The Oregon Trail

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I must say that the one game that I can remember playing as I grew up was the Oregon Trail. I can remember spending countless hours playing in an effort to make my way up the trail and hopefully reach the end.

One thing that I remember best is that you start with a full family, working your way up the trail trying to find ways to stay healthy and happy while attempting to make it to the end before tragedy struck and before the winter came.

This game popped into my head this week as I thought of our lives as Christians in Today’s world.

We are all on a journey to reach a goal of happiness and health, while seeking to find purpose in our lives. As I begin to think about it, I realized the game was very similar to our lives in that as you play, you are always stronger as a family, not individually. There are always helps available along the way, but we are always left with choices to make that may or may not mean loss of supplies or even life.

I began to think about it more, and I realized that our lives begin as a journey, but our journey begins when we realize our need for Christ as a member of our traveling party. As you make your way up the trail there will be rivers to cross, enemies to face, and sickness to overcome, but with Christ traveling alongside us we have all we will need.

Christ will help us make it across the river, he will overcome our enemies, and we have no need to worry about illness because Christ offers the ultimate healing. We have all we need in Him, if we realize that all He needs from us is full commitment to the journey.

Like the game, there may be some in the group who will pass before the journey is over, but the hope and promise that we have is that for those who were traveling with the Lord, they have simply gone on ahead and will meet us when the Journey is over.

Trust the Lord today, seek him, and allow him to lead you along the trail today as you strive to make your way home to be with Him for eternity. Allow Jesus to travel the trail with you today and see what happens when you face trials along the way.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

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Puzzling Times

Life is one big puzzle sometimes, and the problem that we have as Christians is our inability to see the big picture.

The best example I can think of for this is a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of pieces that may look the same, they may even be shaped similarly, but there are no two pieces that are fully alike.

In the same way, there are no two Christians that are exactly the same. A puzzle will only fit together one way; in the same way, Christians are shaped and shaded to piece together according to the picture that is on the box. The difference between a puzzle and God’s children is that we don’t see the big picture. We can only see the pieces that are around us.

Too many times we as Christians want to assume we know how the final picture is supposed to look. We try to fit in where we don’t belong, and at times try to force ourselves into the spaces that are not reserved for us. God wants to work our puzzle. He wants to place us where we fit. He wants to show us the right place to fit in. It is up to us to allow God to place us where we belong.

There are many times in life where we try and take the reigns; where we try too hard to fit into a space where we were never slated to be. These are the times that we feel depressed, discouraged and torn apart by the world around us. It is in these times where we cry out for help; where we allow God to pick us up out of the wrong, and place us in the right direction.

We differ, however, from the puzzle in that we have the freedom to move and look for our space. A puzzle will lay there until you pick up the piece and look for the space in which it fits. God does not try to fit us in to His puzzle; He tries to show us the direction of our space. It is up to us to head in that direction.

God is showing us the right way to go. Why do we as Christians try to avoid it? We are selfish. We tend to think we know best what is right for our lives…this is where we as Christians forget how we arrived where we are.

This is the reason many churches seem to sit dormant. The pieces that have been placed are trying to force themselves into spaces that are reserved for others. The only true way for us to successfully piece the puzzle together is to become fully accepting of the plan that is laid out by God.

We have to allow God to place us where we fit. We have to stop holding on to the things that are tying us down to a spot that is not reserved for us. Allow God to place you in your proper spot; surrender to the plans He has for your life, and let go of the baggage, let go of the world. Cling to God…let Him work this puzzle; after all, He’s the one with the box to look at.

Christian

I want to take the moment to address something that has been on my heart and I feel is important to each of us as part of The Church today! This is the title of Christian.

The struggle that I have seen is that there are too many today who are “Christians”. I know this may sound like I’m saying that there is only a select few who are called, but that is not the case. What I am saying however is that we need to stop being “Christians” and start being Christians.

There are many non-believers who refuse to come to church or to get involved because they see many in the church who are calling themselves Christians, but are not living the life that is worthy of the call that is placed on their lives. There are many today who live like they wish during the week, but when it comes to the Change in the life that is to take place, it is absent. They are going through the motions on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening, but they are not living the life that they claim.

I’m not pointing fingers, and in no way am I saying I have it all figured out, but friends, we need to address this problem in our churches today. If we want to see the church grow we must show that there is a difference in our lives. If we are claiming to be Christians, then we need to be the change we want to see in others. We cannot look like the world and win souls for Christ.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Brennan Manning who passed away earlier this month on April 12 and it states, “The GREATEST single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

I think we can all take a look at our own lives and see if we are living what we say we live. Paul mentioned it to the Church at Ephesus when he said in Ephesians 4:

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:17-24, ESV

To give the non-believer a reason to believe we must look like the One in which we claim to have belief…We must look like Christ if we want the world to see the change that He can make in a life. Today, I encourage each of you to not just be a Christian in word, but also in deed. Do not be afraid to allow God to do a great work in you; don’t just say you are a Christian, but show them in how you live your life.

Being the Change, Bringing the Change

I once heard two quotes from Mahatma Gandhi that truly got me thinking about Christians and the way that we live our lives and exemplify Christ to those around us.

The first quote that really got me thinking is the quote, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians; they are so unlike your Christ.”  Is this what we really show the world?

Too many times I feel that we are much like this statement, we don’t show the world the example of Christ that we should.  The trouble with many so-called “Christians” today is that they are wrapped up in their own lives to see the impact they are having on those around them.  Many times we find ourselves struggling to show the world the Christ that died for us.

As Christians we are called to live our lives in the same way as Christ, living in His example in everything that we do.  The trouble with the statement that Gandhi made is the truth behind it.  Gandhi may have gotten it right, but he may have changed his mind if he had known a true Christian.

If Gandhi could see it, why can’t we? Why do we have so much trouble being like Christ?  We need to be like Christ to those around us if we want to lead them to Christ; which brings me to the second quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

For us to be the change that we want to see means that if we could exemplify the first statement, we can be the second.  If we can exemplify Christ to the world, then we are the change that we as Christians would like to see.  As Christians the change that we should want to see and want to be should be to show everyone who Christ is.  Think about the examples that He set forth in His life, the times that he stepped in and did what He wanted to see others do.

Christ led by example, and Gandhi’s biggest problem with Christians are that they are not like their Christ…and the problem with many non-Christians today is the same.  If we want to see others come to Christ we need to get out and show them Christ, we have to be what they need us to be.

I have spent the past few weeks thinking hard about these two statements, and I want to challenge you to do the same.  The truth of it all is that whether Gandhi meant it to change the world for Christ, the statements that he made can be used to help us understand what we need to do as followers of Christ.

I challenge you today to be the change you want to see by being the Christ that Gandhi never saw in other Christians.  Being Christ will change the world, because He is the best example that any of us could follow.

Train Your Children in the Way of Christ

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” – Deuteronomy 4:29-31

I have talked a lot lately about our walk with Christ and our searching for meaning in life and the need for us to share the true Gospel of Christ.  As the past couple weeks have gone by I have begun thinking of the need to share this Gospel with our children.  Whether you have children or not, this is vital!

In my years working with youth, I have seen the need for Christ in the lives of many young people.  I feel that this scripture can show us how important that it is.  Deuteronomy 4:29-31 shows us that when we seek God with our whole heart we will find Him.  For this to be true in our lives, however, we have to have a spiritual base to fall back on.

The issue with this that I have seen today is that many of our youth do not have this base because they are not being brought up in the way that instills this base in them.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  We must be willing to train them in this way, or we may lose them for eternity.

We can’t water down the Gospel, we must lovingly show them the truth, without wavering.  One of the problems today is that we tend to pick and choose our messages.  We, at times, tend to look over certain scripture if it causes us to feel guilt for things we need to deal with in our lives.  We cannot continue to live this way, because if we do we can keep ourselves from experiencing the true blessings of knowing Christ.  In other words, we do not want to miss out on the promise of the Lord that we will spend eternity with Him.

With this in mind, we do not want our children to miss out on this blessing either.  I urge each of you to consider this when you go about your day…what examples are others seeing in you?

If we want our children to have a base to return to, we must show them what it means to live with discipline and dedication to the Christian walk.  We must show them what the love and mercy of Christ looks like in action, not just through words.  It is best summed up by Deuteronomy 4:39-40:

“Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

Be All You Can Be

One of the most well-known advertising slogans that I can think of is the slogan that the US Army used for years, from 1980 to 2001, and I feel is one we can apply to our lives as Christians. Slogans are easy ways to get a message across and make sure that others get your message out.

As Christians, I feel that we can embrace this mentality when it comes to walking with Christ and becoming what He calls us to be. I urge you to take a close look at your life and examine if you are being all you can be when it comes to serving the Lord, sharing the Gospel, and making disciples. If not, let me offer a solution so that we are not AWOL (absent, without leave) when it comes to spiritual matters.

In order for us to embrace this mentality we must realize that our lives are not about us. We have to be aware of our responsibility to deny our own desires, take up the cross, and follow Christ. If we fail to do so we will find ourselves struggling to make sense of it all, we will find out that only through complete sacrifice can we fully embrace who we are called to be in Christ.

Becoming all we can be takes acknowledgement that we are not in control of our lives. It takes sacrifice on our part. It takes our realization that we are children of God, created to serve Him with lives of complete surrender, fully devoted to the plan that God lays out for us in His word.

Romans 12:1-3 gives us insight to this type of lifestyle:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:1-3 KJV)

This life is a life full of blessings and rewards, if only we will embrace it in full assurance of the faith, knowing that God’s promises ring true throughout our lives and generations. The truth is that we serve the same God that created Adam and Eve, saved Noah and his family from the flood, and thought enough of His children to give up all the glory and splendor of heaven to become man, walk this earth, and died on a cross for the sins of each one.

If God thought that highly of you, is it too much to ask that we give up everything for Him? The truth is, it is the only way we will ever get to where we can be everything we were created to be. Part of fully embracing our potential is denying our carnal desires, our worldly tendencies, and devoting our lives to the One that gave us life and desires to live in us.

Examine your heart today and make sure that not only are you making room for God, but that you are allowing Him to work through the Holy Spirit to make you all you can be. Becoming all you can be begins with letting go of all you think you are and taking hold of all God has intended for you. Take hold of His promise today!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord , thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

What Makes a Father?

I know that many reading this either knew my dad, Jim Greene, or knew of him.  One of the most amazing and unique things that I can remember about my dad was how well he was known just simply by his voice.  We could not go anywhere it seemed where he didn’t know someone or wasn’t recognized, mostly by his voice.

We could go into a restaurant and someone would hear him talk and come over and introduce themselves.  It is with this in mind that I want to thank everyone for being a part of his life.  He loved Avery County and the residents of the County.  This was his home.  I knew what Avery County meant to dad, and when he went on to his Heavenly home, we found out what Jim Greene meant to Avery County.

One of the most important things that my dad taught me during his time here is that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is key to a happy life.  This is a lesson that I feel needs to be shared, because a good father will make sure that his children know who Jesus is and what He did on that cross for their sins.

I would encourage each of you out there who are fathers to take heart and make a vow to raise your children in a good, Christian home, showing them right from wrong, showing them what a good prayer life looks like, and live what you claim to live.

One of the major factors in my dad’s example to me comes in seeing that not only did he preach the Word on Sunday mornings as the Pastor at Minneapolis Christian Church, he lived the life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  My dad knew that worship was a lifestyle, and he made sure that we knew it as well.  My dad lived the example at home, behind closed doors, away from the public eye, just as much as he professed it each day on Glory1130.

The greatest legacy that he left with me is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, something I hope to pass on as I grow older.  I will make it a point to pass it along to my children when I have them, if the Lord wills.  I want to continue the legacy of showing Christ to others, just as my dad did.

I would encourage each of you who are fathers to do the same.  Do not let another day go by without coming to know Christ for yourself, and then, pass it along to your children so that they can know the saving grace of God that came through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The best thing that a father can do is give his life to his Heavenly Father, and raise his kids in a home that glorifies God daily.

“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15