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.
Holiday seasons are funny. For some, they bring such a wonderful time of gratitude for all that they have. Not things, but people really. Family. For others, they highlight things that are missing. Not just things, but people as well. People who are missed. People who may never have been there, like parents or spouses prayed for but not yet met. For all the joy of the season, there can be a real space for sadness and even a bit of despair. Goodness, I remember vividly as a child when we first had a chimney. Finally, Santa had a way in! Crisis averted!
For Christians, this is a season where we turn to traditional giving outlets to share some Christmas joy. It’s a great plan. Keep it up.
However, for 2019, we want to toss out a challenge to think bigger. We want to think even beyond the gift trees at the mall needing a requested present. (Again, still do those OF COURSE!)
Do you have a family in your church? Your neighborhood? Your work? A family who cares for children in foster care? A single parent? Friends without family in town? Friends from other countries? Elderly neighbors missing family and friends? I bet you could find at least one in one of these categories just on your street alone.
So, open your eyes. Put your “God Goggles” on to catch His vision.
Foster care parents take in children who need love during the holidays. Reach out to them. Find out how you can help around the house. Maybe it’s babysitting? Maybe it’s gifts? Maybe it’s wrapping presents? Maybe it’s something special that you can provide that I can’t even imagine not knowing your talents!
And guess what?
Single parents need those things too! My husband traveled excessively for work this year. He was gone for back to back full weeks month over month. Ay-ay-ay. It was beyond trying to parent alone—to not have that person to run to the CVS for cough medicine in the middle of the night. I have an amazing support group in Tulsa with my family. My parents don’t know they’re too old to dance and play in the floor, while they entertain my highly energetic and sometimes slightly high maintenance daughter. Goodness. They help so much!
Not everybody has those kinds of life savers to throw a rope. Single parents could use a break. Offer them one. An evening where they could go shopping without spying little eyes could be invaluable. Tossing in a Visa gift card could make that event a bit more enjoyable!
Stop to invite a single friend or an elderly person over for the whole “magic in the eyes of a child” kind of thing. Invite them to join your family for Christmas lights at Rhema. Put them between the car seat and the door for a crazy night of Christmas light touring they won’t soon forget. There’s just so much fun to be shared!
People aren’t connected in the way we used to be. It used to be that everyone sort of just knew what was going on in others’ lives. Maybe it was the party line my grandparents had back in the day. I don’t know. I just know there are a lot of people who will never ask you for help. They might even be afraid that if they asked, you might ask for something from them later. Right? You know that thought process. These kinds of people will answer “Fine.” when asked how they are. They will smile to keep your attention off of their coffee stained shirt. Sure. They will make it without you, but I bet they could make it SO MUCH BETTER with you.
So grab your “God Goggles” and #GoDoBe in the ways you always do and in ways you had never thought of before.
Written by Jesse Leon Rodgers
If you are like me, you have watched the downward slide in our nation against Judeo-Christian values and felt overwhelmed at what has taken place in our courts and schools. In the last fifty plus years we have watched the following:
June 25, 1962 in a landmark case Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court decided the sanctity of prayer and word of God were no longer necessary or welcome in the public education system of the United States.
January 22, 1973 that same Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade that a child would no longer be safe in the womb of its mother. The sanctity of life now gone.
June 26, 2015 the same Supreme Court decided in another landmark ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges that the sanctity of marriage would be removed from our courts and our laws in the United States.
California Senate SB Bill 48 targeted the purity and innocence of our children with government mandated public education training of our children in the history and substance of the LGBTQ community.
The Illinois Legislature passed House Bill 5596 which also targeted the purity and innocence of our children in primary school by requiring the schools to teach the history of the LGBTQ community to school children to create gender confusion.
What we are seeing is social engineering and secular humanism at its best. How has this happened? Because we believed the lie that as Christians we were not to be involved in government and that pastors and Christian leaders were not allowed to speak out about these important issues. We stepped back and went silent. And this has been the result. We can no longer remain silent.
We must recognize that government funded and government subsidized public education has been the greatest adversary of faith, family and freedom for a generation.
The Humanist Manifesto states blatantly that their desire is to turn the public education classroom into their sanctuary. The teacher is their high priest, secular Humanism, Dialectic Materialism (Marxism), Evolution and Atheism is their creed and our children are the worshippers in their new religion of secular humanism.
Has the vision and strategy of secular humanism worked? You bet. Over 80% of the children of evangelicals jettison their faith in their first year of college. These numbers are not sustainable. If we want to remain a free country, if we want the United States of America to remain free for our children and grandchildren, then the men and women of God across this nation must stand up to be collective in their efforts and we must do so right now.
That is the goal and role of City Elders, a non-profit organization with a model to position Christian leaders/elders to work alongside government officials across our nation. We are already seeing this happen as this model is implemented in our state.
Who are city elders? They are proven Christian leaders from the sectors of the church, the business community and civil government, who when they convene constitute the spiritual governing council of a city or community.
