Not of the past, of the future

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.” –Eph 1:7-10, CSB

There is a very clear trend today for people to somehow, someway, try to make themselves feel special. They get overly and outrageously dramatic, they get excessively emotional, abandoning logic, reason, and most importantly, the counsel of the Word of God. They attempt to be “snowflakes” of their own making, the centers of their own universe, where self and egotism reign and manipulation ensues. It’s the “me” generation on steroids, instantly publicized by social media.

Tough words, right? Well, then hear this: You are special. You are unique. However, you are NOT to be individuals of your own making but you are called His workmanship made for His glory (Eph 2:10). You might blow it, mess it up, and willingly sin, yet God knew this, loved the mess that you are, and set your feet on the rock. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, not to be a player on the stage of life in some drama, but to be a part of the great story that God brings to humanity. And when you get selfish and self centered for a moment, remember that Christ forgives the past, redeems the present, and promises a future in Him.

It’s time to take action, stop following the culture of the day and turn to Christ instead. Let His Word in, let His wisdom ring true, and let Christ change you to live not for yourself and your own life, but for the Almighty Creator and His will. He has always been at work, will you join Him?

Fran

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On the phone… Again?

It was really, really convicting. I looked through pictures that my wife had taken of our family gatherings and there I was, phone to my ears, talking away and oblivious to the life that was taking place around me. My family was growing up without me and my phone was becoming my family. Here’s what’s worse: that was 15 years ago, and phone technology has definitely gotten more intrusive!

It’s easy to blur the lines between family and daily tasks, whether it’s ministry or the workplace. However, setting boundaries is a necessity for healthy families and for a healthy life.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says to “Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days.”

This principle applies to life with others in your family and with your friends as well. We know that we are not supposed to necessarily play all day but there is a time to turn off work and to turn on a time for rest and family. So what do you do? How do you set boundaries so that you can enjoy life with those you love the most?

  1. Spend some time in the word and repent of your carelessness with your loved ones. This speaks for itself but be sure to place your priorities where God would have you to place them. Remember, your first calling is always to your spouse and family.
  2. Turn off the phone or put it in another room. You don’t need to be accessible 24/7, and you can always check your phone later. And please, resist the temptation to check your phone!
  3. Realize how fleeting the moments are in life. Your family will grow up quickly. Your children will have children. Your influence on their lives will eventually wane. Take in every moment you can with them and keep in mind that your work or Ministry will exist long after you are gone. In other words put it all in perspective.
  4. Have some deep conversations that are intentional and express how you feel. Since I travel quite a bit now in my ministry, I have made it a priority to call, visit, and spend time with each of my family members. It’s not perfect, but my time is more focused and intentional and I think (hope) that they have seen this effort.

That’s what I have for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you put boundaries and spend more time with your family.

Fran

…SDRAWKCAB

Ez 37:3, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I replied, “Lord God, only You know.” 

The entire scope of the Word of God was written so that you can see God’s story as one big act of grace. Yet we often don’t get that and reduce faith to do’s and don’ts, right and wrongs, and even shrink theological concepts to something that might fit on a bumper sticker (see WWJD). Even worse, when the Ten Commandments are seen and studied, there’s a sense that this is what one must do to be a “good” follower. Is this true?

Well, yes and no. The truth is, most have it backwards. Often, people look at the Ten Commandments (or the Beatitudes, Great Commandment, Great Commission, etc.) as the bar to strive for, when God meant it to be the opposite. Rather than simply raising the bar of the Law so that you and I can strive for and achieve it, God raised the bar so you and I can rest in the One who can. God’s grace is magnified in your failures, His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

boat-2333648_640Look at Peter walking on water. Could he have done this without Jesus? Not at all. But when He was focused on Jesus, even running to Jesus, Jesus made the impossible, possible. This same work of grace happened much later when 3000 came to Christ in Acts 2, or when the beggar was healed in Acts 3, or when Peter was released in prison in the chapters beyond.

The same for your salvation and daily walk. When you rest in the One who calls you, He gives you daily strength to do greater things in Him than you could ever do without Him. Rather than striving to fit some legalistic imperative in Him, then, how about doing all as an act of worship first, then let the work of the Spirit change you from the inside out?

You might have gotten it backwards. Don’t worry, repent and be restored. He’s got this. Your dry bones can live again.

Fran

So this happened…

My practice lately is that when I am out of town for LifeWay, I take extra time to visit churches on Wednesday nights to study the Word and enjoy the fellowship with believers. This week gave me another opportunity, and after looking up a church nearby on their website (yes, this is why you need a website for your church), I went to that church last night.

I was a bit confused when I got out of the car and headed into the building. The front door was, well, in front, yet I saw everyone else going through the back door. I soon followed the crowd and went into the back door and was greeted by an older man with a big smile on his face.

“Welcome!” he said with a big grin. “Come on in to our recovery ministry!”

I quickly realized that I was heading into a celebrate recovery meeting. I stammered, “b-but I’m not doing that. I’m looking for the Bible study.”

“Well, this is what we got!” He enthusiastically said. “Come in and maybe you’d enjoy it! There’s worship and a testimony too!”

“Okay, I will!” I replied, and went into the sanctuary.

The sanctuary was old and worn out, showing its history as a once thriving church but now reflective of its declined neighborhood. The people inside, however, seemed to be excited to start as the countdown wound down on the screen prior to worship. Looking around, I saw a diversity among us of many socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities. The countdown went to zero, and at that point, I didn’t know what to expect.

What I soon experienced was nothing less than heartfelt praise to The God who healed them of their addictions. Men and women alike were singing about Jesus their healer, as they proclaimed to God and to the world their deliverance from the sin that so enslaved them. I heard the words sung with old, raspy voices, with thick Latin accents, and best of all, with whispers from the heart. All in all, it was a powerful testimony of the Messiah, an amazing display of joy!

The pastor told me later that there were “only” about 100 people that would come to worship on a Sunday in that church. However, what I saw went beyond Sunday and into the rest of the week. I saw a church that expanded the kingdom, to seek and save those which was lost, and to love their neighbors as themselves. This church, long in heart but short of resources, were the hands and feet of Christ. This is a healthy Body, healthier than many churches much larger and with more resources.

This is because they have the Spirit of Christ and rely on Him as they fulfill their calling. May we see their example and may we all do the same!

Grateful for the gospel,

Pastor Fran

If you are critical of your pastor…

Before I begin, let me warn you that this is going to be a very blunt post. Let me also say that I have had a HUGE amount of support over the years and I am not reacting to how I may or may not have been treated.

That said, I now have something to confess: I am burdened over the habitual practice of beating up on a pastor by some church members with a critical spirit. While I don’t want to get into whether or not such people are actual believers, I have seen too many pastors hurt way too much by too many dragons who call themselves Christians. Brothers and sisters, this must not be so.

Let me be even more blunt: when a pastor is simply trying to fulfill his call to share Christ, it is shameful that such “comfort seekers” will dare pounce on him or gossip about his character. Sadly, I’ve seen pastors fired, forced out, or stressed out, all because a small minority of church bullies thought they knew better. They saw new changes as a threat to “their church” and they wanted control back. Such horrific conduct is a tool of Satan and it hinders our mission of the gospel. There. I said it.

Please know my burden is out of concern for some good, faithful men of God. There is nothing more discouraging for a pastor to fight a battle both inside and outside the church. Scripture is very clear that grumbling and “mob rule” leads to nothing but wickedness within the Body. In fact, it often resulted in death, destruction, and discipline from the Lord. Hebrews 13:17 is very clear on this: do the opposite and submit to your leaders.

Are you burdened about this too? Good! Here’s what you can do about it:

  1. Repent. If you have been critical in any way or worshiped with a critical spirit, stop it. God is not honored by your thoughts or conduct. Repent of your conduct and remove this ugliness from your life and heart.
  2. Return. Return to the gospel and become a person of grace. Be gracious to your pastor, believe the best about him, and be a positive example of the grace God has given you. Paul gives us plenty of these sort of imperatives in Eph 4:25-32.
  3. Resolve. Resolve to support your pastor. Love him and be an encouragement to him in public and in private. I have been blessed to have had encouragers throughout my pastoral ministries, and this meant a whole lot during the tough times. Even more, serve next to him and resolve to place the gospel first in all things.
  4. Pray. There’s no greater love you can ever show your pastor than to ask how you can pray for him, then do it. I had a young sister in Christ who would constantly ask how she can pray for me, and I can tell you that this always left me speechless when she asked. Love him by praying for him, and let him know that you are doing so.
  5. Respond. Respond to his leadership by following him wholeheartedly. Serve the Lord fully and unselfishly. After all, if your pastor is a faithful man of the Word, then let him lead and get into the trenches with him. Biblically, there’s no other course of action.

Since I am now in a ministry position that is an extension of the local church, these principles are especially true for me as a church member. In fact, I can’t wait for when the Spirit leads Teresa and me to find and join a local church. That’s because I want to be the type of member in my church that I always wanted to have. Praying for you as you love on your pastor!

In Him,

Fran

Heroes…

Luke 10:29, “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘and who is my neighbor?’”

Witness the power of Hurricane Harvey and its after effects. CNN stated that as much as 11 trillion gallons of water has fallen so far with more to come. These events seemed so far fetched for our 4th largest city, it seems as if this is more suited for a Hollywood movie screen than the TV screen, but there it is.

What is amazing, or maybe not so amazing is the response of a few local heroes. Risking their own safety, many have gone out to their neighbors to lend a hand and get people out of the danger of the rising floods in their homes. These are great stories!

But what about us? Are we to sit and watch? Absolutely not! Jesus told us as much when He was asked who His neighbor was and responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Anyone we encounter in need is our neighbor and we show our love for God and people by taking action!

Not convinced? Place yourself in the shoes of a Houstonian right now. You’d want help from anyone, anytime, anyway, right? Of course you would! Good neighbors are needed, right now!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to step up. We may not be able to bring boats down there, but there are plenty of other ways to help. Here’s one site offering good, sound choices for you: https://www.namb.net/send-relief/disaster-relief

Most of all, let’s pray for our neighbors!

Fran

Must Reads for Monday!

Good Monday morning! Check out these blog posts with theme being (what else?) the solar eclipse!

  1. No, Christians Don’t See the Eclipse as a Sign of an Immediate Apocalypse (Except for a Few Odd Ones)
  2. Is God’s Judgment Coming on America?
  3. The 8 Most Famous Solar Eclipses in History (I thought that it was interesting)

What your pastor needs today…

As you worship today or any other day, remember to pray for your pastor. Here’s what he needs today:

  • He needs your prayers. The spiritual forces of evil has him as a target and the greatest response you can give is by praying for him.
  • He needs your encouragement. There seems to be a countless number of critics but not enough encouragers. Be an encourager.
  • He needs your support. Pastors need to have godly, loving supporters as he leads the church in the best way he knows. When he has godly people who he knows are with him, he can make good, thoughtful, and prayerful decisions for God’s church.
  • He needs your love. In a world of darkness and difficult ministry, he needs the love of Christ through His Bride. Would you share your love for him today?
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