Joseph Franks – Gospel Leadership: A Call to One and All

In my personal life, over the last two years, God has impacted me in a special way. It has been a time of intense spiritual renewal and incredible personal growth. Some of it has been fun; some of it has been painful. However, through it all, my gracious Heavenly Father has targeted me for revival and improvement. I am thankful for the work he has done and is doing, and I trust I will never be the same. It is a fantastic truth to realize that, “He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.” The same is true for you; that is if Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. He loves you too much to leave you as he found you.

Well, one might be wondering, “Joe, in what areas has the Lord most adjusted your thinking and practice?” For me, this is a very easy question to answer. Today, I believe I better understand both the undeserved, unlimited, unalterable Gospel of Grace and the incredible importance of Leadership. Oh, please do not misunderstand me. I am not claiming to be the expert in either of these two subjects; I feel I will always a student and rarely the scholar. In addition, I am also not saying these are the only areas in my life the Lord needs to work on. There are too many to list, and I am positive more glaring deficiencies will be addressed in future days. However, this I know, as of late the Wonderful Counselor has brought the Gospel and Leadership front and center. Consequently, I find myself consumed to make up for lost time. I am hungry to better communicate the gracious Gospel of God, to continue maturing as a bold, Christlike, servant-leader, and to spend the rest of my days influencing people to be Gospel-understanding, Gospel-expressing, Christlike, servant-leaders in their various circles of influence.

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Joseph Franks – Hide No Longer

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There are times when it is profitable to hide. Joseph ran from the adulterous wife of Potiphar. Elijah ran from the Ahab and Jezebel who sought his head. Paul taught his readers to flee from the devil and his temptations, and David taught his students to hide God’s Word in their hearts. Even Jesus told parables for the purpose of revealing truth to some while hiding it from others.

Then there are times when it is horrible to hide. We do wrong and harm ourselves when we hide ourselves from the scriptures, from the God of grace, and from our brothers and sisters. Yes, we are harmed when we do so, but oh how blessed we are when we open God’s Word and see our sin, then in humble repentance we run towards Jesus and towards his people.

And here is some really good news, even though we hide, God is the one who calls, seeks, finds, encourages, and commands men and women to repent.

Consider his gracious pursuance of the wicked first couple:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:6-9)

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Joseph Franks – Dead and Obese Substitutes

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When I go to eat at one of the local Chinese restaurants in my city, a statue of Buddha can be seen perched near the front door. This pagan idol shows the allegiance of the business owners. It presents to their patrons that in which they trust. Sadly, their statue also proclaims they are still in bondage to sin, in allegiance with the dark side, and at enmity with God. My very hard working neighbors are missing the delight of being united with Jesus Christ and adopted by the Heavenly Father. They have passed on enjoying a relationship with the Prince of Peace and are giving faith, honor, glory, and worship to a dead obese man.

Similar idolatry can occur when a teenager enters the mall, when a fitness junky visits the gym, when the businessman drives down the motor-mile, when the single individual logs on to Match.com, when a soccer mom selects and adorns her house, or when a political activist looks with longing at his or her favorite candidate. Clothes, shoes, health, muscles, fine driving machines, spouses, homes, furniture, and excellent candidates are not sinful; as a matter of fact they are good gifts of God. However, when one trusts in these things to satisfy, save, and provide meaning in life, they prove their hearts are in the wrong place. Even though they may worship Jesus Christ in church on Sunday, they are giving faith, honor, glory, and worship to dead and obese things.

As a minister, believe it or not, the church can be my Buddha; it can be my dead and obese idol of choice. The temptation is always before me to over-value increased membership, happy and unified elders, more and better facilities, additional staff, fantastic programs, theological degrees, blog readership stats, church fame, personal notoriety, hearing people praise my ministerial skills, and receiving a larger salary. Yes, sadly, all these things are like heroine to my heart. If I am not careful, I give faith, honor, glory, and worship to the church of Christ and not the Christ of the church. I worship the gifts and not the Giver, and then I whine when the Giver takes away a few of his gifts. And friends, my Jealous Father is so saddened by my idolatrous affections. As a matter of fact, God is probably more saddened over my Presbyterian idolatry than he is over that of my pagan neighbors.

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Joseph Franks – The Nurture and Admonition of Lucifer

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It is highly offensive and dangerous for one to complacently and rebelliously live in sin before the Holy God. According to the Bible, God is angry with such wicked individuals each and every day. His condemnation is promised; it will be severe when poured out by the Just Judge of all mankind.

