“I Am So Angry!”

It seems like everyone is angry about something these days. Just yesterday, I was angry about rising gas prices. Over the past two years, people have been angry about masks (pro and con). In fact, just spend a few minutes on Twitter and you are bound to find someone angry about something, somewhere.

But what happens when anger gets the best of you? God’s Word gives us many examples, but here’s one:

“Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will not enter the land I have given the Israelites, because you both rebelled against my command at the Waters of Meribah. Numbers 20:24 CSB

In this case, Moses and Aaron both participated in the sins at Meribah. First, was the sin of anger, where the two were tired of the complaining and rebellion of the people—the two brothers had enough, and it showed. Second was the sin of disobedience. The two were given specific instructions (speak to the rock) but they also struck—twice. Eventually, both received their due consequences of their sins, missing out on dwelling in the promised land of the covenant.

Today, God speaks to us through His Word, prayer, circumstances, and the church, but primarily through His Word. This is why we should pay attention to what He have us and listen to Him carefully. Even more, we should listen to Him obediently. He warns us against the folly of anger and how destructive it can be for the soul.

Why? Because God calls us to love and obey in love. He has a mission for every believer. In fact, He calls us to both the Great Commandment (loving Him and people) and bearing fruit through the Great Commission (making disciples). His desire is that we both share fruit and bear fruit, seen both through our conduct the fruit of the Spirit (like love, joy, patience, etc.) and our commitment to the ministry of the gospel. Through both, God advances His Kingdom. Through both, God is glorified.

Are you angry? Maybe it’s time to really focus back on His Word and prayer. We all struggle in our walk from time to time, but as you turn to Him, He will give you strength and power to overcome even the things that anger you the most.

Fran

A word on worship…

Just a random thought this morning as I read some scripture passages about worship (Leviticus 5 and Romans 9:30-33):

First, let’s remember that the actions of worship are not about what is perfect but about the One who is perfect. In other words, the sacrifices mean nothing if the faith isn’t there. We can do everything right technically, but still miss out completely on a worship that is rich in spirit and truth.

This impacts us today. The worship in the New Testament church should be more about purpose than the pursuit of the perfect. The music might be dated, or loud, or off beat, or the preaching might go long, or the reader might stumble on a word or two, but none of that matters. What does matter is the audience, the true audience, the audience of One. The focus of all worship is to be on God Himself and the declaration that He is sovereign and His people trust in Him by faith.

My prayer this morning: God, do not let me stray in my focus on You, whether in my personal, private time of worship or in a corporate setting. Focus me on You. Keep me set on the beauty and the sacrifice of Christ, His resurrection, His return one day, all for His glory. Amen.

That time that I was banned from Facebook…

So I got banned from Facebook.

Yep, the guy who posts nothing but pictures of grandkids and Bible verses. And no, I didn’t do anything offensive, nefarious, or otherwise. I just don’t do that.

So I was surprised when my account got deactivated suddenly for violating the Terms of Service for Facebook. And because of the connection between Facebook and Instagram, I lost access to that, also. Denied. Locked out. Gone.

All at once, I lost connections with family, friends, and ministry contacts. I had no idea how dependent I was on this platform for staying in touch with so many. Not to mention all of the pictures, videos, and memories that I had recorded since I first joined in 2005.

So, I needed to try again. After trying several different ways to get back in, I finally got a chance to disagree with their decision. And then I got this message:

Over two weeks after appealing my deactivation, I decided to try something creative. I bought a Facebook Portal from Amazon Warehouse Deals at a great price, used the serial number from my new device to be able to connect with their tech support by chat, and got my case escalated. Just a few days after I contacted them, Facebook finally let me back in. Success! I received an email from Facebook that my deactivation was a mistake (as if there was any doubt) and that all was restored.

So, if this happens to you (and I hope it doesn’t), you may want to try getting a Portal, or, if you want to spend the big bucks, an Oculus. Or create another account. Or, well, wait for Facebook to somehow get back to you.

Now, let me get back to posting about my grandkids…

A Reflection…

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:18, CSB


A simple truth: Jesus changes people. And when a believer comes to Jesus, he begins a journey in becoming more and more like Jesus, being slowly sanctified through the Spirit. Of course, this journey is not easy or fast, because it is a daily process. And it’s not a matter of self help or self improvement, because this is a supernatural work in the believer. Even more, the goal is to be less and less like the former self and more and more like Jesus Christ, so that the believer does not merely look like a better reflection of himself in the mirror, but instead something much, much better and permanent: the believer becomes a God-shaped reflection of Christ.