They are local leaders whose personal lives are guided by biblical principles and governed by Judeo Christian values and who are committed to the exaltation of Jesus Christ and the practice of his lordship in every sphere of life.
We need to return to the concept of city elders who in biblical days guarded and governed the cities at the city gates. It was the watchmen on the wall and the elders at the city gates who were the first line of defense against attacks, invasion or intrusion of any kind and their responsibility was the protection of the inhabitants of the city including their own families.
The mission of City Elders is to govern the gates of the city spiritually, politically, and economically so that life is protected, liberty is defended, Christ is exalted and families can flourish.
This is a national network strategy being implemented currently in Oklahoma in over forty of our seventy-seven counties. Can you imagine the transformation if this model was implemented in every state of our nation?
We have already surrendered far too many civil liberties and religious freedoms. We have watched as our own government has been commandeered and weaponized against Christians. The public education system has been infiltrated and militarized against the family, Judeo-Christian values and biblical world view.
It’s time now for the people of God to arise and take their position in the gates of the cities across this nation as we move back into government rather than watch from the sidelines.
For additional information or to become a part of City Elders go to: https://cityelders.com/
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.
Written by Andrea Stephens
Generosity. The giving of good things to others freely and abundantly out of a heart of genuine kindness. Generosity is something we are challenged by during this season of thankfulness and gift giving. It affords us the opportunity to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Have you ever met someone who is generous? Not just someone who repeatedly tells the story of her one-time over the top act of kindness. I mean someone who lives it. Someone who sees what they own, what they earn, what they do with their time, and their words of encouragement as tools to use to bless the lives of others. Someone who has experienced the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive and can attest that giving increases their own well-being and happiness (Acts 20:35). Someone who’s heart has been so touched by the love of God that it overflows toward others in a consistent, almost natural way.
Several years ago, I met Marge. She was an older lady, a widow, the mother of two adult sons who were inattentive to their mother. Her life had not been easy but her disposition was one of gratitude, a key to generous living. She could be heard thanking the Lord for this or that and giving Him credit for all the good in her life; Marge had well learned Jesus’ command to love the Lord with everything within her and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39). I got to watch up close as she would hear about a need and find a way to meet it. Mr. Avery had been laid off and his family needed groceries; Suzette didn’t have a winter coat and the temperature kept dropping; Karen was in the throes of chemotherapy and just couldn’t prepare Thanksgiving dinner as usual. Marge had three bags of groceries delivered to the Avery’s, took Suzette shopping, and shared her festive meal so Karen could rest. The majority of her most generous giving was done anonymously so that the credit went to God alone. Even as someone who became one of her close friends, I didn’t know all the giving she was up to, yet that smile on her face let me know that she and Jesus were up to something good. Together, they were on an adventure that brought energizing joy, contentment and purpose to her life.
Her example taught me that I, too, could possess the quality of generosity. Generosity is not about how much you possess, or how much money you make. It’s about the condition of your heart, your mindset, your willingness to put it into action. Caring, sharing, and giving because it blesses the Lord, blesses the recipient, and blesses you.
Sometimes our generosity is an act of obedience to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. A friend tells the story of having lunch at one of her favorite restaurants—the kind with country style cooking. When she was getting ready to leave, the Holy Spirit whispered to her/impressed upon her to leave her waitress a $20 tip. She admits that her first reaction was what, $20? After all this wasn’t one of her regular waitresses but a new person she didn’t even know, a person with a pink streak in her hair. Well, she knew the thought hadn’t come from her. So, she had a decision to make. Should she trust the impression or pass it off as a ridiculous thought?
Obedience won. She tucked the money along the side of her plate and left the restaurant. The next week she returned to that restaurant for lunch. While scanning the menu she heard someone say, “Hey, you’re the lady that left me that awesome tip last week.” She looked up to see the waitress with the pink streak in her hair. She smiled. “I was having such a bad day. Several customers had been mean and no one was tipping. In fact, I had just been alone in the walk-in freezer crying and asking the Lord to help me. Then I came out and there was your tip. Thank you so much.”
Wow. Who knew her obedience was actually the answer to someone’s prayer? My friend was doubly blessed. She had followed what the Lord lead her to do and she had impacted another life with her generosity.
Of course, the greatest example of generosity was done by God, our Heavenly Father, when He choose to send His Son, Jesus, to earth as a human baby who would one day sacrificially give His life to save the world from the wrath of sin and restore all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. When Jesus gave His life for you and me, it was the greatest demonstration of love being the motivation for generosity. First, God loved the world which resulted in the giving of Jesus (John 3:16). Then Jesus loved His Father so much that He obediently went to the cross to die for the world His Father loved (Matt 26:36-44). Yes, Jesus loved us, but His motivation came from the love he had for God.
To complete this demonstration of love, Jesus rose from the grave having defeated death and paying our sin debt so that we can live forgiven, free, and forever reconciled to our Heavenly Father. This alone, gives each of us reason to be grateful and to show our love for God by loving others. Life can be hard, messy, and disappointing. Yet when we intentionally keep our focus on the generosity of God toward us, we will recognize our blessings and be motivated to bless others.
How can we become more generous women? First, study God’s Word. The more we know His love, the more we will love Him (and the more we will want to obey Him). January will be a great time to get in on a local Bible study. Check out these studies for women: Bible Study Fellowship held at Asbury Church on Thursday mornings and Community Bible Study held at Evergreen Baptist Church on Wednesday mornings. Second, practice an attitude of gratitude. Challenge yourself to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Get in the habit of telling others when you are grateful for them. Third, just start being generous. Yes, begin paying attention to how and when you can be generous to those around you—whether it is someone you know or a seemingly random person God puts in your path. As you do these things, your desire to be more generous will grow. Your joy will increase. You will become a natural at it!
Written by Teresa Goodnight
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
I know. I couldn’t help the reference with the holidays coming, but our fruitiness is pretty important. Our CORE is a pretty good indicator of our status with Christ. Makes sense. God tells us that the closer we get to Him, the more the Holy Spirit will produce these kinds of fruits within us:
God tells us “There is no law against these things!” Makes sense. Why would there need to be a law against such things? I know no one complaining at the Thanksgiving table—“Kenzi, she’s just too loving. I always feel like she is just joyful or something. It’s really aggravating me. When things aren’t going her way, she’s peaceful. It’s like she thinks that no matter what happens, everything is going to be ok. She’s kind when I think she should be boiling over. It’s like she’s full of goodness or something. I mean her faithfulness and gentleness anger me. I wish she wasn’t so stinkin’ self-controlled. I just don’t like to be around people like her.”
It’s so silly—it’s difficult to write (and probably read). I just don’t hear people complaining about people filled with the Spirit. In fact, I’m more likely to step back and challenge myself when I’m around such people. There’s no one in my life who would naturally call me self-controlled. Gentleness isn’t exactly on my type A personality trait list either. I want it to be. In fact, when I spend more time with God, it actually starts to creep into me. I notice it. Then, when life gets busy and I get off track. It’s gone. Type A me, me, me is right back in action wondering if anyone noticed I was next in line and not the person they waited on ahead of me. As I wonder in my head how they missed me, I stand there annoyed I’m having to wait longer, fighting rushing up to get my turn that was due. It’s not just self-control I’m lacking there. It’s patience. It’s love. It’s goodness. It’s certainly gentleness. All not happening. ARGH!
So, why can’t I keep producing the fruit I want? Many times, it’s because I AM PRODUCING THAT FRUIT. When I’m just doing it on my own, it won’t last. It doesn’t have the sticking power that a fruit of the Spirit does. People can sense you aren’t even happy with what you are trying to force yourself to do, but when it’s just growing out of you—it has its own life and power, God’s Holy Spirit’s power.
It’s not that I shouldn’t try to be good. We should all try of course. It’s just that there is a different power source behind the actions when we are plugged into Christ. When I’m reading God’s word, spending time in prayer about it—all of a sudden, the fruit just starts growing in me. Sure, I’m participating. I’m there letting the seed be planted with God’s word. I’m listening to God as I pray, letting the Spirit water me like a garden if you will. Then I’m out there operating in the sunshine watching it grow inside me. It really is a very different crop though. One is born out of pushing myself to do it myself. The other is truly born of the Spirit. It actually can feel a bit effortless at times. In fact, it can even surprise you that it’s just happening. I know it has me. (Mainly because I know it is NOT my natural instinct. Hey. Don’t judge. LOL)
My daughter is addicted to a dumplin’/carrot kid’s meal at the Cracker Barrel (Please stay with the no judging theme here. Ha! ). She’s a picky eater. Anyway. One day, we had a waitress who was just downright grumpy with us. Anything we asked seemed like an enormous drain on her. I wanted to throw down a bit of righteous indignation that a paying customer feels they deserve to throw when things aren’t going well. I own that mode when needed (Sadly!). However, we had been challenged at church to be a bit different. The seed had been planted just the service before. It was watered with some Biblical teaching and addressed in prayer. So, without even having to debate it, which still baffles me, we left a $100 tip. It wasn’t because we made ourselves do it. It really flowed right out of us. We left being thankful that God had turned us that direction in that moment.
Several weeks later, my daughter and I went back to the Cracker Barrel. Honestly, I didn’t remember the waitress, but she remembered us. (Don’t even know how she knew it was us, because you pay at the front desk at CB!). Anyway, she came over and talked about what a horrible day she was having that day. She talked with me about some of her trials. She knew she had been pretty awful to us. She was so thankful to us for being generous on her really bad day. I had to tell her—I think God wanted you to have that encouragement. He must have known you needed it. We do NOT do that all the time. We have done that only when we feel a tug that feels from the Spirit and we just respond immediately. It’s difficult to put into words, but it is just different. I’m sure you’ve felt that tug.
So how fruity are you? Are you working on any kind of spiritual fruit crop at all? Do you have some artificial, genetically modified fruit crop that looks a bit like real fruit out of “I oughtas or I shoulds” or are you plugged into the Holy Spirit and watching God grow something amazing in you that you know couldn’t be produced without Him? Again, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t put for the effort, but I’m telling you—there’s something different when the Holy Spirit is growing it in you. There just is.
So, I think we should throw down the holiday fruitcake challenge for this season. Let’s spend some time with God to be as fruity as we can be going into holiday time with our family and friends. See what happens!
Let’s read and study Galatians 5.
Look up a definition of the words Paul used like love, patience, etc. day by day.
Pray about at least one of them daily.
Pray that God will bring you opportunities to display them and that He will grow them in you like a harvest!
We’d love to get some notes from you over the holidays with any stories of God producing a bountiful crop in your life through His Spirit! Be blessed, but more than that, BE A BLESSING!
What does a SUPER Lost World Need? A Savior.
Goodness. America feels upside down and torn apart. Admittedly this country has made more than its fair share of mistakes growing up. So have I. One of the best parts of who we become grows out of the grace God gives us for those mistakes. At our worst, at our best, or somewhere in the middle—God loves us, sent His son to die for us, and offers forgiveness that knows no limits. So, in these times of social media wars, families divided over our political state, and hearts that fully reject God’s Word, His grace and even ours, how do we love? Like God did.
God being under attack isn’t anything new although it feels a bit new to our generation. In fact, although we focus on the amazing birth of our savior in this season, we must also remember He too came into a very tumultuous world. There was a hunt to find where the Messiah would be born—to destroy Him. The horrible taxes drove Mary and Joseph to travel when she was with child to get them paid. There was no room for a woman giving birth at the inn? Really? Would noone give their room? The owners? Even through the hunt, the lack of common decency, God still saw fit to send His son. He was born in a barn. He would die on a cross at the hand of the very people He came to save.
Why? Because then and now, the world still needed a savior. That’s how God loves.
This is not our home. It’s not. No matter how “blessed” we feel with all the frills even America offers, at the core of every human being, it remains true: THE WORLD IS STILL VERY MUCH IN NEED OF A SAVIOR. You have the answer to a broken and hurting world living inside of you. Breathing His Spirit into you. His grace covers you. You are grounded in Christ. In this season, #GoDoBE Christ wherever you find the opportunity. America is crying out desperately for a savior, reminding us of the real reason why Jesus was born. Give the gift of a savior with God this season. It just may change someone’s eternal life.
Dr. Pfanstiel operates Broken Arrow Pediatrics, which has provided care to children and families for decades now. As a parent who specifically sought out their office due to their reputation as doctors, Christians, and fantastic care—I really wanted to share their hearts with our readers. When you have an appointment with Dr. Pfanstiel, you come out with great healthcare but also nuggets of wisdom to help you be a better parent. Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “Part of what I bring into my practice is that I try to impart rather than teach from experiences. Dr. Terry and I both try to connect with our patients and their families. We probably both do it in a little bit different way, but we want to connect.” That connection demonstrated in their practice funnels into each patient’s life in a multitude of ways. So, now for a few of those nuggets!
I asked Dr. Pfanstiel his thoughts on the main ingredients for raising our children right in a Godly home. Without hesitation, he answered, “The key, I believe, to being a good parent in all cases is being there, being present with them in their lives and activities.” Dr. Pfanstiel emphasized the importance of prioritizing that “presence” for our kids and how that demonstrates our love for them. We all know it’s easy to get wrapped up in life, careers, and mile long to do lists just needed to get into bed. It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in things that seem important (and maybe are important), but making time for things that matter plays a critical role in children’s lives. Sometimes we don’t realize how much it actually DOES mean to them.
“The key, I believe, to being a good parent in all cases is being there, being present with them in their lives and activities.”
As a busy doctor, Dr. Pfanstiel knows the demands of career as well as most. Being on call, needed in an emergency—these are just commonplace occurrences in his field taking you away from the family. He shared, “There was a movie several years back that really impacted me. It was based in West Virginia— ‘October Sky.’ The young boy in the movie built rockets in his backyard. He always invited his dad to come to his things, but his dad was a coal miner and couldn’t make it. Finally, when he was getting ready to make his big rocket launch, his father took off work and showed up. It was such a meaningful moment for the son for his dad to be there. Something in me just broke as I watched it.” Dr. Pfanstiel started to carve more of his own time out for his children. He continues to do that with his grandchildren today, as it was evident from all of the smiling family photographs. It’s time invested that builds relationships that last.
Dr. Pfanstiel and his wife, Roberta, raised 6 children. They have children in all sorts of meaningful careers making a difference in the world—doctor, lawyer, teacher, IT, police officer/military and Philip, business manager for the practice, who arranged the interview for me. Really, those kinds of paths for their children are evidence of the kind of character and walk with God their parents had. They learn from what they see. Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “We have to understand that everything we do and say is picked up. We don’t realize it sometimes. Just the gifts that they are (children), we believers would believe they are gifts from God. Each of us have our own experiences with our own background, our parents, our family, our heritage, our history that affect us. Those experiences reflect who we are and how we respond or act.” That’s certainly evident in the Pfanstiel children with all of their careers being impactful to society. They are positions making a difference in the lives of others. I wonder where they learned such traits? Dr. Pfanstiel gives all the credit to his wife Roberta, but it’s easy to tell that a great set of parents making right choices can make a difference in the future of their children. I agree. Being there for our kids just matters to them. It’s not always possible, but purposefully trying to make that time is incredibly impactful when you make it happen. Set your heart and mind on a mission to carve out time—plant those seeds, and watch your children grow!
Dr. Pfanstiel encourages families to think a little bit about just how busy they get. He said, “One thing we did, I would encourage people to do, I see a lot of these kids that are every quarter in some kind of event out there. I think that’s too much. The parent is just run, run, run. I think you need to have more time. We tried to limit our kids to one sport a year.” It’s pretty easy to fall into the “soccer mom” curse with kids in multiple seasons, multiple sports and little time to breathe as a family. His sage advice always makes me stop and listen whether we’re visiting him in the office as a patient or talking at an event. Maybe that’s because his family has such a legacy.
Dr. Pfanstiel has been in a solo practice since 1983 in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow area. Broken Arrow Pediatrics has been here for almost 13 years with Dr. Terry being with him every step of the way. The Pfanstiels landed in Tulsa after what felt like a direct call from God. While running a successful practice in North Carolina, his wife Roberta came to him and said that she felt God was calling them to move for Bible school at Rhema. Dr. Pfanstiel didn’t really hesitate. He made arrangements, packed their bags and headed west. He gives a lot of spiritual leadership credit to his wife, which fits with his history. “We were raised Lutheran. My wife came from a Presbyterian background. My mother was a spiritual leader then as is my wife now. I’m really thankful for that.” It’s clear that Dr. Pfanstiel has always appreciated the role of Godly women in both the household and the workplace. It definitely shows.
Dr. Pfanstiel said, “My wife survived six kids spending an hour or two with the Lord every morning. She says that’s what has taken her through. I’d leave at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning but it was so important to know she was home with the kids. I didn’t worry about my kids.” “We both tried to be there for our kids events. It was an advantage of having a solo practice. I could say that I wasn’t working on a Thursday, because I had a soccer game.” Each of the kids, as adults, have been appreciative of the fact that we tried to be at their events.
As a father, he learned to balance between being the provider and being present in his own children’s lives. “I think the highlights are that along the way I looked at different avenues, but I wanted to be free to do it my way.” said Dr. Pfanstiel. That translated to having free time to spend with his kids when he needed it. It also included being able to pray with patients or discuss the Lord as was appropriate for the situation. Dr. Pfanstiel said, “Dr. Terry and I, I think we practice good medicine. Dr. Terry prays without everyone. I pray with some. Sometimes I’ll ask the older children that if I pray for them that they also pray for me. It just delights me.“ His dedication to following God, being a present father and husband, as well as play out in all that he touches.
Dr. Pfanstiel encourages family time for his patients. He said, “I try to encourage meals together. My wife kept the family together. I didn’t get home some nights until 7:30 at night and she would hold dinner for me so that we could have time together as a family. Those are events and moments that are kind of checklist, but I try to emphasize the things that I thought were good to families when I’m with my patients.”
In their home life, it seems Dr. Pfanstiel would come home to take on a role akin to Richard Pryor in “The Toy.” He shared, “I came home and played with the kids. Roberta would get us all packed up and ready, taking care of everything. I’m so thankful we were two. I’m so thankful she stuck with me.” It was clear their family had their own secret sauce in how they worked—but the key takeaways have lessons for all of the families in his care.
We were lucky to have one of Dr. Pfanstiel’s sons, Philip, in the room with us for the interview. Philip is a teacher as well as the practice’s business manager to name a few of his many hats. Philip recounted his life with his mom and dad working to make the kids a priority. He said, “I was always impressed by how they (office managers) would always get him out of the room (when he was with a patient). Now that I’m his business manager, I’m realizing that was a big deal.” Philip went on, “My parents always had time for us. They came to our events. We ate meals together. We went to church every single time the doors were open. We went to Sunday School. We went to church. We had wisdom searches or devotions on a routine basis.” It was easy to see what an impact his family’s decisions had made on him as a child and even as a father today.
Philip shared about how he and his siblings learned such valuable lessons from their parents. They really exemplified a life with Christ. Philip said, “As a father, the two things that have kinda stuck with me: Children spell love T-I-M-E and more is caught than taught.” He went on, “My parents walked the walk. They are both people of integrity. We saw how they reached out to people. We saw how they brought people into the home. We saw how they would give. My dad’s a doctor and he’s driving an old beat up car. He’s not gonna spend money on a car when he has kids. He’s gonna take care of us. You do what God’s called you to do. In his case, it meant giving up a good practice in Charlotte, NC to come to Rhema.” I heard a play by play list of exactly what discipling your children in Christ looks like in action.
Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “We built this practice with newborn babies. We would work at the local hospitals and get to know parents. Meet them. Try to address them and encourage them.” He continued, “I am where I’m supposed to be. I do try to touch father’s lives. I try to ask them what they think. I really try to let them know this is a special gift from God (being a father).” That’s my heart: Fathers, families, the Lord, giving kids goals to go for, being there for them.” He ended with this, “God doesn’t make any carbon copies. Everybody is unique. Everybody’s got a purpose. Everybody’s got a story and a history. Everybody’s got a reason to live. I see it that way and life’s special.”
I couldn’t agree more, as Broken Arrow Pediatrics is an incredible practice with two of the best pediatricians I know. They do their jobs with honor, while following Christ and imparting wisdom and experience to the families they see. They are about ministering. They are about families. They are living discipleship experts taking what God has put in them and sharing it with others. I can’t imagine a better purpose than that!
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Natalie Stitt’s article has already touched so many. We’ve had families thanking us for approaching the subject both for schools and for churches. It’s opened my mind beyond where God started me. I pray with this little story God inspires you to move into action. It’s really that simple.
Forming a ministry for those who are differently abled is incredibly difficult. Right?
Few things could be further from the truth. Our two-part series with Natalie’s senior thesis challenges us all on our role as the Church (and as Christian Schools) to go into the community and seek out those with disabilities to bring them to God.
Job 29:15 (NLT) says, “I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame.” The Bible is full of references to God’s heart for those with any kind of physical or mental needs. However, many of us have unknowingly created a world where they don’t seem to belong. Does that even sound right when you read it? Not in a Church called to reach the least of these, it doesn’t.
There are scattered churches in our area, who have made wonderful efforts towards reaching these souls for Christ. However, as Natalie referenced in her thesis, the needs of those with a handicap of some kind aren’t really “special.” They have needs just like any of us—to be loved, included, cared for, part of the Body of Christ. So many people believe a lie Satan puts in their minds that ministering to those who are crippled in some way is difficult. Eastland Assembly is one church who has proven otherwise for 26 years now.
“Eastland’s ministry started with puppets at Hissom Memorial Center (a residential training facility for mentally disabled children).” shared LaDonna Harper, who now has the reigns for the ministry with her husband, Al Harper. She went on, “The church launched the ministry with Jason Couch, one little member. It grew quite quickly by word of mouth. It has been steady ever since.”
Jason was an autistic boy. He was also the pastor’s son. If we think about the newfound awareness for autism we have these days—it’s better than it was, but still very misunderstood by most. So, 26 years ago, it was really a shot in the dark to begin this ministry. LaDonna said, “Since then, we have 150–170 people each Sunday who attend the service. That includes caregivers. We have about 100 people or so with special needs, but we also have the 75 or so caregivers. That’s a captive audience, because the caregivers bring them to services at their request.” LaDonna continued, “Most of the ministry on Sunday mornings for the service is done with songs. You talk about pure praise. It is just beautiful.” When she mentioned the caregivers attending services, being fed the Gospel, it even further opened my heart as to why this ministry is so critical to a church in their efforts to reach the world for Christ.
LaDonna said, “There are separate services but sometimes we bring both groups together with our regular service. Those in the 0–21 category attend the regular children’s and teen programs. They would have someone from our church with them full time if they needed someone from the church or they might have their own caregiver. The adults have their own class.” In Eastland’s program, the parents get a needed break with their children being so well cared for in the classes. Just a little extra attention really ministers to the entire family when you think about it. All parents know parenting is incredible, but a little break goes a long way. When a child has a disability, that can be even more true. It’s really a ministry to so many different people when you think about it.
LaDonna explained, “We use the ‘Action Bible’ chronologically with the Bible stories. It looks like a comic book, but it’s amazing. We just go through it with them.” LaDonna said, “Sunday school at 9:15 and 10:00 service so that they can have their meds at noon. That’s about the biggest bit of advice we have, because everything else is just holding a regular kind of service. That timing gives them room to get back to their facilities and homes for the medication.”
One other tip LaDonna had was to skip the donuts. LaDonna laughed, “We used to have a larger Sunday school when I brought donuts. It did get them out of bed, but the sugar affects their behavior so much. That leaves their staff dealing with those impacts when they get back. So, we steer clear of the donuts now to create the right situation for everyone.”
LaDonna shared, “We have parties for holidays like the 4th of July and of course we have a big Christmas party. We give them gifts. Sometimes that’s the only gift they get. Many are wards of the state. They are aged from their early 20’s to 75 or so. Actually, half of our congregation has been here the whole 26 years.”
We give them gifts. Sometimes that’s the only gift they get.
I was in awe of what LaDonna was doing. However, realizing she had ZERO training in special needs ministry or education was the biggest surprise. LaDonna said, “We decided to fill in when the team left the church to try to help other churches start ministries like ours. I would come in and sing, but I didn’t really think about being part of the ministry. My husband is an engineer. We just never thought about this ministry. It’s been an amazing journey. Most people that come see them in worship can’t watch without crying. My mother in law was Presbyterian and is now Baptist. She just sits down and cries at the service. It’s something to see.”
LaDonna shared, “There are many times when you go through struggles in life. Sundays are more like salvation for my husband and I. I know that Jesus truly is our salvation, but there’s so much love
in this service; it just gives you a peace
for the rest of the things going on in
It’s quite beautiful and contrary to popular belief, quite simple. That’s really the message here. Of course, there will be challenges once in a while, like with any ministry. However, if your church isn’t doing it—then maybe God is calling you to be the one to get the ball rolling? Maybe? It may not be anything you’ve ever even thought about before reading this article. However, if you drop in on Eastland Assembly for one service and take a tour, it might ignite your heart with fire you never even knew were burning inside of you. God certainly lit LaDonna and Al with a fiery passion, equipping them with exactly what they needed to bless these families. #GoDoBe
LaDonna Harper invites people from other churches to come check out their services to get ideas and inspiration on what you might be able to do at your church. Their door is always open. She said, “I’m not worried if someone starts another ministry that we lose attendees. If the new location is closer to them, then it’s better for them. This is about what’s best for them.” Stop by one Sunday. See if this might be the God has prepared in advance for YOU to do.
Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One
A disciple is a learner. But when we think of learning and learners today, we draw a different picture than the one Jesus intended. Classrooms are a modern invention. For ages, formal education was for the few. Before public education, most learning came by doing. We apprenticed or we followed a master to learn a trade. We did what our parents did. We learned how to grow crops or make furniture by watching and helping our parents.
Jesus last command in Matthew is often called the Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
When Jesus issued this command, I doubt many heard him say we needed to create a curriculum and start holding classes. We don’t need to pursue accreditation. The two steps to making disciples are baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he commanded. Teaching then was modeling.
When our children are young, we can tell them things. We can guide their thought processes and encourage them to see things from our perspective. But as children age, they want to make decisions for themselves. After a while, everyone chooses their own path. The people who work with us, or even for us, are volunteers. In the end, we all have a choice.
Jesus came, suffered and died so we could keep that choice. We forfeited it at the fall. But God sent Jesus to make sure we could all choose. Imagine what we would do if we all saw God in all of his glory. Once Adam ate the apple, he became afraid. God remains veiled so we are free to choose. Jesus died to give us a choice. We can follow him and receive eternal life or we can choose our own way.
Choices are also influenced by our resources. Jesus said it was more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25). The more money we have the more choices we have. Since we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, most people we work with and interact with every day have the resources to choose their own solutions. Asking becomes the big phobia. We don’t want to look like we don’t know, so we make our own decisions and we live with the consequences.
God designed his strategy around how we model our faith. In Acts 1:8, the resurrected Jesus said,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 ESV
As We Go
Many consider the above to be a command, but I think it is a statement of fact. The “Go” at the beginning of the Great Commission in some translations can also be translated “as you go.” When Jesus tells us we will be witnesses, he’s telling us as we go, we will testify to the truth of Jesus. Our lives will be on display everywhere we go. We’re God’s only marketing strategy.
We all have sincerity meters. We sense when someone isn’t genuine or when they have an ulterior motive. And you’ve heard sayings like “Talk is cheap,” and “monkey see, monkey do.” How we live matters more than what we say. God created us that way and he designed the strategy (modeling) for identifying and developing his chosen people.
To make disciples we must model our faith. We live like we believe Jesus and our faith is on display for others. Both baptizing and teaching require modeling. People won’t trust Jesus or follow him until they see how trusting Jesus works. They don’t want to look stupid and most people object to being told they’re wrong or “lost.” When we live dependent on Jesus, he causes others to question and choose.
Jesus is the model. He chose to come to earth and suffer and die in our place. He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). When we model Jesus our life will cause others to question. Our light shines before others so they may see our good works and glorify our Father (Matt 5:16). Our modeling becomes the first step to making disciples in any context.
Mike Henry Sr. is the Founder and CEO of Follower Of One, a ministry designed to mobilize Christians in the marketplace. Get started by taking the Marketplace Mission Trip.
“Our mission is to provide the best product at the best price that gives our clients the best value. It’s pretty simple,” said John Wyrrick of John Wyrrick, LLC Custom Homes and Remodel. Given a minute, I might have said the exact same thing to describe his company. John and his team have had their hands on one of my homes, my sister’s home, my best friend’s home and her parent’s home just to name a few. If there was a nit-picky request to be made—I guarantee one of this crew made it. Two of the houses were sold several years later—above market and within weeks of listing. The other two, if they ever part with them, will do the same. There’s no question. I suppose selling a house within a few years for both a profit and in record time, that sort of confirms the mission.
Having built, sold, and remodeled homes, I can attest to the costly casualties when you pick the wrong team—costly in time, money and quality. Mark Twain was spot on with the concept that the difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.” When you’re talking about builders and remodelers, make no mistake—they can look similar on the outside, but the difference in their core can make or break your project (and YOU!).
