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

 

Some Truth For Our Pastors

I have just finished a little over a nine-year pastorate at a church that I have absolutely Worshiploved. Leaving on the best of terms, I feel good about the future for this church and her work of the gospel. One thing I do want to say about pastoring is that it is hard work, and a pastor who serves is serving a very difficult and challenging calling. As a result, I will always appreciate the local church pastor. That said, whatever your role in the church, here’s a few truths that I want to share with our pastors but that I think that everyone should hear.

Pastor, remember this:

  • You are a minister of the Word. It’s very easy to get tied down with administrative tasks and pastoral care duties, but you are called primarily as a minister of the Word. This means you are called to teach, train, rebuke, counsel, and preach the Word. The ministry of exhortation cannot be second place. Sure, there’ll be critics who want a pastor to be a glorified chaplain, but this can weaken the church in the long run. Pastors who minister faithfully through the Word of God can see a more mature, healthy, missions-focused church.
  • You are to love people. I once had a pastor say over and over again, “if you can do people, you can’t do ministry.” He was the best “people person” I have ever known, and he is now in his 26th year at the same church. Loving people takes on many forms, but this does include spending time with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that primary focus on the Word should suffer, but you do need to see church members regularly. Whether it’s counseling, home visits, office visits, lunch, or any of the above, enjoy time with your church family. You won’t regret it.
  • You are loved. God loves the pastor and called him to minister in a unique setting and time. It’s tough and lonely work at times! However, remember that when Elijah was at his lowest point, he felt alone and helpless, but God reminded him otherwise with ministering spirits. Ministry can be lonely, but you need to be reminded that God uses a variety of ways (including his church) to show you how deeply, sincerely you are loved.
  • You should remember the weak. There are many people to love on and minister to on a daily basis, but those who are already mature don’t always need your full attention. However, the baby Christians need your attention more, and as a lead discipler in your church, you are responsible for them whether this is delegated or not. Sure, their lives might be messy, but be patient with them, love them, and help them to walk a deeper walk in Christ.
  • You need to develop leaders. You may have one, ten or a hundred leaders, but you are all part of the same team. Make sure that your followers are sitting on the right seats on the ministry bus, and then commit to the task of equipping and empowering them. You can’t overcommunicate your vision, and you can’t underestimate their willingness to be challenged. Be there for them when they struggle and when they succeed. After all, you are in this together.

Obviously, this is not a complete list and maybe I can add to it much later. However, I hope that this is encouraging and helpful. Let’s all pray for our pastors, as they lead the church!

Fran

Your King Awaits…

Romans 16:20 (NASB95), “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

Ever since the curse was pronounced by God to those awaiting his sentence in the Garden, all eternity was waiting for the time when the head of the serpent was to be crushed by the seed of the woman. Decades of waiting turned to hundreds of years, hundreds turned to thousands, and soon man’s hope in the great battle to come would fade away in favor of the many worldly pleasures offered instead. Sin had run its course.

God’s people would even miss the point of the Exodus and the Law that was given. No one would be righteous to stand, no, not one, and it was clear that all were transgressors of the Ten Commandments and all the rest of the commands. Isaiah would proclaim “woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,” and Jeremiah would preach with tears in his eyes as he saw the lostness around him. Yet no one listened, no one seemed to care, and the arrival of the Great snake crusher finally came, but without the fanfare afforded a King.

Jesus came to give us life. Your salvation was purchased by a snake crushing, cross bearing, nail wearing, man of all men. His gracious offer to you came with a price. Our debt was paid on the cross in full, where this sinless, God-man Savior died for our sins, and not for our sins only, but that of the whole world (1 Jn 2:2). His disciples were chosen to share with everyone and anyone. His Commission was for the church to do the same. What Christ has started in His all-out assault on the forces of evil, His Bride is to continue until He returns. As you are going, make disciples of all men.

Go crush that snake with an all-out gospel-powered assault on the gates of Hell. Your King awaits.

5 Ways to Seek God’s Wisdom

Over the 22+ years of ministry, I have had many opportunities to minister to people while they’ve gone through various issues and difficulties of life. I’ve had people ask me for spiritual, marital, parental, and even financial advice (yikes!), and in every case, I have taken them to seek a bigger picture from God through His Word. You see, it doesn’t matter what I or any other person thinks, but what truly matters is what God thinks.

