Category Archives: God’s Goodness

Are You Missing?

I really love my truck. It’s a manly, testosterone laced, V10 F250 beast that pulls anything I want anywhere, anytime. I’ve taken it up hills in the snow, gone into the woods where puny she-cars can’t go, and I’ve never gotten stuck. Ever. Yep, breathe in that manliness!

2000_ford_f-350-super-duty_extended-cab-pickup_lariat_fq_oem_1_500The problem is the only thing it never passes is a gas station! And though I love my truck, 10 miles per gallon on a good day is tough to swallow (7 when pulling my camper). However, I recently had new plugs and wires put in the truck and my gas mileage increased by 20%, not too shabby! You see, it turns out that one or more of the cylinders in my hefty engine wasn’t quite connecting right, and the engine wasn’t performing as it should. My engine was misfiring. It was “missing,” and I didn’t even know it.

There are plenty of churches that are not performing as they should. And what I’ve seen is that they miss the mark on one major thing- the discipling of others. In fact, a church without a clear strategy for discipleship is like a sputtering engine that over-consumes resources and lacks power. The church might exist, but the potential to do so much more is left unused.

If this is you and your church, what can you do? I think it is so important to pray for a strategy that is easily remembered and easily repeatable. As a local church pastor, I encouraged people to come, grow, serve, and share the gospel, and I used this as a process as much as a tag line. New believers were quickly encouraged to be a part of a bible study, serve on a team, and were encouraged to share what Christ did for them. The result: lives were changed, leaders were developed, and a church was changed.

So let me ask you: are you missing? Are all your cylinders firing? You can change this! Begin with yourself, then look to help another. If you are a church leader, begin to think about what discipleship looks like. Pray, think, and ask questions, hard questions, and come up with a memorable, repeatable process. Do this, and let God use you and your church in a remarkable, amazing way!

Pastor Fran

A thought to help your day… 

Imagine the greatest distance that you can see as you look up into the sky. You can see miles away, ten, twenty, hundreds, even (with your imagination) thousands or more. As you look up, now imagine how much bigger God is.

He is big enough to create everything you see, all you hear, the sense of warmth from the sun- He created it all. And what you see is a microscopic fraction of the world you live on.


Even more, He created the entire world, a microscopic fraction of the galaxy, which is a microscopic fraction of the cluster of galaxies, which is a microscopic fraction of the universe. This is how big God is.

Yet, amazingly, He is personally interested in you and your relationship with Him. You are not only invited to be part of His creation, you are invited to be a co-heir of His creation. All He has is yours and you are invited to love Him and enjoy Him forever.

This is love, undeserved and unearned! Let that sink in as you go through your day. I pray that it changes you as it has for me!

Pastor Fran 

When You Walk in the Desert…

He not only was old, he felt old. This man, crazy by some accounts, faithful by others, had set on this long journey to a land he had not seen yet. His throat parched, his skin burning, and his eyes stinging from the dry, dusty land, the old man still pressed. He remained steadfast through this desert journey.  

desert-43209_640And not only him, but his family, too. After all, everything went with him on this journey. His youthful-looking wife with her soft skin and sparkling eyes gave a slight smile which encouraged him along the way. The familiar sounds of goats and camels trodding along helped him to remember that his possessions were still secure. His servants, faithful to him as he had taken them in as his family, stayed by his side. He took them all in pursuit of this call he once heard. 


It was those words that he had heard which still kept him on this journey, the words that this 
voice had once said:

“Go out from your land, your relatives,
and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

These words were a powerful change of direction for his life, but doubt has begun to creep in. He left his moon god worship of his ancestors to follow this new voice, but did he hear Him correctly? He couldn’t help but wonder, was this really God? Day after day, week after week, cycles of thinking, pondering, doubting, wondering, and then more waiting took place while he walked. He tried to be patient, to wait for the next revelation, to receive the direction to stop once he reached the right place, but would he ever get there? Would he ever stop wondering? Yet his journey continued because there was no turning back now. 

