Tag Archives: Christian

Church Pondering & My New Books

My Church Ponderings

Today I have been pondering all the special churches, ministries, and church staff members who have grown our family in one way or another, so I want to thank them publicly! Each one has been special in its own kind of way.

University Baptist Church, Ft. Worth, Texas
Houston’s First Baptist Church, Houston, Texas
Autumn Creek Baptist Church, Houston, Texas
Calvary Community Church, Houston, Texas
First Baptist Church, Humble, Texas
First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, Missouri
Bear Creek Church, Katy, Texas
Lively Christian Fellowship, Lagos, Nigeria
*Second Baptist-1463, Katy, Texas

Special Churches

Then, there are those special churches our three children have attended and grown in their faith–after they left home! I am so grateful for them as well!

Second Baptist-West, Katy, Texas; *Houston’s First Baptist Church; Second Baptist, Levelland, Texas; First Baptist Church, Lubbock; Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas; Redeemer Church, Babson Park, Massachusetts; Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas; Oak Hills Church, San Antonio Texas; Experience Life Church, Lubbock, Texas; *Kingsland Baptist Church, Katy, Texas; and *City Church, Lubbock, Texas!

If you are one of those churches, THANK YOU! Church members come and go from congregation to congregation, but they all leave a mark on our lives. I am so grateful for solid Bible-believing churches that have been a part of my husband, John, and our lives.

If you don’t have a church, take this as an ENCOURAGEMENT POST to seek one out next Sunday. Yoking together with others IS all it is made up to be.

*Currently Attending

God bless you.

My New Books – Just Published

Bible Word Search Puzzles: The Gospels, Volume 1

Bible Word Search Puzzles; Acts and Epistles, Volume 2

Bible Word Search Puzzles: Epistles and Revelation, Volume 3

Guest Blog: Do NOT Mismanage God’s Affairs by Lucky Atugbara

Do NOT Mismanage God’s Affairs by Lucky Atugbara

Dear Readers,

Once upon a time, in the not-too-distant past, my husband and I lived for two years in Lagos, Nigeria. Some people pray, “Lord, I will do anything for You, but please don’t send me to Africa.” Being sent to Africa was one of the best things in my life. I needed to be there. God sent me there to learn some important spiritual lessons that I could only have learned from being there! I also met some lovely life-long friends during the process.

One of them was our driver Lucky. Like many people in Nigeria, two jobs are a reality. Lucky worked for us at a secular job as our driver, but his “REAL” job was that of a minister. Some people believe that pastors must have higher education. I agree that education is an excellent plus for pastors, but in some situations and some countries, that is not realistic. Lucky is a self-taught minister of the gospel, and he is good at it. Theologian A.W. Tozer sums it up when he says, “The thing that must really be understood is that our knowledge of God cannot be acquired simply through academic processes. What we really know about God is what He has faithfully revealed to us.” ¹

Lucky occasionally sends me his Sunday sermon messages. I devour them! God is using this man to preach the gospel in Lagos. Below is a recent sermon he sent me. Yes, I edited his “speech” a little—with his permission—to make it more readable to my blog followers. I hope you enjoy it, and as you read it, look for the main point. The main point is the essence of our walk with our triune God.

Patti Greene

  1. God will never allow spiritual growth if we do not manage our lives correctly. So instead of praying for something from God, we should pray for the spirit to handle our sin, guide us into His truth, and be responsible for what He has given us. God will not allow you to have something you have prayed for if you cannot manage them.
  2. God created men and women to worship Him—as God. He required a manager to manage what He made. Note that whatever you mismanage, God will not allow that area of your life to grow—until you can handle it.
  3. If we ask people why God created man, they usually say, “It is to worship God.” Correct, but we must worship Him with the right motives, the right desire, and glorify Him because He is God.
  4. Whatever you mismanage, you will most likely lose. Whatever is under your care, work diligently to protect and care for it. God cannot give you what you pray for if you do not manage what He has already given to you well. He can only provide you what you can handle. You pray for a new house. But God looks down on the apartment you have and sees it is not well-kept or clean. So, He says, “No! You have not managed the apartment I gave you, so you may not have a house.” He only gives you what you proved you could manage.
  5. Some people might get jealous of your ministry. They may not understand what is going on behind the scenes and making your ministry grow and flourish. If you do not manage your church or church assignments correctly, you may lose them, just like if you mangle your body, you might lose part of your arm, leg, or health. If you mess up your relationships, you might lose them. If you mishandle your children, it is possible to lose them. If you blow your money or bungle your business, you could lose them.
  6. To my pastor friends, I say, “So stop crying, Pastor. Don’t say, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me. Life does not give you what you deserve but for what you fight for. Start reading Philippians 4:6.”

