From my devotion: A Puritan Prayer for the New Year

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God’s Plan

Darkness covered and the Spirit hovered,
Words were spoken, Creation unbroken,
Light, land, animals, man,
All a part of the Master’s plan.

Garden of Eden, life without ceasing,
The serpent slithered with temptation’s teasing,
Sin, pain, death, Cain,
All been tarnished by rebellion’s stain.

Noah’s ark, clouds gone dark,
Drop upon drop removing life’s spark,
Rain, stop, ground clear,
A bow is shown, nothing to fear.

Righteous Abram, promised son, Jacob and Joseph, to Egypt they run,
Cries of the Hebrews, Moses removes shoes, God’s grace rescues, Israel’s good news.
Snake, blood, frog, fly,
Red Sea crossing, power from on High.

Joshua’s conquest, foes defeated,
Judges, invaders, Judges, repeated,
Samuel, Saul, David’s call,
Solomon’s wisdom, Solomon’s fall.

Idolatrous kings, judgment this brings,
Prophets were preaching, the Word they were teaching,
“Repent!” they exclaimed, “Messiah!” they proclaimed,
Obstinance, they maintained, Judgement then remained.

Centuries of silence ensued, the hope of Messiah renewed,
The birth of the King, the joy it would bring,
The perfect life, the great sacrifice,
Arose from the grave, a world to save, God the Spirit He gave.

Salvation full, salvation free,
Salvation comes to all who see.
Not born of works or the will of man,
Salvation comes from the Great I AM.

Fran Trascritti
December 25, 2013

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Francis Trascritti, all rights reserved.

One way to stay encouraged: an encouragement drawer!

Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re on a mountain top, looking around in seeing that everything is going right. However, there’s also times when we feel like we are in the lowest of the lows, the valleys, and in those times it seems like nothing can go right!

We can all identify with both perspectives in various degrees, but for now I’d like to speak to the second situation, the valleys of life. No one is immune from being down about our circumstances. When we look at Scripture, we can see many examples of God’s people getting discouraged about things going on around them. Elijah is one example that comes to mind, when he felt as if no one was following God and instead was following the false god, Baal. The Apostle Paul at one point in his ministry was deserted by everyone, and in spite of all of the work that he had done, he felt as if he had almost no one that he could turn to for support in time of need (see 2 Timothy). The point is, that no matter how you serve the Lord, He has called you to ministry. However, sometimes ministry and life’s struggles can be discouraging. So how do we stay encouraged and focused on the Lord?

Of course, we know the need to be in the Word and in prayer. Here’s an additional help: as a pastor, I got some good advice from a member a few years ago to keep an encouragement drawer. An encouragement drawer is just that- a place to store notes, cards, drawings, and other forms of encouragement from some of God’s people. When I get down or discouraged, I open up my encouragement drawer and remind myself that first, God is always with me, and second, God’s people love and appreciate me. Having an encouragement drawer is a visual reminder of the love that God has for me.

Today, my drawer has encouragement from people who have served together with me over the years. Some of these people are now with the Lord. Others have moved away to other places. But one thing is sure, their encouragement still lives on today. Fellow Christian and especially pastors, let me wholeheartedly urge you to you get an encouragement drawer. I pray that it will help you as God has allowed it to help me!

Romans 15:5-6, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Please don’t feed the trolls: how I handled a troll, and you can too.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a troll. No, not a troll troll as in the Hobbit troll. This troll was different. A troll, in internet terms, is a person who makes posts, comments, and otherwise attacks another online in order to make another person angry, hurt, or argue back. A troll has one and only one agenda: to cause pain to the other person. A troll, simply put, is a bully.

I had been trolled for years by this person, and I did what most people would do: I mostly ignored it. However, the troll is getting bolder. So, after some prayer, I finally took action and I blocked her. There. done. Since my only contact with Mrs. Troll was on the internet, I won’t see her attacks. She may or may not know that I blocked her, but I really don’t care.

Now I know that the Bible doesn’t speak to such a thing specifically. However, Scripture tells me that I am to “malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3: 2). What I decided is that the best way to handle a troll is to take the source of power away. Her trolls are no longer to be seen (at least by me), and hopefully, that’s the end of it.

If you ever encounter a troll as I did, let me encourage you to turn the other cheek in this manner. Trolls might be mean, miserable people, but Christ even died for trolls (boy, that sounds weird). Don’t lash back, don’t harm that person, just ignore, and if needed, use the block feature on whatever site you’re on (Facebook has a block feature, FYI). Most of all, while you make sure that you are above reproach, pray for that person, that the troll will change and that the love of Christ will be evident to them. That is, after all, what all of us should want.

“Thank you, God, for taking my truck.”

It could have been worse. Much worse. A few weeks ago, I gave my son my truck keys and offered to let him use it to go to the store. His van was covered in snow and was parked in front of my other son’s car. I was glad to loan my truck for a few minutes, and we even watched our granddaughter while he and his wife went to get some food.

No more than five minutes passed when I received a phone call: “someone pulled in front of us,” he screeched. “I didn’t even see her… the truck is wrecked.”

