Five Reasons Why Families Should Worship Together

Whether called Kid’s Own Worship, Kid’s Church, or just simply children’s church, a great12888757_10153621814759611_556307441460214700_o many churches have a separate worship option for children apart from their families. Having this time of worship separate from the children offers mom and dad a chance to worship, grow, and focus on the message without distraction. And though we currently have a Kid’s Own Worship at First Baptist, I see the need for our church family to have a more integrated approach to have worship together.

There are some very, very good reasons to for a family to worship together. For example, though there are some benefits in having children’s church, it’s also vitally important for children to see, hear, and experience worship with their family. And, with the right planning and attitude towards worship, mom and dad can manage their children and benefit from a dedicated time of worship with them. Of course, it’s not easy, but it can indeed be done, and I believe that it will provide fruit in the long run.

That said, here are some reasons families should worship together regularly:

  1. The children will see their parents worship. Worship is caught more than taught. We cannot delegate this responsibility. In fact, when a parent takes worship seriously, the children will follow. When they don’t, well…
  2. The children will hear their pastor’s message. Most pastors study, prepare, and pray over the message for many hours prior to the Sunday service. A life long diet of God’s Word is encouraged from the pulpit as the Word is taught and applied to their lives as well as to others.
  3. The children will see the response to the Word. For those churches that offer a time of response to the Word (or invitation), I see this as a treasured, precious moment for people to pray, seek, and connect with Christ after the Word has been preached. What better time, then, for the children to see faith and life intersecting as people share their victories, struggles, tears, and joys with their church family?
  4. The children will gain insights and have questions. Children have the opportunity to ask questions and receive insights on a pastor’s message or other aspects of the worship service. A family experiencing this time together can easily have these conversations on the way home, at lunch after church, or even during family worship times. Almost a Deut 6:7 moment, right?
  5. The children will be stretched in their spiritual walk. We have been guilty in the past of setting the bar too low for our children, thinking that they can’t handle sitting still for a period of time or unable to handle conversations.  In some cases, this is possible, yet it is up to the parents to help them to grow into this period of worship and learning. It’s not going to be easy, but in the long run, they can and will grow.

These are some of the reasons, and I think, very good ones. Our hope is always that we will see the fruit over the long run in our children, and this is but one of the ways to accomplish that.

Any additional reasons or thoughts on this topic?

In Him,

Pastor Fran

First Ever African Study Bible (ASB)

From my lovely wife’s blog…

Dr. T's Food for Thought

I have the privilege of sharing exciting news about a Kickstarter campaign by Oasis International to produce the first ever African Study Bible (ASB).

AfricaStudyBibleCoverArt2

What makes the Bible different? The ASB was developed by Africans for Africans— written by African theologians, pastors and leaders from 50 countries in Africa. The ASB was designed to grow the faith of African church members, teach them to evangelize their communities, and apply a biblical worldview to their society. Dr. John Jusu, the supervising editor, proclaims, “The content of the ASB is bubbling up from the cultures of Africa. The biblical truth is percolating through our own cultures and stories to create a rich and textured tapestry that Africans can claim as their own.”

The goal of the Kickstarter campaign, which runs from April 18 to June 16, is to raise one million dollars to print the first 100,000 copies in an effort…

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How to Fast: 6 important points to keep in mind

Fasting is a discipline. It is a time to get serious about prayer and intimacy with the Lord, turning aside from the usual routines in order to seek God’s direction and power. When you fast from food, you are reminded that you are dependent on God’s daily provision, and even the growling of your stomach will serve as a reminder to stop for the moment and pray.

We see multiple examples of fasting and prayer in Scripture, so this is a biblical, spiritual work to draw you close to God. Our church, First Baptist Church of Mt Healthy, is having a church wide 48 hour fast for this very reason: to seek God’s vision, guidance, and provision as we grow in our love for Him and the community we are located.

