An incredible God

Yesterday was filled with a journey to see the mountain peaks first thing in the morning, a time of preparation, and a teaching time to the church leaders.

I will tell you this: these leaders are passionate about the gospel, focused on Christ and His Kingdom, and ready to take on the gates of Hades as the church! They asked wonderful questions, gave great responses, and listened intently. So far, so good as we went through the Old Testament to see examples of leaders in the bible.

I also got to see and share with my wonderful church at home. How much I miss them! It was nice to have FaceTime available to share with them as they worshipped.

Please pray for the teaching time today as we share on servant leadership. Please also lift up the ones we talk to about Christ.

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Preaching and teaching in Nepal…

Saturday morning worship (their normal worship day) here in Nepal was an “every tribe and tongue” moment. We came to worship at Pokhara Baptist Church not knowing the language or customs but knowing who they loved: Jesus with all their heart. The singing went on and on with heartfelt praise, even singing in Nepali the song “Seek Ye First.”

The church was filled with worshippers, about 100 of them. The pastor, who began the church only twenty years earlier, was deeply loved by his church and has done incredible things in Nepal through the power of the Holy Spirit. From this small church alone, at least seven new ones have been birthed with more being planned in the near future.

It was a pleasure to preach to this group of lovers of Christ on Saturday and to be able to teach leaders arriving from various places for the leadership classes on Sunday (today). It was even more awesome to see God at work in Nepal, and to be just a small part of the advancement of the gospel is a privilege and an honor. To God be the glory!

Day 4 (or something like that)

Okay, so somehow, some way, we lost a day. Call it the time zone thing, or traveling, or whatever, but we lost a day. I guess we got some time adjustments still to make sleep wise, but we will be fine.

On Thursday night as we arrived late at night in Kathmandu, we were met by large crowds of people trying to make a fast buck. Unfortunately, I paid someone much more than I should have for carrying our bags, but I was tired and wasn’t thinking. Oh well.

We got to our hotel after a wild and wacky trip through the streets of Kathmandu, all the while involving honking, turning, changing of lanes and the cutting off of other vehicles large and small. It was like Mr. Toad’s wild ride on steroids. Our contact for the school, Mr. Pradhan, met us with a wonderful smile and a welcoming spirit. Unfortunately, we miscalculated somehow and thought we had one day in Kathmandu to rest, but we had to get up the next morning at around 5:30 to catch the bus for Pokhara. We went to bed around midnight.

We both woke up at 2 am since our bodies still thought it was noon at home and decided to just get up and try to sleep on the bus later on. I somehow, someway caught the Reds vs. Giants game on live tv (yay!) but saw them lose (boo!). We had breakfast and caught a taxi to the bus stop. There, we saw lots more street vendors trying to make a quick buck as well as a tiny woman who said nothing but begged for money.

The 7 hour ride was the taxi ride the night before on steroids. I guess you could say that it was Mr. Toad’s ride on Bain juice (sorry if you don’t get my references but I did say I was tired!). However, the count of Nepal is absolutely gorgeous, and the mountains that we were able to glimpse at times were breathtaking. It was great to finally arrive in Pokhara and in our hotel.

Pokhara is a very warm and friendly city. I didn’t see as many of the scammers that were plentiful in Kathmandu, just people trying to earn a living. However, there are many, many people who have never heard the gospel. The multiple god worship is plentiful and there are many that worship nothing. Please pray for this mission as we begin Saturday morning with the preaching in the worship service at the baptist church here in Pokhara. Pray that we get some rest, that we adjust to the time changes, and that the contacts we have already made with merchants can result in opportunities to share Christ.

 

What a big world!!!

As we flew into Abu Dhabi on our way to Nepal, I got a new appreciation for the size and breadth of our planet. We went from Cincinnati to Chicago, then from Chicago to Abu Dhabi.

How we travelled there was unexpected. The flight went northeast through Canada, across the northern Atlantic north of Scotland, then entering Eastern Europe through Turkey, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf. Crazy route, but really cool to see on the map displayed on our in flight screens.