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I quickly got down to the scene of the accident and saw what he meant. Of course, it was very clear that the accident was not in any way his fault. The truck was surely going to be totaled, but I was worried more about the other driver and them. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.

As I later reflected on the accident, I continued to remind myself of several things:
   1- Everyone was fine
   2- I was fully insured
   3- Trucks can be replaced

However, one thing stood out above all else: when I was at the scene of the accident, one of the police officers told me plainly that if they were in something other than a big truck like mine, they probably would have been hurt. For that, I praise God.

Soon, my prayers to God over this has been to thank Him for taking my truck and saving my family from harm. God always knows better than us, and maybe, just maybe, this whole chain of events occurred so He has a new testimony of His providence and provision. If so, I thank God for that!

Psalm 138:7, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.”

Which way?

We live in a world of superficiality. Many people look at the surface of things, spend a second or two to scan something to see if it is interesting, then move on. This is why the absurd, the ungodly, and the sexual “sells”- it appeals to people’s inner sinful nature. And this is the life of the average American, surfing online blankly with a click of the mouse to kill time, somehow trying to escape the realities of life and life issues.

They buy into the propaganda from media types, listening to the cynics, disengaging their brains to “follow their heart.” They follow the most extreme of libertarian ideas, to live and let live, not placing a moral standard on anything. It’s tantamount to anarchy in social circles, where the objective moral law is no more and ethical decisions are in the eye of the beholder. Low information?  Please. More like not enough critical thinking.

Unfortunately, people like this are not only not thinking about the issues,  they also miss the solution. They miss that the wisdom of the world is found in God’s Word. They miss out on the fact that the Scriptures, tried and tested over and over, is still relevant today as it was yesterday. Most of all, they miss the greatest joy they could ever have- the eternal life as found in Jesus.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” 

Let me encourage you to dig, seek, and pray for wisdom as you try to grasp the concept of grace found in Jesus. May Christ show you a better way, His way, a way that brings an abundant life in Him. 🙂

Fat man in a Small Coat…

1 Cor 9:23, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

I have a confession to make to you: I had come to realize that I was becoming a fat man. 

Okay, now I’ve admitted it. I know that some of this extra weight was related to genetics, but this isn’t the only reason. I know that some of the weight was due to my daily activity of sitting to study, counsel, talk, and pray, but this isn’t the main issue. I know that some of the weight was due to a diet that was based more on convenience than on making healthy choices, but I can’t blame this, either. These are all excuses, of course. No, for me, the weight problem was a personal discipline problem.

As a result of this poor discipline, I realized that I was becoming a poor testimony of God’s work in my life as a fat man. Now, please hear that I’m not saying that all people who struggle with weight are poor testimonies. I’m also not saying that you are a poor testimony. What I am saying is that I have been a poor testimony because I knew my own self and my own shortcomings.

Last Spring, I went to the doctor’s office and found out that I weighed more than ever before- 250 pounds (ouch!). I had problems going up stairs, walking long distances, even tying my shoes. Because of my wife’s own food issues with red meats, I decided at that point that I would change my diet and begin exercising. It was hard and time consuming, but I felt strongly that if I took better care of myself, that I would be more effective for the Lord as a testimony for Him and as I serve Him with more energy.

I am happy to report that at this point, I have lost 30 pounds, with a goal to lose 30 more. I can do push ups, sit ups, leg lifts, burpees, etc. and still have energy to spare the next day. I have cut down my carb intake to around 100 grams a day, and I eat a diet high in lean protein and vegetables. My wife, Teresa, has had a similar change. She is going to be running her first half marathon next month, and she writes about her health progress almost each day in her blog.

We both feel great, and we feel motivated to share this with others. We feel that a person effective for Christ should be able to be disciplined in a variety of areas, of course, with a healthy view of God’s grace when we don’t quite make the mark. Starting in January, I feel led to make a temporary change and depart from the Isaiah series for a few weeks to do a five part series called, “Making Changes for God’s Glory.”

In a time when people are talking about weight loss, exercise, and resolutions, I think it’s appropriate to see what God has to say about all of this. Each week, I will present a different aspect on how you as a believer might make a change in your life to grow, serve, and share Christ in your daily life. We will explore how to grow in areas of your life such as dealing with the emotional, growing in your mind, connecting in the spiritual, serving in your daily ministry, and of course, the overcoming the physical.

I pray that you will be ready for this fresh new series to learn and grow in Christ. The sermons will also be posted on YouTube each week. Starting in February, my wife, Teresa will lead a study on Wednesday nights from Rick Warren called The Daniel Plan. You will learn more and grow in five areas: faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends. If you are local to Cincinnati, I hope that you can plan to join this group and begin making changes in your life for God’s glory.

God is not done with me or with you yet- we are all a work in progress! Many of you have been supporting and encouraging me- I hope and pray that you can keep doing that. Be ready to make changes as I have, and together, we can do all things for the sake of the gospel, as Christ changes us and we give Him glory!

Pastor Fran