Tag Archives: Christ

“I Am So Angry!”

It seems like everyone is angry about something these days. Just yesterday, I was angry about rising gas prices. Over the past two years, people have been angry about masks (pro and con). In fact, just spend a few minutes on Twitter and you are bound to find someone angry about something, somewhere.

But what happens when anger gets the best of you? God’s Word gives us many examples, but here’s one:

“Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will not enter the land I have given the Israelites, because you both rebelled against my command at the Waters of Meribah. Numbers 20:24 CSB

In this case, Moses and Aaron both participated in the sins at Meribah. First, was the sin of anger, where the two were tired of the complaining and rebellion of the people—the two brothers had enough, and it showed. Second was the sin of disobedience. The two were given specific instructions (speak to the rock) but they also struck—twice. Eventually, both received their due consequences of their sins, missing out on dwelling in the promised land of the covenant.

Today, God speaks to us through His Word, prayer, circumstances, and the church, but primarily through His Word. This is why we should pay attention to what He have us and listen to Him carefully. Even more, we should listen to Him obediently. He warns us against the folly of anger and how destructive it can be for the soul.

Why? Because God calls us to love and obey in love. He has a mission for every believer. In fact, He calls us to both the Great Commandment (loving Him and people) and bearing fruit through the Great Commission (making disciples). His desire is that we both share fruit and bear fruit, seen both through our conduct the fruit of the Spirit (like love, joy, patience, etc.) and our commitment to the ministry of the gospel. Through both, God advances His Kingdom. Through both, God is glorified.

Are you angry? Maybe it’s time to really focus back on His Word and prayer. We all struggle in our walk from time to time, but as you turn to Him, He will give you strength and power to overcome even the things that anger you the most.

Fran

A word on worship…

Just a random thought this morning as I read some scripture passages about worship (Leviticus 5 and Romans 9:30-33):

First, let’s remember that the actions of worship are not about what is perfect but about the One who is perfect. In other words, the sacrifices mean nothing if the faith isn’t there. We can do everything right technically, but still miss out completely on a worship that is rich in spirit and truth.

This impacts us today. The worship in the New Testament church should be more about purpose than the pursuit of the perfect. The music might be dated, or loud, or off beat, or the preaching might go long, or the reader might stumble on a word or two, but none of that matters. What does matter is the audience, the true audience, the audience of One. The focus of all worship is to be on God Himself and the declaration that He is sovereign and His people trust in Him by faith.

My prayer this morning: God, do not let me stray in my focus on You, whether in my personal, private time of worship or in a corporate setting. Focus me on You. Keep me set on the beauty and the sacrifice of Christ, His resurrection, His return one day, all for His glory. Amen.

The Day Between the Days

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body.”
Mark 15:43

It was a toiling day and a grueling night. The Savior had died, confirmed by the Roman centurion. Jesus’ followers, distraught and scattered, had no plan, no focus, no unity, and little hope.

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Yet one unlikely man would be bold enough to lead out. Joseph of Arimathea, a man who Mark called “a prominent member of the Sanhedrin,” courageously asked for the body of Jesus for His burial. Pilate granted his request.

The place where Jesus was buried, a tomb cut in a rock, had never been used before. The clothing, linen freshly bought and carefully wrapped around Jesus, was His attire. Roman soldiers sealed the entrance and then guarded it against intruders. There was no doubt that Jesus was dead and there in the tomb He was buried.

This was the day between the days. It was a day of silence, a day of waiting between the first and the third days. For the disciples, it was likely the longest day of their lives as they waited and wondered about what was to come next in their lives. But God was still in control, His power ready to be miraculously displayed the next day. As we now know, the best was yet to come!

Dad, here’s your legacy…

Years ago, my dad had a deeply life changing experience. He was at a small church in a new community that he had just moved to. There to see my sister get baptized, he heard the gospel, responded to the invitation, and received Christ. He was baptized that same day, along with my mom and sister.

I thought he was crazy. I knew it wouldn’t last. I figured he’d be back at his usual routine, shopping the flea markets on Sundays. I was wrong. Dad loved Jesus, and Jesus was clearly his center point of his life for the rest of his life. He was being changed daily before my eyes.

As time went on, the prayers and the faithful witness from my mom and him had an effect on my wife and me. Though I had learned religious things as a child, still, I knew of Jesus but didn’t know Jesus. Teresa received Christ before me, but I was so hardened and stubborn, I just could not see how Jesus wanted a relationship with me, not for me to merely change my religious traditions. Again, I was wrong.

God got a hold of me at that same small church in that new community in Central Florida. The gospel spoke to me and I was forever changed. My wife and I were babes in Christ, and over time, God grew us. Long story short, our entire family was changed, forever changed because of the gospel. And yes, though we’re not perfect by any means and flawed in every way, we see that we are loved by the Creator and forgiven through His Son. My kids know this and I pray that my grandkids see this as well.

Dad, this is your legacy. Your first faith steps to respond to the gospel change this. You showed me and other men that when a man follows Jesus, his family sees his example and can be changed as well. We’re not perfect, we’re flawed, yet we show them that we’re loved by the Creator and forgiven by His Son.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven, dad. You are missed but your legacy of faith in Christ lives on.

Fran

What God Loves…

I’ve been in ministry for over 23 years now, and I can say that I have never been more encouraged to see God’s work than ever before. I have seen first hand several churches explode in worship attendance, in their disciple-making, and in ministry to the world around them. And there is a clear pattern: regardless of style, flavor, or culture, the churches which have a high view of the Word, challenge one another to holiness, and focus on discipling others in the Word are the ones that are healthy, stable, and growing. It’s amazing that I see very few exceptions to this rule. Yet these thriving churches exist all around as the light of Christ to the Midwest. This is so encouraging because it is clearly what God loves!

Of course, I also see the opposite, and yes, when I see this, I do grieve. Obviously, God doesn’t want unhealthy and declining churches. And unfortunately, just like I see a pattern in healthy, growing churches, I also see a pattern for unhealthy ones. In these churches, there are misguided people who focus not on the Word but on procedures, legalism, and even politicking. They place unceasing attention to the crisis of the day. They draw attention to the negatives and create divisions. They stir up trouble in the shadows of the hallways. And disciple making is reduced to an afterthought. The Gospel is secondary. The Word becomes a manipulative tool to attack others versus a revelation from God to live by.

And as we see in this text from Proverbs, God despises this practice:

“The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16‭-‬19 CSB

These are tough words,yet this is a truth we need to be sober about: God doesn’t want discord or strife from within. He doesn’t want His Bride disgraced, destroyed, and disgusted. He doesn’t want the Family of God to be distracted, from the Great Commission and the work of making disciples. He doesn’t want hateful strife and stressful hate. He wants none of that. For those in the church that practice this, it’s kind of hard to differentiate them from those outside the church. And this certainly grieves God the Holy Spirit as it should grieve His godly saints. And if it isn’t grieving you right now, then, well then that’s just messed up. Sorry, but that’s true.

The good news is that there’s always a better way, a much better way. That way is a way of grace, truth, and love. Since the Bride of Christ is not to be a place that is focused on power, a focus should be on Christ, because, after all, power should be completely in the hands of the Lord who we worship.

And we as members of one another should do what is opposite of our fleshly inclination: a practice of full and complete submission in love. This means to follow the biblical pattern to lift up one another, to love one another, to believe the best in one another, and to build up one another. That is a way of grace. That is the way of Christ.

Want to see others come to Christ, grow in Christ, serve Christ, and share Christ in a way like never before? Then repent, get out of His way, submit to His leading, live for Him and help others to do the same as an act of worship. Love, and love some more. And then love again. Yes, even those who are hard to love. No ands, ifs, or buts.

Because that, my friend, is what God loves.

Fran

Pastor, Are You Chasing the Wind?