The point is this: stop trying to do it alone. You can’t do it without the Spirit’s work within your soul. This means that instead of trying to be a better version of yourself, focus on the One who is perfect already. In other words, instead of trying to make the imperfect, perfect, let the Perfect One, the Sinless One, the Savior, God-man, Jesus, do His work in you.

Is that impossible? Yep. In natural terms, it is. But with God, all things are possible, and when we mess up and blow it and sin and sin again, we can have confidence to ask for forgiveness and press forward after that. God is like that, both disciplining and forgiving those He loves and pressing them to conforming to His image more and more. He is in the restoration business, a business we all need every day.

So let the Spirit speak and work in you. Be changed in Christ. Come to Jesus for your salvation and forgiveness for your sins. Grow by reading His Word, by worshipping with other believers, by praying to the One who created all things. And look forward to the future in Christ, the day when we will all see Him as He is, the day when the mirror is no longer cloudy and the full knowledge is no longer veiled.

May your journey go well and your focus remain on your Savior, Jesus.

Fran

Jesus is Better

For they loved human praise more than praise from God. John 12:43 CSB

The message about Jesus Christ was heard by the people of Jerusalem, and there were some who believed in Him. However, they did not make it public because they were afraid of being tossed out of the synagogue and of being cast out of their society. Being a part of the Jewish society meant that there was a powerful stronghold that was hard to break. John might have judged them harshly here, but truthfully, he is right: their secret faith showed that they loved the praise from man more than the praise from God.

We are no different today. Sure, we all know how toxic our society is, but can be difficult to break past the culture of today. Yet we are called to a gospel that is counter cultural, a gospel that is disruptive in the natural man’s life. Those who believe in Christ are different, and those who follow Christ will see a sacrificial change from the status quo of the present. This is why Jesus told us to count the cost of following Him, because everything changes. And this can include friends, family, preferences, and, yes, our daily lifestyle. All of these are affected because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again, breaking free is not easy, but Jesus is better. This means that our life of faith in Christ should be known and not hidden, shared and not kept secret. We believe, not to hide Him away, but to allow Him to change us and to change the world. And yes, while this makes us different, the truth is that we are foreigners in this planet, citizens of heaven, ambassadors who have an assignment to tell others about our place of paradise. This is also why, when we think about this, it makes no sense to try to still hold on to the present day when we have so much better to come in the eternal future. Again, Jesus is better.

Praying that God speaks to you about this. May we all be open to others around us with our faith, and may we be salt and light to others as we share the love of Jesus!

Fran

An encouragement: Keeping the Word

He said, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Luke 11:28, CSB

Jesus did not want hearers only, those who sat and listened without ever taking action. Nor did He want people to work without listening to Him, as the Jews blindly did in His day. Instead, He called for faith followed by fruit, or faith with works as James wrote in his epistle.

Believers are called to faith in Jesus Christ, and called to serve Him out of that faith. Those who come to faith in Jesus have a new life, a life that has purpose, and meaning, and excitement as they share their joy with people around them. A life in Christ, a true relationship with Jesus, is contagious.

Don’t be one who merely wants to hear from the Lord and never do anything with it. Serve and share Jesus daily out of your faith in Christ. Be contagious with your spirit, your joy, and your biblical wisdom. Be ready to explain the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done for others.

Be on mission. It will make an eternal difference to others around you.

Five Truths I Pondered on When I Got COVID

I’m in my 50s, overweight, with asthma. So, yeah, getting COVID could have been complicated for me. And, yes, I got it. Teresa, too. It wasn’t our fault that we got infected, nor was it another person’s fault. It’s just the nature of this awful, terrible virus.covid

So here I am, still recovering and quarantined in my home for a few more days. It’s been a tough recovery with lots of coughing, some difficulty breathing, and a couple of scary nights for me, but I am blessed to be on the healing path. Today, Teresa and I have both felt the best that we have felt in two weeks. That said, I’ve had some time to think about having the coronavirus and even on the important things of life itself, and so here are a few truths that comforted me:

  1. God was not surprised by the virus. I was surprised, my family and friends were surprised, but God wasn’t. Remembering that God knows the past, present, and future gave me peace as I trusted in Him through the healing.
  2. No matter what, God heals. I was sick, really sick, for a night or two. My breathing was fairly shallow on two of the nights and I even considered going to the ER at one point. I praise God that things didn’t get worse and that this trip didn’t have to happen. He healed me! Yet even if things got to their worst and I didn’t get better, I would have been healed, safely in the presence of Jesus. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I can truly say that God heals either way.
  3. This virus will pass one day. We have forgotten in recent times that the world has a steady history of pandemics. We also need to remember that sickness and death is a direct result of the fall of man. Sin equals death. And yes, though we may continue to see even more sickness, death, wars, and even other pandemics, one day we will not see these things. These will one day pass.
  4. Nothing else matters but Jesus. While sick, I spent a lot of time quietly praying, especially at night. Money and possessions have meant nothing to me in the past, and these things meant even less so in those moments. In fact, when I had my worst nights, I felt compelled to pray and focus even more on the only One who matters: my Savior, Jesus Christ.
  5. We have work to be done. This pandemic will one day be over at a cost of many, many lives. Our world is changed by it on many levels: socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and yes, spiritually. The church should respond, meaning that we should no longer focus on what we dwelled on in the past. Instead of bigger buildings and budgets, it’s time to truly do what Jesus commanded: to go out into the world and make disciples. The world is hungry, we must be ready.