That said, here’s some items to keep in mind as you fast:

  • Fast Secretly. No one needs to know that you are fasting. Even though we are fasting church wide, there’s no way to know who is and who is not fasting. This is a discipline that’s between the Lod and you. Jesus said as much in Matt 6:18.
  • Fast Regularly. Let this be a steady, ongoing discipline that you do on your own every so often. Make sure that it’s a regular practice, as long as it’s not relegated to a cold, ritualistic activity that loses focus (Luke 18:9-14).
  • Fast  Purposefully. So often, we do practices without really understanding the reason and the purpose for them. Be sure that when you fast and pray, that there is a purpose to this time of intimacy. In other words, don’t just do it because others are doing it. Make it a memorable, faith growing experience.
  • Fast Wisely. not everyone can fast meals because of health reasons. If you are diabetic or have other health conditions, consider fasting something else. One good type of fast might be to have a time of no screens such as cell phones, TV, or computer. The point is to place God first and grow closer to Him, not to put your health in jeopardy.
  • Fast Willingly. nothing that is done for the Lord should be forced upon an individual. For example, the discipline of giving to the Lord is something that has to be done willingly and not begrudgingly. Likewise, there’s no difference in the example of fasting and prayer. Don’t just do it because one of your leaders says you must do this, especially if you think this is what makes a “good Christian” and failing to do it makes you a “bad Christian.” Such thinking is actually unhealthy and contrary to the concept of grace.
  • Fast Joyfully. When you fast, be joyful. There’s nothing worse than a person fasting and being grouchy about it- believe me, I know this from experience! As a guy who loves to eat, I get a little grouchy when I skip a meal. As a result, I have to really watch how I act, think, and speak to those closest to me. Kind of self defeating otherwise, right? Instead, follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 6 and wash your face, showing joy instead of mourning.

There you have it. As you fast and pray, keep these things in mind. I’d love to hear other ideas and warnings. Any thoughts?

Pastor Fran

Thought for the day…

“Something is wrong with a philosophy that relegates God and His Word to a subordinate role in the church. It is clearly unbiblical to elevate entertainment over biblical preaching and worship in the church service. Sadly, some actually believe that their salesmanship can bring people into the kingdom more effectively than a sovereign God – a philosophy that has opened the door to worldliness in the church” (John MacArthur, from his book Ashamed of the Gospel).

If you are a pastor, teacher, or church leader, remember that for life change, the Word of God is more powerful than anything we can say or do.

Why Fast?

This weekend, our church on the hill here in Cincinnati is going to pray and fast for 48 hours. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for our church to do this, as we are at a major crossroads in the 60 year history of our church.

You see, our community has been changing for quite some time. Families have moved north and east of our area. Poverty has been on the rise. Single parents have become the largest demographic in our area. Add in the state of our postmodern nation and it’s easy to see the challenges that our church has faced.

logochurchBut, wow, how God has blessed us! He’s led our church to adapt and become a multiethnic, multi-generational church. He’s connected our church family with the community through many of our outreach efforts and events. He’s opened doors for the gospel through a revitalized Passion Play, through our new Food Pantry, and through the faithful sharing of the Good News at every opportunity. And the worship services have been nothing short of inspiring and life changing as new believers have come to Christ and several have recommitted their lives to serve Christ more fully in our response time to the Word!

So why fast and pray? We do this to seek the Lord to do something beyond what we can do naturally. You see, if we only operate within the confines of what we can do naturally, there’s no faith in that! After all, how does God get the glory when we make plans that we can do and do work that we can do, when we have all the power and strength of what God can do?!? For this reason, I am eager and excited to have us enter in this time of fasting and prayer.

That said, here are some things to pray for:

  • Our vision and our vision team- we are awaiting a report from a consultant and going through a process of evaluating and innovating our church ministries. Nothing is off the table, and most importantly, everything needs to be before the Lord!
  • Our staff and our search team- in our need to fully staff our church, we have a search team looking to fill a position related to the children and family ministry. We need to have Spirit led wisdom and direction for the team.
  • Our love for the gospel and community- our community is desperate for the love and truth of Jesus Christ! Please pray and seek how God might shape our hearts to share the life changing gospel with all we see.

I hope and pray that you will be a participant in this emphasis. We will be starting the fast at 9:15 am Friday and finishing at our Sunday 9:15 am Bible Study, where EVERYONE (men, women, and children) will be eating, fellowshipping, and participating in a Bible study together. I am expecting that God will continue to do spectacular things at our church, so let’s see what else He has in store that will magnify His name!

Pastor Fran

A Devotion: Revisionist History

Numbers 16:12-13, “Then Moses sent a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said, ‘We will not come up. Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us?'”

It is a remarkable thing when people revise history to make the old days, ‘good old days.’ Here we have members of Korah’s rebellion fiercely rebelling against Moses, and in their zeal to be “right,” they change their past. In their misguided zeal, they are now claiming that EGYPT of all places, the land in which they were enslaved to, was a soft memory of their land of milk and honey! Forget the promises of the future, forget the memories of God’s miracles in the desert, it was Egypt that was home, and this Moses took them away from it!

Unbelievable, right? Yet, how is this different than what we do today? How often do you remember the good old days which were not, or that perfect leader who was not, or disparage the current state of affairs? Or even worse, how often do you dread every change, every moment, every future plan because it is as you feared?

The truth is that you cannot afford to long for the past, because your corrupt mind has colored it rosy. No, instead, long for the future, a future in Christ. Christ is the future. He is the land flowing with milk and honey. He chooses His leaders, leads His people, guides His sheep to paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Spend time praying for your own condition, that you seek the future in Him rather than recreating what never was. May He victoriously lead you in a way that glorifies Him!

Pastor Fran

Overcoming Adversity: a Baseball Story

In honor of one of the finest days of the year, Opening Day, I want to share a wonderful lesson of how a tragic mistake was turned into a triumph: 

Fred_Merkle_1908In 1908, a Rookie with the NY Giants by the name of Fred Merkle was on first base with another runner at third in the ninth inning of an important game with the Chicago Cubs. Shortstop Al Bridwell, was up to bat with two outs, and quickly hit a game ending single to center field, allowing the runner on third to score the winning run. Merkle, however, was supposed to run to second base so as to avoid being forced out. As was the practice of that day, he saw the run scored, turned toward his dugout without touching second, and headed out of the stadium to avoid the mob of cheering fans who had now flooded the field. Meanwhile, the umpire saw a Cubs player retrieve the ball, touch second base, and now declared Merkle out, and that the run did not score.

Merkle was now the victim of what another umpire called “the rottenest decision in the history of baseball.” He was derided and demonized by the New York press. Fans and newspapers called the play “Merkle’s Boner” and Merkle a bonehead. Disgraced, Merkle’s team wound up tying the Cubs at the end of the season, then would lose to the Cubs in a rematch game to decide the National League winner. The Cubs would go on to win the World Series (this was their last championship win).

But what happened to Fred Merkle? Apparently, his bonehead label never went away. Throughout his life, he was dogged by fans who were angry even decades later. Admirably, Merkle moved beyond his tragic mistake and went on to a wonderful baseball career, eventually playing in five World Series over the next twenty year years. After he retired, he lived a peaceful life as a family man, devoted husband, and a successful businessman.

Merkle could have bitterly quit baseball his first year, or become frozen with fear and fail to play to his potential. Instead, he pressed on, he played hard, and he earned the admiration of his fellow players, manager, and eventually the majority of the fans. In fact, he received a standing ovation many years later from the Giants fans in an old timer’s game. He died at peace with his family, being looked on as successful in the eyes of those who loved him the most.

So what can we learn from this? Though I don’t know where Fred Merkle was spiritually, I am reminded from his life and career that there are principles we can follow when we, too, make bonehead mistakes: 

  • All of us face adversity, pain, and suffering. All of us blow it at times, mistakes are made, and we can all be “boneheads” at times. However, this doesn’t mean that you should feel defeated. Psalm 49:5 says, “Why should I fear in days of adversity, when the iniquity of my foes surrounds me?”
  • Your past does not need to define you. Whatever was in the past, is in the past. Accidents and blunders and even intentional trespasses can be forgiven and renewed (1 John 1:9).
  • Christ loved you, chose you, and died for you. Your identity shouldn’t depend on people, career, or fame. It should always depend on the Creator who loves you and died for you (1 Cor 15:1-3). Never forget that!
  • Jesus renews you for a greater purpose. He gives you a spirit of soberness, and strength, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). Our fallen world is a world of tragedy, true, yet we have a God who is sovereign even over these tragedies. He takes your mess and brings out of it a message. He turns the hurt into help for others.

Whether you make a mistake, are convicted of sin, or feel weighed down by the world, remember these principles. No one is a bonehead, especially considering that we have a God who loves, encourages, and indwells every Christian to worship Him!

