, God will provide, God will provide.” And when something new comes into my life, I try to remember that God will provide, and He has provided so wonderfully. 

Abraham had obviously concealed from Isaac what God had told him to do. You know, sometimes we need to do that as human beings. Sometimes to share things will wound another person and in this case that would have caused undue stress for the three-day journey Abraham and his son were embarking on. So finally, in verse nine, they come to the place. Abraham built the altar, laid down the wood, and bound Isaac. 

What happened there? What was the conversation? I wish we knew! 

Did Isaac ask, “Well, where's the lamb father?” 

Did Abraham respond, “I don't have one, YOU ARE the lamb.”

He had to have told him! I want you to see here that it is not just Abraham who was full of faith; look at Isaac! Can you imagine how much faith it took to trust his father? To say, “Go ahead and bind me and put me on the altar?” Where did that boy get that faith? You know, sometimes I think we've spent so much time on Abraham that we miss Isaac. I'll tell you where he got that faith from; he got it from watching his dad. Here's a whale of a challenge for us today, it is not our lips that will teach our kids; it is our lives! And we need to live so they see a living God in us. 

Words surely reverberated in Isaac's mind; “God will provide. God will provide.” Abraham's faith has been so tested over the years it could stretch beyond what we can imagine. Do you realize that at thirty to thirty-five years of age with a one-hundred and twenty-year-old father, Isaac could have easily overpowered his dad and said no? 

Which one had the greatest faith? I don't know that we can answer that. Is it the father who offers his son or the son who lays down his life at the wishes of his father? It was tested faith on both their parts.

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God is Good and Does Only Good

  What do you do when the path that God has you on doesn't line up with what you know of God?

What do you do when the path that God has you on doesn't line up with what you know of God?

“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men and Isaac, his son, cut the wood for the burnt offering and rose up and went to the place which God had told him.” These are the most puzzling verses in the Word of God. Why are they so puzzling? Because there's absolute silence in these verses in terms of what was going on inside of Abraham. Notice there's no argument from him?

I've gone through near-death experiences with two of my children already. The first words out of my mouth were, “God. No!” Would they be the first words out of your mouth?

But that’s not what the Bible says; “God, you told Noah not to kill. We can't do this. God, you promised posterity for this boy. You can't kill the son of the Prophet.” We don't see any of that. Oh, he must have wrestled. How could a father's heart not wrestle with that kind of command; “Take your boy up on an altar and kill him.” Was Abraham thinking, “This is the one I waited for so long to have, the one I loved through so much. You said through this one would be prosperity. He has to live! He has to live!”?

What do you do, my friends, when the path that God has you on doesn't line up with what you know of God? What do you do? There's only one thing to do. You go back into your history, and you connect the dots of how God has proven faithful to you over the years, right? And then what kind of conclusion do you end up with, that God is wavering and erratic; He promised a son, and now he wants him back. No!  The conclusion you end up with is that God has provided in the past and He will provide in three days. Abraham doesn't know how, but he knows that God is good and big and wise and powerful and holy and he makes a decision based on what he knows about God.

As he connects the dots of the past, reason gives way to faith. Why do I say that? Because everything in a human mind would say, “No,” to what God was asking. Reason gives way to faith, and he makes the decision of a child. It took God one-hundred and twenty years to get that man to childlike faith. I look at my own life, and I think I'm going to have to live to five-hundred to get there! 

He saddles the donkey and cuts the wood. It will be a burnt offering, a worship sacrifice. God is saying, “Offer your boy in worship to me.”

Notice that Abraham didn't tell Sarah? That would not have gone over well! By the way friends, there's a very important lesson in that. Sometimes even though we're married and we are one, God still works with you individually, and there are some things that God is doing in your life that are just for you and not your spouse. It's a hard thing for a spouse to watch the other one go through something like that because we want to fix them, but you can't fix them. Only God is the fixer.

So, Abraham makes a three-day journey. Man, that must have felt like an eternity, and you’ve got to believe he's pondering the whole way. Now, I don't believe he was wrestling with what to do; he's already made the decision to do it. What I think he's wrestling with is how. He’s thinking, “I know God's going to do something, but what is He going to do? How's He going to do it?” I believe with all my heart that he concluded that although his son must die because God had spoken it, his son must live. Therefore, I believe he concluded that God was going to resurrect Isaac from the dead. I think we can confirm that if we look at Hebrews 11:19; “By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac as a sacrifice. He that had received the promise, offered up his only begotten son of whom it was said, 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called,' accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead."

Accounting is a keyword in the verse. It’s a math term; mathematics is the science that deals with the measurement properties and relationships of quantities. Mathematics is all about proven theory. Mathematics is all about figuring something out. Mathematics is about always getting an answer, and this is the term Abraham chose to use when it comes to God. When he looked at how God had proven himself in his life over the years, he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, it was proven, God would do something, and Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead. What does Psalm 119 say? “God is good and does only good.” In Abraham's mind, he'd concluded; the only possible solution that was in harmony with the God he had come to know was God could not and would not let this boy die without fulfilling his promise concerning this boy. So in verse five, What does he do? He tells his servants, “Stay here.” This blows my mind, Look at the words, “Stay here, the boy and I will go worship (meaning a burnt offering,) and then we will return again to you. Oh my goodness!

