“But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ”— Philippians 3:7-8 (CEV).
“While world changes, who will change me?” This headline on a recent opinion piece by an area pastor grabbed my attention. Opening his article, the pastor said, “I am a public follower of Jesus. I am only being honest when I admit my growing unease and sense of helplessness as cultural norms drift away from Christian standards.”
With hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and transgender celebrities, many Christians fear where our country is headed. As the author of the article says, “I find myself struggling for some meaningful way to respond to these changes in a manner that best honors the person I profess to serve. How can I, as a Christ-follower, respond like Christ when I disagree with the direction of our culture?”
Has a relationship with Jesus transformed you?
As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be concerned about our country’s direction. However, if we are to respond as Jesus would, we must know Him intimately.
Citing a passage from Brother Lawrence’s book, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” the pastor said, “Lawrence lived in an obscure 17th century European monastery, but his reflections on God have captured the attention of many since, including me. Lawrence’s biographer Joseph de Beaufort used 10 words to describe his friend Lawrence: ‘His love for Jesus Christ changed him into another man.’”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’”—Matthew 16:24 (NIV).
Area residents from diverse backgrounds were recently interviewed by a large metropolitan newspaper. They were asked how they felt about the American Dream, how had it changed over the past decades and how hard is it to achieve?
A 68-year-old pastor who was interviewed said, “One of the things that has changed dramatically since the time I was a kid is the place of God and religion in the typical family life. I would suspect that there’s not as much practice of religion…And when you take God out of the picture and religious practice—which supports belief in God—I think the family also suffers.”
“The American Dream can very quickly become twisted into a self-serving vision and dominate our lives.”
The term, “American Dream,” was coined by author James Truslow Adams in 1931. Adams’ American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Writing in “Relevant” magazine, Seth Silvers asked this question: Can you pursue the American Dream and follow Jesus at the same time?
“Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus”—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (TLB).
In a recent discussion of 1 Thessalonians in our Sunday school class, one of our members, referencing chapter 5, verses 16-18 made the following statement: “Until our family was faced with cancer, we did life as usual. I’m actually grateful, not for the cancer, but that it changed our lives.”
Pain, disappointment, heartache and other challenges in our lives are sometimes the motivating factor in seeking salvation or in our spiritual growth. Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God’s purpose in times of crisis and trouble is to teach His children precious lessons.
Unexpected crises are a part of life. They are like storms blowing through, destroying property and lives and leaving in its aftermath a mess. I’ve read or heard more than one pastor say, “At this moment you are in one of three storm categories; either you just came out of one, or you are in one right now, or you are headed into one.”
“Jesus said to them, ‘You are truly my disciples if you live as I tell you to, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’”—John 8:31-32 (TLB).
Five vehicles rolled away from Restore Hope Ministries in Tulsa on Friday, June 19. Filling three church buses and two large SUVs, almost 60 children and nine adults spent the morning learning about the ministry as well as helping to unload canned goods and stock shelves for the following week. The children were part of my church’s VBS program with fifth and sixth graders dedicated to mission work during the five-day program.
Pastor Jeff Jaynes with Restore Hope shared the mission’s goal to help restore families in financial crisis to economic and spiritual vitality. As he shared about their ministry, he gave statistics and facts about hunger in Oklahoma, our country and the world. Worldwide, one billion people don’t know IF they are going to get another meal while one in seven Americans don’t know WHEN they are going to eat again. The same is true in Oklahoma with one in seven people not knowing when they will get their next meal. Almost half of those in Oklahoma who are hungry include households with children under age 18.
Maybe what we did today can help them in the future.
As Pastor Jaynes shared with the children about the plight of those who go hungry, he said, “People who have enough food don’t realize how many are going hungry.”
Referencing tithing in the Bible, Pastor Jaynes added, “If just the Christians in America put 10 percent in the offering plate each month, we could solve hunger today. If every one of us did what we are supposed to do, we could eradicate hunger.”
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”—Hebrews 12:2(NASB).
At a recent women’s event where I was the guest speaker, I sat in the audience listening to a husband and wife on stage as they provided the music for the luncheon. Playing the piano and singing hymns, the wife shared her musical gifts from God with us. However, I was stunned as I watched her husband play the guitar with equal skill. What made his gift even more amazing was he played one-handed. While he had two arms, he had suffered a stroke, leaving his right side paralyzed. Many might have given up, but this man had not. Through the encouragement of his wife, he had been able to regain part of his ability to share with others his amazing gift of music. What a testimony!
The topic of my presentation that day was “God is the Author.” As I shared my testimony, recapping the journey of my walk with God and how He had led me to my current writing and speaking ministry, I was reminded once again how easy it can be to just give up when we hit speed bumps in life.
Dare ya! Double Dog Dare you to give one more degree!
There have been times I wanted to tell God, “I quit. I can’t do this anymore.” Then, I’m reminded of Philippians 3:14. “… for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power” (TLB). Through His strength, through His power, we can accomplish what He has called us to do.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers”—Philippians4:6 (TLB).
Praying aloud in a group setting wasn’t easy for me before I made Jesus the Lord of my life. If the group leader asked for a volunteer to lead the prayer, I remained silent, waiting for someone else to speak out.
My thoughts raced with the following: What if I don’t know what to say? What if my words are jumbled? I don’t even know how to use eloquent, “religious-sounding” words. I’m just plain scared! What if I just sound stupid?
As my walk with God has deepened, so has my prayer life. I’ve learned to pray from the heart. I’ve learned formulas don’t matter as long as your heart is in tune with His. This doesn’t mean I ignore praying as Jesus taught His disciples. (The Lord’s Prayer is recorded in two of the gospels: Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4.)
There is no formula to prayer—it is simply conversing with God.
Evangelist Billy Graham says, “There is no formula to prayer—it is simply conversing with God. It is essentially talking with God as you would talk with an earthly parent who loves you and wants the best for you. God is your Heavenly Father who loves you perfectly.”
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”—Romans 3:23 (HCSB).
If you’ve ever seen a wisteria vine, especially in bloom, you know its charms are almost impossible to resist. That’s what drew me to purchase one about four years ago. When I first saw the beautiful lavender flowers on the vines wrapped around an arbor in a neighbor’s yard, I knew I had to have one.
I succumbed to the beauty of the blooms dangling from the vines. Mesmerized, I couldn’t wait to have one growing over the arbor in my own backyard. After purchasing one at a local garden center, I hurried home to plant the woody, climbing vine. However, I soon discovered this invasive plant has a mind of its own.
In an article by Jeanne Rostaing called, “Wisteria: A Dangerous Beauty (Are You Tempted?),” she says, “You are not the first to succumb. Marco Polo was an early conquest. He brought wisteria seeds out of China in the 13th century. But you would be wise to take the time to get to know this beauty before you commit to her. Like a Jezebel, she will steal your heart and then, after you are weakened and besotted with love, she will set about to dominate your garden and, if possible, your house. Take this caveat to heart: she is fully capable of attempting to murder your other plants.”
Does God need to do some pruning in your life?
While the wisteria has not taken over my house, it dominates my arbor and the corner of the backyard where it is planted. Even if I had known how much work this plant takes to maintain, I would still have planted it because I love working in my yard. The resulting beauty of my labor is worth the efforts I expend.