Oh and by the way, Etihad Airlines has outclassed any airline I have ever been on. Best I’ve ever seen and I was on the plane for almost 13 hours today.

I’m thankful for a big planet of many people of many ethnicities. So many people, so many to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ. However as people are reached, I look forward to the day when every tribe and tongue will praise Christ!

Journey into Nepal

Today begins a journey into a land that for me, is hard to imagine. Teresa and I will be heading to Nepal for a short term missions trip, teaching and sharing the love of Christ to pastors, church leaders, and anyone who can hear.

It’s a really long flight to get there. We fly out today and we don’t get to Nepal until Thursday night! Granted, they are 10 hours ahead, but still, that’s a whole lot of flying and waiting! Once we get accommodated to the city of Kathmandu, we will hop on a bus for a 6 hour ride to Pokhara. There, we will get to meet the lovely people as we teach on Christian leadership. I am also going to have the chance to preach in one of the local churches.

Please pray for this journey. I’m not worried about the safety and health thing, since I am secure in Christ, but pray for the mission we are setting out to do. Lift up this highly unreached people, the churches who need encouragement and the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray that we speak the truth of the bible with boldness, that any and all who hear Jesus will come away finding out how to come to Jesus for eternal life. Last of all, pray that the mission will have a long term impact as church leaders grow in Christ and help others to grow.

Will try to update as Internet is available. Many blessings as you read this long neglected blog for the next two weeks or so.

In Christ Alone,

Fran

What Does God Want?

So he went down and dipped  himself  seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:14 NASB)
An act of faith is all God wants. Naaman was a great yet dreaded Aramean general, a warrior, and a man who commanded thousands yet he needed to be healed from his leprosy. His simple servant girl knew the best for him: “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” Listening to good counsel, Naaman sought Elisha for help. Not even daring to go into the prophet’s house, he waited for a word from Elisha.
What he got was unexpected. “Go and wash in the Jordan river,” he was told, and after a short burst of indignation over this simple instruction, and after more counsel from his loyal servants, he did just that. God worked in an unexpected way to bring an extraordinary result- now isn’t that just God? God’s power was met by Naaman’s faith, and the healing began!
Today, God still performs miracles: He saves souls every day, changing lives and eternal destinations forever. It’s a simple gospel, one for all people. Do you have this gospel, have you received God’s Son, Jesus Christ? If you have not, you can change this today. If you have, then thank God for His miraculous gift of eternity!

One in Christ

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT)
From the very beginning, God intended mankind to be unified under His Kingship. He has always wanted one people, a kingdom of priests, a people for His own possession. Sure, we may all look slightly different on the outside, but internally we are all one. After all, appearances are merely skin deep.
However, we do vary in our culture and family history, and this is often where conflict begins. We who are called by God have a God-sized task ahead of us: while the world has conflict over petty things, we in the church should be completely different. We are to be unified in Christ, unified through humility and gentleness, patience and love. This is a tough calling, yet this unity can happen if it comes through Jesus Christ.
Approach your week with an intentionality for humility. Look out for the needs of others, seek to please God and men first before yourself. As you take action on a truth worth knowing, maybe God will teach you something amazing about Himself to you. 

A devotional thought…

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psalm 55:22 NASB)
We have a God who is loving and caring. The bible tells us that God loves the world (John 3:16), that He wishes for no one to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). If you are His, then He loves you and protects you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. In Him, you are saved, sealed, and set apart for His will and way.
What a wonderful truth this, one that should give you comfort! When you are burdened with pain, trials, or struggles, He sustains you. God the Holy Spirit provides a comfort and peace beyond any human understanding. While many in the world turn to many means of help, nothing can compare to the everlasting soothing of the waters of the Holy Spirit! Yes, you can cast your burdens upon Him- He is big enough, wise enough, and powerful enough to sustain you, and will never allow the righteous to be shaken!
This week, meditate on this verse and think about what this might mean for you as you go into this week.   
·         What burdens might you want to cast upon the Lord this week?
·         What other promises of God have encouraged you in the past?