Ask. Seek, Find

My dear friends, the only way we can defeat the enemy we face is to pray. We must appreciate and tell the people that God has blessed us in one way or another.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7 NASB).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6 NASB).

GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED MADAM,

I hope you liked my sermon and have extracted something from this message.

In God’s Grace,

Lucky

Bible Verse:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Colossians 3:23-24).

Prayer: 

Dear Lord, I come to You today lifting my heart to You. I desire to work and serve You diligently. Please take away all my ungodly motives, my wicked spirit, and any desire to be “seen” for my works. Make me desire to live a life pleasing to You in grace, love, and humility. Remind me that my purpose in life is to understand the revealed truths You give me through Your Word. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

¹ Tozer, A.W. Delighting in God: True and Absolute Freedom is Found only in the Presence of God. New Delhi: General Press, 2020.

Verses are taken from The New American Standard Bible (NASB).

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Books by Patti Greene

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

Click here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=patti+greene&ref=nb_sb_noss

The Fact Is: Chatting With God Is Awesome

I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to spend a good part of my day in one of my favorite ways: chatting casually with my Heavenly Father. It was a beautiful time of fellowship, and I really felt myself the “daughter of the King”. In that conversation, I could express safely, with equal confidence, my joys, hopes, and fears.

We’ll get to that later. For now, let’s start at the beginning.

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Lying in bed one cool fall day recently, I received a nudge around 6:17 a.m. The nudge was clear. It said, “Get up. Go pray.” I knew immediately from whom the nudge came.

I slipped out of bed, grabbed a cup of Folger’s Classic coffee, and went straight to my prayer chair. There was no time to question God. He made it very clear that He had something to say to me, and I was not about to keep Him waiting.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the scenes in my spiritual life, I have been dealing with a lot that I don’t understand this year. My meltdowns, my concerns, my unexpected thoughts, my perceived inability to hear God correctly, and the fear of hearing Him incorrectly all played into the fact that I knew God either had some profound admonitions for me or indispensable words of encouragement.

Creative Inspiration

Most times God speaks to me in a small quiet voice or through His Word. But occasionally He speaks to me in very creative ways.

An example of that was last weekend when I was driving to a Bible study. I was on the agenda to share a few words of wisdom with the group.

I was empty.

I had nothing in mind to share.

God is so good. He knew I had undergone a week filled with one urgent issue after another. As I drove on the freeway (I-10, for those who care), I passed a storage facility followed by a billboard that had the word journey on it. Through those everyday roadside fillers, God graciously gave me His words to share at the Bible study.

He impressed me to tell this group that, “As women, we store so much within ourselves without sharing it with anyone, either isolating ourselves from others or stressing us out. However, we must remember that we are all on our own individual journey, and how God works with you and what He might want you to share or not share may be different than how He deals with others.”

Now, I am not suggesting you give up your daily Bible reading or prayer time to look for these creative signs from God. Not at all, but what I am saying is that God can use any method He so chooses to share Himself with you and me.

Back to that cool fall day . . .

Praying for months for more intimate moments with God, I zealously awaited a deep one-on-one time with the Lord that morning.

Preparing to Hear from God

When I first sat down in my prayer chair, I reread one of my recent Dear God letters.* Then, I recalled multiple Bible verses to mind and recited them aloud. At that juncture, I began talking to the Lord about what was heaviest on my heart—my not understanding the “whys” of what I had gone through, and was still going through, this year.