Today, you might be wondering, waiting, and even doubting about God’s direction for your life. You may be having doubts and fears of what took place of what could have been. But be encouraged: just as the Creator chose Abraham (then Abram) for a specific place and time, so has God chosen you (Jn 15:19). If you remain faithful to Him, He will bring clarity to a cloudy time (1 Cor 1:4-9).

It’s clear from Scripture that everyone who is in Christ is called to a particular purpose in Him (Rom 8:28-30). Therefore, don’t lose heart. What Christ has started, He will finish, and what He has guided you to do, He will equip you. You might not understand why you are where you are, but He is strong and powerful enough to shower you with grace as you trust Him for your journey.

Stay strong, stay faithful, stay humble, and stay focused. Whatever desert you might be walking in now will result in a testimony of His grace in the future. To God be the glory!

In Christ,

Pastor Fran

Four Ways to Connect With God: 2) Love With All Your Soul

In a sense, our creation in the image of God is trinitarian in nature. The bible says that people are made of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess 4:23, Heb 4:12). Above that, we also know that in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are new in Christ to become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:17, 21).

god-1772560_640This is why Jesus was very clear that when we love, we are to love in a deeper sense. We relate to the Lord and to others within our soul, in an indescribable relationship that transcends the physical, emotive, and cognitive. Of course, you can never love God nor the things of God until you are born again, but when you are reborn, you are restored and ready to love with a new dimension of love.

Look at David as an example. Even though he had blown it with in case of Bathsheba and Uriah, he knew of God’s grace and trusted in it. David, once was so caught up in his sin, remembered God as the One who forgives and restores. He would later write,

“To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust” (Ps 25:1-2)

You who are forgiven, love God back with the soul that He refreshed. Take time to thank Him for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness! Most of all connect with Him and with others with a humility in the kindness of the Lord like never before.

Next post: Love God With All Your Strength

In Him,

Fran

Four ways to Connect with God: 1) Love with All Your Heart

apple-570965_640Loving God with all your heart is impossible to do in your natural state. It’s true that “We love because God first love us” (1 Jn 4:19), and that God sent his Son, so that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). You cannot truly love God unless you surrender yourself to Him, denying yourself, repenting of your sins, and receiving the great gift of eternal life paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the first and greatest thing that needs to happen, and if you have never done this and need to, contact me immediately.

If you have received Christ, you already have God’s love! However, many of us have seen times when this love can get cold, dry, even routine. This is where you need to change things up a bit, like dedicating yourself to prayer more, worship corporately in a different spot than where you normally sit, or even take time for a personal retreat (with no phones!). These are practical ways to change things so you can get out of your routine and focus on who truly matters, the Christ Himself.

That said, if you are growing in your love for God, then you need to be sure to grow in your love for others. John the apostle wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). For example, take a chance and love on that grumpy grouch that you encounter, by praying for them, talking with them, and loving on them. If they stay grumpy, at least you can move ahead and stay positive, focused, and ready to love the next person. Remember, Jesus says to love people more than you love yourself (even the grouches), so let your love of Christ shine to others no matter their response!

The point is this: never settle for a mediocre existence of life without a deep love for God and people. He commands it, He has proven it, and He desires it in you. Reciprocate God’s love and share it liberally with all you encounter! 

That’s it for now. Next post: Love with All Your Soul (spiritual).  

Fran

Four Ways You Can Connect with God

Jesus, in answering a lawyer’s question, affirmed in Luke 10:27 that you are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” These two great commandments, He would also say in Matthew 22:40, “depend all of the Law and the prophets.”

bible-2167776_640This is huge, to say the least! I see so many different dimensions to these commands. First, we interact with God on the four levels of heart, soul, mind, and strength. In the same way, we interact with people on these four levels. For example, when one of these four levels in a marriage relationship is broken, the relationship suffers like a four-cylinder car running on three. This is why every relationship should be healthy emotionally, spiritually, physically, and even cognitively (the mind).

For my next few posts, I am going to spend time on how you can love God and people more in each of these areas on a daily basis. Keep in mind that no one is going to perfectly love God and people, but if you sincerely desire to put on love, you can do this greater today than you did yesterday, and tomorrow more than you did today!

Next: Love with All Your Heart

Fran

 

To My Beloved Church Family…

About three weeks ago, I received a phone call to see if I was open to discussing a possibility of serving in a full-time position that would involve ministering to churches and pastors throughout the Upper Midwest region of our country. Although I was not at all looking to leave Mt. Healthy, I did want to be faithful and seek the Lord’s leading in this. After several helpful conversations, Teresa and I took the time to pray, read the Word, seek advice, and again, seek His leading through more prayer. Ultimately, I felt God reminding me that my life is not mine to live, and whatever I do, I must be faithful to go enthusiastically to where ever He leads.

My brothers and sisters, it has become clear to me that God is leading me to serve Him in this new ministry. In this capacity, I will have the chance to serve and love on hundreds of pastors and churches in several states throughout the Upper Midwest. I will have the chance to focus on disciple making and a chance to affect thousands of lives with the gospel. As you can imagine, this is an amazing and exciting opportunity to see many, many lives being changed by the Lord!

That said, leaving you is not easy. Teresa and I love you as our family and we struggled with our decision to leave! You can Worshiptake comfort that I am not leaving with any negative feelings whatsoever- I am not mad, upset, pressured, or angry in any way. To the contrary: I am leaving with the joy of the Lord and with my gratitude and love for you! I can truly say that it’s been nine wonderful, memorable, uplifting years of fulfilling the gospel work!

As I prepare to finish my last Sunday on April 2nd, I want to share some words of encouragement. First, be assured that both the deacons and church staff have already begun planning for this time of transition so that everything can run as smoothly as possible during this interim period. Your leaders need your confidence, prayers, and cooperation during this time. You have wonderful, godly leaders who love the Lord and His church, so trust them!

Second, know that I will be your biggest cheerleader and greatest prayer partner. I am already praying for you as you seek the Lord for a new pastor, and I have already begun to pray for him as you receive him in love. In the same way, please pray for Teresa and me as we serve Christ in this new way. It will be an honor to love on our sister churches and pastors as I help them to serve Christ more fully.

Thank you, my beloved church family, for these past nine years. I will always treasure this time of our sweet blessings and steadfastness in Christ. I love you all. Watch this blog for updates of God at work in and through this new ministry for us. May the Lord bless you and may the Lord bless the gospel work of His church!

In Christian love,

Pastor Fran

Devotion: When God Seems Silent. . . 

I struggle with depression from time to time, but this past week, aglass-582689_640 wave hit me pretty hard and I felt as if my world was turned upside down. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it was very, very rough. When it hit me, I cleared my schedule, turned to the Word, and spent a ton of time in prayer. But still, it felt like God was silent and my prayers weren’t even going past the ceiling. I felt like David when he asked God, 

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Ps 13:1)

I felt defeated, down, and even disgusted because I had no real reason to feel that way. I wasn’t sure why it was this bad, but I was hurting.

But I pressed on. And as I have worked through this (and still am, TBH), I realized a few truths:

  1. I may feel alone mentally and emotionally, but I’m never truly alone when I am in Christ.
  2. I may struggle now, but my future is His.
  3. God is never going to leave me or forsake me.
  4. I may weep and even stay anxious, but His joy is my strength.

Of course, I knew these truths, but at the time I didn’t feel them. Thankfully, God is gracious, and as I prayed, talked, and sought the Lord, these truths became more real in my heart. I am fighting the fight for joy, and God is revealing this more and more to me, even as I write tonight. Praise God!

So that said, let me share my encouragement to you who might go through from time to time: draw near to Christ, read His Word, pray, talk to a friend, and even change your routine. Most of all, be patient and let His Spirit work in you as you fight for joy.

May the Lord take you through this season, because I am confident that He will. 🙂

Pastor Fran

Together…

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Yesterday was a major milestone for First Baptist Church of Mt. Healthy. Over the course of the day, we both celebrated 60 years of ministry and acknowledged a new direction for our church in reaching our community with the love of Jesus Christ.  At the close of our worship service, men, women, and children came forward to sign and affirm their own commitment to the Lord, His church, and His gospel work. It was an amazing, refreshing time!