Pastor Fran

 

Five Ways to Enjoy Life…Today

Often, we are so forward thinking, we forget to live in the present. Ponder on that for a minute.

How often have you waited for that next job, that next house, that next car, or that next life event, only to ignore what’s really alongside you today? Jesus said, “so do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will bring its own worries” (Mt. 6:31). In other words and in the context of Jesus’ teaching, stop worrying about the things that don’t matter, but worry about the Kingdom today!

That said, God brings many blessings all around you, and you need to enjoy them now. Here are five ways that you can stop and smell the proverbial roses, praising God for the gifts that He has given you:

  1. Spend some time alone with God. Admittedly, it’s been a while, but I used to take overnight trips to a state park to reconnect with God. I’d unplug: no internet, phone, or TV, and take walks while memorizing Scripture and praying. This time with the Lord helped me to engage Him in a distraction free, focused environment.
  2. Spend some time with your spouse. If you are married, go somewhere different with your spouse where you can talk (this rules out the movies). Talk about your life together, remember the past, and count your blessings with your spouse.
  3. Spend some time with a small child. If you have a child or
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    photo by M. Teresa Trascritti

    grandchild, spend the day or even an afternoon with himor her in an activity in which you can interact. If you don’t have a child, then take out a nephew, niece, cousin, or other relative. You can go to the park, a playground, or go to a restaurant where they can enjoy a kid’s meal. By seeing the world through little eyes, you can see how big of a God we have.

  4. Spend some time with an elderly person from church. Some of my fondest memories of saints who have passed on have been the Christ-centered conversations that I enjoyed with them. They shared their lives, their adventures, and their dreams of old. It caused me to appreciate their story…and to look at my life as a joyful adventure in Christ.
  5. Spend some time with your church family. Much has been made in our culture to be efficient and cover as much territory as possible by multitasking, even when it comes to relationships. But is this how relationships are supposed to be? As God knew you, formed you, saved you, and grew you, He gave you a wonderful gift that you also need to enjoy at this moment in time: His church. Stop trying to make the church what you want it to be and instead enjoy the church as God meant it to be.

Of course, change is inevitable, and we will see change occur whether we want to or not. However, this doesn’t mean that we need to center ourselves on the future. For now, let’s enjoy today, enjoying every moment, enjoying every gift that our Father has given us!

Pastor Fran

Signs That the Frog is Beginning to Boil…

Many of us have heard of the illustration of the Frog and the kettle. If you haven’t the basic idea of this illustration is something like this: whenever a frog is tossed in a boiling pot of water, it’s almost certain that he will struggle and fight and try to jump out. However, if you put the frog in a pot of warm water, he’ll be a happy frog- even when the heat is turned up slowly to the point of boiling!

What a perfect illustration for the church and their devotion to principles. In fact, there are temptations everywhere for churches to compromise God centered practices for man centered pragmatism. And while it’s true that “all truth is God’s truth,” not all that is being done in the name of the church is either God centered or God focused.

But how do you know if the frog’s beginning to boil? Here are some signs:

  • Fear overrules faithful teaching. Too often, we see a compromise of biblical teaching because teachers and pastors are afraid of hurting people’s feelings. Even worse, specific doctrines and principles are never mentioned in fear of losing members or potential members. Eph 4:15 tells us that we can and should share the truth in love.
  • The great comfort overrules the Great Commission. Church members are part of the church to relate to one another, without a doubt. However, being the church also means to be obedient to Christ. As we grow in our love for one another, we must radically love the world with the gospel…and take meaningful action to show it.
  • Democracy overrules theocracy. For some reason the rugged American independence has dominated much of the thinking when it comes to church polity. This is not to say that the church shouldn’t be involved in decision-making, it’s just that not every decision needs to go up for a vote.
  • Gossip overrules the Gospel. Gossip is fatal in a church. It is a cancer in a church when supposed believers talk about and discredit others. Gossip isolates, denigrates, and asphyxiates people who are image bearers of God- the complete opposite of what the gospel is supposed to look like.
  • Man-centeredness overrules God-centeredness. Although it can be argued that this is true for all of this list, what I mean is about practice in the church. Too often, the methodologies borrowed from corporate America (or even from other churches) are utilized hook, line, and sinker – without even trying to see if the methodology is biblical or not.

That’s a short list, but I know that it can be expanded. Any other thoughts?