Tag Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Want to be Close to God?

Let me start by saying that we have rebellious hearts that make closeness with the Creator of the Universe just flat out hard to do. Oh sure, I know that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, that we’re not coming to the Father except through the Son. Our prayers mean nothing until we know Him. I get that, and if you don’t know Christ in a personal relationship, you need to.

The closeness I am wanting to discuss is the way that a Christian interacts with the Father on a constant basis. I mean, is your intimacy with God a consistent, growing walk, or is it at an arms length, cold almost as, say a Facebook friend or work acquaintance? God did not intend for you to say “yes” to Him yet wave at Him from afar. To use some biblical metaphors, God wants the seedling faith He gave you to grow to be a tree planted by the water, with roots deep in the ground and fruit being produced.

And this happens through an intentional, intimate relationship with Him. So how? How can this be done?

To start, get close to Him through His Word and prayer. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, you can stop what you are doing (like reading this) and take a moment and pray. It’s okay, this blog post will still be here. ūüôā

Let me also mention this: Prayer is to be based on the Truth, the knowledge of Christ. We cannot have intimacy with the Father if we are not in His Word. Our prayers would be based on ignorant ramblings of a sinful, fallen heart rather than focused petitions of the Spirit. Therefore, start reading the Bible. Again, nothing fancy- read a Psalm a day as a start, then work up to a chapter or two of a gospel, or a reading plan available online. Start small, work to more intake and prayer.

Let me encourage you: Know Him, love Him, talk to Him, and interact with Him. Fruit will come of that. Your mind, heart, and spirit will be changed in Him daily and the wisdom of God will convict and change you. I am with Paul in the encouragement that you are strengthened in Him:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČ to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČto him be the glory forever! Amen. Rom 16:25‚Ä≠-‚Ĩ27 CSB

Even not knowing who would read this, I prayed for you before I posted this. My prayer was simply that you will be closer to God today than you were yesterday. Let’s start there and see what He can do. To God be the glory!

Fran

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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‚Ä≠-‚Ĩ19 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

The God of the Possible

The fruit and potential of the land was amazing:

When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut there.” Numbers 13:23‚Ä≠-‚Ĩ24 CSB

Now think about it: The vine of grapes was so big, two men had to carry it! The land was beautiful, rich, and flowing. The Lord had promised it, and He came through big! All they had to do was follow God and do His will. No enemy, no inhabitant would stop God’s will for His people. They simply had to take a step. A step of faith.

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But they didn’t. They forgot the God of the possible, and instead created a god of the impossible. They ignored His miraculous work of the past and looked at the obstacles before them. But seeking to save themselves, they lost it all. They made a horrible, deadly choice and in a business meeting, individual by individual voted a resounding, faithless “no.”

Their “no” would change some of them forever. All if that generation would never see the promises of God fulfilled. Death would follow them when they could have had life and loss abounded when they could have seen gain. Most of all, the chance for God to be glorified by all Israel would be delayed for 40 years.

Have you been voting “no” to God’s work in your life? Has God challenged you to step out in faith? A year ago, I did something that made no sense to people (still doesn’t) and God has amazed me as I have seen Him working in many places I visit. He gets the glory!

And so, let me encourage you to do the same, to walk by faith, to fear nothing, to step out…and let God get the glory!

Fran

If you are critical of your pastor…

Before I begin, let me warn you that this is going to be a very blunt post. Let me also say that I have had a HUGE amount of support over the years and I am not reacting to how I may or may not have been treated.

That said, I now have something to confess: I am burdened over the habitual practice of beating up on a pastor by some church members with a critical spirit. While I don’t want to get into whether or not such people are actual believers, I have seen too many pastors hurt way too much by too many dragons who call themselves Christians. Brothers and sisters, this must not be so.

Let me be even more blunt: when a pastor is simply trying to fulfill his call to share Christ, it is shameful that such “comfort seekers” will dare pounce on him or gossip about his character. Sadly, I’ve seen pastors fired, forced out, or stressed out, all because a small minority of church bullies thought they knew better. They saw new changes as a threat to “their church” and they wanted control back. Such horrific conduct is a tool of Satan and it hinders our mission of the gospel. There. I said it.

Please know my burden is out of concern for some good, faithful men of God. There is nothing more discouraging for a pastor to fight a battle both inside and outside the church. Scripture is very clear that grumbling and “mob rule” leads to nothing but wickedness within the Body. In fact, it often resulted in death, destruction, and discipline from the Lord. Hebrews 13:17 is very clear on this: do the opposite and submit to your leaders.