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…” Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV

I get to travel quite a bit to talk with church leaders across the Upper Midwest. I’ve spent time in all sizes of churches, from the smallest of urban or rural churches to the upscale megachurch with multiple sites and services. Although there’s been some great research done on growing churches, I can tell you for my own observation that there’s a difference between leaders who are growing on a foundation of Christ and those who are just “chasing the wind” through their own efforts. In fact, I have seen a few commonalities in healthy, growing churches regardless of the context or size. Let me give you a quick list with no order of importance:
  1. A commitment to expository preaching. I’ve seen some really good expository preaching in which the pastor will take a passage and allow the structure of the passage to be the basis of the message. He takes time to explain the passage and the context, both at the time that it was written and the application for today. This is sorely needed in our culture today.
  2. A clear path for discipleship. I am amazed at how many church leaders have no real idea on how to disciple believers on an ongoing, systematic basis. The healthy churches that I have seen know exactly how to take a new believer in Christ through a process of growth to become more like Jesus. Find a process and work it.
  3. An authentic love. One of my favorite pastors does not buy into the CEO mentality as he ministers to his congregation. He spends time with his people, he fervently prays for them, and he also takes time to study so that he can pour into them in his pulpit ministry. He has boundaries, but his people know that he loves them. By the way, he ministers to about 1,500 people in his congregation each week.
  4. A priority on missions and evangelism. Church members focused on going and telling usually don’t major on the minors in the inner workings of the church. They know that their leaders are Godly, praying, loving men of the word and they trust them. They are much less likely to micromanage day-to-day affairs in the church. They also see their leaders right next to them as they do some of the grunt work, as they go out on mission trips and as they share the gospel.

That’s what I’ve noticed. Note that I never talked about hype, worship style, or any “cool factors” related to ministry. That’s because these are secondary issues that usually don’t matter over the long run. In other words, I’ve seen healthy, growing traditional churches in the middle of a cornfield as well as healthy, growing, super contemporary, polished churches in a suburb. The point is that the church will change the method but not at a price.

And this brings me to the possibly convicting news. I’ve noticed plenty of unhealthy disasters where the leadership has tried to “chase the hype,” even going as far as compromising the message (intentionally or not) in order to somehow try to stay relevant with the culture. This includes turning to shallow material that a member can pop into their living room like a Netflix movie and call it discipleship. Or making major cultural changes in the church arbitrarily and without communication. Or discarding the basic foundations of teaching for children and replacing it with moralistic, hypercool content with a verse of scripture slapped on it) that focuses on fun instead of the Gospel. Fun is, well, fun, but let’s not abandon the treasure of the Gospel just to entertain people.

My message to you: stop chasing the hype. You’re not going to grow disciples by trying to be cool. Look at what you’re doing and allowing to be taught by word and by deed. Spiritual growth is a slow, steady, ongoing and patient process, so take your time with others just as God worked in you to make you more like Jesus. Yes, you can have content to help you in the process of growing disciples while still being relevant to the culture of your community. Yes, you can do some awesome and creative things outside of the box to reach people where they are. But don’t forget the fundamentals, okay? Remember, when the leadership is focused on the word, discipleship, love, and missions, God will use His Spirit to produce a great deal of fruit.

Otherwise, you’re chasing after the wind.

Fran

Your Struggle Is Worth It

Are you having a tough time as of late? Join the club! Scripture is pretty clear that we have to struggle in life. And it doesn’t help when someone says something like, “Oh, God is trying to teach you something!” It’s almost like, “God, please teach me less then!” I get it, life can hurt and hurt a whole lot on this side of glory.

But let’s look at the benefits of the struggle. Like a butterfly flapping rapidly to pump blood into its new but shriveled wings once it exits the cocoon, growth can be tough, tiring, and even terrifying. Yet good things can come of it! Even more, when we are in God’s Word and applying God’s Word to our lives, allaof a sudden, our struggles make a bit more sense. It’s a process that God the Holy Spirit uses: We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Here’s another example, the growth of Moses through the time line of the Scripture: Moses was a bumbling, stumbling fool, given to impulsiveness and stupidity which affected him for years. He killed a man and was forced to leave Egypt. He saw a burning bush and went up to see it (and was this a good idea?). When God first gave him the command to save His people, Moses balked and made excuses. But as he matured in the Lord, he went from being a man of “slow lips” (and needing Aaron to speak) to becoming a man who would speak out to Israel with his own God-empowered lips. It was a slow, steady growth in his discipleship, so much that when Aaron performed his own acts of stupidity, Moses was able to rebuke him, too.