In addition, if one wishes to further infuriate the Almighty God, one will train his children to walk in unrighteousness after his own model. Such satanic discipleship makes God violently angry. In Scripture he gives a severe warning to the father or mother who would cause one of their little ones to stumble. God says “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6) One can only imagine how hot will be the hell experienced by wantonly rebellious fathers and mothers.

In Matthew 14, and example of such wicked parentage is presented:

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:1-12)

Herod and Herodias were familiar with the Word of God. They lived in Judea. They were surrounded by priests and scribes. They were cognizant of Israel’s ordinances, sacraments, sacrifices, and ceremonies. They were instructed by Israel’s feasts. All around them was the truth of God; they were immersed in the holy religion that came forth from Israel’s God.

Herod and Herodias were consumed with covetousness, pride, lust, and adultery. They were not interested in God. They were not interested in their neighbors. They were not interested in their original spouses. No, they were only interested in themselves, so with blatant disregard they walked in iniquity and left a wake of chaos behind them.

Herod and Herodias were bothered by the message coming forth from God’s man. John the Baptist uncovered their sins and called them to repentance; he preached many sermons targeting their depravity. However, as John persisted in preaching God’s Word, he was ultimately apprehended, bound, and cast into prison. This sinful couple used all their resources to squelch his voice. They would not tolerate God casting light on their dark transgressions. They ridded themselves of the biblical pest that kept raining on their party.

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Joseph Franks – Affectionate Action

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Christ looks at his disciples and says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John‬ ‭14:15-16‬) While a relationship with Jesus is “not based on works lest any man should boast,” a sweet experiential relationship with the Savior involves faith that leads to works, hearing that leads to doing, and loving that leads to obeying Christ’s commandments. The affection one has for Christ manifests itself in actions on behalf of Christ.

Perhaps some illustrations will help drive the point home. Consider the soldier who, because of his love for country, enlists in the armed forces and risks his life in defense of his friends. His affection for his nation manifests itself in valiant, self-sacrificing action.

In like manner, the husband who has true affection for his wife will manifest, prove and show his legitimate affection through corresponding actions. Yes, some do stay married merely out of duty, out of testimony, for convenience, for the children, or for financial or other pragmatic reasons. Such individuals may be men of integrity who honor their sacred wedding vows and love their children, but they are not men with Christ-like and Christ-honoring affection towards their wives. No, the honorable husband sincerely honors and adores his wife; he has sincere and tender affection, and he proves it by his encouraging words and works. In a solid Christ-honoring marriage, heart-felt affection manifests itself in hearty action.

In the Bible, one reads of the love of the Heavenly Father. One then sees him prove his affection for the world by sending his own son that whoever believes in him might not perish but find eternal life. Likewise, the affection of the Son for both the Father and the Elect is legendary. A greater affection is unimaginable, and a greater love has never been shown. Christ comes to the earth, walks in obedience, recommits in the garden, ascends the cross, accepts death, and descends into the grave. His incredible affection for his Heavenly Father and his earthly children is clearly shown in his indescribable actions.

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Joseph Franks – High Law … High Grace … High Worship

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The Law comes from our good God.

The Law comes as a good gift from our good God.

The Law is a good presentation of God’s standard of goodness. It tell us that which is really good in the sight of God.

The Law is a good magnifier of our non-goodness. It does a very good job of showing us the thousands of ways we fall short of God’s expectations regarding our conduct and character.

Yes, the Law is good, but it is not good at everything. The Law is not good at inspiring and transforming our souls. It can scare us to death. It can promise damnation, punishment, discipline, and poor consequences. The result can be short-lived conformity out of a sense of self-preservation, love of reputation, and self-worship. Yes, the Law can result in external conformity and obedience, but it cannot change our insides. The Law cannot adjust our heart; it cannot transform our character. And any serious student of God’s Law understands that perfect, lawful, acceptable obedience requires both the right external action with the the right internal character. Consequently, when we realize the Law is not boosting our spiritual ego but exposing our sin, we find ourselves continually tempted to deny God’s Law in its entirety or minimize it by cutting it down to size. Therefore, in denying God’s Law, we sin further. The same is true when we minimize God’s Law and lower the bar, in order to reach the bar, in order to view ourselves as Law-keepers. Yes, the Law is good, but it cannot perform good work within our chests.

So, is there any rescue from God’s good Law that persistently exposes our non-good being and behavior? Thanks be to God for the Gospel!