Are you burdened about this too? Good! Here’s what you can do about it:

  1. Repent. If you have been critical in any way or worshiped with a critical spirit, stop it. God is not honored by your thoughts or conduct. Repent of your conduct and remove this ugliness from your life and heart.
  2. Return. Return to the gospel and become a person of grace. Be gracious to your pastor, believe the best about him, and be a positive example of the grace God has given you. Paul gives us plenty of these sort of imperatives in Eph 4:25-32.
  3. Resolve. Resolve to support your pastor. Love him and be an encouragement to him in public and in private. I have been blessed to have had encouragers throughout my pastoral ministries, and this meant a whole lot during the tough times. Even more, serve next to him and resolve to place the gospel first in all things.
  4. Pray. There’s no greater love you can ever show your pastor than to ask how you can pray for him, then do it. I had a young sister in Christ who would constantly ask how she can pray for me, and I can tell you that this always left me speechless when she asked. Love him by praying for him, and let him know that you are doing so.
  5. Respond. Respond to his leadership by following him wholeheartedly. Serve the Lord fully and unselfishly. After all, if your pastor is a faithful man of the Word, then let him lead and get into the trenches with him. Biblically, there’s no other course of action.

Since I am now in a ministry position that is an extension of the local church, these principles are especially true for me as a church member. In fact, I can’t wait for when the Spirit leads Teresa and me to find and join a local church. That’s because I want to be the type of member in my church that I always wanted to have. Praying for you as you love on your pastor!

In Him,

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‚Ķ.¬†19¬†For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do‚ÄĒthis 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, ‚Äúthere is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.‚ÄĚ 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

Devotion: Overcoming the Elijah Moments

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. ‚Äď 1Kings 19:3

Risky question, but ever have one of those ‚ÄúElijah moments?‚ÄĚ

Been discouraged, irritated, upset, even feel like quitting? Of course, as we read the text, Elijah‚Äôs solution¬†was not the answer, yet many of us can sympathize with Elijah‚Äôs feeling of anguish. Unable to see God beyond the threats of a wicked woman and enduring great battle stress, this prophet wanted to find a way out, any way out, and desperately pleaded with God to take him then and there. 1 Kings 19:4 says, ‚ÄúI have had enough, LORD,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúTake my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.‚ÄĚ

What was God’s response? There, as Elijah fell asleep in his anguish and self-pity, while he slept soundly as he was emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained, he felt the touch of God. The touch from an angel would cause him to rise, to eat, and have enough divine strength to travel for forty days to Mt. Sinai to seek the Lord further.

It was eventually in a cave that the person¬†of God met with the man of God. Speaking to him in a whisper, Elijah complained earnestly and passionately about his zealousness, his faithfulness, and also his problems. He essentially said to God, ‚ÄúI have served you and I‚Äôm the only one left among a godless group, and I feel so alone here!‚ÄĚ

My friend, God never leaves His people alone. He will never leave you. He who has called you will perfect you until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6). When you feel alone and discouraged, maybe it’s time not for an Elijah moment, but for some God moments. Let the touch of the Father strengthen you- seek His face in prayer and scriptural meditation. Stop looking around and look to the Lord who has called you. Stop wasting your time loathing about your circumstances and allow God to work out all things for His glory. Stop trying to work out the minute details and let God get you back on track.

The life of a Christian is never an easy one, but with the comfort, strength, and beauty of the love of God, this too shall pass. Be encouraged.

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #2- Read God’s Word devotionally

When I was in seminary, I often heard the mantra, “Don‚Äôt just read the Bible for the purpose of studying, but instead, read it devotionally.” These words, which were seemingly repeated class after class, stuck into my heart and brain.¬†Can’t say I followed this advice every day, because there have been times when I would inadvertently turn my devotion time into a study time- only to later realize¬†what I had done!

That said, it is vital that a Christian take in the Word of God to speak to his or her heart. Pastors even more so. Reading the Word of God cuts through all the white noise that is around in the world today- the noise of pop culture, the noise of sinful pride, the noise of busyness, even the noise of ministry. When you read the Word devotionally, it is just God, His Word, and you. Devotional ReadingGod is speaking to you through words that flowed from His Spirit, living and active (Heb 4:12), cutting into your heart (Acts 2:37), piercing through your hard shell of your ego (Ps 11:4-5), and refining you as silver is refined in fire (Ps 66:10).

Time with God in the Word is time well spent. While schedules, appointments, meetings, and blocked off time for studying will always be on the calendar, setting aside time each day (even multiple times each day) will help a Christian go through the demands of life and ministry.

There are many examples of great preachers who were devoted to the Word of God. One example is John Wesley, the great preacher and theologian of the 18th century and founder of Methodism, who was certainly no stranger to busyness. In his Preface to Standard Sermons, Wesley wrote this wonderful statement concerning his dedication to the Word of God:

I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing,‚ÄĒthe way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights:‚ÄĒ‚ÄúLord, is it not Thy word, ‚Äėif any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God?‚Äô Thou givest liberally, and upbraidest not. Thou hast said, ‚Äėif any be willing to do Thy will, he shall know.‚Äô I am willing to do, let me know Thy will.

