Tag Archives: wisdom

On the phone… Again?

It was really, really convicting. I looked through pictures that my wife had taken of our family gatherings and there I was, phone to my ears, talking away and oblivious to the life that was taking place around me. My family was growing up without me and my phone was becoming my family. Here’s what’s worse: that was 15 years ago, and phone technology has definitely gotten more intrusive!

It’s easy to blur the lines between family and daily tasks, whether it’s ministry or the workplace. However, setting boundaries is a necessity for healthy families and for a healthy life.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says to “Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days.”

This principle applies to life with others in your family and with your friends as well. We know that we are not supposed to necessarily play all day but there is a time to turn off work and to turn on a time for rest and family. So what do you do? How do you set boundaries so that you can enjoy life with those you love the most?

  1. Spend some time in the word and repent of your carelessness with your loved ones. This speaks for itself but be sure to place your priorities where God would have you to place them. Remember, your first calling is always to your spouse and family.
  2. Turn off the phone or put it in another room. You don’t need to be accessible 24/7, and you can always check your phone later. And please, resist the temptation to check your phone!
  3. Realize how fleeting the moments are in life. Your family will grow up quickly. Your children will have children. Your influence on their lives will eventually wane. Take in every moment you can with them and keep in mind that your work or Ministry will exist long after you are gone. In other words put it all in perspective.
  4. Have some deep conversations that are intentional and express how you feel. Since I travel quite a bit now in my ministry, I have made it a priority to call, visit, and spend time with each of my family members. It’s not perfect, but my time is more focused and intentional and I think (hope) that they have seen this effort.

That’s what I have for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you put boundaries and spend more time with your family.

Fran

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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?

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

 

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

But I just want to be happy, right?!?

On a recent episode of a cooking competition show, one of the contestants spoke about how he has recently made a major life choice for his own happiness. He explained that in this quest to be happy, he left his wife, then brought his three children together with his partner’s three children, thus creating what he called the “gay Brady Bunch.” On the same show, another contestant had just lost his wife to cancer, but was urged on by his children to enter the cooking competition in her honor. There were plenty of moments during this episode where tears streamed down his face as he grieved and remembered his wife. Both men were excellent cooks, and both men seemed like genuinely nice guys. Yet I was amazed at the contrast: while one man willingly left his wife, maintaining that he just wanted to “be happy,” the other man, still obviously in grief, probably would have given anything to touch, hold, even speak to his wife one more time.

Our culture is full of people who are happy addicts. People say all the time that they simply they just want to be happy, that they deserve to be happy, and that they should be able to live any way that they want so that they can be happy.  It’s in our Declaration of Independence, it’s been in popular songs by Pharell, Bobby McFerrin, and others, and it’s used in popular commercial slogans- heck, even McDonald’s has a Happy Meal for kids, right? Well, sure. It’s pretty loud and clear that we should and can be happy. After all, just do the right thing or buy the right thing or act a certain way and you too, can be happy.

And so, we have a culture of people who are obsessed with “being happy.” With the attention span of the length of a Tweet, happy addicts are constantly trying to hook onto something new to find a way to get and stay happy. After all, happiness comes and goes, and these things don’t last, so when the feelings of happiness leave (and they always do), these addicts desperately seek another way to be happy. They do things like purchase something new, or find a new boyfriend or girlfriend, or coyly seek attention on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumbler. In other words, they are miserably happy, but never satisfied.

Beyond this, these happy addicts fail to see how harmful their happiness addiction can be. For example, in the case of the contestant who left his wife, I wonder if his wife was happy about his turning her world upside down in the name of “being happy.” Or what about the endless job seeker, working in one place for a short period of time until the honeymoon period disappears, then looks for another job so he or she can be happy- doesn’t this harm the family that they support? Of course, these examples aren’t something that matters to the happy addict, and for this reason, I would argue that the happy addict is often nothing more than a selfish, rebellious, and idolatrous narcissist.

This should not be so. The selfish quest for “being happy” is no different from the lies told in the Garden of Eden: the temptation to be like God is in itself a grab for power, eternity, and self-seeking happiness. While of course, God wants us to be happy, we are first to be happy in Him, since He alone is the source of all joy, happiness, and peace. Being happy will not harm others with the consequences of selfishness. Being happy can and won’t ever conflict with being moral, or being godly, or being a follower of Jesus. It is also infinitely more satisfying than anything we have here on earth, because when we follow Him, we have a joy that is supernatural.  1 Peter 3:10–12 (NLT) says:

“If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

In other words, “being happy” is going to go beyond the temporary. Being happy is not going to be good, moral, and show an unselfish love. It is an eternal happiness that is directed at God.

