Tag Archives: life

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

 

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

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

Hey new gym guy: I’ve Been There (and I still am)

I know you. You made that resolution to exercise and lose weight. Yeah, yeah, you felt guilty about eating that good (but awful) food last week. You got that twinge of guilt for sitting around too much watching movies, football, or whatever else was on and saw the gym membership commercials. I get it: you are tired of the extra pounds and just had to lose it, so you began to workout, started “dieting” and started the New Year with a determination to get on it. Yep, I’ve been there.

My change came from a desire to be healthier for my family, for ministry, for a longer, more productive life. I don’t know how the pounds added up, the moments of denial, the justification that my clothes just “shrunk” or the designers made their clothes run a bit small, but the extra weight kept coming. Eventually, I got tired of being out of breath going up stairs, of not being able to tie my shoes without a struggle, of feeling a lack of energy. I hated it, and I had to do something about it.

A visit a few years ago to my doctor, however, confirmed what I feared. I was, as he put it, a very “unhealthy guy.” My lipid profile reflected what my scale had said and what I already knew deep down inside: something, anything had to be done. Since I had a parent who had a heart attack in his late 40s, it was obvious that I had both the family history and the appearance of a ticking time bomb. I was ripe for my own personal disaster. So, yeah, I’ve been there.

gym-546138_640So what did I do? I eventually changed the foods that I ate to plant-based, exercised regularly, and I scheduled in time for my physical health on my calendar for intense work outs with a supportive friend and trainer. I included my friends, family, and church family in these changes, even being accountable to a few, and constantly sought to make improvements in my health habits. It has been hard work and there’s been a ton of detours and mistakes, but I’ve somehow stayed on track. And for all of that, I am grateful to God for this journey, because I’m no longer taking my health for granted.

Three and a half years later after my start, I’ve lost 20% of my body weight. My blood tests as of today now show that my Cholesterol/HDL Ratio is down 25%, Triglycerides reduced 30%, LDL, down by 20%. In fact, every imaginable test of health shows that I’m much physically healthier inside and out. More work is needed, but I’m getting there.

So, yeah, I’ve been there (and I still am) on the journey. For you, don’t quit. Don’t be tempted to lie to yourself and slow down what you’re about to do. Don’t take your foot off of the gas pedal to healthiness. Do the hard work in the gym and at the food choices you make. And for crying out loud, run from the fad diets, pills, and gimmicks, because nothing will replace consistency and dedication. Most of all, as you make your changes, allow those who love you the most to help encourage you on your journey to wellness.

So, new gym guy, I’m rooting for you- I know that you can do this! After all, I’ve been there (and I still am).

Pastor Fran

 

What Do You Do When You Are Working in a Toxic Working Environment?

Many of us have been there. A boss, co-worker, or even the work conditions are draining, depressing, or even toxic. The employee might be in an environment that does not align with his or her own values. The boss is an equal opportunity “yeller.” Gossip is rampant, nastiness is all around, or a systematic dishonesty exists.

The first temptation for a Christian is to start looking for a new job, and for some, this might be a viable option. There are, after all, poison-1481596_1280employers that align with Christian values or at least has a healthy work environment. Others might be tempted to fall into a sort of a depression, to disengage mentally and give up on the workplace, or to even write it all off and justify your lack of passion about your work. But hear this: before you leave physically or mentally from your work, there are other options to consider.

Here’s the problem: I believe that in a sense, people relate with one another in the way that we should relate to God. In the gospels, Jesus affirmed the Shema (Deut 6:4-6, Mark 12:30) in saying that we should love God with all of our “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and in so doing we are fulfilling the greatest commandment. In the same way, He affirms our need to love our neighbors as ourself. And the truth is that none of us are good at either, which is the crux of the problem. It’s even worse for the person who does not have a relationship with Christ because they are not going to possess a consistently God-centered ethic.

A Christian has a difficult enough time following these commands in a healthy environment, but a boss or coworkers who willingly tramples on these commands for various reasons makes it even harder. This is why when a Christian works for an organization in which the environment is decidedly anti-Christian, tension almost certainly going to develop. Employees and employers that do the opposite of either of the two greatest commands will affect everyone inwardly and outwardly. Moral and ethical dilemmas are bound to appear and godly principles violated. More tension, more conflict for the Christian.

So what does a Christian do? First of all, remember that many Christians have worked in far worse evil conditions over the years than the United States of the 21st century, at least from the perspective of persecution. Christians have endured through the martyrdoms of Ancient Rome, the beatings of the slaveholding South, the insanity of Nazi Germany (see Bonhoeffer), and the persecutions of Christians in various countries today. Yet through these times, Christians continued to hold to those Great Commands- they continued to love God, to work for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23), and remained salt and light to many (Mt 5:13-16). They overcame evil with good, and darkness with light. What’s encouraging is that these are not super Christians but ordinary people, dedicated to Christ and living in the Spirit!

That said, I get it- being salt and light is going to be hard in such an environment. It’s hard enough to do in a healthy environment, but even worse when you are fighting the battle day after day. And yes, if another opportunity exists to be in a better environment, this might be a time to go- if God leads. But Christians are not always called to the “easy,” and the truth is, we are all in a spiritual war, under attack by an enemy who hates us. Besides, this world is not our own, and we as the citizens of heaven are looking to a different Kingdom than the kingdom of man. And since you are in enemy territory, expect to do battle in the Spirit, no matter who your employer is or what your work environment might be like.

So what do you do? Change your mindset and remember your calling as a follower of Christ, carrying out the mission given to you by Jesus. You can change your environment, affecting the lives of others around you who are also caught up in the toxicity in your workplace. But to do that, you need to be ready- to purposely live in the Spirit, to be in the Word, to discipline yourself for godliness, and to humbly love those around you as yourself. Most of all and whatever you do, remember your calling- a calling beyond the immediate, a calling for life and for eternity, a calling to love God and for the glory of God.

Pastor Fran

How God Changes You…

There is no doubt that a true change in Christ happens when a heart is transformed by the work of the Spirit. In fact, change really can’t happen without the work of the gospel in a new believer’s heart. From this life change, a desire for producing spiritual fruit almost immediately comes to a person’s life. This is an exciting time!

But what about the long term changes in maturity that a believer shampoogoes through? How does this sanctifying change happen? Often, people give simple instructions (like on a shampoo bottle) and simply tell new believers to read, study, and pray every morning. Sure, this makes sense, but it’s also easy to just read, study, and pray, and then get on with your day, never to think on what you read. You read, study, and pray, and move on, then wake up the next day, and it’s read, study, pray, and again move on, etc. Just like on a shampoo bottle: wash, rinse, repeat!

But is this what God intends? Of course not! God uses devotionals, bible reading, prayer, and other quiet moments with Him, but He really wants more than what is on the surface. He wants your full attention with Him in order to truly stretch and grow you in Him. Psalm 40:6 says, “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened;” You are not devoting time to God as a ritual, a sacrifice, or even a habit as much as to see God make real change within your heart. He has in mind a greater mission than a daily blank routine, He wants you to be conformed to the image of Christ!

That said, spend time with God in devotion, but make it count. Your time with the Creator is a time for real change, a change which affects everything you do- work, family, home, entertainment, and yes, your internal, private thoughts of your heart. I pray that this encourages you to grow in Him and for His glory!

What devotionals and time do you spend with the Lord?
How has God used this time to change you?

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
    12924477_10206391621089148_7117397408916686577_n
    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