Read, pray, and listen

I have read the story of Balaam a few times over the years and I often wondered why God was upset with him when he went with Balak’s men, especially after God told him to go with them:

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him…” (Numbers 22, NIV).

For some reason, I glossed over the part where it said, “That night… Since these men have come… go with them, but do only what I tell you” (Num 22:20).  Balaam got up in the morning to go with the men. He should have gotten up as soon as God said for him to go with them (that night). Balaam did not do what God told him to do.

There was another instance earlier in the Bible where God’s exact words were not followed:

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock…11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out…” (Num 20, NIV).

God told Moses to “speak to the rock” but Moses “struck the rock twice with his staff” instead (Num 20:8, 10). So God did the following:

“12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Num 20:12, NIV).

After Balaam’s numerous encounters with the angel of God, he was told, “35 “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials” (Numbers 22, NIV).  In other words, God was telling Balaam to do exactly what He wants him to do (and say).

So what does all this mean? I think this shows the importance of doing what God wants us to do when He tells us to do it. Don’t dismiss God and do your own thing; don’t hold off doing something He wants you to do when it is more convenient for you. More importantly, follow His instructions carefully.

There are so many things we can do that can glorify God, but how do we know exactly what He wants us to do? We have to listen to Him, and ask Him for clarity– we do that through prayer and reading through His Word. So read, pray, and listen carefully!

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti
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The Time Is Now

None of us can ever “get right” with God on our own. Sometimes people will hear the gospel and say, “I’m not ready to accept Jesus right now because I need to clean myself up first,” but that day never comes.

It reminds me of what Jesus said to the Pharisees: “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matt 23:26, NIV). The Pharisees were busy trying to look or act a certain way, but their hearts had not been changed by God– “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness” (Luke 11:35, NLT).

God wants a willing spirit– we come to Him and ask Him to change us– that’s how we become “right” with Him. The time is now. “For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT).

Copyright © 2017 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Preachers

Maybe I’m wrong, but preachers ought to preach the Word. I think sermons ought to pierce our hearts so that we make changes in our lives. It’s easy for us to slowly veer away from what we should do, and we need to be reminded of God’s standard so that we can realign ourselves. Preachers are meant to impact others, and when they squander a Sunday morning worship service then they are not doing what God has placed them there to do. In James 3:1 it says, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment” (CSB).

I realize that it is summer and people want a break, but why hijack the whole worship service for a children’s program or a concert? A music concert, no matter how good it is, can never replace the preaching of the Word. Music is like an appetizer, meant to prepare the heart for the Word; and if the Word is not preached then the main meal was not served. A quick gospel presentation at the end of a concert or a children’s program is not enough—that’s just a bite-size sample of the main meal.

I want to hear the Truth on Sunday morning—I want to feel conviction and love from the Father, and when I don’t hear the Word then I don’t hear from the Father. I know I can do my own devotionals at home, but then why go to worship on Sundays? Could it be that when a preacher preaches the Word that God is responding to me from the week I was at home praying and studying? Is it possible that when I feel confused that He will tell me what to do through the sermon? Do you see why it’s important to preach the Word? People want to hear from God, and preachers are God’s mouthpiece.

Please take your role as a preacher seriously— you have an obligation to make Christ known to us, and you are supposed to guide us in living a life that is honoring of God. Isn’t that what 2 Timothy 4:2 is about— “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching” (CSB)? It doesn’t matter if it is summer and half the congregation has gone on vacation or they are away on mission trips, or if you have only a handful of people in your church, you preach the Word!

Copyright © 2017 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

“One Thing” For All Marriages

I’ve been married for almost 32 years. There was a time when I didn’t think we would celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. My marriage had a rough start. Not only were we teenagers when we got married, but we came from different backgrounds and we had varying views of what marriage should look like. For instance, my husband was somewhat of a “traditionalist”— he wanted me to take his last name yet he wanted me to work outside of the home; I was a little less traditional and wanted to keep my last name, but I wanted to stay at home with any of my future children. The way we each handled conflict was not very healthy— we mimicked our parents in what they did when they encountered conflict in their own marriages (i.e., yelling, throwing dishes, storming out of the house, punching walls, etc.).

Although we attended church, we never really grew as a couple. Even while attending seminary together, we still “butted heads” and we had poor communication skills (at least when we spoke to each other). We took a “marriage enrichment” course, an elective for both of our degree tracks, and after a few weeks we spoke to the teacher, Dr. Cutrer (Dr. C.), and his wife. The discussion with them helped us to realize that we had a lot of work ahead of us; and even though we were more aware of how we were speaking to each other, there was still something missing in our marriage and there was still an underlying tension in our relationship.