There you have it. A few things that I thought about and am challenged to be about. We have a sovereign, all-knowing God who has allowed this fallen world to linger a little longer before the return of His Son. This is a gift to us to get it done. We have no idea how much time we have left, so our time is now to reach, teach, and serve our world. May we reach our neighbors and our world for Jesus!

Fran

I Shouted in Excitement…

When I was about 12 years old, I went on a month long family road trip across the eastern part of the United States. It was so much fun seeing the different destinations, enjoying the various regional eats, and encountering people of all walks of life. I eagerly tried new things: I made crafts at a reenactment of a colonial village. I shouted in excitement when I dove into a deep lake off of a high cliff. I swung from a tire swing over a river. I stood at a mountain peak where I could see multiple states at once. It was a summer of amazing, unforgettable experiences!

That summer impacted me even today, because I love to travel—it’s fun making lifelong memories and share experiences together with loved ones. Teresa and I try to travel as often as we.

But one thing that I noticed is that whenever we do travel, it seems more fun to be at the end of the journey than the beginning. For example, as we traveled to the Queen City, we didn’t feel like we were “there” yet until we saw that amazing view of the Cincinnati skyline from the Kentucky side (and if you have never seen it, you are missing something special). I mean, driving around was fine and all that, but at the point of us seeing the skyline, our excitement kicked up and our level of enjoyment for the trip shot up. In our minds, we were there! Woo hoo!

Yet it’s so often the opposite when we are talking about the spiritual. It’s a miraculous work if God for anyone to be born again, and we should absolutely celebrate this great moment. But thinking about the journey of so many, here’s a passage to ponder:

A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Solomon gave us some words to think about as we make our pilgrimage through life. There are two things he focuses on and some serious points to keep in mind: to be both upright and to finish strong.

First, there’s value in keeping a good name. In other words, character matters. For Solomon to write this is a bit ironic considering his many public moral failures, but the truth he writes is the truth. Clearly he means that fame, fortune, and power mean nothing if the character of a person falls short. Yes, we are sinners, yes, we blow it, yes, we will do it again, but character building is a lifelong process, a consistent growthin Jesus. It takes humility, patience, and transparency, because when a person owns up to his or her flaws and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, growth begins to take shape.

There’s value in finishing strong. Everyone celebrates a baby’s birth, but unless a life is extraordinary, few celebrate a person’s death. When it does, it’s because the life was well lived, and that most people would recognize that the person cared for others more than themselves. That person sought to become last, in many ways to die to self for the sake of Jesus. Some people in recent memory come to mind: there are plenty of examples, but Billy Graham and Ravi Zecharias are two that I can think of right now. These men lived for Christ, for a greater purpose than themselves, for the gospel. They gave us an example of what it means to both live well and finish strong, and there’s an eternal value in what they have done.

This passage hit me between the eyes as I think about my own life and ministry, but where are you at on this? On your life journey, did you start strong in Christ and are you letting Christ shape your character? Are you focusing on the good things of life, the things dedicated to the glory of Christ? Are you placing Jesus first? Even now?

The journey is great, but the end of the journey should always be an expression of God in you. A celebration. A sweet sacrifice for the glory of God. May the Lord place you on a journey that results in an eternal impact for His gospel!

Fran

Racism, Hatred, and the Image of God

“So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.”
—Genesis 1:27

Another significant event. Another senseless death.

We said that many times in the past, too many now to count. We thought that in 2012 with Trayvon Martin. In 2014 with Eric Garner in New York City. Michael Brown in Ferguson. Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. And now, George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Sadly, we fear that this won’t be the last. A recent study shows that 1 in 1,000 young black men will be shot. No pattern of geography. No correlation with crime rates. Not even the race of the officer. Only one major factor: the victim is black.

The controversy is real. The fear is real. It has affected how black people perceive other groups. It has impacted the mental health in the black community. It has caused white people to go from being in denial of the issue to disbelief, and now, to feeling helpless about what to do.

