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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Respond or Not?

As a Christian, we are reminded that our goal is to become more like Jesus with our words and actions but there are certain things that make it difficult to do that.

I believe that Satan knows our “buttons” so he creates a situation where we are more likely to react “in the flesh.” That situation, though, is also a “test” to see how we will react. I have failed the test many times, and afterwards I ask God to forgive me and to help me in not reacting in a negative way in the future.

I’ve come to realize that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to react. On one hand, we are told: “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are” (Proverbs 26:4, NLT); but on the other hand, the advice is: “Answer a fool according to his foolishness or he’ll become wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:5, CSB). So how are we supposed to respond?

If we pray to God for guidance, then He will give it to us. If it is to respond, then He will give us the right words to say and we will have peace within. If our desire is to “get back at them,” then don’t respond.

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering “stinks,” and it’s hard to understand why these things happen. Sadly, in our world we will see or go through pain, suffering, and hardships. I think this is why we have the Book of Job– we can see from Job’s example that no matter what happens in our life that we are to continue to praise God. Yes, it is hard to praise God when things feel like they are falling apart but when there is nothing or no one else, God is still there, and there is also the body of Christ.

The Bible tells us to “…pray for each other...” (James 5:16, NIV), and to “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Gal 6:2, NIV). As Christians, we are all the body of Christ, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…” (1 Cor 12:26, NIV).

I think there are some people who are afraid that they will not know what to say to someone who is suffering, or maybe they are uncomfortable seeing someone’s pain and hardship. I have found that most of the time, people who are suffering just need a hug– no words, just a hug.

If you are experiencing hardships, pain, and/or suffering, then I hope that you have found someone to walk with you in your suffering; and if you have suffered in the past, then I hope that you will walk with someone who is in pain (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Talk to God

I have encountered some people who feel that a Christian ought to project a “perfect” life. I’m not sure how they came to that conclusion, but because they felt this way they didn’t appear “real” to others. Sometimes people are afraid to admit their faults because others might ridicule or shame them. If we are not honest with one another, then how can we help each other? I think about these two Scripture verses: James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…” (NIV), and Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV). We should be honest with one another, but most especially we must be honest with God– even though He already knows what we are thinking and feeling, there is something in speaking about our feelings/thoughts with Him that helps to change our perspective.

We often set boundaries, being careful in knowing when, and with whom, to divulge. Sometimes we can’t divulge everything, even when we trust the person we usually confide in; but we have God. I think about Matthew 6:6, “… when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen…” (NIV). The Scripture verse is about people who pray in public just to appear righteous, but I think the fact that we should go into a room and pray to God on our own shows that He is the only One we can truly express our most inner thoughts and feelings. Sometimes people are so distraught that they can’t even verbally express what they feel, but God understands us, “…We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (NIV).

So, the take-away is, we need to be “real” with others—none of us are perfect, which means we all make mistakes. We should share our faults and heartache with one another, but sometimes we can’t so we must turn to God. Even though you might not know what or how to pray, go someplace to be alone and just talk to God.

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

God is good, even when things are not good

This morning I woke up thinking about my childhood and feeling sad and angry.  In the past, I had wondered why God would allow evil things to happen, and now I can remind myself that this world is corrupt and people are sinful so that’s why bad things happen. Even though I know this, I still wonder why people would do horrible things to children.

My past isn’t very unique. Unfortunately, there are many people who have encountered similar things. I was fortunate to have forgotten most of it. I remember hearing one of my teachers, Dr. Bill Cutrer, say that if we can’t remember a traumatic experience, like our minds just blocked the memory of it, then we should consider it a blessing. I never thought about it like that. I kept thinking that I had to deal with memories, even those that were deeply buried in my mind, in order to be “healthy.”

I have to admit that even though I don’t remember everything, I remember enough. My memories are like puzzle pieces— even though I don’t have all the pieces, I can still see most of the picture and fill in the blanks. The picture is very ugly and disturbing.

Why didn’t anyone protect me? Didn’t anyone care?

I suffered for several years. There were times that I wished that someone would have called child services and place me in a foster home but no one ever did. Instead, I endured it. This is what makes me sad— that no one cared enough to help me, and that those who I was supposed to trust were the ones that were abusing me.

This week, I saw two news stories about children being raped— one was killed and the other was basically left for dead. This is what angers me. I want to vindicate these children—I want to physically punish the people who did this to them, but I can’t.  All I can do is pray to God that the child that is still alive will recover completely, and that justice will prevail.