Are you a happy addict? You can change that! Turn from that and taste the real joy found in Jesus Christ- look to God and live happily for Him, as He is our joy and our strength!

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #4- Set healthy boundaries.

There it was, the survey I had dreaded to see. I clicked a link and went to an article on CNN called, 10 Signs you might be addicted to your smartphone. Ugh. I knew what I would see: “Blah, blah, blah, you’re checking your phone too much, blah, blah, blah, your too plugged in.” Yeah, I know it. What about it?

I even took the Smartphone Abuse Test, and, after trying to answer every question honestly, I scored 9/15. Not bad, right? Wrong. The makers of the survey let me know, in no uncertain terms, that answering having as low as a 5/15 means that you have a problem. Ouch!

Okay, there’s no reason to deny it, I look at my phone a lot. I mean, a lot. I get emails, texts, Facebook and Twitter messages, and once in a while, I even get a phone call. Needless to say, my phone runs out of its battery real fast, and life lived in the 5% battery range is both disturbing and thrilling at the same time.

Here’s what’s even scarier: I have gotten a whole lot better than in the past. There was once a time that whenever I saw a picture of me (and my wife takes a ton of pictures), the cell was attached to my ear. I have made adjustments, and though I do need to make even more, I know it’s progress, not perfection.

The greater point is this: Whether it’s electronic devices, long hours, or whatever you focus a whole lot on, a pastor with many, many demands and many duties must set healthy boundaries. This is for the sake of your marriage, your family, and your overall health in life and ministry. 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. In fact, they should see you period, like when they play in a game and you cheer them on from the stands or they have that bit part in the school play and yet still look for your face in the audience. After all, there are no small parts or meaningless games, especially if you are their biggest cheerleader.

Set a healthy boundary. Place being a husband, parent, and citizen of Heaven first. Keep the nonurgent question in the nonurgent category and wait to respond until you are back in the office. That text or email you got can wait (it really can), only to be efficiently answered by you the next day. Limit your ministry nights to no more than four nights, and let everyone know this rule should apply to others in the church too.

Can’t wait to take this test again in a few months. Will keep you posted.

Until He comes again,

Pastor Fran

Devotion: Overcoming the Elijah Moments

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

Risky question, but ever have one of those “Elijah moments?”

Been discouraged, irritated, upset, even feel like quitting? Of course, as we read the text, Elijah’s solution was not the answer, yet many of us can sympathize with Elijah’s 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, “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

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, “I have served you and I’m the only one left among a godless group, and I feel so alone here!”

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’t 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,—the 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:—“Lord, is it not Thy word, ‘if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God?’ Thou givest liberally, and upbraidest not. Thou hast said, ‘if any be willing to do Thy will, he shall know.’ 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

Which way?

We live in a world of superficiality. Many people look at the surface of things, spend a second or two to scan something to see if it is interesting, then move on. This is why the absurd, the ungodly, and the sexual “sells”- it appeals to people’s inner sinful nature. And this is the life of the average American, surfing online blankly with a click of the mouse to kill time, somehow trying to escape the realities of life and life issues.

They buy into the propaganda from media types, listening to the cynics, disengaging their brains to “follow their heart.” They follow the most extreme of libertarian ideas, to live and let live, not placing a moral standard on anything. It’s tantamount to anarchy in social circles, where the objective moral law is no more and ethical decisions are in the eye of the beholder. Low information?  Please. More like not enough critical thinking.

Unfortunately, people like this are not only not thinking about the issues,  they also miss the solution. They miss that the wisdom of the world is found in God’s Word. They miss out on the fact that the Scriptures, tried and tested over and over, is still relevant today as it was yesterday. Most of all, they miss the greatest joy they could ever have- the eternal life as found in Jesus.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” 

Let me encourage you to dig, seek, and pray for wisdom as you try to grasp the concept of grace found in Jesus. May Christ show you a better way, His way, a way that brings an abundant life in Him. 🙂