It is good to honor the past, and a very good thing to look at the present, yet one thing we as leaders wanted to emphasize in our church is to get excited about the future. We are saved in Christ because Christ fervently prayed for us in His high priestly prayer of John 17. We are alive in Christ because God saw into the future and called us to Him (Eph 1:4). And we are missionaries in Christ to do His Great Commission of Mt 28:19-20.

Church, let’s not forget that someone, some way prayed for and shared Christ with us. In the same way, make your life, your work, and your church a place where this same action is done over and over again for those who need His salvation.

I love you, First Baptist. Let’s do God’s work as Together…we Come, Grow, Serve, and Share!

 

Thirsty Thursday: Why the Gospel was never about you

What I read: Chronological Reading for the week (selections from Jeremiah and Ezekiel) has been completed early, so I am reading various devotionals from Spurgeon, Calvin, and praying through the Psalms. This is my reaction to some of my reading. 

I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years and have been in ministry in churches for almost twenty two years. In my short time, I’ve seen my share of victories, praises, and mountain top experiences. I’ve also seen my share of discouragement, sadness, and apparent defeats. I’ve seen churches do amazing, wonderful things in the unity of the Spirit of Christ and yet I’ve seen churches act like the wandering people of Israel while they blindly followed a false god of their own desires.

However, one obvious but often forgotten truth that I have seen and read over the years is abundantly clear: the gospel, lived and expressed in His people, is always to be about God and His glory. Just think: we as believers in Christ look forward to the day when we will see Christ face to face, when we as every tribe and tongue will bring praise and glory to His name. We know that the One whom we do not see now will be seen, and we will experience the joy of joyous praises as we enjoy God forever. At that time, the gospel will be fully fulfilled and fully Christ focused, as the heavens and the earth will willingly and eternally declaring the glory of God. It will be a wonderful, amazing time!

Of course, while here in our flesh, we all have a whole lot to go in truly capturing a clear, Christ-focused man-888591_1280expression of the gospel. For example, the gospel was never meant to be about people in a self-serving, self-centered proposition. Christ didn’t die on the cross so people can lackadaisically just “get in” the gates of Heaven. He didn’t offer eternal life so some can just say the right words or pray the right prayer or even speak the language of Zion, or so churchgoers can be what is culturally defined as a “good Christian.”And the gospel is definitely not about extending institutional hypocrisy, or getting wrapped up in the complex, disgusting world of internal church politics, with ungodly preferences as justified by traditions and legalism. No, Jesus did not die on the cross for the things of earth to continue, because Jesus’ gospel is a call to a new life, a life free of wicked deed of the flesh, a life lived for Christ and only Christ.

And maybe this is harsh, but sooner or later each of us must come to realize that we are not the center of the universe: the planets are not circling over each of our heads and the sun does not constantly and dramatically shine on your face in a radiant, angelic like beam. The gospel has never been and never will be about you or me. Instead, we are vile, sinful, and depraved beings who throw mud on and trample on the cross daily, often willingly. And while we draw ourselves into some grand story where we are somehow the main characters in it, the reality is that the true gospel story has always been about Christ, and we should be forever thankful to be able to be a small part of it. With this same idea, Psalm 84:10 says, “I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.”

This is why God’s grace is so awe inspiring. Because of His grace, you and I are created in the imago dei, loved by the Creator and are able to hear, see, and respond to the gospel. Our response, then, needs to be nothing less than a life of complete adoration for Christ and His Kingdom. Money, power, comfort, and even our own lives comes second to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, compared to Jesus, these things shouldn’t even come close.

Let me encourage you to check your own walk while I check mine. No longer should we claim to receive a gracious gift for eternity yet live like it is all about us. No longer should we follow Christ with our mouths and yet willingly place our possessions, comfort, self-centeredness, and our egos above Him. Fellow Christian, it’s time to repent, time to recommit and time to change this thinking. Let’s make this change: as a coheir in Christ, ours is the Kingdom forever, so let me challenge you to live as a citizen of Heaven while traveling this journey on earth!

In Christ Alone,

Pastor Fran