5 Ways to make your Christmas more meaningful…

Over the years, our family has established some wonderful traditions in celebrating Christmas.  I look forward, for example, to Christmas Eve, when we as a family sit down and have a festive meal and enjoy one another’s company and love.  The next day, we wake up at dark-thirty (yes, we still do) and open presents with big smiles and happiness.  The rest of the morning, music plays in the background as we pray, eat breakfast, and enjoy the day the the Savior brought to us!

But in the midst of thinking about this, I have to ask myself: is it meaningful, really?  When I do think like this, I do a reset, and I rekindle some things that would make Christmas more meaningful and God honoring.  Here are some ideas that may help us both:
  1. Read Scripture at the Christmas meal. It’s a wonderful thing to take some time and read the Christmas story during your Christmas or Christmas Eve meal. There’s a really neat bible out there called The Merged Gospels in which you can read the entire Christmas story (and more!) from a combination of all of the gospels.
  2. Give thanks. As everyone gets thinking about the many things related to our traditions of Christmas, it would be a big help to bring everyone together to share how God has shown His love to us.  Let everyone share a bit (especially children), and take the time to be thankful. Word of warning: timing is everything!
  3. Pray together. Spend some time after the Scripture and sharing time to pray- pray for each other, but also pray that the message of Christmas may live beyond the moment, that the gospel goes forth.  
  4. Reflect alone. This can happen before, during or after Christmas, but one great way to reflect before Christmas is to use this idea: As you wrap presents for a person, stop and think about some of the memories that you have shared with this person and then pray for him or her.  Also, reflect on the love that God has shown to you.
  5. Give to missions. all around the world, missionaries are away from families and friends to spread the gospel. We spend large sums of money for Christmas gifts, but what about giving to Jesus’ mission?  Can you start with a gift that equals the amount of the largest gift you bought someone else?
I hope these tips help- to God be the glory and Merry Christmas to you!

Fran

NAMB, the SCBO, and Cooperative Missions

At First Baptist Church of Mt Healthy, we pray for and support cooperative missions, church planting, and the gospel work.  As a congregation, we have focused on doing more with less, squeezing every penny that we could to reach as many people as we can in the little time we have left on this earth.  We work hard to place the gospel at the forefront of every activity we do, whether it is to share Christ at a Block Party, hand out tracts at Trunk n Treat, or give away Bibles to anyone who needs one.  We are a solid, theologically conservative church, placing the message of God’s love to be preeminent while at the same time being willing to change the message in an attempt to reach more.

Though I became a Christian in the midst of the SBC Conservative Resurgence, I am indebted to those pastors and lay leaders who spoke out for the SBC to go back to its values involving Scripture.  I am proud to have attended a Southern Baptist Seminary, spending over nine years to receive a MDiv and a PhD.  I am thrilled for the renewed interest in church planting, seeing so many young men and women sacrifice all for the sake of the gospel in this venue.  When the Great Commission Report was passed by the SBC messengers, I was in support of change.  I saw bureaucracy, bloatedness, and ineffectiveness in some SBC entitites, and I saw the need for the SBC to do some radical things to end the decline within the convention.  I am equally joyful to be in Ohio, who as a frontier state, has done radical things for the gospel in the areas of church planting, outreach, and church strengthening.  This is why I am scratching my head about the proposed changes from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), led by Dr. Ezell.  The changes, mostly in terms of funding and structure, may impact our work adversely in Ohio, an unreached and unserved state.

Truth is, this just doesn’t make sense.  In Ohio, we have seen a sizable percentage of church plants succeed, plants that make up a large number of our total church number and of baptisms.  We have demonstrated a willingness to give and to sacrifice, devoting a significant part of our SCBO budget to church planting.  For example, our most effective ministries also center around reaching the lost in college campuses and community ministries, yet even now it is unknown if these ministries will be funded by NAMB beyond 2012.  Even more, though the Send North America strategy seems to be a wonderful attempt to reach cities in Ohio, details are sketchy and slow in coming.  All of this piled together makes for a confusing and frustrating experience in churches, associations, and the SCBO.

Is this the Great Commission Resurgence we talked about a few short years ago? So far, I think not, because there is little doubt that it has been disruptive. We in Ohio are going to vote on resolutions calling for change within NAMB, and I wholeheartedly support these resolutions that we will discuss.  It is shameful that we must do this, but we must, and I grieve that we have to do this rather than talk about the progress of our vision to reach 1 million people and 2020 churches in Ohio by the year 2020.  However, in the spirit of being constructive, and to show that not everything that NAMB has done has been off base, I am recommending seven changes to NAMB’s methods regarding the state of Ohio to help us reach more souls for Christ:

  1. Continue to emphasis church planting.  Church planting is the lifeblood of our gospel work- if we do not plant churches we will die.  Fund planters and fund our state planting directors- currently, NAMB is proposing to cut this for 2013 (a very strange move indeed).  Put your money where your mouth is. 
  2. Reaffirm commitment to State Conventions. Okay, let’s be honest about this. Dr. Ezell, I love you, brother, but the perception is that you did not had a good track record on State Convention support when you were in Kentucky.  You claim to support state conventions, but the latest cuts in funding while wanting an increase in funding from conventions (a 50/50 split in CP) over a very short period of time communicates otherwise.  You need to reaffirm your commitment to the conventions in a real way, working with executive directors such as our well loved Dr. Kwok, and understand them before seeking to be understood.  Not doing this may mean disastrous consequences for relations with NAMB and for the gospel work.
  3. Open more dialogue with our associations, pastors, and SCBO personnel. One-way communication rarely works in any setting, and in Baptist settings, it doesn’t work at all.  Right now, there is a great deal of mistrust as to the intentions of NAMB toward associational and state convention work.  Having open dialogues with knowledgeable representatives from NAMB will help.  The days of shoulder shrugs and statements of “I don’t know” for most every answer need to be over, and NAMB reps need to be better informed and empowered to give straight answers to difficult questions. 
  4. Respect associational and state autonomy. Associations and state conventions are voluntary, autonomous fellowships of churches.  Rather than forcing the hand of these groups to change through finances and job descriptions, work with member churches to help come up with simple, logical solutions to achieve a common goal: use less money for administration and more for direct gospel work.  For example, in Cincinnati, it could be argued that we have four associations inefficiently overlapping this area, but NAMB and the SCBO can be a catalyst to help make change in this area rather than force the change financially.  
  5. Reach our college campuses. An influx of college aged students in a church has been a huge blessing for us at FBC Mt. Healthy.  Most churches would be more than thrilled to have them.  Without collegiate ministries, we would have little to no presence at college campuses.  If we are serious about the Great Commission and reaching the lost, why would we ignore campuses that often have the population of small cities?  There’s a serious disconnect here.  
  6. Remember the poor. We have a great deal of talk about the gospel, but we are commanded to share verbally and care physically.  Funding the church and community missionaries will help churches be reminded of the need to meet physical needs while sharing the eternal truth of Jesus Christ.  In fact, as a pastor of a ever changing and multicultural church in Cincinnati, we have little to no hope of reaching more people in the cities unless we show them that we care.  
  7. Be clear on Send North America. Most people haven’t heard about it. If they have, they don’t know details.  Why?  Because the concept either hasn’t been fully developed or fully explained.  Tell us what you want to do, and I think we as gospel focused churches will want to partner in it, but we need to have clarity.
NAMB, we are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ.  We share a common bond in our Savior, having been redeemed by His blood.  We are not competitors, adversaries, or estranged relatives- we are part of a close family, meant to reach the lost and make disciples of all people.  Do not confuse my own  intentions- I want, I beg you: cooperate with us in Ohio!  
I know that I am only one pastor, often overlooked by many in the SBC leadership as my church is not large.  I also know that my advise can easily be dismissed.  However, I care too much for souls to be silent.  I fear for our Cooperative Program and our future missions work with this present course of action from NAMB.  As a result, I humbly call on NAMB to consider these changes to work with us in Ohio so we can do the Great Commission together.  We are better together as we obey our Lord’s command!
Your brother in Christ,
Dr. Francis Trascritti
First Baptist Church of Mt Healthy
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