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Joseph Franks – The Will of God and Your Next Decision

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Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What would God have me do?” Have you ever longed to be in the center of God’s will, but you found yourself paralyzed because you could not seem to figure out what he would have you do? Are you presently at a fork in the road and wish to desperately honor Christ in your next decision? Wouldn’t it be exciting to have the ability to instant-message God and receive a personal response on your smart phone in just a few minutes?

Well, I have not a “God App” to recommend for your I-Phone, nor do I have a “word of knowledge” from him regarding your current dilemma. I am not a prophet, and I do not know where to go to find a legitimate one. However, I still might be able to assist you in making your next decision. Allow me to share with you some of the guiding principles that have assisted me. These I have gleaned from Scripture, from experience, and from the counsel of others.

I. FIND COMFORT IN YOUR DESIRE TO KNOW THE LORD’S WILL

The natural man is not overly concerned with knowing and doing God’s will. He is pretty happy to be independent and focused on his own preferences. Therefore, when you pray like David in Psalm 143:10, “Lord, teach me to do thy will,” this is a sweet sign that you have been redeemed and justified; that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. Such a passion to honor, obey, and be led by God is sweetly odd; it is an evidence that the Holy Spirit dwells within your soul.

II. FIND COMFORT IN THE DOCTRINE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGN WILL

The bible teaches that God knows the end from the beginning. The reason he knows the end from the beginning is because he decrees that which happens from beginning to end. Yes, God sovereignly plans all, and then he performs all that he plans. Job writes that God does as He pleases, and only as He pleases, and there is no one who can frustrate His plans of hinder His purposes. (Job 42:2) David writes, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3) Likewise Daniel teaches, “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the people of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35) It is Isaiah who states, “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” And later he continues, “I [God] make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 14:27; 46:10) Yes, God has a sovereign will, and it will be followed to perfection. Now, sometimes he makes his sovereign, perfect, or decretive will known, but in most times he keeps his plan hidden for a season. Most times you can only see God’s will when looking backward. However know this my friends — whatever his sovereign will is, whether you know it or not, you cannot mess it up or thwart it. You do not have to worry about taking the wrong fork in the road and causing all the forces of heaven to panic and reassess the situation. God is sovereign, and his will will be done regardless of your right or wrong decision.

III. FOCUS ON COMMUNION

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to all who are united to him. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter and Counselor. He is the one who is placed within to guide all Christ’s friends into all truth. Therefore, spend time keeping in step with the Holy Spirit and enjoying the process of bringing your heart into alignment with the Godhead. Adore, confess, thank, and supplicate God. Scripture expresses you have not peace, wisdom and assistance because you ask not for it. Therefore, start the process of seeking guidance on your knees, and then pray the entire day without ceasing. God is the Good Shepherd who promises to lovingly guide his sheep. When you call to him, he will answer. In Romans, Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I can’t think of any better way for your mind to be renewed than for you to spend quantity and quality time in communion with your Savior — especially communing with him while his Word is opened on your lap.

IV. FOCUS ON GOD’S REVEALED WILL

In certain times and places, God has spoken to individuals through prophets, audible voices, handwriting on the wall, angels, and talking donkeys. Therefore, if your dog starts speaking in an audible tongue, take him seriously. Like Balaam, you may be a foolish individual whose attention God is working hard to get. However, the normative means whereby God intends to speak to you is through his inspired Word. In the Bible you can find that which God has revealed to all men. Within the ancient pages are laws and principles for all centuries and cultures. Within the Bible you can find those things which God prescribes and those that God prohibits. Simply put — read and heed! Friends, this is the revealed will of God for you, and experiential blessings or consequences follow those who walk in obedience according to God’s good direction. It is the manual for decision making and daily worship, and the wise man looks at God’s Word as declares, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

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Joseph Franks – He Humbled You and Let You Hunger

Joe_Franks-400x400 Job understood and expressed how his God gives and takes away. Solomon proclaimed the same truth when he wrote, “The Lord makes men rich, and others he makes poor.” In similar manner, Moses expressed how God sometimes satisfies his children with abundant provisions, while at other times he makes them very hungry. Such triumphs and trials are seen everywhere throughout Scripture. These same dynamics can be found everywhere as one reviews the history of the church. God’s people are oft times found walking on sunshine and enjoying the best of his creation. At other times, those who love him most faithful are found in dire straits.