May it be an example to us all as we read God’s Word with hearts ready to be in tune with¬†God and His Spirit. Set aside time to read, take it in, and let God speak to your heart as¬†you seek to¬†do His will.

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do to Stay Healthy and Effective

fran and teresaI have been in ministry for twenty plus years (yikes!), either serving on staff or as a senior pastor, and I will admit that through this journey, I have blown it many times. However, I am thrilled that God has given me grace over the years. One of my main struggles has been to manage myself and to avoid burnout. Boy, have I learned! That said, I thought that I would put together a top ten list of things a pastor should and could do to stay healthy and effective, listed in no particular order. I hope it helps:

  1. Pray fervently– never underestimate the need to pray and the power of prayer.
  2. Read God’s Word devotionally– don’t just read for studying purposes, read to take in the Word of God to speak to your heart.
  3. Take one or two days off a week, and be sure to take vacations. And don’t apologize for it, you need time away.
  4. Set healthy boundaries. Cell phones should go off at a certain time. Email and texts can wait. Your kids and spouse should not see your face in front of an electronic device more than they see your face in front of them.
  5. Exercise three times a week, at least. It keeps you in shape and lowers stress.
  6. Eat healthy. Fast food meals catch up to you fast.
  7. Get in a Bible study in which you are not the teacher. You need to learn and grow from a small group, too. I go to a community men’s study and go out of my way to be “one of the guys.”
  8. Date. I mean your spouse. Do it monthly.
  9. Go to special events. If you have kids or grandkids, go to their games, plays, etc. And don’t go as a pastor and talk to others- focus on them as a parent or grandparent.
  10. Have an accountability partner. Find another pastor, preferably outside of your denomination. I have had men in my past who I had as confidants, and it was so rich- and by the way, we never spoke about the nonessentials of theology.

I will be commenting over the next few weeks on each point, but in the meantime,¬†I’d love to hear your comments on all of this, and if you think that there are other things I didn’t write about…

Thoughts?

Fran

Putting on the Full Armor of God

Eph 6:18 (NASB), “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”

This week has honestly been one of the hardest weeks of my life. Without getting into the details, my wife and I have been shedding tears in praying for a solution to a crisis. We ceased to eat at times, cried spontaneously at others, dreamed dreams about it, got angry, got numb, even tried to put it out of our minds, and nothing has seemed to work. It feels like our life has completely changed since last weekend, and in many ways, it has felt like a death has occurred in our family.

Yet, in God’s great love and provision, He has given us a gift: a wonderful church family. Last night, my church gathered to pray for me, my wife and our family. I began the night by saying that this was not about me, but it was all about Christ and His Kingdom, and my wife and I felt like we should pray for other families as well. However, my church recognized the trials that we were undergoing were spiritual trials, and that the enemy is the source of this¬†spiritual warfare. Satan and his demons¬†will attack God’s people with fiery darts wherever he can, and the collateral damage that we have been¬†feeling in this crisis is only a taste of how evil the devil is. Satan, after all, seeks to kill and destroy (John 10:10a).

Yet, God is greater!¬†What we experienced last night was one of the most amazing, incredible outpourings of love that we have ever felt from a church. For an hour and a half, we had person after person laying hands on us, praying for us, crying for us, and interceding for us. In the middle of a¬†month in which many churches celebrate “Pastor Appreciation Month,” there was no greater way that I have felt appreciated than last night. We experienced love in action by our church family, our blessed family, forever bonded to us by the blood of Jesus!

We feel that we have fully put on the full armor of God and are ready for battle against Satan and his minions. If God is for us, who can be against us? The gates of Hell cannot and will not prevail, and the trials of today will only mean more glory for God tomorrow. I pray that this lesson that I learned from my church will apply to you: be honest about your battles with one another, care for one another, and most of all, love one another with a fervent heart. And know this: whatever your trial, God is always going to provide His Word, His way, His people, but most of all (and without fail), His presence.

Be blessed,

Pastor Fran

A Prowling Lion…

Satan knows how to get at us. He watches, studies, plans, and tempts each believer in every way, looking for a way to make each of us ineffective and destroy our testimony. When one thing doesn’t work, he tries something else. He uses the fallen world, the lost soul, even his demons and minions to take an already fallen human and spiritually ground them into powder.¬†

If you try to fight Satan with your own wisdom, power, and will, you don’t stand a chance. The only way to fight a spiritual battle is with a spiritual armor, a spiritual shield, a spiritual sword. And it begins with your faith in Jesus Christ. If your faith is in Jesus, your status before God has changed: you are His. He indwells in you. He guides you. He prays for you even when you don’t realize it.¬†

Your battle is not your own, it is the Lord’s battle. Be encouraged: even when you are knocked down, you are never out. The God that is in you will complete the work until the day of Christ’s return. Stand firm against the attacks of the devil, and as you do, it will result in praise and glory due His name!