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The Pearl of Great Price

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What is it my friends, that God's calling you to surrender in your life? Because it's whatever you are holding on to that is replacing the hand of God. 

You know, as I meditated on this, I was reminded of the words of my good friend Juan Carlos Ortiz. He talked about this in his book, Living With Jesus Today. He said, “Jesus is the pearl of great price.” Do you remember the gospels, the pearl of great price where the merchant, when he finds the pearl and knowing it's value, will sell everything he has in order to get that pearl?

Juan Carlos explains the pearl of great price with this parable:

“Look at this pearl, Juan Carlos,” says God.

“Oh, I must have that pearl. How much does it cost?” 

God answers, “Well, the costs is one thing. It’s very expensive. I don’t know if you want to buy it.” 

“Well, if it's that expensive, who can buy it?”

“Everybody can buy it,” God replies. 

“Well, Father, how can everybody buy it when it's so expensive?” 

And God replies, “It's simple. It simply cost everyone the same price. It costs them everything they have.”

“Oh man, that's a great price!” 

“And that's why it's called the pearl of great price, Juan Carlos.”

“But I must have that pearl!”

“Okay," God says, “what do you have?”

“Well, I've got $100,000 in the bank.”

“Okay, give that to me.” God instructs.

"So the pearl is mine?”

“What else do you have as well?”

“I have a few dollars in my pocket.”

“I said everything,” God reminds.

“Well, I've got to have that pearl, so here’s the money.” God gives the pearl. “Oh, I can't wait to take it home.”

“You didn't say that you had a home. It will cost you your home.” God responds.

“I've got to have the pearl! Okay, you can have my home. I can't wait to show this to my wife!”

“Wife? You have a wife? You didn't mention a wife. It'll cost you her too.” God says.

“Well, what would I say to my kids?”

“Well, you didn't mention that you had kids. It’s going to cost you your kids too. I said everything.” God reiterates.

“But you’ve left me alone on the street!”

“It will cost you your own life too. Here's the thing though. I will give all those things back to you for you to enjoy but when I come calling for one of those things, don't forget to give them to me. Don't become so enamoured with them that you miss Me because the only reason I would call for them is because I want you to have all of Me and something has gotten in the way.”

Is there something you're holding on to instead of the hand of Jesus?

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Taking Hold of God

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Abraham’s long-awaited son is finally born at age one-hundred. Can you imagine the joy, the awe, the wonder of that long-awaited son? Thirty years you wait for that child, and then he shows up; "This is my boy," Abraham would have said, "and it is this boy, and this boy only, through whom God's promise will come."

In Genesis 17, God had reiterated the promise and said that this time Abraham's descendants would be like the sand of the seashore. That's a lot bigger promise! We have to understand that all of Abraham’s spiritual hopes were in this boy. This is the boy through whom the line of the Messiah will come. If anything happens to Isaac, there's no Messiah. If there is no Messiah, Abraham is dead in his sin. If Abraham is dead in his sin, he goes to hell for eternity. There's a lot riding on this. I put it this way, Isaac is a big deal in the promises of God! And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, this hope is tested or more like shattered!

In verse one, God comes to Abraham and says, “Abraham!” And Abraham says, “Oh, here am I.” Don't you love that? His response is so innocent, so beautiful, so naive, so responsive; He's totally unaware of what God is about to ask of him. Wait, did you hear the word, “ask”? That's a lie! God was not asking; it's an imperative verb. Doesn’t that make you want to cry for Abraham? God is commanding here; this is the mother of all tests. 

We're going to walk through this slowly; I want you to feel what's going on; I want you IN the passage...

God says, “Take your son.” What must Abraham have thought? God says, “Take your son,” and then look what He does, He keeps going with the superlatives; “Your son, your only son. Isaac, the one that you love.” Is God being mean here? No! He's helping Abraham out. How many of you know that when you go through a difficult time, you want somebody to understand what you're going through? You want somebody to hear you. You can go through it if you know there's somebody that gets it and that's what God is doing here. He's got his arm around Abraham. He's saying, “I get it. I get it. This is your boy. This is the ONLY boy. The only begotten boy, the beloved boy.” How come God gets it? Because a few centuries later, God's going to give his own boy. He’s saying, “I’m in your court Abraham. I know what I'm calling you to, son. I really, really do. I gave him to you, and now I want you to give him back to me.”

One writer says this was a “test of necessity." He has the conviction that Abraham had grown too fond of Isaac, that Isaac had taken the place of God in Abraham’s heart and that it could cause great harm to Abraham's walk of faith because the place reserved for God has been squeezed out by another. We don't know if that's true, but I have to wonder if you wait for a boy that long and that boy finally shows up, he's going to be precious in your heart.

Watchman Nee even commented along the same lines. Listen closely, please my friend, because this is all of us. He said “Isaac represents the many gifts of God's grace. Before God gives them to us our hands are empty, afterwards, they are full. Then sometimes God will reach out His hand to take ours in fellowship. He needs an empty hand to put into His, but when we received His gifts and are nursing them, our hands are full, and when God puts out His hand, we have no empty hand for Him to put His hand into. When that happens, we need to let go of the gift in order to take hold of God Himself.” And then Nee adds these very sobering words. “Isaac can be done without, God cannot.”

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