But how do you know what God thinks? Here are a few ways to seek God’s Wisdom by running to His Word:

  1. Read His Word. Daily. Take part of your day to read through the Bible. I read through it at least once per year, trying for more than once this year. Wisdom doesn’t come in spurts- it comes from a daily, regular commitment to being in His Word.
  2. Study his Word. Frequently. Like gold in a deep mine, so is the wisdom of God for those who take the time to truly seek and study it. Get into a study with other believers who take the truths of God seriously.
  3. Apply His Word. Uncomfortably. Don’t fall into the “check-box” mindset for your time in the Word. Everything you read and study needs to be focused on a life application, even though it may be uncomfortable for you at the present time.
  4. Pray His Word. Fervently. Check out Dr. Don Whitney’s post on praying through the Bible and do it. You won’t regret this.
  5. Share His Word. Generously. Be sure to be a part of making disciples by sharing the love of Christ with others. It can mean giving away pocket New Testaments, sharing the gospel in a personal witnessing opportunity, or even offering an in-home Bible study. The point is that you have a terrific chance to change lives with the power of the Word of God.

These are some thoughts. Do you have anything else to add?

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

Seven Seconds

I played a recording of my dad today on my phone, an old voicemail that I have saved all this time. Even six years after he made it, I’ve kept it. It’s only seven seconds long, but to hear his voice, even for that short bit, well, it’s soothing and encouraging on occasions like seconds-droste-clock-time-minutes-hours-spiral-1752164today. Today would have been his 76th birthday and on some days (like today), I miss him more than others. He was my father, yes, but as we got older, he became my counselor, my friend, and especially my hero.

My dad was a hero when this former tough guy walked forward down the aisle one day in his church to receive Christ, got baptized immediately, and then served the Lord the rest of his life without ever looking back. He was a hero when, with tears of joy in his eyes, he walked my sister down that same church aisle to be joined to her groom. He was a hero when he preached only twice, and both times doing a horrible, awful exegesis but gave a message that was forever memorable because of his uncontrollable sobbing out of gratitude towards his Savior. He was a hero when he sang a solo with all his heart the simple words to “It is Well With My Soul.” And he remains a hero in my last memory of him sitting in his wheelchair scooter waving goodbye as I looked through my rearview mirror as I left in my rental car to the airport.

What’s amazing is how precious that seven-second recording is to me. A couple of times a year, I play that voicemail recording, a simple “hey Fran, this is your dad, call me when you can, bye-bye.” Over and over again, I play it just to hear his voice, his familiar intonation that reminds me of the many conversations we had from a distance. It’s that same soothing voice that had reminded me through the years of his favorite Scripture verses of Philippians 4:8 and Isaiah 40:31, words of wisdom when I saw how tough life could be. It’s that voice I miss.

Seven seconds is all I have, but I praise God that I even have that. Even more, I praise God that in the big picture, seven seconds is nothing compared to the eternity that he is spending with his Savior right now, an eternity that I will one day enjoy with him as well. After all, seven seconds is nothing compared to the eternity of God’s glory, because it will be well with our souls.

Happy Birthday, dad. I love you and miss you.

Your son,

Fran

A Bullish Sacrifice

Have you ever heard the expression, “like a bull in a china shop” before? The expression brings to my mind the image of a person recklessly breaking precious dishes and cups as he or she rushes through the store to get to wherever he or she is going. This expression is almost always used in a very negative sense, of course, but I think that there are times when the person who is the “bull” has no clue that others are hurt. In other words, the sins of a bull can be unintentional.

This image makes me think of a bull in a slightly different way. In the Old Testament, when an unintentional sin by either the priest or the people was committed, repentance and restitution needed to be made. The Law of Moses was very specific on how to do this and by whom this sacrificial offering was to be made:

Leviticus 4:2-3, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the LORD a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.”

Of course, we live in the age of the New Covenant, yet there is an application here for God’s church. Our unintentional sin which results in pain might even result in death, and while we don’t sacrifice too many bulls today, perhaps we need to be more aware of that serious damage that our sins might bring to others.

51039207_eb853788fd_bJames 1:19 tells us that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Unfortunately, we have seen quite a bit of the opposite in our nation and social media, yet we as Christ’s church need to be different. This is not the time to be callous or bullish to our traditions, practices, and structure, especially if it gets in the way of our task of reaching people. This is the time to do what our society has not been willing to do: denying ourselves and following Christ in all things. in other words, people should know you less for your political rhetoric and more for your commitment to speaking the words of the gospel.

