May the God of ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that TOGETHER you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To date, I have written over 40 books. Approximately half of them are fiction and half are non-fiction. I’ve heard it said, “All autobiographies are fiction, and all fiction are autobiographies.” As I have continued to examine this thought, I believe it to be correct.
When I write novels or movie scripts, they invariably come out of experiences I have had in my own life. While I may change the time, place, or people involved, I draw upon experiences I have had in the past. On the other hand, when I, or any other author, writes non-fiction, our best efforts to deliver facts, statistics, and reality are colored by our own perspective. It is vital for us to remember that whether we’re in an educational setting, reviewing the news of the day, or conversing with a friend, the information we are receiving is filtered through the source. Even indisputable facts can vary as one individual may think a specific detail is critical so they highlight it while another individual overlooks that same fact believing it to be insignificant.
My late, great friend and colleague Paul Harvey was one of the most trusted voices for news here in America for several decades. His broadcast was called Paul Harvey News and Comment. While he endeavored to always separate the news of the day from his own opinions, he explained to me that simply by determining which stories to include in his newscast or which item he would present as the lead story, he was inevitably imposing his thoughts and opinions on his audience.
Today there are so many sources from which we can receive information or news, it is vital that we evaluate not only what was said but who said it and why they might hold that perspective.
As a blind person myself, I’ve often thought of the old fable of the three blind men touching an elephant. The man who felt the elephant’s leg thought it was a tree while the man holding the elephant’s trunk thought it was a thick rope, but the blind man feeling the side of the elephant thought it was a wall. All three men were giving their perspective of the same elephant at the same moment, but their individual perspectives totally alter their thoughts and ideas.
We tend to want to think of facts as true and universal. In reality, they are constantly changing and must be evaluated based on the eye of the beholder.
As you go through your day today, separate facts from fiction, but always look for the underlying truth.
Today’s the day!
Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stovallauthor; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.
Written by Andrea Stephens
Here we are getting to ready to welcome the coming of spring. After a few super cold winter days, we dare to focus on warmer weather and the first sight of yellow daffodils and purple crocus. Allow me to interrupt these dreamy thoughts and ask how are you doing with the resolutions and goals you set for yourself when you were courageously ringing in 2020? Remember those?
Statistics show that a majority of people have given up on and even forgotten about the goals they set, the new habits they were determined to develop, the inspirational pictures and slogans on their vision board and the hopes they recorded on their resolution list just a few months ago.
Along with a zillion other people, one of my goals for 2020 is to take better care of myself. My intention has been to eat healthier and increase my exercise. Eating healthier, which to me means cutting out sugar and empty carbs, is a daily challenge and an unrelenting battle. I argue with myself every Wednesday night at our church dinner about whether or not I’m going to eat that awesome looking bread pudding or cherry cobbler or fudgy chocolate cake. And this argument takes place after I have already told myself I cannot have one of the homemade dinner rolls. Ugh. Give a girl a break. I’m exhausted (and slightly depressed) by the time I finally sit down to eat.
Yes, I’m making sure I eat some of the traditional superfoods like blueberries, avocados, dark leafy greens, almonds, and the cruciferous vegetables—I actually like roasted brussels sprouts and riced cauliflower these days. I have been somewhat diligent about protein shakes, green smoothies, and even a splash of lemon or apple cider vinegar in my water.
Working out is more challenging for me because I admit it, I don’t like to sweat. It makes me itch. It causes body odor. I don’t enjoy either of these things. So, I only put out enough effort to ensure that I burn off some calories. Yes, I know that sweating from exercise may help detox the body, improve mood (thank you endorphins and dopamine), reduce stress and build a healthier heart.
But let me be honest. What I eat or don’t eat, what amount of exercise I do or don’t do, has been about maintaining a specific weight—not necessarily to feel more energetic, build muscle or strengthen my cardiovascular system. I, too, buy into the lie that I will appear healthy and all will be well in my world if I can just get my skinny jeans zipped and continue breathing at the same time.
So, keeping a watchful eye on the scale has been my number one indicator of whether or not I thought I was healthy and taking care of myself. But the fallacy of that came crashing down hard recently when I had a surgical procedure on my foot. In the recovery room, through a fuzzy brain, I heard the doctor tell me that I had osteomalacia, which in layman’s terms means soft bones. What? Soft bones? I’ve heard of bones becoming brittle or weak, but soft?
Naturally, I discussed this with Siri. Bottom line, it is a vitamin D issue—either not getting enough or not being able to absorb it properly. And this interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and utilize calcium and phosphorus which are needed to form the hard-outer layer of bone. Sunlight, supplements, eating foods rich in vitamin D and calcium, and weight bearing exercise are the basic remedy. One article recommended reducing salt, soda, caffeine and alcohol intake as they block calcium absorption.
Here comes a little more honesty. I already knew that I should be taking vitamin D and calcium.
And I have been—occasionally. Sometimes I forget, or I’m too hurried or too nonchalant. Well, not anymore!
The why behind my nutritional plan and workouts have been totally messed up. No longer can it be about the scale. It’s about my bones, muscles, heart, and skin. My why needs to be about my health and quality of life. I need to see this body of mine the way the bible describes it—a temple or home of the Holy Spirit. It is gift from God. I have the responsibility to take care of it.
The resolution of taking care of myself in 2020 has taken on a whole new level of seriousness and commitment. It prompts me to ask, not just how you are doing on your resolutions and goal, but are you taking care of yourself? Perhaps you work, have a family, are involved at your church or kid’s school, have to cook, clean, grocery shop, do laundry, make time for aging parents—the list is endless. I get it, we are busy. But being too busy to care for our health will reap a result we won’t like. So, whatever it looks like for you, will you commit to caring for the one and only body you have? I’ll be right there with you cheering you on.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Did you know we have a host of lovely princesses right here in Tulsa? They are part of a wonderfully charming business called “My Little Dollhouse,” where parties and playdays are always on the menu. From spring break and summer camps to actually booking a princess (or princesses!) to come right into your home or party venue, this group offers some of the most amazing fun Tulsa has to offer. Plus, they have parties that handle different levels of service up to and including a full service blow out with mom never lifting a weary finger!
For years, I drove by the location just west of 91st and Harvard. Why hadn’t I checked it out before? I wasn’t sure, but with my daughter’s starfish birthday (that’s talk down under the sea for 5 years old) on the horizon, I decided it was time to give them a call. When we walked through the doors—both of our jaws dropped in sheer delight at the playful venue. My little one exclaimed “I can’t wait for my party. I just can’t wait.” In hindsight, booking it earlier in the day could have stopped the incessant pleading from the time she woke up until the two p.m. party time we chose arrived!
Location. Location. Location!
Realtors use it for the right neighborhood to buy. But, of course, it is even MORE important for that special birthday event. Duh! The whole atmosphere is just pretty in pink. With costumes, a kitchen with tea sets and cakes, a nursery (pretend one of course!), and a cute little stage for the princesses to do their own fashion show once they have completed their equally darling little princess makeovers—it is just the perfect venue. To my surprise, they also had costumes for young princes (or superheroes of course!). Had I done a little more research, we could have invited the boys to join the fun.
Having been a head of events for many years—President’s Clubs from Monte Carlo to Maui, my expectations for a party are usually far beyond the event at hand. I was known for annoying attention to the finest details. So, when the staff from My Little Dollhouse offered me their option for planning and hosting the entire party—I was truthfully a little skeptical. I hadn’t been inside yet. However, I was also so busy I couldn’t see straight.
So, I gave in. My Little Dollhouse has a simple website. I clicked about 5 boxes. I wrote in a little of my daughter’s princess-style expectations. Then, I just turned it over to them. Exhaustion and opening a new business pushes a perfectionist to make different decisions. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was easy. Then? Their emails started to roll in.
They reached out to confirm party details and to make sure they understood my little princess’s dreams for her party. The emails were fashioned in fairytale form, with playful wording. I read each one to my daughter as we started building the excitement for her party.
Just a few days before the big event, we received an email confirming details, and listing out all the details planned for the day. Honestly, I had been so overwhelmingly busy—I didn’t even realize all that would be taking place. I quickly texted the moms to let their daughters dress comfortably. They would be selecting princess attire, having their hair, nails and light make up done—and would end that part of the event in a little fashion show. The moms and I all delighted in the thought of how much fun our daughters were getting ready to have!
Party on Princesses!
The party did NOT disappoint. The little fashionistas rocked their walks on stage. Opportunities for little girls to practice their special moments on a stage empower them to accomplish bigger goals at more serious events as they grow. It’s a confidence building exercise I just love. You should have seen them. They turned on their sparkle. Then, the princesses coronated my daughter with an official princess crown, a scepter, and a sash; she was so happy she could hardly stand it. All the little girls cheered.
Then, the party got wild. The princesses led our little princesses in a rendition of “Let it Go,” where they did motions for the girls to imitate as they sang. You might have thought they practiced for weeks when they belted out the chorus. It was just fun to watch (and record!). They were just delighted!
We selected cupcakes with rainbow frosting, pepperoni and cheese pizza (the go-to faves for preschoolers!), and apple juice and water in the tea set when it was formal teatime! They can even have a photographer on site to take photos to share with families after the event.
When it was time to leave, the princesses handed out goodie bags my daughter selected for the attending princesses. There was no question when looking at their sweet little faces, thanking us for inviting them—they had a magically fun day. My Little Dollhouse would be etched in their memory of fun for quite some time to come.
The best part for me (other than not lifting a finger)? The delight on my daughter’s face over dinner that night when out of nowhere, she declared her thankfulness for the best birthday EVER!
Friday or Saturday Play Time Fun
After talking to the cheerful manager, Samantha Cathey, I knew we would have to add some Friday mom and daughter play days at 11 to our schedule (or grandmas of course!). It’s an hour of fun with a little princess and mommy as they play or do a craft project. They offer free coffee or tea for moms while the little ones play. Other days, they offer princess play dates. I’m pretty sure my laptop and I could get some work done while the little one plays her heart out in the back. Better still, I’m betting I could dive into a book I’ve wanted to read and just can’t find the time to enjoy.
Summer and Spring Break Camps? Really!!!
Samantha decided to drop the camp bomb on me. I couldn’t believe I had missed this too. They do their own camps in the summer and spring break or they can send the princesses to help you host your own! After all, who wouldn’t want a day with a princess or two from nine until noon? Princesses can be dropped for a seriously fun morning at My Little Dollhouse, while mom heads to the spa! (Kidding.) (NOT KIDDING! Did you see Hand and Stone opens in May? Summer camps can be for everyone! Hello!) Churches or schools wanting another idea for summer camps can hire the princesses and promote their events to create fun times (or recruiting times for private schools!).
Have Princesses. Will Travel.
These princess teams will come to your home or party venue and bring the same kinds of service right to your door. Rates vary from $75 on up, depending on the level of service you would like. It’s such a fun idea to think of having a princess right in your party spot (or event!) of choice just in case the venue doesn’t fit your specific needs at the time.
My Little Dollhouse has a whole host of services. I just never realized all the ways they could partner with families or businesses. They can come to businesses for events from story time with princesses to a little tea party event on site. Business owners should seek out ideas on ways they can partner up. If you’re hoping to have an event for moms or even both parents? Invite the princess team to the event to entertain while you can gain the full attention (or moment of rest!) for the moms and dads. They have so many creatively fun ways to partner with you to make any kind of event a success.
Behind the Scenes
My Little Dollhouse isn’t amazing by accident. The owner, Christi Rowland, bought it just over four years ago. She’s a former stockbroker turned teacher at Augustine Christian Academy. She loves teaching, but it was easy to see how much she also loves attending to every little detail of the parties for the girls. It’s really a family affair, as her daughters, Caroline and Emma, have been actively involved in the parties and events from the beginning. They both attended Augustine Christian Academy as well (Emma is still there!). They have been Christi’s inspiration and her right arms in making little princess dreams come true over the years.
My Little Dollhouse participates in charity events because they truly love giving back to their community. They sent their princesses and some princes to an event for foster children, who sadly don’t get to have many amazing birthday parties moving from home to home. Samantha said, “Those kids. To see their reactions to such a fun event. Wow. It’s just worth it.” I couldn’t agree more. To have hearts to reach out to these children navigating such a tough journey are exactly the kind of hearts we love to support at Community Spirit.
Put Your Dollars to Work
As you know, at Community Spirit, we love to encourage readers to use their purchasing power to make an impact. Utilizing Christian owned businesses, who are using their gifts to make a living while also making an impact for Christ—it’s such a win-win. Families like the Rolands have amazing values they share in a playful environment with our children. Kindness, compassion, and love abound as you share in their wonderful world. So, we strongly urge you to turn into the parking lot. Take a peek inside and meet the Rolands or their staff. Try out a Friday or Saturday playtime. Then have them relieve you of the stress of your next party to plan. We couldn’t have been happier with ours!
SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU: Mention COMMUNITY SPIRIT and you will receive $25 a party booked by September 1st, 2020.
Written by Mike Henry Sr. — Follower of One
As Community Spirit Magazine draws attention to the problem of human trafficking, I wondered how to draw a parallel for marketplace Christians. Human trafficking is an extreme sin we must defeat at any cost. We must support The Demand Project and other organizations and pray for victims and any wrapped up in this horrible lifestyle.
But is that all? What else can workplace believers do to cooperate with this effort? We’re often constrained by our commitments and our obligations. But are we limited to prayer and financial contribution? Can we do anything at work? Do our actions at work matter?
We can live our faith at work without leaving. Most ministry activities require us to get away from work. We leave work for a Bible study or a service project. Many donate their vacations to go on a mission trip. When we return, the ministry is over.
But we can minister to others by living our faith at work, too. Once you decide to be a missionary to your workplace, your view of work changes. You become a full-time, funded missionary to your workplace.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes several shocking parallels to attract our attention to the pervasiveness of sin.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22 ESV
In this two-sentence comparison, Jesus blows our mind. Do you remember the first time you read this? After a while, Jesus’ words become just another statement. But he wants to give us an ice-cold shower about the evil in our own hearts.
Manipulation at Work
If Jesus gave that sermon today, to what would he compare to the abuse of porn and human trafficking? Might he start with little white lies and manipulation? Maybe Jesus would compare Hunan trafficking to gossip or a white lie? Would it be overstating our accomplishments or sucking up to our bosses? Could it be that “spinning” the facts to complete a deal equates to human trafficking the same way getting angry at someone equates to murder?
Sure, this comparison is extreme. But what can we do about this problem at work?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14 ESV
A Servant’s Response
First, we can make others aware. Do anything you can to help others see this problem in our community. But beyond that, in our workplaces, what can we do? What of we commit to love and serve others at work instead of treating them as a “resource” or something we use. Jesus asks us to love people and use things, but we often use people and love things.
What does loving others at work look like? Would we:
Stay late to help someone else rather than just saying we’ll pray for them?
Encourage and serve others instead of gossip?
Thank more than criticize?
Do an excellent job even if it means we have to work longer hours or miss some church functions?
Make time for others?
Learn more about our coworkers to pray for them better?
Give our own time and money to a coworker in need?
Obey Jesus and trust him enough to wait until he prompts our coworkers to ask?
What if we lived more intentionally around the people we work with every day? What if we commit to obey Jesus in whatever he calls us to do, at work or at home? If we obey Jesus more, will our actions at work make a dent in the human trafficking problem? We need to trust Jesus and obey him where we can. Where we can support the effort against Human Trafficking, we should. Where we can fight porn, we should. But even in our workplaces, we can’t give ourselves any slack. Every place we obey Jesus matters. Where do we make excuses for ourselves? Where do we let ourselves off the hook?
Give Ourselves an A
In a small group setting a friend said he was a “low empathy” person. His statement was genuine and transparent, but we all laughed because he made selfishness sound so good. We had quite a chuckle until we realized that the label fit us too. We can all raise our empathy bar.
Do you have the guts to ask Jesus to show you where you grade your obedience to him on a curve? Then do you have the love for Jesus to act?
All Obedience Counts
Let’s support The Demand Project and every other person and organization in this battle. We need to fight evil in every setting. Often, the first battle is in our own heart and mind, and the second one is in our workplaces. Ask God to show you where you need to obey him today and do it. Even when we’re stuck at work, we can obey Jesus and our obedience matters.
Mike Henry Sr. is a technology consultant and the CEO of Follower of One, Inc., a global ministry to encourage every workplace Christian to serve Jesus full-time and make him known daily. Check out their website at https://followerofone.org.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
I want to look at our Core a little differently this month. The main reason? Statistically speaking the “Core” inside our church is in a bit of trouble. It’s not what you think. Stay with me and I’ll get there.
Have you ever had those times when you feel like God is telling you something, but you just want to ignore it?
The Demand Project came up in almost every conversation I had with readers, advertisers or anyone associated with the magazine or who knew that we did the magazine. Honestly? Human trafficking is a topic that is so horrible that my mind doesn’t want to acknowledge exists. I feel like it’s something that happens far away from here—something that wouldn’t happen right here in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt. So, to think that we needed to talk to The Demand Project was just something I didn’t want to consider.
