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. 🙂

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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

The lesson learned (so far) from Boston and beyond




The tragedy in Boston and the panic that struck that city was comparable in many ways to the events of 9/11. For a few minutes, which for many of us seemed like hours, people were terrified and tuned in to breaking news reports to hear of the next attack or the details of what has already taken place. Videos and pictures streamed in from everywhere, and the cable news networks went into full reporting mode.

What was virtually unnoticed at first, however, was the way that people on the scene responded to the horrific carnage at hand. First responders didn’t hesitate to run to the scene, tearing apart barricades and accessing the dead and the wounded within seconds of the blasts. They thought of themselves second and others first. Now we hear of one officer getting killed and another wounded in the line of duty. They were and are in every sense of the word, heroes. Thank you, men and women who have served us so unselfishly!

As we praise God for our police, firefighters, and other first responders, I’m also reminded of Jesus. “Don’t look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others too,” Paul wrote in Phil 2:4, and he called us to look at Jesus as the example of unselfish servanthood. It was Jesus who went to the cross unselfishly, who died painfully, who was raised righteously, and who triumphed victoriously- and how did it all begin? By Jesus willingly becoming flesh, willingly regarding equality with God a thing not to be grasped, willingly taking on the form of a bondservant as a stinky, smelly human, and willingly obeying to the point of death on a cross. 

His example is ours to follow. May God be honored with an unselfish commitment to Him! 


Pastor Fran

Trouble

Matthew 5:11-12 says in the Message translation, “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

Have you been in trouble, real trouble? There are those who love to stir up things, live drama, loving the soap opera of life, and they go from one crisis to another. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is the type of trouble that comes from those who mean evil for the godly. People who don’t want to face their own issues and cast blame on others, those who, as this text says, avoid the truth about themselves because it is too close for comfort. These are the ones who scream loudest while trying to stir up trouble.

My friend, speak the truth in love. Don’t veer from your mission in life and the message of Christ. Focus on doing things as Christ would, turn the other cheek, and press on. Most of all, count yourself blessed.

Ministry is not for wimps.

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1 NASB)

This is for pastors: Ministry is not for wimps. I’m serious. If you whine and cry whenever you get your feelings hurt, then do something else. I’m not trying to be mean about it, but there are times when you have to stand and do what’s right and not worry about whether or not its popular. Sometimes you have to confront sin, as you speak the truth in love. After all, if you do what God wants, everything will be fine anyway. God is sovereign, after all, right?

Each day over the past few years I see a verse of scripture on a post-it note by my desk: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted” (Proverbs 29:25 NASB). It’s just as true today for me as it was a few years ago. What I have found is that if I am truly sold out to Christ and His calling, spending time devoted to God’s Word, then Satan gets angry and things can get more turbulent. In fact, it can get to be full blown spiritual warfare.

Here’s what you do if and when this happens: stay on target. Stay focused and steadfast in doing what God wants. Be bold as a lion, be trusting in the Lord and be ready for the attacks from the enemy. Stop letting criticism and other nonsense discourage you, and don’t let self doubt fool you. Be encouraged, my friend: God has the victory!

Pressing forward for Him

O Lord , you have examined my heart and know everything about me. (Psalms 139:1 NLT)

God knows Us. He knows our externals, like what others see, but He also knows our internal, innermost thoughts. This is why it is so amazing that God still loves us!

Amazingly, He presses us to a growth in Him for His glory. When we are discouraged, His Word comforts and strengthens us. When we are thrilled about something, He reminds us that we should cast the glory onto Him. God’s process of teaching and leading each of us brings us to a place where we can serve Him and show the world who He is. He leads us to humility, peace, and trust in Hs will and His way.

Look at the many accounts in scripture of this happening- the process of humility building happened to the best of men in the bible! Moses was one example. David another. Even Jonah was humbled in the belly of a great fish! The point is, we are called to the service of The Lord, and the service requires a character shaped by Him.

Are you willing to be shaped? God wants to use you. Just trust in His ways, seek His Words, and look to go deeper, farther, better for Him!

Not Political: Real Change

You are not of this world. You are a citizen of no place but heaven, pledged to no one but Christ, placing no idol before your love for the Lord. Your destination is altogether different than what you see around you today. Your goals as a believer is not financial prosperity but riches in Christ. Your focus is not on a earthly kingdom but an eternal Kingdom. It’s all different when you are a follower of Jesus.

In case you hadn’t heard, we are in an election season (yes, that was tongue in cheek). Being in a swing state, I literally get a half dozen election ads in my home mail every day. To and from the church office, I drive by hundreds of political yard signs. All this along with the constant bombardment of television, radio, and webpage advertisements, and I think I’ve seen enough campaigning for at least, say, four years.