I am a grandmother now. When I was a mother I was able to protect my children, but as a grandmother, my powers of protection are very limited. All I can do is pray for my grandchildren.

So what was the point of bringing this up? Just that sometimes we remember our past and we cry about it, we see things in the news and we get angry about it, and many times we have no control over circumstances, but we have to give it all to God. We have to believe that He will take the bad stuff and have something good come from it.

I didn’t have a great family growing up, but I have one now. God gave me a loving and supportive husband, and together we have our own family. I wasn’t a perfect mother, but I loved my children, and I cared and protected them.  If any good could come from a terrible past, it is that I learned how to be a real parent, and I hope that the faith I have in God has been instilled into my children. God is good, even when things around us are not good, and only God can make something good come from something bad: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good…” (Gen 50:20, NLT).

Copyright © 2017 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

$1.5 Billion Dollar Lottery!

Temptation is different for everyone, but everyone is tempted. These past few days I have been tempted by the lottery that climbed to $1.5 billion dollars. I was so tempted that I tried to figure out when and where I would buy just one ticket without my husband or children knowing. I thought about what I would do with the money if I was the sole winner—would I move? Would I upgrade my camper? Would I travel in First Class to Europe? I wouldn’t have to work anymore—I can just enjoy life.

Then I thought about how my husband would react if I won—he would be very disappointed with me, and the church would think I was a hypocrite. I know they wouldn’t accept any lottery money from me, but I would feel compelled to give money to some kind of charity so I’d try to find a few just to ease my guilt.

As I put more thought into what the $1 ticket might bring (I don’t play the lottery so I’m assuming the tickets are a dollar), I thought about the life I already have. I wouldn’t want to move—I like where I am, I love my old camper—I personalized it and it feels like it’s a part of me, and I like to find bargain travels.

If I gave money to my children so that they can buy better cars and better homes then what have I taught them? I wouldn’t have taught them that hard work brings self-satisfaction, and that paying off student debt, a car loan, or the mortgage brings a sense of accomplishment.

I then thought about the other things that would result from a lottery win—people trying to kidnap my children and grandchildren for ransom, people trying to kidnap me to extort money, etc.

I recalled the words I had read on a friend’s Facebook page recently—“Am I not enough?” Is God really enough for me? Wouldn’t He give me the desires of my heart and meet my needs? He has never left me hungry, and we’ve always had enough money to pay our bills. Do I really want to forsake God for the lottery? Some might say that God could use the lottery to bless someone, but that’s just a way to justify it.

So I’ve come full circle. I was tempted to buy one lottery ticket, but after much thought I’ve decided to be content with what I have and to trust God for all my needs. Plus, I enjoy my job of interacting with students and trying to bring them closer to God (also, I think I would be really bored after a while of doing nothing).

I am now honestly afraid of winning the lottery because of the unknown road that it would take me. If you’re tempted to buy a lottery ticket—don’t. Pray harder and trust God more!

Copyright © 2016 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

The crack

A few months ago, we thought about moving to a different house—one with a flat backyard and a wider area on the main floor for entertaining. The realtor we met at one of the houses we viewed offered to look at our house to give us an estimate of its value (what we can expect to get for it) and to give us advice on how we could sell it.

When he came into our house, he looked at the living room and kitchen. He mentioned how people are looking for an open concept (which we have) and a large ranch (again, which we have). He felt that if we put our house on the market then it would be sold right away since it was a property that was very desirable and in a good neighborhood.

Then he told us some of the things we could do to make it more marketable. He mentioned little things like de-clutter, take pictures off the wall, etc.  He said one of the big things he noticed was the large crack in the ceiling of the den. I took a good look at it—the crack had become so much bigger than what it was originally. It used to be a thin line, hardly noticeable, but now it runs across the whole ceiling and is slowly coming down along the wall. When did that happen?

It made me think about how our spiritual life can be like that crack in the ceiling. For instance, we neglect to do little things such as read our Bible, and then we neglect to pray. After a while we start missing worship services—maybe just one every couple of months, but then it becomes more frequent. Or maybe there’s a temptation that we’ve been resisting, but one day we decide to try it “just this once.” The one time turns into a multitude of times.

James 1:14-15 says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (NLT). We don’t always notice when we have “veered from the path” or when we have “fallen away.” We convince ourselves that it’s “not that bad,” then compare our situation to those that are far worse. As a result, our lives become less joyful and we start to experience problems that were not there before. 

Take a good look at your life— has the “crack” in your life become bigger?  Don’t ignore the issue anymore. Run to God!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti