Saturday, February 23, 2019

If You Could Change The World

by Sylvia Gaston

If you could do one thing to change the world for the better, what would it be?

It’s very easy to get frustrated with the way things are today. There are many things that need to be fixed. Here are some of the things that I consider…

Political division
Substance abuse
Environmental problems
Hunger / Lack of clean water
Absence of parental guidance

There is a tendency to look at a problem, see the magnitude of it, and simply back away and do nothing because it seems overwhelming or futile. Yet, many amazing, world-changing things occur because a single person takes that first small step.

The world seems too large to influence yet some of you are destined to influence communities, states, nations. But most of us will live our entire lives on a much smaller scale. So what one thing could you change on a smaller scale to make the world a better place? Many have turned the tide because they stepped out, did or said something, and influenced others toward change.

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during World War 2, is best remembered for his inspiring speeches and for his refusal to give in, even when things were going badly. He successfully led Britain through World War 2. He changed his world.

Rosa Parks was not the first African-American to boycott racial segregation but she was the first one to see her act of “civil disobedience” through the lengthy court process. She, and the year-long bus boycott that followed, became important symbols for others to rally against racial segregation. She changed her world.

One man…one woman…making a significant change to their world by taking that first small step.

You are one man, one woman. What first small step could you take to influence your world – on a large or small scale?

For me, it comes down to looking for opportunities to come alongside a person who is struggling or in a personal crisis. It might be a pending divorce, a health issue, errant children, or depression. Sometimes their crisis seems much too large for me to influence. But I can pray with them and for them, I can tell them what God says about their situation, I can point them to a Creator who will never abandon them  - even in the darkest days. A first small step.

There’s a huge difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is defined as “confidence about the future or a successful outcome of something”.

Hope is the expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation”.

We can be optimistic about our circumstances or we can have the expectation that our outcome will be positive.

My hopes and expectations originate with Jesus. Once I chose to put my trust in Him, I no longer had to worry about my future. Despite what life throws at me, I have an expectation that God will see me through it. He will stay by my side, His Holy Spirit will guide me through it, and eventually, I will live forever worry- and pain-free with Jesus in Heaven. My hope! My expectation!

The first thing you can do to change your world is to choose to follow Jesus. You can begin to lead a life that is not perfect, but a life that is hopeful. 

If you already are a Jesus-follower, take that first small step – whatever it may be – to change the world around you. That step will look different for each of us. Don’t be afraid. You have nothing to lose. Be hopeful! Be expectant! Change your world.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

God Moments and Faith Talks

by Sylvia Gaston

It can be tough to share with family and friends why I am a Christian. Why did this former wild child one day choose to listen to God and follow after this man, Jesus? How to explain the seemingly coincidental people God placed in my path? How do I tell others about the strong pursuit I felt from my Creator over a span of several years? The opportunities to share these oh-so-important details and deep thoughts don’t come up casually or often. But they can come up in little windows of time that allow you to share precious nuggets of your faith with others.

We used these nuggets as we raised our kids. Little ones can’t comprehend your entire conversion story – the entire belief system you’ve adopted for an unseen God. But they can pick up on little discussions that take place through the course of everyday life. Slowly and consistently, you can explain why God is the center of your existence.

Welcome to “Faith Talks” and “God Moments”!

Faith Talks:
These are intentional times set aside for conversations with your family about the Bible. Spiritual training takes place one step at a time in the context of everyday life.

While having Faith Talks, relationship is your priority, the Bible is your handbook, and life is your classroom. Teach your children or grandchildren about God, the Bible, salvation, and how to live life God’s way – which is better than our way. Keep it simple. Select a Bible verse and discuss it. What does the verse mean? Who was it written to? What can this help me do today? Does it teach us how to live or how to pray?

Proverbs 22:6 tells us that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. This goes for grownups too.

God Moments:

God Moments are my favorite. They’re not structured like Faith Talks and they’re not just for our children. God moments are great anytime and with anyone you talk to – family, friends, co-workers, strangers.

God moments go something like this: Something happens in your life. You tell someone about it. Then you tell them how God helped you or got you through it. Or the reverse scenario might take place. Someone tells you about something they’re going through. Then you tell them how you handled or got through something similar with God’s help. (bonus points if you then ask if you can pray for or with them about the thing they’re going through.).

Those God Moment opportunities come up all the time! But, you’ve got to be looking and listening for them and be prepared to take advantage of them.

These are the times when you get to really brag about God. These are the times when you can explain the supernatural ways you’ve seen Him rescue you, give you wisdom, heal you, help you. Simple life – but better because of God.

A God Moment can also be the simple opportunity that may arise when you explain to someone how your life was before and how it’s different today now that you try to live life God’s way. Not perfect; just different and better…waaay better.

The goal of Faith Talks and God Moments is not to coerce or manipulate conversations nor is it to shove your faith down someone’s throat. The goal is to share your real life story with others because you love and care about them. You want others to have a more abundant life of love, and an eternal hope, that is found by following Jesus.

Paul said it well, “Follow my example just as I follow Christ’s”. (1 Corinthians 11:1 CEB)

Jesus said it best, “I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

Now get out there and start discovering your own faith talk and God moments! You’ll love it! 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

On Point

by Andrew Cromwell

When you are setting a course for a long journey, a few degrees off-course can be the difference between Hawaii and Taiwan. It is critical to stay on course and on point if you want to get somewhere specific. The farther you have to go, the more important it is to stay “on point”. Pilots know that one degree off between Los Angeles and New York means you’re as likely to end up in Scranton or Philadelphia instead.

Similarly, in the course of life, a few degrees can be the difference between success and failure. One degree off — one little white lie, one careless financial decision, or one flirtatious glance — may not be a big deal today, but uncorrected, those small errors in judgment can result in lost jobs, mountains of debt, and ugly divorces.

By definition “on point” means “relevant and appropriate to what is happening or being discussed”. When I think of staying on point, I think of how easy it is to get off point! At our staff meetings, we frequently find ourselves off-topic and wonder how it is that we arrived at this severely “off-point” location. We then have to course-correct and get back on topic.

Isn’t life like that? We head out in one direction — we determine to do it right, stay on track, make good decisions, and not make the same mistakes we made last year — but before you know it, we find ourselves far from where we meant to be.

The Apostle Paul reminds us to “give attention to your spiritual life.” In other words, stay on point! It is so easy to drift off course and get distracted. We quickly forget that there is a spiritual world underneath the things we can see with our eyes. And before you know it we ignore the very part of us that is eternal (our spirit).

Paul goes on to say that if we stay close to the truth, we will experience a kind of life that is transformative and powerful both for us and for the people around us. That’s the kind of life I want! And I’m guessing it’s the kind you want too. But in order to experience it, we’re going to have to pay attention and make sure we stay on point.

Do you need to get back on point? Maybe you’ve been meaning to get things right with God for a while but just haven’t seemed to get around to it. Or maybe, you’ve never even tried. I want to see you find real success in life — the kind that echoes into eternity.