And he was humble, so much that he was called the most humble man that ever was. This Moses, this proud, impulsive, even possibly arrogant Moses, became a man that God could use, a man who loved God’s people and rescued them from their enslavement. He struggled, yet God took him through it and did incredible things that glorified God and prepared the way for the Promised Land.

How about you? Are you struggling? I know it’s hard to hear, but God really might be teaching you something. He wants you to be wise in Him, to glorify His Son, and to serve Him to make His name known to all the earth. Get in His Word, worship Him in a community of believers, and let God work His will in you. ☺️

We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Fran

5 Principles to Follow Before You Overhaul Your Children’s Ministry 

Throughout my years of ministry on a church staff and as a senior pastor, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing young children come to faith in Christ and grow up as amazing, godly, adults. 

Years ago, I took on a task of developing a children’s ministry in a suburban church. There was great potential, but the children’s ministry at the time was not meeting the needs of the families. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can now see its fruit. What were once children in our church are now moms and missionaries, husbands and ministers, teachers who are passionate for their world and the people in it. The gospel, alive in this ministry then, in still alive in their hearts now. It’s just so encouraging to recall!

Above all, what I learned from this experience and more has been very, very valuable. Some of the principles below might not be needed, but in case your children’s ministry needs an overhaul, here are some of a few principles for you:

  1. The Gospel comes first. There is no compromise on the need for the gospel in any ministry, but in both children’s and youth ministries, there is often a temptation to focus on the fun. Fun is, well, fun, but don’t miss why you’re there in the first place: to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
  2. The parents are the teachers. Deut 6 and Eph 6:4 are both very clear passages as to the role of the parents. Church leaders need to remember that their role is to help the parents fulfill that role, not take over for them. In other words, when planning on teaching children, don’t forget that parents need instruction as well. 
  3. Train your leaders. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a task to do and feeling completely inadequate for it. Leaders need training, and a leader who refuses to be trained is probably not a leader you should have on your team. Blunt words, but true. Plan on supplying plenty of training and encouragement for your leaders in all areas of the ministry. 
  4. Bring joy wherever you go. Ministry is challenging but it needs to be fun. Do a heart check and make sure that you are truly enjoying the ministry. A joyful heart will be contagious to others, so be willing to have fun with the families and celebrate life and the Lord with them!  
  5. Find good partners in ministry. There are tons of resources, curricula, and experts that would love to help you with your ministry. I am excited to be a church partner for LifeWay because I get to go into churches and help them reach more people than ever before. No leader should ever feel alone, because God has plenty of workers for His harvest. Get help, and be happy that God gave you these resources! 

There you have it. Many of the principles can be applied across to other ministries, but all of them should be considered before getting into the structure of a ministry. Hope these principles helped you as they have helped me. 

In Christ, 

Pastor Fran 

A Devotion: What to Do…

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:15, 19

adam-and-eve-798376_960_720No one is immune from the peril of sin. Satan, that father of lies, the thief who came to kill and destroy, continues to attack every human being. Ever since the temptation and Fall in the Garden, the addiction to sin has continued, and all humanity has been held captive by the evil one. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Rom 3:23), all have been led astray (Isaiah 53:6), all have walked in this transgression and sin in rebellion against God (Eph 2:1-3). The wickedness of sin wages war in the soul to rebel against the Creator God. Just like in Paul’s example here, we desire to do the right things yet we do the opposite. How horrific and cruel sin has been!

But praise God for His grace! Praise God for His mercy! Praise God for His salvation! The forces of Hell have already been defeated by the King of kings and Lord of lords. This freedom from sin, born through the cross, has transformed the victim into the victor, the rebel into the redeemed, and the lost into the liberated!

Fellow sinner, take heart: if you are in Christ, you are no longer condemned. This is why Paul just a few verses later wrote the ultimate truth of our condition in Romans 8:1, “there is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Be comforted: the Bible is full of promises that the Holy Spirit will protect, guide, and even open a way out of the temptations that come. You don’t need to surrender to the temptation. Instead, His grace is sufficient, so rely on His strength, look to His Spirit, and live for His glory!

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