Therefore, we ought not be surprised at whatever God sends our way. Whether our marriages are dreamy or disastrous; whether our children are prudent or prodigal; whether our personal temptations and demons are fleeting or fierce; whether our wallets are thick or thin; whether our loved ones are happily taken home from the hospital or finally taken home to glory; whether our church membership is growing or going; whether our emotional stability is healthy or hectic; whether our wombs are opened or closed; whether our country is under God or under satan; whether persecution is far or near; whatever we experience, it is the Lord who providentially orders all our experiences. He is the sovereign one who deals the hand we are left to play. it is the Lord who decrees whatsoever comes to pass.

So, why does God — actively or passively — humble his children? Let us listen to the teaching of Moses. For within the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, three reasons are presented as to why God humbles his friends and lets them go hungry:

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna,

which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. (Deuteronomy 8:1-6)

God makes his children hungry in order to test them. By this testing, God does not need to learn the true condition of a person’s soul. God is omniscient, and he knows those who are truly his. They are such because he changed their hearts and sovereignly called them to himself. No, instead, the test is for the benefit of the test taker. Those who are buffeted by the sovereign God and still find themselves worshiping and obeying him, they are those who are proving to be true disciples. They are those who are not turning back. They are those who are producing fruit with lasts. They are those who are making their calling and election sure. Therefore friends, the way in which we handle our trials and tribulations shows whether or not we are persevering disciples of Jesus Christ. Will you lift high the cross, or will you deny Christ and prove yourself to be a Judas?

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Joseph Franks – The Outward Show: Holiness from the Inside Out

Joe_Franks-400x400 Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. Man looks at the outward show, but God looks at the inward soul.

However, that being said, let us not forget that both God and man see the outward appearance, and this is of immense importance. Outward appearances matter. The show that men are watching ought to be impressive to men so that they see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

Friends, the problem with the Pharisees was not their external piety. No, the characteristic of these men which was deplorable to Jesus was their lack of interest on an internal purity that matched their outward show. It was their duplicity and hypocrisy that offended Jesus, and not their dutiful holiness.

In contrast, Jesus Christ was one who kept God’s Law from the inside out. His insides were pure as he worshiped God with all of his heart, soul, and mind. Consequently, this was appreciated by the Father and recognized by all his neighbors who witnessed Jesus’ worshiping with all his strength. Jesus worshiped with heart and hands, with his will and works, with his thinking and his talking, with his character and his conduct. His inner show was impressive to his Father. His outward show was impressive to his Father and his brothers.

Therefore, how is your external show? How is your Christian testimony? Are you an example of the believer in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity? (1 Tim. 4:12) Are you like Jesus? Are you like the honorable elder?

1 Timothy 3:1-7 – The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

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Joseph Franks – The Well Dressed Man

Colin-Firth-Mr-Darcy-Pride-and-Prejudice-colin-firth-16177817-705-1184 There is something noble about being a gentleman. A man who sits upright, stands straight, walks with poise, speaks correctly, thinks deeply, and with strong meekness cares for others more than himself — especially those of the fairer sex — such a man is to be lauded and appreciated.

However a gentleman is noticed for a bit more than the way he sits, stands, walks, speaks, thinks, and opens doors for others. A gentleman is also noticed for the way in which he dresses himself. Quite often — but not always — the gentleman in the room is the man with pants pressed and creased, shirt ironed and tucked in, shoes shined, coordinated colors and patterns, belt and shoes matching, hair groomed, and his hat is always off when indoors. Yes, when one is walking down main street or through a crowded mall or airport, one can often pick out gentlemen by the way they sit, stand, walk, talk, think, serve, and dress.

And then there are Christian gentlemen. These are men who are concerned to look good on the outside, but are more concerned to be handsome within. Externally, they are dressed well by the women in their life. Internally, they are dressed well by the Holy Spirit. And what are the characteristics of such well-dressed Christian gentlemen? Consider the attributes found in the first chapter of Titus:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:5-9)

Christian gentlemen strive to have spotless reputations. They hope to have no discontinuity between their public and private lives. They want to be above reproach in every sphere of life.

Christian gentlemen marry well and stay married. They commit not adultery with their bodies; neither do they do so with their eyes and minds. They are one-women-men through and through.

Christian gentlemen exercise self-control. They are not debaucherous. They are not drunkards given to strong drink. “Wild and crazy” hardly describe such noble men. Whether they eat, drink, or whatever they do, they do it all for the glory of God. The Christian gentleman is a disciplined soul who is a passionate pursuer of that which is good, upright, and holy.

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