And there’s no denying that a problem exists. But it goes deeper than racism.

The problem is something deeply rooted within each of us: our sin nature. We live in a fallen world. We live with sin in us and all around us. It affects our relationship with God and our relationships with people. It causes us to dismiss others, placing them in categories of “us” and “them.” We effectively, then, dehumanize “them” in our minds. We make “them” faceless, even less than human, when these types of incidents occur. They become statistics, not people. 280-character tweets, not horrific stories of pain and sorrow. People who are often forgotten by the general public until the next incident in the news cycle.

We’ve been dismissing people throughout our human history, and we’ve gotten really good at doing this. We dehumanize to do evil things like slavery or an unjust war. We do it to hate the kid down the block or the new boss. We take our perception, profile a person, and then react to what we fear rather than what is reality. We “justifiably” hate because we think that it’s less complicated, and that we think that it’s easier to deal with uncomfortable human interactions in this way.

Yet this behavior is wrong. Even corrupt. Sinful.

Sin is disgusting and horrible. Sin pollutes our human mind. It affects how we perceive others. How we interact with them. It causes us to forget that people are made in the image of God. And when we fail to see the image of God in people, we treat them, well, inhumanely. At best, we ignore them. At worst, death happens.

This is the effect of missing the image of God in people. But there is hope, the hope that Christ died for the world (1 Jn 2:2), that no matter the sin or the situation, and that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13). That Jesus died for sinners at the cross, sinners who include people of every tribe and tongue.

Christian, now is the time. Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” We are the bearers of good news. Better news than what we see today. The best news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus offers a totally different worldview than what we see today, that people who turn to Him see others the way God sees them: not from what is outside but what is inside. He is, as He has always been, our only hope.

And so, we need to repent. We must repent. Christians, we need to be peacemakers, people who speak to the condition of the heart and yet know the dignity of the individual. We can and should make the death culture know that people are created by God, that all life is precious, that all bear the image of God. Our world needs to hear from God in this issue. Our world needs to hear of the hope found in Jesus.

I look forward to the day when every knee will bow before Him. Until then, let us share the hope of Jesus. If you are a believer, now is not the time to be silent. There is no better time to share the gospel of our Savior, the slayer of sin, the redeemer of His people, the King of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Let’s do this.

Fran

5 Things I Hope for the Church, Post-COVID

It’s been far too long since we met in person. Thankfully, due to technology, many of us haven’t ceased meeting, yet many of us can agree that the online environment just isn’t the same. It’s not.

As churches begin getting back to meeting again, pastors and staff are taking appropriate precautions. As time goes by, however, even those precautions will be loosened up as people get more comfortable and the threat of the virus has passed. That said, we have a lot of work ahead of us as we regain our footing as the church in order to do Jesus’ Great Commission work.

Here are five hopes that I have for the church, post COVID:

  1. People will appreciate and attend worship more often. The fact that we have not met together in person should be a reminder of how precious our gatherings really are. My hope is that believers will not forsake the assembling and worship God with their church more consistently.
  2. Pastors will continue to be creative. One thing that came out of the COVID period is that pastors had to be more creative in reaching out to their congregations and the world. The use of Facebook, Zoom, and YouTube was a new thing for many pastors, but my hope is that they can build on this medium and supplement (not replace) their ministries through these tools.
  3. There will be a return to one-on-one conversations about Christ. Many church leaders have encouraged church members to invite people to come to church. However, this kind of passive evangelism can unintentionally threaten to “professionalize” evangelism, overshadowing the believer’s need to have personal conversations about the gospel. I hope that the church will see how healthy and energizing it is when believers tell others about Jesus’ gospel.
  4. Groups will explode in a new discipleship emphasis. Groups somehow got deemphasized over the years in favor of worship. The thinking is that people can be led to groups after coming to a worship service. This is true to a point, but just like in my previous hope, focusing on outreach through groups such as Sunday School or home study groups will energize a group and create excitement as new people attend and come to Christ.
  5. The church will regain her mission of making disciples. It’s so easy to focus on the business of budgets and buildings, because these things aren’t as messy as people related issues. Yet, we are not called to buildings or budgets, we are called to the work of the gospel. While we need to be good stewards of what we are given, we must never let our attention be taken away from the best gift we have ever been given: the gospel. My hope is that we have a disciple making revolution, where everything is focused not on keeping the aquarium but on fishing for people.

There you have it. My hope is for a changed church, different than where we were and more like the church that existed immediately after Christ’s ascension. Is it possible? Yes absolutely, as long as we hold near and dear Christ’s calling and focus all of our attention on that.

Fran

Encouraging believers to love and serve Jesus, one day at a time.

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