You see, it’s been a rough season of pruning, spiritual warfare, and not understanding circumstances. Through it all, though, my desire was to be absolutely surrendered to Him.

In all humility, I must mention I have been in the Word constantly and been praying daily, so I knew it wasn’t a matter of God telling me to do these two things.

It was much deeper than that.

God had serious business to conduct with me. And, I loved His creativity with me, especially since I have been in such a serious mode lately.

A Pen and Paper Conversation

Then from nowhere, God and I were sharing like two good old friends, chit-chatting about everything from smoked sausage to the latest lipstick trends. [Yes, I am exaggerating here!]

Being the “pen and paper” woman I am, I began writing down our conversation as it was occurring. God titled our conversational diversion with the phrase “The fact is.” This phrase became the name of our personal tête-à-tête.

In a short amount of time, 120 lines of talking with my heavenly Father had taken place. I could have kept going, but I stopped when a text message from a friend came through.

With her permission, I share her 6:59 a.m. post.

Patti, John and family, the Joy of the Lord will give you strength and you will live the life of victory God has promised you! Father, bless this family with victory in their personal lives, in their relationships, in their church and in their community. Dear Lord, thank you for blessing, encouraging and empowering them no matter what they may be facing. I ask You to fill their hearts with supernatural joy, so they can stand strong in all things. I pray that God blesses you daily with good health, divine healing, peace, hope and guidance. I am praying that in His perfect time and in His gentle way, God’s caring touch will comfort, support and strengthen you. Love you. In Jesus name. Amen.

It’s just like God to send a confirmation that He is right by my side—only 43 minutes after my wakeup call. But it didn’t stop there. All day long, I took notice of God saying, “The fact is,” and I responded with the same identical phrase.

This non-verbal dialogue between God and me transpired as I traced my path through several stores, specifically Walgreens, Barnes & Noble, Macy’s and Hobby Lobby. He even confirmed it was Him in Barnes and Noble when I randomly ran across a book titled, And That’s a Fact! *

The bottom line of this post is that I thought I would share a sampling of the heart-to-heart chat I had with the Lord today. Maybe it will help you—maybe it won’t. But I think God is nudging me to share it! So, I am going to obey.

Me:        The fact is, I love You, Jesus.

God:      The fact is, I love you so much I died for you.

Me:        The fact is, You will help me overcome.

God:      The fact is, Yes, I will give you strength.

Me:        The fact is, You want me to rest upon Your shoulder.

God:      The fact is, I can calm and quiet your soul by doing that.

Me:        The fact is, people fail us and let us down.

God:      The fact is, I am always true to My Word

God:      The fact is, I am your confidence.

Me:        The fact is, I get hurt when I don’t remember that. In fact, I get hurt a lot.

God:      The fact is, I will never leave you or forsake you.

Me:        The fact is, I try to remember that one day is like a thousand years to You.

God:      The fact is, I know you were summoned into service for Me.

Me:        The fact is, then You know I don’t know what to do with that calling.

God:      The fact is, just trust that I know the plans I have for you.

Me:        The fact is, I know You don’t have to share those plans with me now.

Me:        But the fact is, I am getting older.

God:      The fact is, some things I hide in the spiritual realm until the right time.

Me:        The fact is, that sometimes I feel battered down and feel forgotten.

God:      The fact is, I give My power to the weak and I am able.

Me:        The fact is, I can’t make sense of it.

God:      The fact is, you just need to trust Me.

Me:        The fact is, I do trust You and I know You hold me in Your hands.

God:      The fact is, that My wisdom will guide you to understanding. With discernment, you will know My ways.

Me:        The fact is, spiritual warfare comes out of nowhere and it lasts so long, then leaves temporarily, then returns.

God:      The fact is, I have allowed it, so your faith can be proven.

God:      The fact is, I want You to experience the “coming out of it” victoriously. I can only do it that through the way I am working in your life.

Me:        The fact is, I am depending upon You to come out victoriously.

God:      The fact is, I am also pruning you.

Me:        The fact is, that’s an understatement. I know You are pruning me, Lord—It’s exciting, but it hurts so much.

God:      The fact is, I am carrying you.

Me:        The fact is, being a Christian is the best thing ever, but it can be so hard.

God:      The fact is, I know that. I sweat drops of blood because of that, but the ending was and is sweet.

God:      The fact is, I am preparing you for great and mighty things you do not know.

Me:        The fact is, that’s awesome. Thank You.

God:      The fact is, I know you are weary.

Me:        The fact is, I know to come to You. You said, “Come to Me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Me:        The fact is, I know I am growing through all this.

God:      The fact is, you must wait and then you will overcome it. When you see what I have in store for you, you won’t believe it.

Me:        The fact is, I’m having trouble waiting. I’m sort of anguished about it. But, thank You for me so much.  Furthermore, thank You for preparing a place for me in Heaven.

God:      The fact is, everything you have experienced and will experience has been experienced by Me.

Me:        The fact is, that’s comforting. I love You and need to be reminded of that.

God:      The fact is, I love you too. Go forth in My love. Trust Me. Put your faith in Me. Depend on Us—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God:      Make your requests be made known to Me. Then, believe that I know what I am doing. I know the details because I know the big picture of your life.

Me:        The fact is, I do believe that, but I may need more times of respite.

God:      The fact is, that the shepherd cares about his sheep. And you are one of my dearest sheep.

Me:        The fact is, I love You for that.

God:      The fact is, let’s chat more. Now, I’m nudging you to finish the book you are reading tonight! There’s something in it just for you. [There was.]

So… whether via roadside billboards or a text message from a Godly friend; whether I am in my lair’s “prayer chair”, waltzing through Walgreens or hobnobbing in Hobby Lobby, the Word of the Lord comes to me in many ways and places.

The fact is: whenever He is ready to talk, I, like Samuel of old, am always ready to hear and respond at any time.

But please, Lord, let me first get my morning cup of coffee.

Bible Verses:

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried – our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 MSG)

The fact is, that ADONAI sent me to you to speak all these words, so that you could hear them. (Jeremiah 26:15b CJB)

The fact is, that Christ did actually rise from the dead and has become the first of millions who will come back to life again someday. (1 Corinthians 15:20 LB)

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If not, why not take steps to receive Him by . . .

  1. Recognizing that God does love you. (John 3:16)
  2. Understanding and confessing that your sins are separating you from God. (Romans 3:23)
  3. Accepting that Jesus Christ is the only provision for your sins. (Romans 5:8)
  4. Individually receiving Jesus Christ through faith as your Lord. (John 1:12)

Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

What a joy to fellowship with You all day long! Thanks for giving me the freedom to talk to You. Thank You for the precious words You have given me. Thank You for the facts we have shared together—especially the banter we enjoyed just between ourselves. I know You are with me. I just want to feel Your presence more and more in my life. I want to live in the spiritual realm as much as possible. Let Your truths enlighten me and guide me. I love You, Jesus.

Amen.

God Bless. Until 2019.

* My Dear God letters consist of letters I have written to God—usually on notebook paper.  I started writing these letters decades ago and I have them saved. Usually they are written when I really have something serious on my mind. Many times, God impresses upon me what to do or what not do during these letter writing activities.

*And That’s a Fact by Harry Bright. I have not read this book or even browsed through it. It may be awesome, but I am not necessarily recommending it. I just saw the cover in Barnes and Noble.

Member of IWA-Inspirational Writers Alive!

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Edited by E. Johnson

Valentine's Day

Books by Patti Greene

I am not a None—One of the Religious Unaffiliated

I am NOT a none. I have never desired to be a none! And with God’s grace, I will never become a none. So, what is a none? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nones as “the ninth day before the ides according to ancient Roman reckoning” or “the fifth of the canonical hours”.

However, those are not the nones being spoken about in this article. I am talking about the nones as defined in the Oxford University Press website in an article titled “3 Things You Might Not Know About Nones” by Elizabeth Drescher. Drescher defines nones as “a name for people who answer ‘none’ when asked what religious group they most identify or to which they belong.”

It is based on this definition, I will be providing informational quotes from various writers and researchers that will provide enough information for you to understand and intelligently discuss nones with others. In addition, I have included links for easy location of the entire articles.

Currently, nones or my personally made-up word noneship are not within my everyday vernacular or even official words yet, but I daresay that in the next few years, they will join the Merriam Webster’s New Dictionary Word List along with their most recent newest words such as cryptocurrency, wordie, Chiweenie, Schnoodle, ooh, mm-hmm, and welp.

Who is a None?

Becka Alper from Pew Research says, “a growing share of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. [They] recently asked a representative sample of more than 1,300 of these “nones” why they choose not to identify with a [particular] religion.

Out of several options included in the survey, the most common reason they give is that they question a lot of religious teachings. Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as an atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation.

The second-most-common reason is opposition to the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, cited by 49% of respondents (the survey asked about each of the six options separately). Smaller, but still substantial, shares say they dislike religious organizations (41%), don’t believe in God (37%), consider religion irrelevant to them (36%) or dislike religious leaders (34%).”

Alper, Becka. “Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion.” Pew Research Center. 8 Aug 2018.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/08/why-americas-nones-dont-identify-with-a-religion.

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“The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages.”

“America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” Pew Research Center. 5 May 2015.

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

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“Curiously, the religiously unaffiliated are “about twice as likely to describe themselves as political liberals than as conservatives.”

  • 63 are either registered Democrats (39%) or lean toward the Democratic Party (24%)
  • 72% support legal abortion
  • 73% support same-sex marriage

Hess, Andrew. “The rise of the nones.” Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family. Accessed 21 Sept 2018.

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/about/focus-findings/family-formation-trends/rise-of-the-nones

What is Interesting about the Nones?

“Look at any survey about the state of religion and you will find the same story of decline. Fewer Americans today than in past decades identify with a religion, attend church, engage in religious practices, and view faith as an important part of their lives. Those who advocate the secularization of society applaud such cultural change because they see it as evidence that people are turning away from all things supernatural. However, these trends may be less about our abandoning the supernatural and more about our abandoning each other.”

Routledge, Clay. “Americans quit church but still search for meaning, now as loners.” Nation Review. 14 July 2018.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/07/traditional-religion-has-social-value-individual-quests-leave-people-isolated/

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This seems like a circular argument: “The nones are growing because the nones are growing! But sociologically, it makes a kind of sense. Some nonbelievers might have stayed in organized religion in previous generations just because it was socially expected, and there were consequences for not joining the religious crowd. The numeric growth of the nones has removed some of those barriers so that other closeted nones feel more comfortable leaving religion too. There is an infrastructure and support system for them.”

Riess, Jana. “Why millennials are really leaving religion (it’s not just politics, folks). Religion News Service. 26 June 2018.

https://religionnews.com/2018/06/26/why-millennials-are-really-leaving-religion-its-not-just-politics-folks/

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“In 2014, 23% of adult Americans identified as what media and academics have come to refer to as religious “nones.” Although the term covers a lot of territory—atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated, “nothing in particular,” and “spiritual but not religious”—it does not include anyone who identified with a particular faith tradition.”

Winston, Diane. “Millennials and the ‘none’: Why 40 years of religion in US Elections may change in 2015. Vice News. 30 June 2015.

https://news.vice.com/article/millennials-and-the-nones-why-40-years-of-religion-in-us-elections-may-change-in-2015

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Nones are building communities in myriad ways, some of them more organized than others. From meditation groups to the very church-like Sunday Assemblies,  the religiously unaffiliated are finding ways to connect with one another.”

Blumberg, Antonia. “How the ‘Nones’ can find a sense of community outside of religion.” Huffington Post. 22 July 2015.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/religiously-unaffiliated-nones-community_us_55afe508e4b0a9b948535f3a

Why Do the Nones Believe Like They Do?

“Today’s young nones, immersed in their online lives, may feel as though they are very connected. But as many are collectively realizing, online connections are weaker than advertised. We may have many [acquaintances] within digital reach, but numerous online relationships are no substitute for deep, real-life friendships. Similarly, a wave of spirituality apps promises to supercharge your mindfulness and positive thinking. Although beneficial, app spirituality, too, leads to a solitary practice.”

Asma, Stephen. “Religiously unaffiliated ‘none’ are pursuing spirituality, but not community.” L.A. Times. 6 June 2018.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-asma-nones-spirituality-20180607-story.html

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“As a pastor, as a researcher, as an educator, as just a Christian who cares, the single greatest contributor to the attrition rate [of the Christian faith] has been the breakdown of the family,” McFarland said in an interview with the Christian Post.

Blair, Leonardo. “Parent Failure to Transmit Faith to Kids Helping Fuel Growth of Religious ‘Nones,’ Study Suggests.” Christian Post. 20 Sept 2018.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/parent-failure-transmit-faith-kids-helping-fuel-growth-religious-nones-study-227489/

How Can the Nones Come to Know Christ?

An important new survey by Pew Research asks, “why people who were raised in religious homes but who now identify as religious “nones” — having no religious affiliation — decided to leave the faith of their childhood. The results were varied, but according to the survey, “Half of ‘nones’ left childhood faith over lack of belief, one-in-five cite dislike of organized religion.

So today, America needs another great awakening, one which will convert the unconverted, restore the backslidden, and set the complacent on fire. Whether they know it or not, the “nones” are crying out for this very thing.”

“God’s solution to the ‘Nones’ who have left the faith.”  The Stream. Accessed 21 Sept 2018.

https://stream.org/gods-solution-nones-left-faith

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Conclusion

So how can you know God? It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection (Romans 5:10)

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, [A]men.

“How do I accept Jesus as my savior.” In Touch. Accessed 21 Sept 2018.

 https://www.intouch.org/read/content/how-do-I-accept-Jesus-as-my-savior

While some people have no idea what is their purpose in life, some are convinced their life journey is to seek knowledge, to pursue status, to become wealthy, to promote tolerance, to reproduce or a host of other purposes.

The bottom-line is, what do we believe is the meaning of life?

As believers in Jesus Christ, we should believe that our purpose is to fulfill what God has appointed us to accomplish on this earth. When the spiritual dimension of life is void of the Trinity—God, the Father; Jesus, the Son; and the Holy Spirit, we become part of the none community. Let’s not let that happen!

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Bible Verses:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to believe in You. Help me to see You with new eyes. If You are real, let me know that. I’m tired of the life I am living. I want to know that beyond what I can see, there is a God that loves me and wants what is best for me. Help me to leave my proud behavior and unbelieving thoughts at Your feet. I want to know if You are real. Amen.

God Bless.

greenenpastures.org

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Edited by E. Johnson

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Good Seed, Good Ground

Good Seed, Good Ground

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By Ellsworth Johnson, Guest Blogger for Greene Pastures

I remember my first airplane flight. I was seven years old and we were flying from New York City to Tampa, Florida to visit my grandparents. It was raining at departure time and overcast horizon-to-horizon, so I expected the drizzle to continue for the entire ride.

Imagine my surprise, though, as we penetrated the cloud layer after takeoff, and the sun was shining in a clear bright blue sky! The clouds were actually below us now, which is not how I was used to thinking of them — can you get out and walk on them?

Other, deeper questions came to my inquisitive young mind: Is God up here somewhere? Where is Jesus, all the angels, and everyone else? Is this part of heaven?

Doubts about God and religion had already set in by then. If heaven is directly above our house, which I believed emphatically that it was, is it also above my next-door neighbor’s house, too? What about across the house street, in the next town, in California, or a hut in Timbuktu? I knew the Earth was a ball… heaven couldn’t really be above everywhere at the same time . . . could it?

Somewhat less whimsical is the case of Steve Jobs, the prodigious, brilliant and ultra-rich Apple co-founder who died in 2011. The story goes that young Steve asked his local priest one day why God allowed such widespread suffering in the world if He is truly a God of Love. Alas, the priest miserably failed this fairly basic pop quiz by not having a solid ready answer of any kind to the question, and Steve’s faith was busted irretrievably to the point where he went off and eventually became a Buddhist.

I, on the other hand, was still being raised Catholic. Why? Because my mother, the driving force for such matters in our home, attended St. Therese, a Catholic church near our house. I learned, many years later, that this critical choice of faith owed to the sound theological reason that the services, without exception, were always exactly 45 minutes in length.

Every Sunday morning Mom would announce that it was time for her, my brother Dwayne and me to leave for Mass. On the infrequent occasions I objected, my father, invariably planted in front of the television set in his burnt-orange upholstered chair would jump up, point his finger at the door and start shouting words of reprimand for what seemed like an eternity. Oddly, I can never remember anything he said, less so any of it ever making sense. When he was done, he returned to his football or basketball game (depending on the season) as if nothing had happened.

For some reason, he never had to go with us. This, too, struck me as odd. If God wanted the three of us to go to church on Sunday, didn’t He want my father to go, too?

Maybe the TV was his own special form of worship.

Time and years went by, and this Sunday ritual was joined when I was 12 by Christian Children’s Doctrine (CCD) classes. These classes met at St. Therese on Tuesday nights. They were taught by one of the nuns, and went from 7:30 to 9:00, consisting entirely of a lecture on some obscure religious point. Few children in the class took it seriously: I sat in the back each week and passed the time with these two cut-ups who joked and fantasized about how I was really a bullfighter, and other such nonsense.

Ultimately, CCD was for me, a waste of time. I felt bad for the nun who led it: she was so sincere in what she was doing and yet, like my father’s Sunday diatribes (and unlike the bullfighter goofing), absolutely none of the substance of her words survived.

I endured it for grades 7 and 8; for ninth graders, however, CCD was no longer held at the church, but now instead at a local parishioner’s house. Apparently that change was too inconvenient for my mother, so, miraculously, I no longer had to go.

Many decades later, the real reason for the class’ ineffectiveness was unearthed: their messages were never reinforced at home.

Upon returning to my house after class each week I was never, not once in two years, asked about what we did or what I learned, let alone discuss it in any depth. Did they, my parents, even *know* this stuff already? Did they care? Was it important? Certainly nothing about the Catholic way of life was identified or practiced in the way we lived. Its doctrine was not reflected outside the church walls.

Another failure. More doubt.

Ritual Sunday Mass continued, though, all the way to the end of high school. Four days after graduation I was on a plane to Boston to begin a summer program at MIT. I was in college now, presumably in charge of my own affairs, and the first thing to go: no more church! It was forced on me throughout my childhood, never explained, its precepts ignored at home, and now I was finally free to drop it.

It would take fifteen years, a brain aneurysm and one man’s persistent faith to bring me back to Christ. And he did it simply by doing what no one had done up to that point.

He put the pieces together so that they made sense.

Plus, it was OK not to know, and to ask questions.

I was in my hospital bed at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego on that day in November 1992 and my friend Bob had come to visit me there. Four weeks earlier a blood vessel in my head popped and I was suddenly inches from death’s door. I had recovered to a pretty good extent, but I still needed surgery to finally repair the rupture. That surgery was scheduled for the following morning.

In the month I had been there, my mother had come to see me four times; on the other hand, this was Bob’s fifth visit. And this time, he brought his Bible.

Of course, I already knew the broad strokes, like who God and Jesus are, and about sin, heaven and hell. I also had the standard Catholic outlook on the after-life, which included Purgatory, and the mystical notion of needing to be somehow “good enough” in order to get into heaven.

What was missing were the details of how they were all related.

And, of course, everything else.

We talked for half an hour. My lifetime of lingering questions had all been answered, the wrong information had been righted, and for the first time I had a correct Biblical view of things. “Great,” I declared. “What do I do now?”

Bob said that I needed to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He came to earth, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, rose on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father.

I looked at him and declared triumphantly: “I can do that!”

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Matthew 13:23

From there, the rest is history. As a result of the surgery the next day, I made a complete 100% recovery from my aneurysm utterly baffling my doctors. After leaving Scripps I quickly joined a Baptist church in San Diego and became a voracious student of the Bible and the Christian life. A month after getting out of the hospital, I was baptized correctly through full immersion in water — though I’m sure the sprinkling I received as a baby was cute.

Eight years later, with the arrival of the new millennium, I met the woman God had picked out for me and took her to wife. We were blessed in March 2005 by the arrival of our son Joshua. At Joshua’s baby dedication, where we gave him back to the Lord, a surprise guest showed up at the last minute:  my friend Bob, who had confronted me with the Word a decade and a half earlier in my hospital bed (evidently, I was “sick” spiritually too, as well as physically). He appeared on the scene with his wife just as the ceremony got underway.

And . . . I started going to church again every Sunday, the difference this time being that it was something I chose to do, because I wanted the knowledge that it brought… plus, it was the right thing to do. It made sense, and the spiritual reasons for doing so are far more real and compelling than the “because I said so” dictates of yore.

When the Man from Apple left this Earth, what I took to be that still small voice announced matter-of-factly one day out of the blue: “Steve Jobs is in hell, and will be there forever.” Pretty rough, to be sure, but if he remained a Buddhist and never accepted Christ while he was alive, is that not the expected outcome? His billions, his tech-savvy and his reputation (all God’s gifts, by the way!) ultimately could not save him from a Christ-less eternity.

I thank God for bringing Bob into my hospital room that day to share the Word. The time and place were right for me to receive it, take it in, and for it to blossom. If he had not stepped out on faith and done that, if something had gone wrong on the operating table the next day and I died in an unsaved state, I am positive I would have ended up joining Apple’s co-founder in his grim post-mortal experience.

As Christians, our lives continue to be on roller coasters, but with God along for the ride they stay on track, no matter how fast or slow we go, no matter how high the peaks or low the valleys.

The cloud-piercing experience was not the only important revelation to my young mind on that first flight day.

I learned also that the states in America, in fact, do not have their names written on them in giant letters which you can read from the sky.

-Ellsworth Johnson, a retired software engineer and math teacher. He lives in Katy, Texas with his wife Sonja and son Joshua. He is waiting expectantly to see what God, in His sovereignty and grace, has in store for the next phase of his life.

The policy of Greene Pastures is to respect the views of Christian denominations in its writing. However, essay references to denominations have been kept in Good Seed, Good Ground for author credibility and honesty in sharing an autobiographical story.

Bible Verses:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30

Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever. 1 Chronicles 28:8

Prayer:

Dear Lord, as I come to you this day, I ask you to let me hear and understand your Holy Word. Allow me to heed your holy words and apply them to my life. Give me wisdom in using the gifts and fruits you bestow upon me. Make me an instrument of your love. Allow my faith to share Jesus with those I encounter as your Holy Spirit is preparing them to accept you as Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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What is God’s Purpose for You?

What is God’s purpose for YOU?

I can’t say it any better than Gus Yepiz!!!

“…I will use you according to your designed purpose.”  This is profound and one area that God had to work on in my life. When we become Christians, Satan comes along and gives us this horrible assumption that God will turn us into “supermen”, able to leap tall building with a single bounce so to speak. We assume He will change our personality, give us new giftings, and replace our old talents with new ones. God never intended or promised any such thing! He never intended to take our broken pot made of clay and turn us into a vessel of gold, he only promised to take the pieces of the broken pot, turn them back into clay, and then remake the same pot using the same clay. The difference is that He has removed the dross and contaminants that caused the pot’s uselessness in the first place. It is like the master craftsman who cuts down the big oak tree on his land and makes from it a beautiful chair. Everyone is in awe of the woodwork and carvings of such a beautiful chair. Old women now sit on the chair and rest their weary feet, young men stand on it to reach the fruit from the orchard, a mother rocks and feeds her baby from the comfort of that chair. Such magnificent beauty, strength, and usefulness are now that oak chair’s portion! And that, of course, is exactly the point…, it is still by its very nature oak! The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God doesn’t give us new gifts and personalities when we become Christians. He won’t turn our clay to gold or our oak to ebony in order to perform His work…, rather He says, “Stand back and watch what I can do with clay and oak!”

By Gus Yepiz
(Reproduction permission given by Glory Odemenene)

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