It’s easy to get caught up in election campaigning, having an emotional attachment to one candidate or another. As a pastor, I have purposely not stated my political preferences publicly. I don’t allow yard signs in my yard, and don’t participate in the election rhetoric on Twitter or Facebook. I must admit that at times it is tempting, but I have to remember that my loyalty to Christ overrides my loyalty to the politician I might love or loathe.

So what is my response? Okay, yes, I will be votiing, yet I am also doing something far more as a service for our country. I am sincerely praying for our country. I am praying that godliness and righteousness will reign, that love and truth will be advanced, and that holiness will stand as a witness to those who need Christ’s salvation. It’s not a prayer to advance pet political causes but instead it’s a prayer for a godly light to shine from God’s people.

This is a biblical concept. Paul tells Timothy clearly in 1 Tim 2 that God’s people should be praying for leaders, for people, and for an atmosphere for God’s people to live holy and peaceful lives. We are all called to do pray in thsi way, no matter who is in a position of leadership over us. We are called to pray for our leaders to rule in wisdom as God’s established government while we are here on earth (Rom 13:1-2).

So, join me in prayer. Pray for our land. Pray for our election. Pray for godly values to be proclaimed through His people. And as we pray, let’s see God glorified and His name magnified!

Devotional thought: Depending on God…

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Psalm 84:11 NLT)

Do you rely on God the Holy Spirit? I mean, do you really rely on Him, or is He a bit far off to you, someone that you can pray to but never see or hear from experientially? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that God is always going to answer with a lightning bolt or some other dramatic fashion- He can, but maybe not all the time. But what about one time? Have you seen and felt and enjoyed a fellowship with Him that the natural man cannot experience?

Truth is, we need God’s presence daily. We can’t get by without Him. Yet many of us go through life as Christians not fully realizing the Spirit’s power. So what do we do?

First, reassess your dependence on God. Are you truly depending on Him, or are you giving Him lip service while you try to take care of things on your own? God wants you to depend on Him for all things- spend time praying for ways to please Him, including praying for the fruits of the Spirit to be displayed through you to others.

Second, reassess your time with God. How much time are you spending with Him? Does it compare to the time you spend with your TV set? Or the time you spend with your favorite hobby or activity? Does God get the first fruits of your time, or is it just something you tack at the end of the day? Do you seek to take that time with God and make it a time of worship, or intimacy, or is it rushed, routine, or even dry? God wants this fellowship with you, so take the opportunity to spend it with Him.

Third, reexamine your perspective of God in the world. Is He giving you opportunities to join Him at work? Have you been passing the little things up? Have your prayers been self focused or Kingdom focused- are you seeking Him to empower you to please Him or to satisfy your own pleasures? God gives gifts to lift up and glorify His name, and will withhold no good thing to His servants so that they can glorify Him in the process.

Gospel presented, please pray

We had the chance to share about Jesus with several people today. One person asked about the Christian religion, so God opened a door for Teresa and I to share about the love of Jesus Christ. We had two more chances with others, and after leaving tracts for them to read, we let the local pastor know of who we shared with.

One young girl that we shared with told us that her father was sick and had liver problems. We had a tract giving a testimony of how God healed a woman who was sick. Hopefully she will give the tract to her father as promised and he will respond to the message included in the tract.

Please do pray for the gospel seed that was planted in the hearts of those we talked to. Pray for the father who is sick. Please also lift us up as we finish our time here in Nepal and head on the plane for Europe, and then home.

So blessed…

What a blessing it has been to teach these church leaders! As we entered our last day of teaching, we had plenty of questions on basic things related to church ministry. Questions about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, deacons, pastors, and various practices of ministry. The questions were very good and reflected the hunger that they all had for being obedient to the Word of God.

One big issue is the time that most pastors take in studying the Word each week. Many pastors get ready for their sermons the night before the worship, and this is due to the expectations that the churches have on their duties. Apparently, there is a much higher value in ministering to the needs of the people than the ministry of the Word. Throughout the week, I had the pleasure of sharing about the need for the pastors to be ministers of the Word first and prepare for their sermons. To do this, I explained, the deacons had to take some of the burden off of the pastors.

This is a very young church in Nepal. While in some countries Christianity has been around for hundreds or a thousand years, here it has only been in existence for less than thirty, with most baptist churches only in existence for ten years or less. We are at the cusp of Christian influence in Nepal and the need is great for resources to reach more people. Teresa and I are excited for what God is doing in Nepal.

Pray for these young churches and for the servants in Nepal. Pray for them as they endure persecutions and hardships. Pray for their growth in the Word and for our new friend, Subash Pradhan as he leads the churches here in so many wonderful ways to grow and to be faithful to the scriptures.

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