Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Hope

This Sunday is Christmas day. I have prepared a sermon on Hope. At one point in the presentation I will be sharing the story of the World War I Christmas Eve truce. There are many versions of what happened. I will try to stick with the most basic.

The year was 1914 and the German invasion of France had stalled because of the harsh winter conditions. Both sides had dug deep trenches to prevent advancement. Rains had flooded the trenches. Soldiers were covered in mud and blood. Many were wounded and could not get adequate medical care. At times the cold was unbearable. Many died of hyperthermia.

The distance between the 2 armies was only a few hundred feet at most. While snipers keep the sides from seeing each other, they could here each other's conversations. On Christmas Eve the Germans lit candles and placed them in Christmas trees. They sang Christmas carols like "Silent Night." At some point in the celebration of Jesus' birth both the German and the French/English armies decided to meet in "No Man's Land." They talked, shared food and cigarettes and looked at family photos. For one moment they experienced the hope and peace that everyone desires, but especially at Christmas. In the midst of life's struggles each December holds a brief pause when the majority can take a deep breath and enjoy the best parts of life. The year long journey to this moment is called Hope.

The soldiers experienced this hope for a few days. Then they went back to killing. It is the same for many who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They feel the good will and hope of the holidays, only to fall back to a life full of problems and hopelessness, often within a few days of singing, "Joy to the World." The true message of Christmas is a hope and a peace that only dominates one's life here on planet earth, but also lasts for eternity.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not So Cheap Grace

On Friday I received a phone call. The person on the other end of the line asked me to come to her house to visit her. She and her "husband" (2 kids, no marriage) had come to the church on the previous Sunday. It had been obvious she didn't want to attend, but her recently converted "husband" had insisted. So she came. The following Thursday her "husband" had come to my office. From what he had told me, I never expected a phone call from her the next day.

I rearranged my schedule and went to visit her on Saturday morning. She was at her mother's house. She has not lived with her "husband" or kids for some time. The conversation was typical for people meeting for the first time under difficult circumstances. She shared a bit of her history and her problems. I listened. After 30 minutes I asked her why she had asked me to come. She told me that she was ready to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. She wanted to pray the prayer of salvation.

At this point I usually pray with the person. If they can articulate their need for the Lord and their desire to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, they normally they are ready to pray.
Sometimes we are quick to pray with the person, because we want to make it as easy as possible. Sometimes...many times this is a mistake. I felt a "check" in my spirit and I began to define true repentance for her. I told her that she would need to give Jesus 100% of her life, not just a small part. She could not hold back anything. I told her that Jesus would forgive her and would transform her, but she would have to give him everything, both the good and the bad. She would have to make changes in her lifestyle and live according to God's will.

Then I asked her if she was ready to pray the prayer of salvation. She answered, "No." At first I was in shock, but then I realized there was something or someone that she was not willing to give up. We talked some more and I prayed for her. I left and went home. I felt like a failure.

She came to church on Sunday. She came with her "husband" and 2 kids. She had a huge smile on her face. After church she told me that she had given her life to Jesus after I had left the house. She was ready to move forward with the Lord. She was ready for him to restore her marriage. They scheduled counseling for this week.

The angels in heaven were singing the "Hallelujah Chorus!" Another name had been added to Book of Life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Being Comfortable

I'm enjoying Mark Batterson's book, Wild Goose Chase. If you haven't read it, I would recommend you read it with an open heart and mind. I appreciate his personal illustrations because they mirror many the experiences and decisions that opened up our lives to receive a missionary calling and eventually brought us to Peru. It has been 16 years since this happened. We had become comfortable in our previous ministry setting. There was nothing pushing us to leave the District Office. No one asked us to leave Nebraska. But it was what God wanted. The Lord had an adventure for us. Obedience, not comfort, was what He wanted from us. The journey would be full of risk. There would be good days and bad days. There would exciting times and scary times. We would have to make sacrifices. However, it would be worth it. It has been worth it.

Are we comfortable again? Even though we "chased" after the leading of the Holy Spirit 16 years ago, it doesn't mean we are still "tuned in" to His will and ready to take on the next adventure. I think it is a question we all must answer many times in our lives, but especially those of us who have received a vocational call to ministry. Am I comfortable?

This year I have tried to intentionally reopen my life to God-directed change. It hasn't been easy. At times it has been painful. I like comfort. I like order. I like predictability. The Lord doesn't seem to understand the importance of these priorities.

We are experiencing staff changes at the church. Our youth pastor is leaving after 7 years at El Oasis. We are now working with lay leaders. The youth ministry will look different. Another couple is coming in October to help with other areas that need attention. It will be interesting to see how they mesh with the El Oasis family and the vision God has given us. We are starting a small group ministry to try and reach more of the unsaved. The arrival of new people will cause us to rethink how we "do church."