I’m not saying I was Jonah. However, there did finally come a point where I felt like I’m either going to have to tackle this whale or the whale is going to swallow me.
Truth? Sex trafficking is very real right here—right where we are. I watched groups of arrests around our area. I saw nine people from my hometown of Sapulpa, Oklahoma be arrested for human trafficking. The fact was this—no matter what I believed about it, it was real. It is real.
When the Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project said—“If your child has a phone or if they have access to the Internet—they are already targeted.”
There are little girls and little boys who are suffering every day. Some of them have been sold into trafficking by their parents. I can’t comprehend that concept, but I’ve never been addicted to drugs. Some of them are talked into sex slavery unknowingly online with what feel like very innocent conversations between them and a random stranger on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook.
When the Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project said—“If your child has a phone or if they have access to the Internet—they are already targeted.” I shuddered being the mother of a five-year-old with an iPad. To think that someone would want to defile her innocence—imagining the tragedy that horrible experience would have on her mentally was more than I could handle.
This is the only interview I’ve done where I cried. Twice. I’m crying as I write this now. The thought of someone doing that to my baby breaks my heart. These are other people’s little babies. We have got to stop pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping to talk about more pleasant things. We have to stop assuming it would never happen to our kids. We have to support The Demand Project trying to restore these victims and teach how we can end the demand for this sexual product.
I am as guilty as you are. It’s just not in my Christian upbringing to think about and talk about these things. Just the things that The Demand Project folks said out loud to me made me uncomfortable. They made me realize that the kind of world our kids are growing up in isn’t the world I grew up in. It’s not as safe as it was. It’s just not. People have access to our children; however, we can’t just strip them of the Internet and strip them of their phones. But, we can become a very active part of what they are doing with them.
So much of this issue is for those of you out there like me, who want to live in a bit of a fairytale land that just isn’t real. It’s a great place because it allows us to continue to be “happy.” In our apathy we don’t have to participate. We don’t have to get our hands dirty. We just ignore it and assume that it would never happen to our children.
It doesn’t take much to fool a beautifully innocent child into believing that you, as a sex offender, are a friend and not a criminal. So only read this article if you want to wake up. If you’re wanting to continue on living out your 19??’s fantasies, then I would just put the magazine down. This isn’t for you. Do you want to know how to protect your kids? Do you care about helping victimized children suffering right here in our part of the world? Keep on reading.
Statistically speaking, if you look to your right and to the left in your pew at church—just over 6 out of 10 men and 1.5 out of 10 women are actively viewing pornography on a monthly basis. (Barna Group 2014) According to another survey by the Barna Group in 2016:1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and are currently struggling. To be clear, that is over 50,000 U.S. church leaders.
Statistics show our “Core” is under attack. Part of the reason I had to go down this path was how many people I encounter inside the church who admit to pornography addiction destroying their marriage. Pornography addiction is seriously blowing up church families left and right.
Truth is, if you are watching pornography, you are 100% participating in the realm of human trafficking. You just are. How far you will venture into that land? Well, that is a really good question. Chances are, it will be farther than you ever imagined you would go. Marriages and families are destroyed. Pedophiles are created. Sexual addicts, who cannot get their needs met at home, find ways to go outside of the marriage bed for sexual satisfaction. After all, those paid to perform acts just do as they are paid to do (although not likely along the same lines as the fake stuff in the shows).
Porn is even attacking our children. Do you know most kids have seen pornography at school? If not on their phone, on someone else’s who pressures them to watch. If you think this stuff isn’t happening, Satan is really doing a better job than I’d care to admit.
Participating in any way with pornography essentially supports the horrors of sex trafficking. It’s taking part in an industry that creates the demand for these girls and boys to be pulled from their homes into a life that they feel they can never escape.
Keep thinking it’s not you. Keep thinking what you’re doing is fine. Keep thinking I would never be that kind of person. Better yet, keep thinking it’s better to keep it a secret. Satan LOVES that line of thinking. I’m guessing King David didn’t think he’d fall to sexual temptation when he saw his great warrior’s wife taking a bath and continued to watch. I bet Uriah wished David had been a bit wiser about sexual temptations since it cost Uriah his life. I’m also guessing that the man I was just told about who keeps a bucket under his desk because he can’t leave his desk to go to the bathroom from his porn addiction didn’t set out for that life either. It is kinda safe to assume he wanted more at some point. I’m thinking he probably had bigger dreams, but that’s just me.
The Church should not have these statistics for pornography addiction. As the Church, we can’t sit by and let this world of sexual sin and depravity continue to destroy our congregations. When an “innocent” viewing of porn invades the mind, it starts to unravel the barriers we have to protect us. It creates a new home where addiction brews in secret. Those “harmless addictions” become the focus of lives and the path towards destruction begins.
Porn is just one way to create the demand for human trafficking. They are definitely linked. There are also many others but together they are all the breeding grounds for sexual predators, broken marriages and broken families. It’s a realm where men and women can become something they never imagined.
This stuff is real. What we’re getting ready to talk about lands on us, as the Church, to hold higher standards of living in alignment with the Bible. The indifference of Christians on all accounts is probably the worst reality of all. I’m guilty of ignoring it. You might be guilty with me. We don’t have to stay there. We have to get in this battle where Satan is taking prisoners in our homes. We have to offer help to bring them out of their addictions. We might even need to help them understand (as men, women, and youth) that it’s actually NOT ok. It actually DOES lead to bad things.
As you follow along with Community Spirit, in our next issue, we will tackle porn in the church head on. We are going to be talking to a very well-known Pastor from Tulsa, who fell to the temptation of pornography himself. He’s going to get real with us. He has an incredible ministry to help those battling addiction. We are also going to talk to people who are in the midst of recovery. We want you to know it’s not just some crazy guy locked up by himself in the middle of small-town America. Trafficking, porn addiction, they are real and they are right here in our backyards.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
It’s such an invigorating time of year. It’s crisp outside. Things feel new as the year breaks through. We start on our new path. We buy a new journal. Maybe set new goals. Then life rolls around. It doesn’t hit all at once. However, very slowly we ease back into our old ways. They’re comfortable. They feel less stressful. Truthfully, they feel just easier than these new goals. Most of us simply slide into failure. It just feels like home. Mmmm. Cozy. Not really though.
Familiar? It’s just easier to stay in patterns of thought and behavior than to turn over any kind of a new leaf. Is it any wonder, when we try to walk with God why we slip back into old sins? Find ourselves becoming less and less offended at our offenses? We dull and lull ourselves back into what feels the easiest. Same old same old.
Can we Change our Core?
As a reigning queen of the #EPICfail New Year, I know the pattern all too well. However, last year—I decided to do something about it. I made one big change. Just one. Funny enough, it wasn’t even at the New Year. It was at the end of November.
I’m sure it’s not a big deal to most of you. I hesitate to write it. But, my fellow Sodaholics will know my plight. I went from a few sodas per day to zero. Anyone who knows me knew that was just not ever going to be possible. Dr. Pepper was my end all be all crutch for a stressful day for over 30 years. I knew which states didn’t serve it and consistently offered a root beer when I asked (as if it were even close to the same!). I knew where to get it overseas in France, Italy, China—you name it. I could find it. I could easily distinguish between a Mr. Pibb and a Dr. Pepper for those who tried to pass it off as the same. I’m not proud. I’m just saying—it wasn’t an easy break-up.
I called it “When my Daddy took away my last Dr. Pepper.” (not intentionally but it became an extra funny part of my goal!) He literally held it for me at the hospital one day and I could not figure out where he put it. I kept asking everyone if they knew. It was funny. He didn’t intentionally hide it but it popped into my head as a fun way to stop drinking it. Why? Because I liked saying it. It makes me laugh. I also love to see him crack a smile in the corner of his mouth when I say he took my last one. I actually partnered him with me on the journey not really realizing what I was doing. It worked!
So, I’m sitting here a year later quite proud of myself. It’s certainly not a game changer, but it did prove to me I could do it. I can make changes. I can break difficult habits. My keys to success?
Pick it. Pick one thing or just very few (2!). 2020 is about focus and we can’t focus with 15 goals in 15 directions. It just doesn’t work. Get laser-focused on a goal and stay on it.
Plant it. Be really specific and plant that seed in your heart and mind. Don’t just decide “I’m going to be a better person in 2020.” Decide “I’m going to be a more financially generous person.” Or, maybe, “I’m going to read my Bible daily even if it’s just a verse.” General goals are nice, but they don’t give you specific plans for success. Plant the specific seed you want to grow.
Present it to God. Get yourself what you need to grow the seed. Bring it before God. Pray. Ask for His help. Read what His word has to say about your issue.
Partner Up. Ask Him for accountability partners (or a fun unintentional partner like my dad!). God uses others following Christ to help us get where we want to go. The “following Christ” part isn’t really optional. You need people who are lined up with God’s word to speak truth to you straight from the Bible. They pray with us and for us. They keep us challenged. They make sure we are staying focused. They nudge (or jerk) us back onto our path as needed. They are on board with keeping the seed growing with you.
Whatever you do, be realistic. Many make a list of resolutions as likely to happen as trying to get the Democratic and Republican parties to agree on their political agendas. Instead of making a list even the mightiest of willpower giants couldn’t accomplish, think a bit smaller. Few people can handle massive amounts of change. (Woohoo for those who can!) But if you find yourself reigning in my “#EPICfail” kingdom with your very own crown—why don’t you try a different approach?
Narrow down your list to a few things that simply must change. To reference Kristen Marie’s mantra “Choose Life.” Select YOUR one thing you want to change. Then, decide THIS thing will become a thing of your past (or these 3 THINGS for our overachievers who just can’t live within a limit (but please don’t overdo it if you want to have success).
Maybe this is the year that you want to “Choose Life” by becoming a giver. Write it down. Be specific as to what that would look like for you. Pray about it. Pray for a gardener, an accountability partner, to help you keep the seed growing. I told people I gave up soda. I made sure people around me knew my plan so they could watch me. I even brought my dad in on it, because I enjoyed the proud smirky smile on his face that he had been part of my little journey. Partners to keep you growing strong are absolutely a big factor in your success.
Then, start immediately. Set out to answer all situations you enter as the giver you want to become. Maybe you defined that as when you see a charity making a difference, you will pick an amount of money or time and just give it. Write it down. When the next one comes along—do it again. Write it down. Maybe challenge yourself with the number of times you want to accomplish your giving goal for the year. Then, take the opportunities in front of you (or seek some out!). When you look back at your list at the end of the year, you will find a sense of accomplishment along with the joy you received each time you succeeded. Somewhere along the way, your seed becomes your heart. It brings forth a beautiful change transforming you more into who God made you to be. It just becomes who you are. Then, you have a journal to remind you of the journey.
I know Dr. Pepper isn’t a big problem. Maybe for you it’s something a little more life impacting. Maybe you have a sin that has been kicking you and possibly your family, that you need to kick back. Maybe you have lost your patience with your family and need to find some grace again. Maybe your relationship with your spouse has been strained and it might be your fault. Maybe it’s a substance abuse situation. Maybe you have found yourself wrapped up in a porn addiction. The list could go on and on. Whatever it is—the solution isn’t THAT much different for a serious problem. You have to “Choose Life.”
Do you want to make a change? Do you want to choose life?
Some bigger problems have very specific accountability groups that can offer the exact kind of support you need—groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. You can march yourself into an AA meeting and find a system proven to work. If it’s something like porn addiction, download a software system like covenanteyes.com and then find some accountability partners. Whatever you do “Choose Life” and get God involved in your decision.
These bigger items are better tackled with a team, but rest assured, you CAN beat them. You do need a team in your corner. God’s got the foundation. Build on it with Godly men and women who can help hold you accountable. Get real with them. (Check out Accountability Partners in this issue!). Trust me, you are not alone. You are NOT the only one facing that kind of problem. You just aren’t.
What you can’t do this year is try it the same ways you’ve tried before and fail.
Once you know how to be successful, the question really comes down to do you want to make a change? do you want to choose life? If you do, pick it, plant it, present it to God and get on down that road with some partners in your corner. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow to get it right. We are guaranteed that God will never leave us and never forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. He’s right there to take this journey with you—to kick the soda or to kick the habit before you kick the proverbial can. Just kidding. (Kinda). Seriously, not kidding at all. Some of these problems are very big deals and if you have one afflicting you, it’s absolutely time to make a change.
Written by Mike Henry Sr. — Follower of One
As I write this article, I just read a devotional on Psalms 16:11 which says, “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalms 16:11b
I hope you agree. I hope you experience God’s joy when you’re in his presence. For many of us, we experience his joy when we worship, or when we’re around his people. We may see God’s glory in our family, or in nature, and experience his joy. We may find his joy in reading his word and prayer when we’re by ourselves or when we’re alone.
Do you often experience God’s joy at work? I think many of this magazine’s readers would say they do. But how often? More than once or twice a day? More than a few times a week? Once a month? Less?
I used to think my faith was a part of my life: the others being work, family, health and hobbies. But the more I chased after God, the more I learned my faith was the place where my life, work, family and hobbies existed. When I’m with God, being directed by God, I experience his joy. At work, my desires and fears called the shots. I avoided getting chewed out, or I worked to earn money or appreciation for my job. I wanted my career to matter, but I left God out of the equation.
But fullness of joy exists in God’s presence.
How can we manage ourselves into the presence of God full-time, even while we’re at work doing things we don’t like or working with people we don’t like?
“But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:”
“But when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
The entire Trinity works right now. When you can’t be at church, or in a quiet time, you can join God in His work. Years ago, Henry Blackaby and Claude King wrote a popular workbook (and a series of other books based on it) called Experiencing God. Their workbook prompted me to see God is active in every life. We just look for God working in others and join Him.
In every circumstance and any project, we can be present with God. In Psalm 139 we learn we can’t get away from God. “If I ascend to Heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Psalm 139:8.
God is actively working in the lives of everyone you know and see every day. That includes the person who serves you coffee and the people who clean your workplace; the people you call on today and the person at the tire shop or the irate customer. God is actively working in your boss and your direct reports, peers, and vendors, too.
In the book Rare Leadership by Marcus Warner and James Wilder, they suggest that our brains only run on 2 fuels. Either our brains run on fear, or joy. When you can’t wait to leave work or get to the weekend, you’re operating on fear. When you look for God in everything you do, you experience His joy in every work. The work isn’t joyful but God gives us His joy in His presence. Some work is ugly. He knows. His mercies are new every morning. He has the joy we desperately need to live and work in a fallen world, in a fallen body, among other fallen people.
At Follower of One, we suggest 5 categories of activities we can do to be present with God at work. We call these the 5 daily activities:
Pray—Ask God to put you to work in the lives of others.
Appreciate others—Make God’s treasure our treasure. He died for everyone we meet.
Know what you believe—Prepare to answer the question, “Why are you doing this?” or “Why do you follow Jesus?”
Serve others—Go beyond what others expect of you.
Speak for yourself—When someone asks, answer in the 1st person.
We have found that when people practice these 5 activities daily, they experience God’s joy moment-by-moment at work. Even in miserable jobs or difficult situations, we hear how God brings joy. His presence brings joy, and he’s at work.
God’s joy is available to us when we can pray, worship, study and share time with other believers. But that’s not all. God is a worker. If you want more of God’s joy, join him at work, and watch what happens.
Mike Henry Sr. is the CEO of Follower of One, an online community to equip marketplace Christ-followers in any line of work. Check out their website, podcast and videos at https://follower ofone.org.
Written by Jim Stovall
The only time failure is final is when we quit trying to succeed. What would you call a basketball player who missed 9,000 shots, lost almost 300 games, and on two dozen occasions when he was called upon to shoot the winning basket, he missed? You might call him a failure or a loser, but the world knows him as Michael Jordan—arguably the best basketball player of all time.
Temporary failure is a part of all success. Winston Churchill was fond of repeating that, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Great basketball players, including Michael Jordan, know that they are going to miss approximately half of their shots. This never keeps them from doing their best and anticipating the next shot.
For most people the most dramatic part of any basketball game is known as the “buzzer beater.” This is when a player launches a last-second shot when the game is hanging in the balance. If the ball goes into the basket, his team wins; and if it doesn’t, they lose. I remember talking to my friend and mentor, the late, great legendary Coach John Wooden, and discussing the kind of players he wanted to recruit to play on his championship teams. Obviously, he wanted great athletes with the size, speed, and skill to compete at the highest level; but Coach Wooden was much more interested in the mental qualifications of a prospect. He pointed out that the best athletes don’t always win. When I inquired about how he would determine whether a prospect was mentally suited to be a champion, Coach Wooden told me he was looking to recruit players who wanted to take that last-second shot.
A lot of great athletes compete aggressively throughout the game but shy away from taking the last shot. They simply don’t want to deal with the pressure. Players like Michael Jordan realize that pressure is a part of the game and a part of life. It’s simply a matter of who is best qualified to take the shot and being willing to live with the results.
In reality, any shot during a ballgame could be considered the winning or losing basket. It’s just that the last shot holds a place in the spotlight. Any single basket during the entire game could have made the final shot irrelevant, so it’s important for us to learn that everything we do matters—not just the last-second things we do before the deadline. If we perform at the highest level in our personal and professional lives, we will avoid many deadlines and high-pressure situations; but when we’re called upon to take the final shot, we will step up and do what needs to be done knowing that sometimes we’ll win and sometimes we’ll lose, but there will always be another game tomorrow.
I heard a great baseball coach explain that the most important characteristic of a great pitcher is to have a short memory. If a pitcher can give up a homerun, put it behind him, and bear down in order to get out the next batter, he will eventually succeed. Success always looks like a series of victories with the inevitable defeats sprinkled among them.
As you go through your day today, remember that failure isn’t final unless you give up.
Today’s the day!
Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stovallauthor; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.
About YouVersion: Created by Life.Church, YouVersion is on a mission to help people grow in their relationship with God by engaging with the Bible. The team designs and builds experiences that make it easy for people to integrate the Bible into their everyday lives. Since 2008, the Bible App has offered a free Bible experience that can be accessed on smartphones, browsers, voice platforms, and more. The Bible App for Kids launched in 2013 and engages children with Bible stories on an age-appropriate level. The newest app, Bible Lens, analyzes objects in photos, finds the most relevant Bible verse to match, and automatically creates beautiful, shareable artwork. For more information about YouVersion, visit youversion.com.
The global YouVersion community engaged more in the Bible this year than in any previous year. In fact, people read and listened to the Bible 30% more this year compared to last year. In total, YouVersion saw 5.6 billion chapters listened to and 35.6 billion chapters read in 2019.
Around the world, the Bible verse most engaged with throughout the year is Philippians 4:6: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
“Our desire is to help people grow in their relationship with God by encouraging them to read the Bible and seek Him every day,” said YouVersion Founder Bobby Gruenewald. “We’re encouraged to see so many people turning to the Bible in response to their worries, remembering what God has done in their lives, and choosing to trust in His faithfulness.”
One of the most popular offerings of the Bible App is daily Plans that combine portions of Scripture with devotional content. This year alone, the community completed a record-breaking 1.1 billion days in their daily Bible Plans. People also made 2 billion highlights, bookmarks, and notes to mark meaningful verses and record what God revealed to them in their studies. Many even took the extra step to tell others how the Bible was impacting them, resulting in more than 478 million verses shared.
“What we are seeing in global engagement is exciting to us because with every verse highlighted, Plan day completed, or audio chapter listened to, that’s a person who is being transformed by knowing God more intimately through spending time in the Bible,” said Gruenewald. “We’re humbled by the opportunity to see lives changed in every country around the world.”
The Bible App saw a significant global increase in both installs and engagement this year. In 2019, YouVersion grew by nearly 50 million unique installs to reach a total of 400 million installs worldwide, and the majority of those new installs came from outside the U.S. Based on the YouVersion Community’s engagement with Scripture throughout the year, Poland was one of the fastest growing countries with a 75% increase. India saw 51% more engagement in 2019 compared to last year. Bible engagement also grew across Southeast Asia in countries like Cambodia and Vietnam seeing increases by 36% and 37%, respectively.
“Every year, when we dig into these numbers, we’re overwhelmed by how God is using this app to deliver His message of hope and love to a hurting world,” said Gruenewald. “We also can’t help but recognize how much more work there is to be done together as the global Church to reach every nation.”
Right now, the Bible App offers more than 2,000 Bible versions in more than 1,350 languages. However, over a billion people globally don’t have access to a complete Bible in their native language. Together with illumiNations, a movement of ten Bible translation agencies, YouVersion is working to give more people the Bible in their native language. The group’s goal is that by 2033, 95% of the world’s population will have a complete Bible, 99.9% will have a complete New Testament, and 100% will have at least some portion of Scripture.
Through the generosity of the YouVersion community, translation projects in Republic of Congo, Malawi, Benin, Indonesia, Croatia, Madagascar, and Serbia received $1 million this year to advance their efforts. Combined, these projects will give more than 4.7 million people the first portion of Scripture ever available in their language. To date, the YouVersion community has donated a total of $3 million to fund Bible translation.
“When you take in Scripture in your native language, the words take on new meaning and suddenly, He isn’t a God who came for someone else. He is your God who knows you personally,” said Gruenewald. “Experiencing the Bible in your own language is a powerful gift, and we’re eternally grateful to our partners who share our dream of making the Bible for everyone.”
I was blown away when Life.Church first announced bringing the Bible to our mobile devices as an app. My fascination continued, as more and more downloads happened. With over 400 million downloads and counting, it’s literally revolutionized how you can engage with God’s word. Anyone remember toting your Bible on business trips in your bag? (If you haven’t downloaded it—I’d stop right now and grab it. Did I mention it is absolutely free? Plus, the studies are also free? Amazing, right?)
So, I wanted to talk through a few ways I do YouVersion because they are kind of out of the box for Bible reading. That’s my favorite part of this whole thing. It is a great way to engage with God’s word more often than just the time you sit in your quiet place. It makes God’s word a part of your day in really active ways. It’s easy. It’s educational. It’s certainly motivational. Plus, it never ever hurts to write more of God’s word on our hearts.
YouVersion actually reads the Bible to me in my car. Yep. I can get through an entire chapter if the traffic is just right going from place to place.
Walking—both in the neighborhood and at the gym when I find time to go—I just select it and it starts reading.
On the plane—sitting on a runway and too tired to actually read? Keep on talking to me YouVersion.
Witnessing in the mall—Yep. I was talking with the Chinese massage therapists and I needed to give them a Bible reference. We had a language barrier. I whipped out YouVersion and they read the verse in Chinese. Witnessing crisis averted.
Multiple versions—Honestly, I love reading the same verse in 4-5 different versions—from New Living Translation to the Message. It brings life back into words I’ve read so many times that I sometimes gloss over them a bit. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, many verses that you’ve heard since your childhood become a bit easy to zip through as your brain believes you already know everything there is to know about the verse. Reading it in a different version with a bit different wording (translation) can give you a fresh perspective on the verse you know so well.
Little Bible studies with reminders from some of my favorite authors. Share them with your Bible study group. Dr. Tony Evans has been a favorite of mine since college. If you don’t know him, you should give him a try. There are hundreds of others.
It’s pretty easy to “Choose Life” through investing in Bible study for 2020. Set your reminders and don’t choose to invest in God’s word and let it grow in your heart and your mind. It is truly powerful!
Written by Jesse Leon Rodgers
The interest level in the mission and vision of City Elders has reached a fevered pitch, now, even on a national level. Therefore, I suppose it is time for a clear, unambiguous and public explanation of what City Elders is all about. We wanted to organize the group, the warriors really, in the spiritual sense of the word before we marched too far into battle with the wickedness which has engulfed our nation.
If the history books haven’t been rewritten yet, last I checked, our nation was founded on the freedom of religion. It is the core of who we are as a country. When you consider the incredible persecution allowed around the world, it is easy to see the importance of such a freedom. In China churches are being bulldozed, burned—literally destroyed. Church members are imprisoned for their faith. Many are put into re-education centers to teach their youth a new way. In our nation, we just sat back and allowed the re-education centers to happen right under our noses without much of a debate.
Like it or not, we are being drawn into a fight; God’s word is being disregarded as if it is merely a possible suggestion. Our spiritual and governmental foundations are still in place and we can rebuild again. But it is going to take patriots and preachers of righteousness, business leaders and civil servants, who have had their fill of surrendering territory to the enemy and are ready to go into a spiritual war to preserve a nation.
There has been an assault in America for the soul of our nation for the last two generations. Unfortunately, those of us reading this somehow virtually laid down and played possum. We just didn’t engage in the spiritual, cultural and political battles we should have been in. Rest assured, we are at war against the powers of darkness which are on a mission to destroy the family, the church, the culture and ultimately the nation. City Elders is here to raise up God’s people to take our place in these battles.
Many have not engaged in the battle because they have not understood the nature of the spiritual war, where the attacks are coming from or how to engage. Many are disengaged because they are holding out for the imminent return of the Lord or thinking that the demise of the nation is simply a “sign of the times” and there is nothing that we can do but bemoan our losses and “hold-on” till the end. This theology and eschatology shackles these folks to a sinking ship mentality without sail or rudder rather than a victorious vessel sailing to shore with the spoils of war aboard.
Others have hunkered down in their homes and houses of worship while the enemy has ravaged our youth. He has destroyed morals, undermined biblical marriage, murdered the unborn, pillaged the political system and been allowed to roam freely through our nation. In fact, he roams about with quite a bit of support.
He marches on a full-frontal attack to destroy the next generation of children through the indoctrination and reorientation camps we call schools. Public schools weren’t ever meant to be a political playground. The very innocence, purity and eternal destination of our children is at stake, having been made the target of the Wicked One. He wants to sexually assault the minds of primary school children, sully their morality and confuse their identity through the lie of gender fluidity and sexual reorientation. It’s not ok to redefine our children against what our Bible teaches. It’s not.
The Wicked One does not stop “until He is stopped!” And this is precisely where City Elders comes in. The mission of City Elders is to stop evil from being forced upon others, especially through civil government policy and institutions. We hold that people should be free to practice what the Bible would address as sin (although within the law). However, governmental institutions cannot and should not be used to promote that form of anti-Biblical action. Neither should the government control or subsidize institutions be used to promote or propagate these actions.
There is one, and only one, reason why wickedness has pervaded the culture and dominated the governmental arena . . . and that reason is Christians have allowed it to happen. And we, in the “City Elders Movement” intend to change that narrative.
City Elders exists to govern the gates of our cities spiritually, politically and economically, so that: life is protected, liberty is defended, Christ is exalted, suffering is alleviated and families can flourish. That is our mission, plain and simple.
We have identified spiritual leaders, elders, in the county seats of forty of Oklahoma’s seventy-seven counties. These spiritual leaders are found in the church, in civil government and in the business sectors. These are men and women of God whose spiritual influence reaches far beyond the walls of their own home and the church house. These are leaders who realize the Lordship of Jesus Christ was intended to be recognized in every sphere of our lives, public and private.
Our goal is to have “Spiritual Governing Councils” established in all seventy-seven counties of Oklahoma by November of 2020. We are well on our way to reaching that goal. These spiritual governing councils are praying men and women who function in the same capacity as the City Elders of the ancient cities of Israel. They were the influencers, the decision makers, the leaders of the city. These leaders sat in the gates of the fortified cities of Israel and made judgement calls upon what was allowed in the city and what was disallowed. They protected the city from invasions and intrusions. And they were the first line of defense against attacks from enemies or anyone who would do the citizens harm.
The concept of City Elders is not new; it is an ancient and Biblical form of city governance which recognizes the significance of dominating the spiritual atmosphere through prayer and proclamation. Thereafter believers must wield their spiritual authority by influencing the sectors of civil government and business through participation and engagement. This is governing and protecting the city and its inhabitants within the framework of a Biblical worldview with an understanding that we were and are made in the image of God and for the glory of God.
ABOUT: Jesse Leon Rodgers is the founder and president of City Elders, a reformation model of city and state governance that trains up and empowers Christian elders how to govern the gates of the city spiritually, politically, and economically.
He is the chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council, Washington, D.C.
Rodgers’ unique role with the Family Research Council and City Elders has positioned him to influence government officials from the local municipalities to the White House.