It wasn’t until several years later that our marriage actually took a turn for the positive. I was a doctoral student at that point, and my dissertation was on long term marriages that were on the verge of a divorce and how marriage mentoring helped their marriages (https://oatd.org/oatd/record?record=handle\%3A10392\%2F3736). The focus of the study was on marriage mentoring, but there was something other than marriage mentoring that every couple said changed their marriage; and it was that one thing (technically, two things) that changed our own marriage.

That “one thing” was reading the Bible together as a couple then praying with and for each other after reading. The first time we read together felt a little awkward to me, and praying aloud was “different.” We pressed forward though, and now after nearly five years of reading the Bible and praying together, our marriage is stronger and more God-centered than it has ever been. When we have a conflict, we are no longer trying to “win” the argument, nor are we expressing our emotions in a negative way— instead, we readily apologize to one another and we find a solution to the issue.

Our marriage is not perfect, but it is more forgiving— it exemplifies Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It is also less selfish than what it was—“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others [your spouse] above yourselves” (Phil 2:3).

Whenever we have the opportunity, we tell couples in our church that they should read the Bible together and pray for one another because to actively worship God through their marriage supernaturally changes the marriage and it changes the way they interact with one another. So, if you are married, and you want a more fulfilling marriage, then start reading the Bible together, and then sincerely pray for one another—you will not regret it.

Copyright © 2016 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Attacks on Paris

The horrific attacks in Paris, the “City of Love,” have claimed over a hundred lives with many injured. Many are angered, sad, or scared, but this heinous act is just a reminder of five things:

  1. The earth is controlled by Satan: “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world is under the power of the devil” (1 John 5:19, NLV)
  1. Because Satan controls the earth, there will be violence: “…the land is full of darkness and violence” (Psalm 74:20, NLT)
  1. We have to show the world that their hope lies in God: “Our hope comes from God… May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NLV)
  1. We must pray for those who commit these acts of violence: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44, NLT)
  1. We must never give up hope, even in the midst of tragedy: “Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him…” (Hebrews 12:2, NLV)
Copyright © 2015 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

The Truth About “Fifty Shades of Grey”

I never thought there would be a day when sado-masochism would be considered “romantic,” but it has happened with “Fifty Shades of Grey.” What makes this storyline so appealing to people? Is this really the type of relationship women secretly want? Would the lead female character endure these sexual games if the main character wasn’t a rich guy?

“Romance” has progressively been redefined over the last few decades. My idea of romance came from Disney movies like “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty,” but when I was a teenager, the big “romance” movie was “Endless Love,” basically a warped Shakespearean love story about two teens who have sex and encounter tragedies in their lives. Then, when I was a young adult the romance movie was “Pretty Woman,” a story about a prostitute and her rich client falling in love with one another. Seeing this progression, it makes sense that society would consider “Fifty Shades of Grey” as “romantic.”

In a world where there is no real moral standard, “romance” or “love” can be anything. The truth is that the people who are enthralled by “Fifty Shades of Grey” have a miserable existence— they have no real purpose for living. They gravitate to a twisted “love” story because they desperately want to escape reality, and the storyline is so void of realism that it pacifies their need to forget about their own lives.

The real issue isn’t about sado-masochism disguised as “love,” but an internal emptiness that people generally feel. The popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a symptom of a greater issue— the need for God. Only God can fill human emptiness by giving people a true purpose for living and providing them with a new outlook on life. An invitation is given to all: “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life… Oh, that you would choose life… You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life…” (Isa 55:3, Deu 30:19-20). Now, get a life!

Copyright © 2015 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Pushing the Envelope

I don’t know where the phrase, “pushing the envelope” originated but it’s something that I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. I love to eat, but most especially, I love to eat sweets. Since thanksgiving, I’ve been eating pies, cakes, and candies. I’m not supposed to eat these things because I have acid reflux.

It started out slowly—just a bite or two, then to a small slice or tiny handful, then to several servings or a full bag.  Some days I can eat chocolates with no problems and that only makes it easier for me to “push the envelope” to eat more until I end up with a horrible burning sensation in the pit of my stomach.

I think all of us try to push the envelope in some way—it might not be sweets or chocolates, but it is a source of temptation. It is something that we know we shouldn’t do, but we try a little and when it looks like “it’s safe” we go even further; then we go too far and get “burnt.”

I’m trying to focus on these Scripture verses this morning, 1 Corinthians 10:23 and 13,

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial… The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (NLT).

The fact is, all of us are tempted by something and instead of dabbling in the temptation and “pushing the envelope,” we should throw away the things that tempts us and put even more focus on God.

I don’t like to waste anything, but I think I will throw away that chocolate bar I bought at an “after-Christmas” sale— “So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away…” (Matt 5:29, NLT).

How are you “pushing the envelope” and what are you going to do to stop it?

Copyright © 2015 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti