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A Book Review: Eternity Now: The New Testament Series

Eternity Now: The New Testament Series. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2022.

In August 2022, I received a complimentary copy of Eternity Now: The New Testament Series from Thomas Nelson publishers because I am a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid member who promised to read the books and publish an honest review of the series. My analysis is below.

The Series

This series consists of five books titled with a content description.

Volume 1: The Legacy—Matthew, Hebrews, James, Jude

Volume 2: No Going Back—Mark, 1-2 Peter

Volume 3: Grand Tour—Books of Luke: Luke, Acts

Volume 4: Death to Life—Books of Paul: Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians,

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy,

Titus, Philemon.

Volume 5: Now But Not Yet—Books of John: John, 1-3 John, Revelation

*************************

Content

The books are formatted presentations of the New Testament using the New English Translation. The editors describe the series as books that reveal “the history shaping story of how Jesus Christ changed the world and what that means to you. The reader-friendly format presents the New Testament books across five paperback volumes, making it easy to carry anywhere and read anytime.”

Design Décor Description

The books arrived in a beautiful display box—so attractive that one would be proud to place the boxed set on any bookshelf as a lovely décor addition. All five books have coordinated covers using blue, orange, black, and two shades of green. When put together, the spines of the books create an attractive design when placed in the series box. Each cover describes the book as coming “From the #1 Bestselling Book of All Times” (a.k.a. The Bible) along with a title, subtitle, quotation, and an acknowledgment that what is inside comes from the New English Translation Bible (NET). When I first received the books, I had no idea the publishers were using a unique concept in designing them to make them look like small fiction or non-fiction books—great to fit into one’s purse or briefcase.

The Positives

  1. The books are easy to pick up and browse through, easy enough for any late elementary or junior high student to read.
  2. The “ministry-first” concept is impressive, meaning there are no restrictions regarding quoting or sharing any of the Scriptures when using them in books, magazines, newspaper articles, and more. One does not have to gain permission to use as much of the translation as desired.
  3. Its simple format is excellent for seniors who might have problems holding a large, heavy Bible.
  4. I enjoyed how the layout shows the chapter headings and accurate subtopics.
  5. Another positive is that the books bold all prophecies from the Old Testament.
  6. This innovative approach to Bible reading seems accurate compared to my usually read Bible—the New American Standard Bible.

The Drawbacks

The drawbacks listed below are all due to “my personal preferences,” which may or may not affect other readers.

  1. All five books lack verse numbers while representing their story format. I understand that by not including verse numbers, one will experience more ease in reading. However for me, many times, as I was reading, I wanted to look up the Bible verse but could not find “the address” to do so.
  2. The books did not create that sacred feeling of reading the Bible. While the editor’s intent is to read each book like a novel, reading them as a novel was bothersome.
  3. Words referring to Jesus were in lowercase letters. My preference would have been to use the names of Jesus as He, Him, and Himself. Other words like scripture are also noted in lowercase.
  4. I missed the red lettering of Jesus’ words prevalent in many Bible versions.

Book’s Purpose

The book’s primary purpose is obvious. It is to get the Bible into the hands of those who might never pick up a Bible themselves, making this set a lovely gift for any occasion for boys, girls, men, and women. Not everyone will appreciate the novel format, but many will find it the most enjoyable way to read the Bible. Therefore I recommend this book series.

God Bless,

New English Translation Bible Verses:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16 NET

Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God. Matthew 22:29 NET

For these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his will be broken.” John 19:36 NET

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45 NET

Prayer:

Lord, give me wisdom as I approach my Bible reading. Lead me to Bible verses You want me to read and learn from. Allow me to obey all Your sacred principles, which You have made available through Your Holy Scriptures. You are a mighty God, and I love You. Amen

Books by Patti Greene

BIBLE WORD SEARCH PUZZLE SERIES

 

Two Years Ago Today, Mom Went to Heaven!

Initial Remarks

Today marks two years since my dear mom passed away—August 27, 2020. I wrote the following letter four months after my mom died, recollecting the time my husband John and I spent living with her for four years in her home. I mailed this note to a few very close friends at the time, but today, I feel like posting this in her honor and sharing that I am still sad about a lot of things, but I know moving on would be what she would want for me.

Dear Friends

First, I want to thank all of you who have prayed for John and me over the past few years. We were in a unique season of life—a life we never expected to be in. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Most of you know that in January 2016, I moved into my parent’s home when my dad was ill with leukemia and dementia. John was working overseas at the time. Dad died in February 2016.

Being concerned about mom, I stayed with her after Dad’s passing. The idea of her alone in the house made me want to stay with her. Unfortunately, 2016 brought a diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer to mom on top of all her other ailments, so I continued to stay at mom’s house. John came home from his overseas assignment shortly after mom’s diagnosis and moved into mom’s house with me.

We locked up our house, and our life became different—more different than we ever expected. John retired after completing his overseas assignment but found a little part-time work, and life moved on. We settled into our life with mom in west Houston, trying to adjust to not being in our own home. I did fine for the first two years. But, the last two years were physically and emotionally tough on me. As mom progressively needed more care and attention, I became more nervous and anxious. I was not my usual self. I had a hard time coping, although I was able to conceal it from others for the most part.

John saw and experienced my constant exhaustion, my need for respite, and my emotional stress worsening daily. He was my rock. I cannot imagine any other person being so kind and generous as giving up his home and life to partner with me in caretaking my mother – his mother-in-law. John occupied my mom with mind-boggling conversations and debates. He made dinner most days, and towards the end, his help and love truly inspired me as he provided nursing duties way beyond his pay grade. Christ-like love was indeed in action!

God knew my fragile mental state. And I hate to say it, but COVID was the lifeline I needed to be able to move back home. It had become apparent that I was not doing well with our 24/7 living arrangement at mom’s house. When COVID hit: Mom’s housekeeper was able to move in with her even though we were back towards the end of mom’s life. John, me, and mom all sleeping in the same bedroom, available for whatever.

Even being home was highly stressful, with daily visits to mom’s house, more doctor’s appointments than ever, and issues relating to mom’s declining health.

If you have not guessed by now, two thousand twenty has been the roughest ride of my life!

I am omitting many “specifics” so I do not get bogged down and miss the point I am trying to share with you.

The fact is, a good friend said, “God has positioned people who can take our hands and help us find our way through the fog and storms.” You are those people!!! Your prayers helped me to pray and not lose my heart. Your prayers helped me to pursue seeking the Highest God, your prayers helped me to stay strong in the Word of God, and your prayers reminded me that challenges are for our spiritual growth. This journey was not anything I had ever imagined, but God knew I had to go through it. This season was sent to accomplish things in me that could not have been accomplished any other way.

Some of you have been where I was. Some of you have not. However, I want you to know that when we experience tears and disappointment, it does not have to dimmish our relationship with the Lord. He allows each new experience to make us aware that we need to trust Him so solidly that we can tell Him the down and dirty of all we think and encounter. When I had questions, God was there. When I cried, He was there. When I could not handle it anymore, God was still there. Even though there were times I could not feel His presence, you kept me hanging on to Him. That was possible due to your prayers. Thank you!

Mom died on August 27, 2020. John and I received a call at 1:50 a.m. from my older brother to come home. I had my cuddle time with mom; then, at 3:50 p.m. that afternoon, she took her final breath.

It has only been a few months since we left that season of our lives. Still, thankfully God is showing me why the experiences I encountered were essential. I do not understand many things that came about during that season. But God always pointed me back to Him—calling me to trust Him when I couldn’t see the whys of the past or the wonders of the future. During my caregiving time, I encountered burnout, compassion fatigue, taxing emotions, and the perps of spending time with my dear mom. I knew the challenges were in His hands. Thanks for your prayers!

Life is an adventure. I wailed many times during this period, “Lord, I can’t handle it anymore!” But He knew and knows when it is time to step in for relief. God moved when I reached the pinnacle of my despair in August. These years are now part of my life story. I recognize that “being out of our comfort zone” is usually the only way we can grow, and I thank God for it. I experienced many sweet times with mom that would not have been possible any other way, but it was still strenuous and tough on me. So, thanks again for your prayers!

Each day, I feel a little more rested and restored. I know that the Lord will use this experience for His glory. There are so many Biblical principles that I had read in Scripture but not experienced before. I encountered so many aspects during these 4+ years: love, forgiveness, gratitude, and boundaries—to mention the positive ones. Sometimes it is hard to see circumstances clearly when living under stress or in a bleak period. Still, when the light is slowly restored, we can feel God’s peace and presence in extraordinary ways—even supernaturally. We start understanding the why, the why not, the how much longer questions of life. In these times, we must depend on the prayers of our friends like you. And for that, thanks again for your prayers!

My takeaway is to encourage you to look at your circumstances through the eyes of our heavenly Father. Commit to renewing your mind daily with prayer and Bible study. Remember that darkness does not stay forever in whatever situation you face. Even through hard times, He is close by—guiding us, building our faith, and waiting to meet our needs. He has a purpose for everything we experience in life, to prepare us for His assignments here on earth or for our heavenly home.

Today—Two Years Later

Yes, John and I have moved on; that is a long story. Still, one thing we both know is that God directed and allowed us to spend time with mom. However, I encountered difficult times caregiving at points along the way. If you are caregiving, hang on! Memories are being formed that will be cherished more with time. The emotional journey has a purpose that God will use in your life ministries.

While living with my mom, I wrote a book titled Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending. I wrote it during the first two years of living with mom. If I had waited until later, the book would probably never have been written. I left out the hard part, the biography of my experiences as time passed, because I hadn’t experienced that. However, it is a good book for those starting on the journey of caregiving with lots of Scripture references. I am not posting this as a sales pitch for my book, but I wanted you to know good things come from caregiving. Our strength in Him and knowing that He always has His best for us in mind keeps us going.

Mom, I love you, and I always will. Thanks for loving me. I still miss you two years later.

God Bless.

Verses from Christian Caregiving:  Practical Advice for a Happy Ending [9780692115381-Available on Amazon.com. Only $7.44 today.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3)

Books by Patti Greene

BIBLE WORD SEARCH PUZZLE SERIES

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

Most of us have heard the story of the “Good Samaritan.” It is most widely known as a parable. Parables, as defined in the book How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, are “simple stories for those on the outside to whom the ‘real meaning,’ the “mysteries,” were hidden; these [belonging] only to the church and could be uncovered by means of allegory.” ¹

While the story of the Good Samaritan starts in Luke 10:30, we must first look at the reason Jesus bothered to tell this parable. The question asked by a lawyer was, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This lawyer was putting Jesus to the test. However, Christ answered and said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And the lawyer said, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responded affirmatively and answered, “Do this, and you will live.” The lawyer, wishing to justify himself, continued questioning Jesus by asking Him, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10 25-28).

It is in response to this encounter that Jesus begins His parable of the Good Samaritan to prove His point.

The story contains eight characters:

  1. A lawyer – an expert on Jewish law
  2. Jesus Christ
  3. A Jewish Priest – some say he was a Jewish temple assistant
  4. A Jewish Levite, a man of God
  5. A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho
  6. A Good Samaritan
  7. Robbers, and
  8. An innkeeper

A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Along the way, he encountered robbers (bandits) who stripped him, beat him, and left him half-dead along the road. A priest walked by along the route. When he saw the man, he chose to pass by on the other side of the road. When a Levite saw the man lying on the road, he, too, passed by on the other side of the path. Notice that these two men, from whom a more kindly-than-usual behavior is routinely expected because of their societal stations, intentionally avoided helping someone in need.

But then a Samaritan who was on a journey saw the beaten man; he felt compassion (pity). The Samaritan went to the beaten man, bandaged his wounds, poured oil and wine on them (which was considered medicine in those days), put him on his animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, the Samaritan paid the innkeeper. Then he asked the innkeeper to take care of him and told him that he would repay him when he returned from his trip.

After sharing this story with the lawyer, Jesus asked him, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”

Finally, the lawyer was answering his own question. He said, “the one who showed mercy toward him.” Jesus then said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)

While we do not know the direction of this lawyer after Jesus commanded him to “do the same,” we can ask ourselves: how would we respond?

God does provide opportunities to see how we would respond.

God’s Test

A destructive “winter freeze” at the beginning of this year caused my husband John and me to spend 87 days in a hotel while our home was gutted and renovated. One day, as we were leaving the hotel, we saw a police officer help a lady in a wheelchair being rolled up to the hotel door. John and I both concluded that she was an abuse victim. We assumed the police officer was helping her to a temporary safe place.

However, in the evening, we returned to our hotel only to see this lady sitting in her wheelchair in the cold, pelting rain near the hotel entrance. Unfortunately, due to the hotel’s request, she was not allowed to sit under the canopy, designed to protect their guests from the sun and inclement weather.

My husband said he felt the Holy Spirit wanted us to talk to and help this woman. We introduced ourselves and asked her what was going on. She was very confused and we soon discovered she was suffering from a complicated mental illness. 

While we chatted and tried to figure out how to help, the same police officer returned to the scene. The police officer told us she had been kicked out of another hotel for lack of payment. John asked the hotel clerk if we could bring this lady up to our room to help her get dried off. 

John called her mother to notify her of her daughter’s location. Her mother would not allow her to return home or help in any way, presumably a result of the ongoing mental illness. This lady’s hands flurried all over—a sign of drug withdrawal. The police officer guessed she was under the influence of methamphetamine. She went into our restroom to get cleaned off, warmed up, and then changed into some dry clothes.

The police officer was unsuccessful in placing her at a women’s shelter. Fortunately, we were able to find a motel for her to safely spend the night. John and the police officer brought her to the motel, settled her in, and left money for the night’s stay.

Some might ask, “Did you witness to her?” No, not exactly. Her more immediate needs were physical rather than spiritual, although we told her multiple times we would be praying for her. We never saw this lady again, and I hope and pray her family eventually came to her rescue.

Afterthoughts

But what sticks in my mind is my husband wheeling this lady out of our hotel room. I stared as she was being rolled out, wearing silver pants and a green-and-black tunic shirt, both donated from my wardrobe.

My thought: “But, for the grace of God, that could be me.”

This lady was one night away from being homeless. I hope by our obeying the prodding of the Holy Spirit, she never reached a homeless status.

Bible Verses:

Compassion: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Sharing: Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you are not tempted as well. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

Neighbor: I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Prayer:

Oh Lord, please let me be attentive to Your Holy Spirit when You want to use me for Your purposes. Let me obey, provide, and learn Your lessons. So many times, I might pass by opportunities. Change me now, Lord, to see and act on the situations where You need me to be Your hands and feet. Lord, if it were not for the winter freeze, we would never have been in a hotel, and we would never have had the opportunity to help this lady. Thank you, Jesus. You know the big picture of my life. Make me more like You. I surrender all to You. And thank You for a husband who heeds Your call as well. Love You, Jesus. Amen.

Challenge:

Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone you can help this week! God bless.

God Bless.

GreenePastures.org

¹ Fee, Gordon and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic. 2014.

Edited by E. Johnson.

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Books by Patti Greene

  • Awaken Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Anchor Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Answer Me – Devotional Workbook
  • Christian Caregiving

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Sacred Snippet: Tootsie Pops

I love how God can take the simple things in life and turn them into a blessing.

This morning I stopped at CVS with the intent to purchase only some computer paper. However, I decided to check out the candy row to see if they had a bag of Tootsie Pops. I had searched two other stores previously to no avail. Lo and behold, I discovered CVS had my favorite low-calorie candy—three points per pop for those who know what I mean! ¹

As mostly what happens to us all, we go into a store with good intents and come out with more. I even added some colorful Post-it Page Markers to my other two items. As I left the drug store, I hit the red light under Houston’s Katy Freeway. There I saw a young man. His legs were so skinny—like they were diseased. All I had to give him was a Tootsie Pop. I cannot say I was extremely generous by giving him the entire bag, but I wanted to give him something sweet to eat. I wrestled opening the bag; finally, I had to use my teeth to open the bag. Not cool, but I was afraid the light was going to turn green.

Once the bag was open, I reached in and started to pull out an orange and red pop, but then stopped. It was like the Lord said, “Give him your best.” God knew that red and orange were not my favorites, but chocolate and purple were. So, I quickly reached in, opened my window, and gave him a chocolate and purple Tootsie Pop. It might not seem like a big sacrifice, but when you understand the last two bags of Tootsie Pops I bought had no purples in them, you can understand my “sacrifice” a little better.

Now, here is the best part. I handed this young man the two pops. He saw them and gave me a big old grin through his crooked yellow teeth, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “thank you.” Yes, it was a small gesture on my part, but it started me out on the right foot and started his day out with a little sweetness too!

GUEST BLOG by Heroes II: What Makes Bible Characters Better Than Superheroes?

Most of us, especially children and youth, are fond of fictional superheroes like Superman and Batman.

We often watch them, collect toys and souvenirs, and even imitate their signature moves. Do you remember putting on an improvised cape to pretend like flying? Have you attempted to jump from a rooftop? Dangerous, right? Those were the days!

Let’s admit it! Superheroes are fascinating to follow. It is not only because of their powers but because of the inspiration they give us. We can relate to them because they experience the same struggles we do.

The most exciting part, perhaps, is whenever they overcome a tragedy.

Before going any further, let us define a “superhero.” A superhero is an imaginary character possessing superhuman power.

But do you know that the Bible also has heroes? It defines a hero as someone who lived his life in faith and helped his neighbors.

The Most Famous Fictional Superheroes of All Time

Superman the Greatest

Superman is the superhero we consider the strongest. His name implies it.

We identify him with the red, blue, and yellow costumes. His height is 6 feet and 3 inches, while his weight is 225 pounds. His hair is black with a natural curl, and his eyes are blue. He has a rugged body-build and a square jaw, giving him a noble physique.

He has a gentle, kind, and selfless personality. He knows what is right and wrong. Thus, he can act decisively during a crisis. In addition, he can maintain friendships and acquaintances.

Finally, he has superhuman powers that make him invulnerable. He can fly and leap in the air. Having X-ray vision, he sees through walls and other obstructions. It allows him to shoot red beams out of his eye.

Batman the Protector of Gotham

Batman is the superhero in a black and brown costume with the wings of a bat. He claims to be the protector of Gotham City.

His love for his city is probably one of his best qualities. He is intelligent, suspicious, devoted, and determined. He is ready for any challenge. Another good trait is his ability to control emotions and tolerate pain.

He does not have superhuman abilities, but he can do incredible things. He can pick a lock, hack and record mobile frequencies, understand multiple languages, and much more.

Spider-man the Superhuman

Spider-man is the character who does whatever a spider can. He shares almost the same uniform colors as Superman’s uniform.

He is caring, kind, loyal, brave, and intelligent. He uses more of his left brain in assessing situations. However, he has a personality disorder–neuroticism. He is anxious, fearful, jealous, envious, lonely, and frustrated.

Despite those weaknesses, he is notable for his superpowers. Like a spider, he can cling to walls. He has a sixth sense which keeps him alert for possible danger. He can also maintain perfect balance and equilibrium.

The Most Famous Bible “Hero” Characters of All Time

Joseph the Dreamer

Joseph was the second youngest son of Jacob and Rachel.

Since he was his father’s favorite, his brothers envied him. They became angry whenever he shared dreams, telling them that he would someday be their king.

As such, they would always trick him until they finally decided to sell him to Egypt. To protect themselves, they made their father believe Joseph died.

Extremely cruel, were they not?

In Egypt, Joseph became a slave. He suffered for something he never deserved. Nevertheless, God blessed his curse.

He earned the favor of the king by interpreting his dream about the coming famine. Eventually, Pharaoh appointed him governor.

When famine came, his brothers went to Egypt to buy food. They did not recognize him until he revealed himself (Genesis 45:4-5). Soon, he met his father and youngest brother. It was a dramatic revelation and reunion.

Indeed, Joseph’s curse turned out to be a blessing. It not only benefited other people but saved his family who his brothers had once disowned him.

What a hero!

Noah the Ark Builder

Noah, son of Lamech, was a righteous man in his generation. God entrusted him a special mission to save and restore the earth from all wickedness. He was to build an ark.

For 120 years, he preached about the coming global flood. He encouraged people to get into the ark, but they laughed at him–thinking he was crazy.

When the flood came, the people realized they were wrong. They wanted to get into the ark, but it was too late. Thus, they died along with other living creatures. Only Noah’s family obeyed and saved themselves.

Though he was not able to save his generation, Noah was a hero to his family. He became God’s instrument to eradicate all sinful beings and start anew.

Jesus our Savior

And, of course, there has been no better hero than Jesus Himself! Can you believe the Creator and God of the universe sacrificed Himself on our behalf?

He fulfilled this plan by living as a human on earth. God guided His earthly parents in preparing Him for the divine mission. By overcoming sin his entire life, He saved the world by dying on the cross of Calvary.

Indeed, Jesus is the ultimate hero in the Bible. His life, death, and resurrection justified us, giving us the chance to obtain salvation if we accept Him.

Reasons Why Bible Heroes Are Better Than Fictional Superheroes

Bible Heroes are Real

Bible heroes truly existed on earth. Superheroes are just fictional—meaning they are made up.

No matter how much we admire and follow them, superheroes can’t do anything outside our television screens.

On the other hand, Bible characters were real humans who did exist just like us. Genesis 2:7 confirms that God created man from the earth and gave life to it. Verse 27 of chapter 1 adds that He made them in His image.

Bible Heroes Did Not Need Superpowers to Carry on a Mission

Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, and the rest had superpowers. Without such, they could not protect themselves and other people.

Meanwhile, Bible heroes did not have supernatural powers. Faith and prayer were their weapons. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for…” (Hebrews 11:1).

With God as their source of power, they have performed acts that changed the world beyond human understanding.

The Deeds of Bible Characters Never Exemplified Violence

Fictional superheroes have good motives. Saving people from danger is their mission. However, it involves killing and other forms of violence.

In contrast, Bible characters never had to be cruel to bring about change. They just relied on God’s power and let Him move. They did not have to commit any sin that would ruin their moral character.

1 John 3:9 says that a child of God does not practice sinning because God’s seed abides in him.

Take-home Lesson

There is nothing wrong with admiring fictional characters. But to be fanatic about them is somewhat alarming.

It may sound harsh, but the truth is that there is no sense to idolize fictional characters. Superheroes are just a product of human imagination. They do not give us any value more than entertainment.

And so, Bible heroes are the ones worth following. We learn the best moral lessons from them. We can relate well because they were real beings like us. Above all, they lead us to the ultimate hero of all – Jesus Christ. Amen!

Heroes 2: The Game is a Bible trivia game released by the Hope Channel. It is a sequel to the game Heroes which was released in 2013.

The latest game version features:

  • New 3D animation
  • More challenging Bible Questions
  • Comes in four languages: English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French
  • Heroes 2 is available on  iOS and Android
  • Downloadable at the Apple Store and Google Play

CLICK HERE – Heroes II Bible Trivia Game

Changing Your Landscape? Start Anew With God’s Plan

Life sometimes requires us to start anew, as in the case of a divorce or a move. Other times, we just have a tug at our heart, knowing we need to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.

My husband and I recently made the decision to redo the landscaping at our home. It took a lot of prep work to make that decision. We needed to agree we wanted to stay in our home and not move. Next came researching landscaping companies, followed by contacting the finalists, settling on a plan and price, signing an agreement, and submitting a down-payment.

You see, our landscaping was over 25 years old. It looked aged and worn, and we wanted a new look—one that involved fewer straggly bushes and less maintenance. Basically, we were tired of the same old thing!

The laborious work began this week.

We watched the crew not just “prune” our yard, but remove every evidence of the last 25 years of growth.

It wasn’t sad to us, because we hoped “the future” look would be better. Okay, it might have been sad to our neighbors when they saw the landscapers demolish the beautiful crepe myrtle that adorned our neighborhood.

But then arose the destruction—as trenches were dug a water pipe burst, then our Internet cable was severed. An emergency call to the water district, a three-hour wait to connect to AT&T, and disruption of my husband’s work-related Zoom call seemed quite problematic. Why? Because we were not anticipating any dire consequences from our well-thought-out plans.

As a believer, we face many decisions in life. We decide what ministries to be involved in, what church to attend, who to marry, what job to take, where to live, and more.

Just as there were steps in deciding to redo our landscaping, there are steps and choices to make in our spiritual life.

While we have the personal liberty to choose God’s plan or not, our lives are best lived in the presence of God’s will and direction. He is our strength and support in this life and the life to come.

Why is it important to know God’s plan?

It is important to know God’s plan because the Lord is the best person capable of running our lives. The Bible tells us multiple times that God knows our future. When we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are positioned to receive His blessings. When we are following His will by trusting and obeying Him, we can have confidence He hears our prayers and is working things out for our greatest benefit. God will not hide His will from us if we sincerely seek Him.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. (Psalm 139:4)

Every good thing [is] given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:30-33

You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess. Deuteronomy 5:33

Starting Over

My husband and I don’t like yard work. In starting over from square one, we are trying to simplify our life by eliminating trees, bushes, and foliage in our yard. By removing unwanted debris, there will be more room for light to shine into our home—along with a simpler austerity.

In our Christian walk, sometimes we need to make decisions to move on, clear out our clutter, and/or change our priorities. Hopefully, when we do, our walk with the Lord will deepen and mature us to become more Christlike.

The “method to our madness” in discovering His plans entail making decisions by seeking Him, looking at options, and developing a sense of His guidance.

What are the steps to discover His plan?

  1. Ask God for His wisdom and understanding (James 1:5-6);
  2. Desire to follow His will. [That comes when we are repentant and obedient to His already established will in the Bible] (Psalm 51:2-3);
  3. Pray and meditate. [Do not make any decisions that have not been prayed over] (Philippians 4:6-7);
  4. Look for providential circumstances. [But recognize that circumstances and/or feelings alone should not be the deciding factor] (James 1:17);
  5. Talk to godly friends, confidants, or elders at your church for guidance (Proverbs 15:22);
  6. Rest and wait patiently in God through the power of the Holy Spirit (Psalms 27:14);
  7. Ask yourself if you have peace about your decision (Psalms 29:11);
  8. Understand that God’s will might involve some suffering (Romans 8:18);
  9. Recognize that if you have done these steps and are still unsure of His will, but a decision must be made, go with the best choice you can make (Romans 8:28);
  10. If you find you have made a “mistake,” keep trusting in the Lord to work everything out (Proverbs 3:5-6).

As I write this, our landscaping feat is not complete. Actually, we are deep in the midst of a huge mess.

However, I hope our decision to bulldoze all our greenery turns out to be the right one. Our expectation is to have an attractive and easy-to-keep-up-with yard. But, if it doesn’t, we still have a God who loves us and wants the best in our lives.

If you feel the need to start over, seek Him first. Be obedient. Follow His lead. And trust that He always knows what is best for us. And, don’t be afraid of a change!

Praying the Scripture

Dear heavenly Father, 

If I lack wisdom, I am asking You who gives generously without reproach to all who ask for it, because You have said in Your Word that it will be given. I am asking in faith without any doubting because Your Word says, “one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

Wash thoroughly from me my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Help me not to be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I am letting my requests, concerns, and upcoming decisions ascend to You. And Your peace, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

I know that every good thing is given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from You–the Father of lights. Give me wise counsel so my plans are not frustrated, because I know that with many counselors I will succeed. Give me the ability to wait on You for all plans and decisions that I need to make. Make me strong and let my heart take courage. Yes, let me wait for Your answers. I know You give strength to Your people, and that You will bless me with peace.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to me. And I know that You cause all things to work together for good to those who love You, to those who are called according to Your purpose, and that includes me. I want to trust in You, Lord with all my heart, and not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I want to acknowledge you. I know You will make my paths straight and my decisions honorable to You.

I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God Bless,

greenenpastures.org

Edited by E. Johnson

Bible verses come from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Books by Patti Greene – Order Below!

Christian Caregiving

Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending

Devotional Prayer Journals

Answer Me: Developing a Heart for Prayer

Anchor Me: Laying a Foundation in Bible Study and Prayer

Awaken Me: Growing Deeper in Bible Study and Prayer

 

How to Increase Church Attendance

Our youngest son Jimmy, always the adventurous type, decided to leave the safety and comfort of the Lone Star State (Texas) to continue his education after high school at Babson College—a private, but well-known business college founded in 1919 in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a town west of Boston.

So, it did not surprise his father or me that as an adult, he decided to collect the antique book versions written by the founder of his college—Roger W. Babson.

As most parents would be, we were grateful he did not want to start a collection of weird things like banana stickers, toenail clippings, or super-soakers! So, books were a great choice since I could find and give these rare books for birthday and Christmas gifts—if I could find them.

Babson was an American entrepreneur, economist, and business theorist. He predicted the Wall Street Crash of 1929, was the Prohibition Party’s candidate for President of the United States in 1940 although the election was won by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was also a religious man.

Babson authored over 40+ books on various topics—mainly business-related topics, but one book that he wrote, with the help of others, is titled How to Increase Church Attendance. It is this rare book that I found for Jimmy’s recent birthday present from a source I will not disclose to anyone.

Before wrapping Jimmy’s birthday gift, I read the book and took notes. Being a book published in 1936, it was fascinating to see how religious men from over 80 years ago perceived church attendance.

I desire that the following quotes from Babson’s book will make you laugh, ponder, and/or possibly change how you do church today!

Ministers, Leaders, and the Church

The personality and the pastoral work of the minister [is] very important. [It] is fundamental to a successful church.

If a church [cannot] afford a decent plant, it should consider consolidating with another church. In such cases, the churches with the poorer plants should sell their property and use the funds for renovating and extending [with] some other church in the community.

Trained teachers who are willing to give their services in the Sunday School should be exempt from making contributions.

All in the community, whether or not they attend church, should contribute to some church.

A Sunday should never go by without the minister making a public appeal for those who wish to give their hearts to Jesus.

The church is like a muscle—the more we use it, the stronger it becomes, while the less we use it, the weaker it becomes.

There are twice as many churches as there should be.

It is an outworn custom to count only those at the Sunday morning preaching service. We should also count the number who come to the church each week for any service of worship.

We should attend church . . .  to show our colors—to show the community and our family where we stand.

Every layman should go to church, irrespective of [the] preacher, music, ventilation, or cushions.

“Here [are] my suggestions for a church membership pledge,” exclaimed Roger Babson.

====================

To the ………………………………. Church,

I desire to develop my spiritual life and the spiritual life of others. As one means of doing this, I desire to join the ………………………………. Church.

I shall endeavor to bring my family or friends to your church, or to some other church if I am away, every Sunday.

I ask that you get in touch with me any week that you do not see or hear from me. I have checked the two lists on the reverse of this sheet showing the specific help which I most need, and also the line of work in which I may perhaps be most helpful to you.

Date ……………………………….            (S) ………………………………..

I FEEL THE MOST NEED OF:

Meditation

Learning to pray

Courage and Faith

Instruction

Help with my family

Better health

Economic assistance

New friends

General guidance

CAN BE THE MOST HELPFUL TO OTHERS IN:

Service of Worship

Teaching in Sunday School

Helping on the music

Leading young people

Caring for little children

Adult educational work

Boys’ Club Projects

Calling on the sick

Supplying flowers

====================

Causes for the Decline in Church Attendance

  1. Many seem to fear neither God nor man.
  2. Secondary motives for attending church, i.e. to help a man’s business or better his political prospects.
  3. Competing calls—competition; movies, reading newspapers.
  4. “The Waiting Mood”—People have ceased to seek. They wait to be sought.
  5. Indifference—church people are tremendously interested in many things. We must present the advantages of church attendance.
  6. Dissatisfaction with the tenets and teachings of the church. [Basically, the church does not seem to meet their needs and the needs of the age.]

The church should work for the well-being of the people.

Vitalizing the Sermon and Worship

  1. [There] must be an essential truth to the sermon. People want spiritual food they can understand.
  2. Holy zeal is necessary.
  3. Better craftsmanship is needed.
  4. Use other materials when necessary.
  5. Use the Bible.
  6. Sermons should be practical.
  7. Add news value to sermons. The use of such living materials … imparts a new freshness and impressiveness to the church service.
  8. Select “pulling subjects”—good topics and titles.
  9. Personal character—the personal life of the preacher must be a living example of Christianity.

Improving the Church Structure

  1. Ugly, badly arranged churches, if continued in use, will become more detrimental to church attendance.
  2. The equipment is very important.
  3. What, essentially, is required in order that a room be made effective as a place of worship? When one enters the room from the majestic out-of-doors, does he feel, upon coming within the building, a sense of uplifting and enlargement, even though the building may be small? Proportions [matter].
  4. Remove distractions—old chandeliers; Pleasant lanterns suspended from the ceiling will add much to the appearance and churchliness.
  5. Remove bad art glass.
  6. Good acoustics.
  7. Little things count for much.
  8. Eliminate all ugliness, barrenness, and things that divert attention from the holy exercise of divine worship.
  9. Cloakrooms will enable people to enter the sanctuary unencumbered without wraps, hats, and overshoes.

The Home and Church Attendance

  1. Regarding birth control, we do not have enough children in our church homes today to replenish our ranks in the next generation.
  2. The key individual to interest boys and girls in attending church is, of course, the minister. In the first place, he must be fond of children.
  3. The minister’s wife sets the example with herself and 5 children, and oftentimes four or five other children, [by] all sitting together in the fourth pew from the front.

Public Records on Church Attendance

Finance and attendance are both matters about which is the duty of all members to be informed.

Church Attendance and Theological Education

  1. A divinity school is a place for study. Its chief purpose is to train men in the major disciplines of theological education, not to equip students with a bag of tricks for drawing crowds.

Making the Community Church-Minded

  1. To have a great church, there must be two very essential factors; first-numbers; and second-loyalty.
  2. Two things impress the visitor—the height and central location of the pulpit.

Week-Day Religious Education

  1. For children and youth, religious education teachers should mostly be college or university graduates who have specialized in Bible and education.
  2. There is no need, however, for a church [to] lower its dignity by using the competitive methods of secular institutions, to draw people to its programs.
  3. [There needs to be] a firm belief that the church has something to offer.

Advertising

  1. The finest kind of advertising for any community, industry, merchandise, or even a church is the personal words [in] which one customer passes on to another.
  2. The great reason for non-church attendance among so-called Christians is the unregenerate conditions of their hearts.

Church Attendance and Prayer

  1. The heart of the church is prayer. If there is no place of prayer, or if the place of prayer is inadequate and weak, then no matter how enormous the church building might be, no matter how large the church membership, the church is a dying church.
  2. We cannot return to the old-fashioned testimonial meeting. It is as defunct as the old one-horse shay. (I had to look up the definition of a one-horse shay. It is a light, covered, two-wheeled carriage for two persons, drawn by a single horse.)
  3. But when we discarded the old shay, we did not leave our barn empty, we then filled it with a new automobile.

Six classes of people who attend church

  1. Those present every Sunday
  2. Others attending generally
  3. Others frequently
  4. Others occasionally
  5. Others rarely, and
  6. Others annually (on Easter)

Church Loyalty Projects

  1. Have a project.
  2. These works because they present specific achievements and friendly contests.

What about the Future?

  1. While the movies, the radio, comic supplements, and the automobile…have great power for good, they today are to too great an extent, undermining the character, health, and success of our children. Yet, we tacitly show our approval of these inroads by attending questionable movies and listening to everything on the radio.
  2. Before the development of modern advertising, motion pictures, and radio, many more of us spent our Sundays attending church services and reading good books.
  3. Today we are reading the sports and stock market pages, attending the movies, and listening to cheap radio patter.
  4. Hence, it behooves us to withhold a proper proportion of our time and money from these less important things and to devote the same to personally attending and financially supporting the churches.
  5. [To] help our children recognize the importance of character and the spiritual life, we must have them know that we put church attendance above the Sunday newspaper, the movie, and listening to the radio.
  6. [The most] efficient and inexpensive method of developing character among children and the community, in general, is to have them see us and their neighbors attend church.
  7. In conclusion, our studies would seem to indicate that the Protestant churches of America are today suffering from inertia, from lack of sufficient interest. Hence it would be time well spent if our clergymen and laymen would seriously consider an “over-hauling” and thorough examination.
  8. Statistics show that all institutions go downhill, which [does] not keep abreast or ahead of the times.

Miscellaneous

  1. Go through the list of church members with the thoroughness that a business organization would apply and prepare a list of those who do not go to church.
  2. Some may need to be dropped from the church roll.
  3. Others can be transplanted to other churches.
  4. But some will be quickened to resume their interest in the local church.

I hope you liked these quotes as much as I did. And, after reading this book, I am glad Jimmy no longer collects baseball cards, sneakers, or sunglasses! Books are good. And rare books are even better!

Bible Verses:

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10

Prayer:

Jesus, let me love my church as You did. Let me honor and respect the holy place You have provided for me to worship in. Give me a love for the people in the church—no matter our differences, personalities, or Bible knowledge. May all I do within the church body be pleasing and acceptable to You. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

God Bless.

 

Central Houston Inspirational Writers Alive! Associate Member; BibleGateway Blogger, Member; SBC, Church Member

Works Cited

Babson, Roger. How to Increase Church Attendance: The Commission on Church Attendance. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1936.

[Roger W. Babson, Rev. Edwin H. Byington, Rev. Hudson E. Fiebiger, Winslow L. Webber, Rev. Gail Cleland, Elbert M. Conover, Rev. Clement F. Hahn, Rev. George L. Thurlow, Rev. Edwin B. Robinson, Rev. Vaughan Dabney, Rev. John L. Keedy, Rev. Robert W. Gammon, James B. McKendry, Rev. Daniel Bliss, Rev. Arthur L. Kingsolving; and Rev. Herbert D. Rugg.]

Bible verses are from the New American Standard Bible.

Sacred Snippet: Spiritual Growth

I’ve been thinking about that dreaded feeling I experienced when I realized a painter had painted over all the markings on our “kid’s growth chart.”

Before the days of professionally-made wooden and personalized growth charts, I used to mark our kid’s height/growth on the inside pantry door in our home.

This reminded me of our spiritual growth!

– How is our spiritual growth chart?
– Is it short, tall, healthy, on track?
– Are you in a season of mighty growth?
– Or is it no longer there–just like our kid’s pencil and pen written growth chart?

We all grow at various times and through various means.

However, sometimes our growth chart patterns can signal a spiritual problem.

If you are concerned about your spiritual growth or lack thereof, talk to the Lord about it—just like a parent would talk to their child’s doctor if they weren’t growing.

“Complacency is easy and a deadly foe of spiritual growth.”
-A.W. Tozer

John 15:4-5

God’s Vision

God’s Vision Statement

God knows what He would like us to achieve and accomplish in our lives. His vision statement for us would include a description of what He wants for us, both in the near-term and long-term future. He knows which course of action He would like us to choose.

Companies provide their employees with clear directions and give them a mission to complete within a certain time. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 states, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—a time to give birth and a time to die.” God’s vision statement—also known as His mission statement—includes His ideas for how He wants us to live our lives from birth to death.

John Nuyten, author of Different Spirit, a non-denominational Christian Bible-teaching ministry, states “The only goal or vision that counts in the Christian life is that His Kingdom comes in the hearts of all people and His will be done.” (Matthew 6:10, 2 Peter 3:9) ¹

God’s Vision

Hence, when I talk about God’s vision, I am not talking about what God dreams or strange visions that occur in His head. I am talking about the all-knowing desires He has for our lives.

God’s major vision for us is He wants us all to be saved. Because He loves us, He gives us free will so we can decide for ourselves to be part of His vision.

Our heavenly Father wants us to be part of His vision. He plans our lives with His wisdom and love. God loves us so much that He has a vision for every believer. When we trust Him and allow ourselves to get quiet in His presence, God’s vision becomes clear to us.

It isn’t always easy, but He won’t show us how to live like Him without also showing us how to execute that vision, so we can reach our full potential for Him.

Winston Churchill

Remember Winston Churchill, the man who, during World War II, led Britain and the Allied powers to victory against the Nazis? Churchill had a vision and he finally became the Prime Minister of Britain—twice. He won a Nobel Prize for Literature. But, did you know that Churchill suffered from depression? Even through his struggles, he was motivated to continue.

God’s vision for us is even stronger than Churchill’s vision to succeed. He wants us to become all He intended us to be for His glory. But, how can we, as mere humans, get God’s vision?

Eyes Give Vision

Vision is a funny thing. We usually start life with good vision, but as we age, it becomes harder and harder for us to see. Having a normal 20/20 vision means no glasses, no contacts, and no surgery. In WebMD’s How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy, it says we should eat well, quit smoking, wear sunglasses, use safety eyewear, look away from computer screens and visit your eye doctor regularly.²

When we develop God’s vision, He will carry out His vision.

God Views Everything in the Spiritual Realm

Our Heavenly Father wants us to be part of His vision.  He does not give us His vision without showing us what to do. So, if you want His vision, pray for it, desire it with your whole heart. Ask Him to take away any distraction from seeking Him with your entire heart. He wants us to live in the spiritual realm.

Plead for Him to strengthen your faith, show you your sins, confess your weaknesses, and so desire your life to conform to the will of His Son, Jesus Christ. God uses our sins, our weaknesses, our pressures, our spiritual growth, our achievements, our character, and our integrity to mold us into His Son’s likeness.

Moses

Moses wasn’t quite ready to accept God’s vision for him as the spokesperson for the chosen people, so God used his brother Aaron to speak for Moses, but that wasn’t the original intent.

As with Moses, God’s vision occurs with or without our help.

Knowing Christ puts us in the position where we can want and desire Him to use us as His delight. Furthermore, we must count the cost, get prepared and be intentional in loving God and desiring to be more like Him.

Gifts of the Spirit

One way the Lord allows us to become like Him is for us to learn, use, and desire the Gifts of the Spirit.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. (1 Corinthians 12:1)

 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;  to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12-14)

Doing His work and allowing the Holy Spirit to use you for His Kingdom is necessary to fulfill God’s vision.

Teaching a Prayer Meeting

During the summer of 2014, I felt a deep yearning to have a Ladies Prayer meeting at my apartment since our regular Bible study was off for the summer. I recall being nervous about asking the Ladies Ministry leader if I could do that.

One Sunday, that lovely woman sat behind me in the church service and the tugging on my heart became so strong I knew I couldn’t leave the church without asking her about it. I will never forget her gracious response. She said, “That sounds wonderful, but I can’t lead it.” God is good and had already prepared me to answer her that I would do everything. I encouraged her to come and enjoy the Word and prayer time as a respite from her spring and fall ministries. If I had not asked her and obeyed that tug, there would not have been any ministry for the women that summer.

God showed me His vision. I asked permission. And with permission, I received the confirmation to serve. That is how having God’s vision is accomplished. OBEDIENCE.

How Can We View Life As God Does?

When we desire to have our vision mingled with the Lord’s vision, we must prepare ourselves. Be intentional in living for God. As believers, when we have been in the Word, praying, and seeking His face, we may be led to a specific Bible verse leading us to do or say something. We might be presented with opportunities that sound interesting and/or we might have a tugging in our hearts that God is impressing us to do something for Him. If the feeling does not go away, it is most likely the Lord is prodding us to join Him in His work and vision.

Seeking His Face

We seek God’s face by being consistently in His Word, praying daily, meditating in His presence, and being obedient. Submitting totally to God is very difficult, but don’t ever give up. I have noticed as I have gotten older that I wish for the thrill of living in Heaven more and more than desiring the earthly things in life. When God starts impressing things on your heart, pray for it (if it is within the instructions, He has shown us in His Word), and write “the vision” down.

Vision is God sharing Himself with you. However, sometimes we misread the vision. Maybe the vision is for a later time. And, not all impressions or visions are God-breathed or even meant to be shared.

Within a church or ministry setting, when you feel that wrenching pull that God is wanting you to participate in a ministry for Him, share it with a church staff member or leader. Don’t expect ministry leaders to “have osmosis” about your leading. Share your idea, pray, and wait on the Lord. It could be the Lord is saying, “Great idea, but not yet” or He may have already planted that idea in the minds of those who can see what you think is God’s vision for you, and guide it into fruition.

This Little Light of Mine

There is an old peppy toddler song named “This Little Light of Mine.”

The lyrics state . . .

This little light of mine,  I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, no!

I’m gonna let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, no!

I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine. ³

Let’s keep our God-given visions at the forefront of our minds and let’s not hide them under a bushel. Let them be known at the right time, in the right place, and to the right people. Our obedience to seek out His will and vision for our lives is what keeps the light for Jesus alive in our hearts.

Obedience

I don’t understand how it all works, and it sounds rather presumptuous to say, “God told me to go and buy a puzzle and work on it.” That conjures up so many questions from others, such as:

  • How did God tell you?
  • How did you know it was God? and
  • Why would God do that?

I prefer to just say I felt impressed that God wanted me to buy a puzzle. So, when last month I felt “impressed” to buy a puzzle, my first thought was, “I hate puzzles.” I hate them so much that I never even bought puzzles for my kids unless they had 6 pieces with a knob on the end to fit them in the obvious opening. Hmm, not quite right. I did buy my kids a puzzle of the 50 states and the world, but that was due to the educational side of me.

Buying a Puzzle

I looked up and prayed, “God, I want to be the kind of Christian that follows You to the tee, so if you want me to buy a puzzle, I will.” Searching Amazon for a pretty brain-teaser was quite challenging, but I was not going to do an ugly puzzle for God, and I found a gorgeous assemblage that fit the bill—complete with flowers, a city scene, a balcony, and an inviting bench!

Not being used to doing puzzles, I spread out all the pieces on the coffee table right-side-up—only to discover I did not leave any space to work the puzzle. That was my first mistake. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project. However, I knew to try to work on the border first. Unfortunately, that took me three days to complete.

After a few more days, I added a few pieces here and there to the puzzle.

And finally, on Day 5, I bought a white poster board and I slid the border I worked so hard on onto the poster board, packed up the puzzle pieces into little baggies by their color or design, and said, “Enough is enough!”

Then, I brought the puzzle to my closet to work on it ANOTHER DAY—or ANOTHER YEAR!

Refreshment

Did I feel like a failure in God’s eyes for not completing the puzzle? No, because God impressed upon me to buy the puzzle — not finish the puzzle — and I did that.

With what I did accomplish, I was refreshed with the insights God wanted to show me from this endeavor. His words were like drops of honey from Heaven. I began to see His vision for me more clearly as He addressed them all with my name!

Patti…

“Being obedient is the key—and you did that when you bought the puzzle that I impressed upon you to purchase.”

“There are a lot of different people in this world—just like there are lots of different puzzle pieces.”

“Life is hard–so are puzzles.”

“Reaching My goals in life can be time-consuming—just like putting this puzzle together.”

“At times, plans seem to fit together, but they don’t—just like when you thought that one piece fit perfectly, until you found that puzzle piece that really fit.”

“Sometimes you can’t figure out how all the pieces of your life fit together—just as you didn’t understand how to put the puzzle pieces in order.”

“On occasion, life looks like an impossible mess—just like your coffee table looked filling with 500 mismatched puzzle pieces.”

“Occasionally, you might have to put away your dreams either forever or for another day—just like you did when you put the puzzle in your closet.”

“Once in a while, you have to obey me even if you don’t understand why—just like you did when you searched for the right puzzle on Amazon.”

Without obedience, the insights I received may never have come—as simple as they seemed. Simple, but needed.

Conclusion

God may not ask you to buy a puzzle. But He might ask you to go to church, serve in a Sunday School class, smile at your waitress, or a multitude of other things. The important thing is for us to wake up each day desiring His vision and committing ourselves to be our best for Him—through daily repentance, prayer, reading the Bible, meditating in His presence, and determining to be obedient in all He calls you to do. And, before too long, we will smile at ourselves knowing that we are changing into the image of God and His vision is becoming our vision.

I’m not there yet, but maybe, just maybe, I am getting closer.

Bible Verses

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. (Exodus 14:16)

You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. (Joshua 6:3-4)

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing; (Genesis 12:1-2)

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Prayer

Dear Jesus, I love more You than You will ever know, but I find it hard sometimes to know Your will and what You want from me. Lord, show me how to find Your will; Show me how to find Your vision. Teach me to walk in Your footsteps in all I say and do. I feel unworthy to be used mightily for You, but I know You desire me and my obedience above all things. Please help me. In Your name, I pray. Amen.

God Bless.

greenenpastures.org

Edited by E. Johnson

Bibliography

¹ Nuyten, John. How important is it for Christians to have a vision? Different Spirit. Accessed 16 Feb 2020.

https://www.differentspirit.org/opinion/christian-vision.php/

² Vision. WebMD. Accessed 13 Feb 2020. https://www.webmd.com/

³ Loes, Harry Dixon. “This Little Light of Mine.” Hymnary Organization. Accessed 20 Feb 2020. https://hymnary.org/text/this_little_light_of_mine_im_gonna_let/

All Bible verses come from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

Patti Greene’s Bio

Patti Greene is a fun-loving (but serious) coffee drinking wife, mom, and Grammi! She serves as a Bible teacher and Sunday School helper in her home church in Katy, Texas. She writes and speaks with the sole purpose of leading and maturing others in Jesus Christ and His everlasting love. To receive blogs from GreenePastures.org delivered straight to your email, please sign up from this blog or email her at Patti@GreenePastures.org with your email address, and you will be added to the email listing. You will need to confirm your decision to be added to the blog by email. You can also catch up with her on her Twitter feed at (@PattiGreene13) or her Facebook Patti Greene-Pastures page at (https://www.facebook.com/author.greene).

Books by Patti Greene

Christian Caregiving

Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending

Devotional Prayer Journals

Answer Me: Developing a Heart for Prayer

Anchor Me: Laying a Foundation in Bible Study and Prayer

Awaken Me: Growing Deeper in Bible Study and Prayer

@PattiGreene13 #PattiGreene13 #bgbg2

 

“Your Mission, Should You Decide to Accept It . . .”

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE

Any child of the 1960s will recognize those words, intoned from a clandestinely placed tape recorder each week as Jim Phelps calmly accepted one dangerous and logistically challenging assignment after another on the ironically titled TV spy series “Mission: Impossible”.

Phelps always accepted the mission, and never failed in his efforts!

We as Christians are given the Great Commission by Jesus Christ, a “mission” He urges us to accept. Like on the TV show we have great latitude in determining where, when and how we undertake this objective, as well as who will help with bringing it about.

Our success rate will probably be less than 100%, at least in our estimation, but the important thing is that we, at some point, in some way, “accept the mission”. – Ed.

Off to Belize City, Belize

In 1989, I boarded a plane with my husband and off we went from Houston, Texas on our first mission trip to Belize City, Belize, Central America. Our sleeping arrangements involved single bunk beds on a cement floor in the dank basement of a missionary couple’s home. Roaches flew by as I tried to fall asleep, and I recall the exact words I said to my husband: “How in the world could you take me to this God-forsaken place?” Of course, as I look back, it was mostly the cockroaches that invoked this question, which was more a declaration of my mental state at the time.

As I think about my comment, I realize that missions and evangelism are all about bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “God-forsaken places” like this one but with my first experience, I could not get beyond the “cockroach mentality” and my disdain for the creatures. Fortunately, in time, I was blessed by many of the lovely people I met on my subsequent trips to Belize. Praise God!

Bible Verse

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) implores us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

While some are called to give up money and their livelihood to follow the Great Commission, others will be called to a different mission, purpose, or place. What is important is to seek out God’s individual plan for our lives, and to obey His direction at every stage.

From a United States Citizen’s Perspective

As a resident of the United States, it is sometimes difficult to even imagine the poverty some people live in daily in other parts of the world. It is hard to conceive of worshipping in a run-down shack without air conditioning or sanitation. A.W. Tozer, a self-taught theologian, and a fearless preacher said, “Evangelical Christianity is now tragically below the New Testament standard. Worldliness is an accepted fact of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual.” ¹ We are now seeing churches sporting cafés, movie theaters, gymnasiums, and even local fashion shows.

For those reading this who are from an “advanced” country, have you ever considered that the reason we have been blessed with such relative abundance may be so that we can give generously to the cause of evangelism, rather than to our pleasures and wants? While many are trusting God in total dependency in living out their calling, so many others (even believers) have little regard for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have become so “ME-centered” that the Lord hardly even seems present in their lives other than an occasional church service or a cursory glance at the Bible.

Satan’s Perspective

It is important to remember that Satan does not want us to be involved in any missionary or evangelical endeavor. Period! His desire is for us to either stay neutral on the subject or to become more centered in our own lives so that they revolve around us, and what makes us happy, rather than around the lives of others.

Sometimes those in mission work get so discouraged seeing so few showing an interest in their Christian beliefs or evangelism. This is another way our enemy seeks to degrade work done for the Kingdom, by attacking not only the missionary (through discouragement) but the supporter as well (through apathy, sloth and other distracters).

God’s Purpose

Regardless, God’s purposes will always be fulfilled. Even today, we can see the Holy Spirit operating around the world in many different nations. Many are coming to accept Christ where the Gospel has never been preached before. Salvations are occurring despite witchcraft, demonic influences, and secular rites and rituals. People are accepting Jesus Christ despite the fear of imprisonment, the fear of beheading, and the fear of being ostracized.

It is happening because of the prayers of believers. Maybe you are praying for a missionary, a specific country, a mission trip, or donating to help others participate in the Great Commission. If so, you are part of a wonderful opportunity by allowing the Holy Spirit to use you in His work.

As we pray for souls to be saved, let us remember the profound words of South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor Andrew Murray. In Pray for the World, Murray is quoted saying, “Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think.” ² God does work in mysterious ways!

Advancing the Cause of Jesus Christ

Below are some ideas on how we can advance the cause of Jesus Christ. They are listed in alphabetical order, but all are worthy of equal consideration to the same degree.

  1. Adopt and pray for a country. Ask the Lord for the Holy Spirit to seek out the lost and lead them to Him­­;
  2. Be obedient to whatever or wherever the Lord leads;
  3. Befriend a person(s) from a different culture or country;
  4. Have a “missions fair” at your church.
  5. Participate in a mission trip – local or foreign;
  6. Provide mission-centered training in your church or organization;
  7. Research your country. Learn as much as you can about the culture, land, religion, livelihood, population, ethnic groups, economy, literacy, languages, education, and more. [This is a nice family activity to do.]
  8. Seek out opportunities for involvement.

What Happened Because We “Accepted The Mission”

Because we accepted the Great Commission and journeyed to Belize, we were able to be witnesses for Jesus Christ to the Belizean people. My husband John, our three children (ages 8, 6 and 4 at the time) and I spent our time in the Central American nation becoming lifelong friends with our hosts, Pastor Tony of Punta Gorda Baptist Church and his family, as well as other members of the local community. Fortunately, we still communicate with Tony’s adult children to this day.

John preached his first sermon there. I helped design the layout for a bookstore. Most importantly, John worked with the Southern Baptist Mission Board and trained Tony in the process of him becoming a fully-ordained pastor.

We ministered to Tony and his family well beyond that trip to Belize. When Tony developed kidney disease due to his uncontrollable diabetes, we let him stay at our home in St. Louis. Later, John arranged for him to get into a program at a downtown Houston hospital. At the time, dialysis was unavailable in Punta Gorda, and as a result, he had to travel regularly the 167 miles to Belize City for treatment, so we brought Tony here to the United States for more focused medical care.

Remember what I said earlier about the reason for having abundance is to share it with others? Recall that Luke tells us, “everyone to whom much was given, of [Him] much will be required. (Luke 12:48 ESV). We gave Tony and his family cars. We paid for their youngest daughter’s high school education. Some people might call my telling you this “braggy”, but I simply say it’s the kind of thing our Lord expects of us.

In sustaining the pastor and his family, we, in fact, supported the spreading of the Word by removing obstacles and distractions which would otherwise have hindered its free flow. That, above all other blessings we have been able to provide, is the most enduring.

Sadly, diabetes ended up taking Tony’s life, but his desire and work to bring the Word of God to the people of Belize lives on.

What I Learned on Our Mission Trips to Belize

Going to Belize was my first mission trip. It was “eye-opening—except when I closed my eyes to avoid those huge cockroaches at night. I learned I could do without my eyeliner and my eyelet bedspread.

But what I couldn’t avoid was the eyesore of poverty that confronted me every day. After urinating in a dirt hole in the ground, I was thankful for an outside toilet. After watching seven-and eight-year-old boys steal in order to purchase food, I was thankful we had enough to feed our own children. After seeing the native Belizeans shop at different grocery stores based on their political parties, I was thankful for our relatively stable public life in this country.

Secure in Their Faith

However, what amazed me the most was that the native Christians I met were solid and secure in their faith. They possessed a faith that I had never seen before. Their walk with the Lord was so evident by the fruits in their life, i.e. love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). I saw that they HAD TO depend on their relationship with God to sustain them for food, water, shelter, and more.

The churches we visited had pastors that cared that people accepted the gift of salvation. They preached with a firm voice as if it might be their last time to preach—and knowing the violence that surrounded them (at least in Belize City), any preaching experience very well could have been their last!

In all, my husband John has made ten trips to Belize. I myself have been along on three of those journeys. We keep “accepting the mission”, because, as long as there are unsaved people walking the Earth, it never ends…

Conclusion

Evil is abounding right now in every corner of the world. Let’s increase our faith, shape our Christian ministries, and pray sincerely for the Holy Spirit to be a mighty force in reaching the world for Christ. And let’s remind ourselves that God desires salvation for ALL people – even those in “God-forsaken” countries!

Bible Verses:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)

But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)

Prayer:

Lord Jesus. Thank you for my salvation through Jesus Christ. Lord, please soften my heart so I am more sensitive to the eternal and spiritual needs of others. Let me pray for the Holy Spirit to gently guide me to the purposes and callings You have already planned for me. Provide opportunities for me to see through Your eyes and give me the courage and willingness to respond. In Your name, I pray. Amen.

Central Houston Inspirational Writers Alive! Associate Member; BibleGateway Blogger, Member; SBC, Church Member

Edited by E. Johnson.

Works Cited

¹ Tozer, A.W. “The Swamps of Low-Grade Christianity.” Global Christian Center. Web. Accessed 7 Oct 2019. https://globalchristiancenter.com/devotions/morning-muse/33922-the-swamps-of-low-grade-christianity.

² Murray, Andrew. “Andrew Murray Quote about #Everything, #Beware, #Prayer, Unbelief.” All Christian Quotes. Web. Accessed 7 Oct 2019. https://www.allchristianquotes.org/quotes/Andrew_Murray/141/

New American Standard Bible. BibleGateway.com. Web. 16 Oct 2019.

All Bible verses are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

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Patti Greene is a fun-loving (but serious) coffee drinking wife, mom, and Grammi! She serves as a Bible teacher and Sunday School helper in her home church where her husband also teaches in Katy, Texas. She writes and speaks with the sole purpose of leading and maturing others in Jesus Christ and His everlasting love. To receive blogs from GreenePastures.org delivered straight to your email, please email her at Patti@GreenePastures.org with your email address, and you will be added to the email listing. You will need to confirm your decision to be added to the blog by email. You can also catch up with her on her Twitter feed at (@PattiGreene13) or her Facebook Patti Greene-Pastures page at (https://www.facebook.com/author.greene).

Books by Patti Greene [Order today for Christmas]

Christian Caregiving

Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending

Devotional Prayer Journals

Answer Me: Developing a Heart for Prayer

Anchor Me: Laying a Foundation in Bible Study and Prayer

Awaken Me: Growing Deeper in Bible Study and Prayer

@PattiGreene13 #PattiGreene13 #bgbg2

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