So we are left with a choice before us: are you a bull, stubbornly charging, creating discord, and making all sorts of noise for no eternal meaning or purpose? Or are you going to be different: humble, caring, and willing to see people as Jesus did? Even more, are you willing to build bridges and even to deny yourself to serve God no matter what it takes? The way of the bull is sinful and leads to death and the way, the greater way, leads to life. Sacrifice your bull and deny yourself. Take up His cross.

Choose love and life. God would have it no other way.

In Him,

Pastor Fran

How It All Fits Together

We all have seen it: when talking about pastors, deacons, and the ministry of the church, there are many applications on a local church level. In my own research on deacon ministry, for example, I found as many varieties of deacon ministries as I did churches!

However, there’s a couple of questions for ministry that should always be asked:

  1. Is it biblical?
  2. When applied, is it sustainable?

Here’s a brief summary of the various duties of church members as seen in Scripture (these references are not an exhaustive list):

  • Ministry of the Pastors– the pastors primarily preach, teach, oversee, and minister to the spiritual needs of the church (1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-16, Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2).
  • Ministry of the Deacons– the deacons primarily care, visit, serve the poor, and ministering to the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7, 1 Tim 3:8-13).
  • Ministry of Teams– the ministry teams primarily reach, teach, fellowship, worship, serve, and pray for the work of the gospel (Eph 4:11-16, Ex 18:17-26).

The model might look a little like this:

god-centered-church

So how does this work together? First, all ministries at First Baptist Church submit to the Scriptures for all guidance and practice. Second, all ministry leaders abide by the decisions of the church, knowing that the church is the Bride of Christ. Third, the support for one another in various ways will assist each another in their ministry functions and gifts. But last, these three areas (pastors, deacons, ministry teams) will help the church as a whole get healthy and be able to attend to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each other and of unbelievers.

Balanced ministry, biblical ministry, led by pastors, served by deacons, ministry in the teams. In a quick summary, this is how we do it.

Pastor Fran

 

Why You Shouldn’t Fear…

It has been interesting to experience the cycle of emotions over the past few months concerning the election and the transition to the new president of the United States, Donald Trump. We have seen a cycle take place over the past several weeks including denial, disbelief, a time of challenges to the results, and finally, of acceptance of the election yet with intense hatred. The hard truth is that we have a President in Donald J. Trump, and though this truth may send chills to a portion of our country, nevertheless, we have this as a reality. Others willingly have welcomed the new president with an excitement for any new changes that he might bring. This doesn’t mean, however, that President Trump isn’t without his flaws. His character shortcomings are many, including his past indiscretions, accusations of racism, and an ongoing display of brashness and immaturity in his many tweets against those who criticize him. Granted, some of the accusations against Trump are overblown, yet there’s no denying his shortcomings. Personally, I criticized candidate Trump long ago on these flaws, much to the chagrin of friends on social media, yet this same criticism was also applied toward Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson, and others.

However, let’s be clear that if you are a Christian, you have two main truths regarding our new president: 1) you are called to the privilege to pray for your leaders and 2) you should never fear your leader.

First, your privilege of prayer for your leader should not be seen as an obligation, but as a pleasure. Romans 13:1 says that “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Related to this is 1 Tim 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…” Our subjection and our prayers go hand in hand, praying for peace, goodness, and the sovereignty of God over all of our affairs. It is understood too, that this is our privilege and our pleasure so that we don’t pray for our leaders with anger, hatred, or even obligation, but with fervent peace in our hearts.

Second, you should never fear him. Those who call themselves Christians should neither have a boastful confidence in a man nor scathing hatred and fear of a man. Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Hebrews 10:31 states that “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We are to fear (or be in awe) to God, not people. We cannot and should not make the mistake that our object of fear is a simple mortal man when there is a powerful spiritual realm well beyond the physical before us.

So feel free to critique the policies, participate in the process, but most of all, pray for him as your God ordained leader. Eye the media with a healthy skepticism, policies with a biblical worldview, and most of all, work for peace in a country which desperately needs it. Do not fear- focus instead on the gospel- and stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people in our great country.

Praying for our leaders,

Pastor Fran

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