All of this is happening as we begin to prepare ourselves for itineration in June 2012. While I don't understand it all, I'm learning to accept God's perfect timing. I'm running to stay one step ahead of the changes and one step behind the Holy Spirit. It is exciting. It is challenging. It is what He wants. My prayer is that we never become too comfortable to "chase the wild goose."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Decision Points

I just read George W. Bush's book, Decision Points. The book is impressive because it gives insight into what it means to be a good leader. While this is especially true when it comes to leader of the world's most powerful nation, it is also true for every leader, no matter how large or small their charge. The principle of decision making is the same. Good leaders must be prepared and unafraid to make timely decisions, both the easy and the difficult. Followers want direction. They are unwilling to move forward, until they receive guidance. Without a decision, they lack focus and motivation. Good leaders understand this need and respond.

This year has been full of moments where I have had to make decisions, many of them difficult because they dealt with people that I love. I am a decisive person, but I found myself hesitating because of the emotional attachments. I didn't want to "pull the trigger." I didn't want to face the changes that were needed in myself and in others. I was not being a good leader and these areas of my life and ministry were suffering as a result. God spoke to me through this book. I realized as a leader, I had to make the hard choices and leave the results in God's hands. Once I set aside my fear and made the difficult decisions, a sense of relief and a sense of peace returned to me and to those around me. The future became clearer and hope returned. Life is full of "decision points." Your success as leader will be determined in these moments.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Un Año de Cambios-A Year of Changes

It is difficult for three-dimensional creatures to hear from the what Pastor Yonggi Cho has called the "fourth dimension". Pastors who enter the pulpit struggle with this because, in a certain sense, they are sharing a special message from God's heart. The congregation comes expecting God to speak to them. They want to hear from the "fourth dimension." They difficulty comes because the pastor must somehow know the difference between his/her voice and God's voice as they seek to prepare and share the Sunday sermon.

The same is true with the operation of the Spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12). We want to know if God is speaking (prophecy) or if it is the individual. The uncertainity of this dilemma has caused some to dismiss the Spiritual gifts. The possibility of human error is too risky. And yet, we normally have no problem accepting the Sunday sermon as "God speaking."

Despite the risk and the possibility of confusion, I believe God still speaks and He still speaks, not only from the pulpit on Sunday, but also via the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Time often helps us know if it comes from God or from man. We just need patience. In January of this year God spoke to our congregation through a word of prophecy telling us that 2011 would be a year of changes for us as individuals, for our families and for our church. It did not seem monumental at the moment. Nevertheless we have been amazed that the changes that have come during the first 5 months of this year. When we begin to doubt the source of the changes, we return to prophecy given in January. It is easier to accept the changes when we remember that God did something to prepare us for this.

I'm glad God is not silent.

Monday, February 28, 2011

This past December our Christmas holiday was interrupted by an urgent phone call from the States. My father, Arvel Fransisco, had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. Dad had suffered from COPD for many years and was breathing with great difficulty. This wasn't the first scare he had given us. However, the nurse helped convince us that this time was different. We quickly purchased tickets and packed our bags. We arrived in time to spend 2 days with him before he passed away on December 31st.

In Loving Memory

Arvel Fransisco

October 18, 1921 ~ December 31, 2010

Mr. Arvel Anderson Fransisco, age 89, retired machinist

passed away on Friday, December 31 at his home in Tulsa.

Mr. Fransisco was born on October 18, 1921 in Watkins,

Oklahoma to James Arvel and Nora Edith (Lamb) Fransisco.

After his high school graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army

and was honorable discharged on October 4, 1945 at Fort

Bragg, North Carolina. For over 50 years he was a machinist

in the tool & die industry working for various companies

mainly in the Tulsa area. He was known as “Cisco” to family

and friends. In the past few years he was called “Pops.”

He is survived by two sons, Rev. John Fransisco and his

wife Kerri of Lima, Peru and Ray Fransisco of Tulsa, a

daughter, Sharolyn Fransisco of Tulsa, his brother Clyde

Austin Fransisco of Jenks, granddaughters, Kristen and

Katherine Fransisco, grandsons, Austin Fransisco and Derick

Koehn, 2 great granddaughters, Amari and Aruzhan Koehn,

also many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by

his wife Alta Rosezella Fransisco, a sister, Edith Pauline

Fransisco and 3 brothers, Floyd Lee, Cletus Earl and James

Lee Fransisco.

Funeral Service

10:00 a.m.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ninde Brookside Chapel

Tulsa, Oklahoma


Rev. John Fransisco

and Rev. David Sears

Musical Selections

Because He Lives

How Great Thou Art

Norma McQuary, Pianist

Jeff & Gloria Smith, Soloists


Nieces & Nephews


Bixby Cemetery

Bixby, Oklahoma