Having worked with John, his character has always been evident in the way he handles his business. He and his wife, Pam, built this business while raising four children in South Tulsa. Attending Church on the Move, they also host a Bible study group in their home for their friends. The Wyrrick’s desire to follow Christ flows from their home life to their business.
John said, “We believe in listening to the client. We try to keep people in a good and enjoyable place through a challenging process. We do weekly meetings to be completely transparent as we go. We do fixed cost or a cost-plus model, whichever makes the client more comfortable.” Since John ends up friends with most of his clients, he really enjoys getting to know them in the process.
John has worked hard to vet his crew over the years. He said, “We strive for the best service we can give. Our team knows the client is in charge. We know and understand that it is an honor and privilege to serve them.”
John said, “As a father, I tried to stay focused on our kids. We remained very selective in our projects, building houses from several thousand to over 10,000 square feet for carefully chosen clients. With the kids grown, we have time to offer our higher level of service to a larger number of clients. It’s pretty exciting, really.” He continued, “When your standards are high for what you want to deliver, you don’t accept more jobs than you can handle. In this business, you can’t. We have been doing this for 26 years with new homes and over 36 years all in. So, we’re committed to doing what we say we will do.”
John’s design team also works with clients to prepare and spec out the job together. John said, “We can use the client’s plan or we offer complete design services as well. Pre-construction budgets let our clients know exactly where they are prior to starting. We try to eliminate variables and changes up front so the actual process is more enjoyable. When clients know exactly what they are getting and what it will cost, they end up really satisfied with the results. That’s a win-win.”
John Wyrrick, LLC Custom Homes and Remodel is ready to work with you to see what it will take to make your dreams a reality. Give them a call and get on their schedule for a consultation today!
Written by Teresa Goodnight
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”
Proverbs 22:6, New Living Translation (NLT)
I attended a basics of Christianity class with my four-year old daughter at Jenks First Baptist one Sunday evening. It was fascinating to watch her listen so intently. I had the opportunity to explain our faith with the teacher as he went. The event moved me to tears, because outside of our Bible readings at home—that was the first time in her life that we had the opportunity to experience this kind of class together in a church setting. Why was that? It struck me funny. Why hadn’t we had that opportunity before? Was it not a good idea?
Before I finished my thoughts, I saw my daughter’s hand shoot straight up to answer a question. Honestly, I didn’t even hear the question. She must’ve been the youngest one in the class, but to my surprise—he called on her. I was a bit petrified. We didn’t discuss it. What would she say? Wow. She nailed it. I realized things we taught her before armed her with the answer like attending youth church, reading her Bible for Kids (It’s the YouVersion Kid’s Bible with activities—you have GOT to get the free app if you don’t have it for phones and tablets!) So, some of what we had been doing was working! It’s nice when that happens. However, the class really challenged me that I was not understanding how much “Jesus teaching” she was ready to absorb. She left wanting more of it. So did I.
Somehow, the way we do church separately, I was missing some great opportunities to strengthen her. It just never occurred to me. Part of that is because most churches keep everyone in the right box. Married. Single. Kids. Teens. It’s kind of a given that it’s a right thing to do to group together on these levels. However, it shouldn’t be the ONLY ways we are engaging with our kids during church I think. (case in point!)
Why weren’t there more opportunities to engage together in discipling our children hand in hand with the church? I wondered, have some of the churches forgotten (with me!) how much these kids are ready to absorb? Are there studies out there showing kids learn better in environments with their parents sometimes? Maybe we should mix more of these opportunities into their path on purpose?
In that short time, we took the kids from 0 to 60 on the “What’s this Christian stuff all about” gage. From Adam and Eve and the fall to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We tackled it point by point with a nice picture we drew together. Jesus was God’s son. We drew out on paper diagrams to show that no matter how good we are as men and women—that we fall short of God’s perfect standard. We talked clearly about God coming to us because we could never bridge the gap. We only connected to God through grace, accepting Jesus Christ as our savior. I’d bet that many of the parents learned (or were reminded) of a few things along the way as well. After all, those basics like salvation by grace and not by works are some of the things that trip us up most! My spirit was on fire with the concept that felt so new to me.
Then, just few Sundays later, we had a blended service at church for families. My daughter came into the service with us. She sang worship songs with us. I was so thankful to God—sharing worship with my husband and my baby girl. This moment praising God together was seared into my heart forever. When they played “Raise a Hallelujah” for the Fall’s Creek video segment, she sang loud enough to be heard for rows around us. Everyone around smiled. She fell in love with the song in the Easter play at Victory Christian Center. My husband has been very intentional about filling her with great Christian music, and it is working. This big people song pierced the heart of my little girl. She said, “Mom—I totally know why they used that song when Jesus rose from the dead that day in that play.”
As if God needed to poke me harder on the matter, during worship she whispered in my ear, “Mommy—I’m sorry I kicked at your arm in the car.” She was frustrated at something in the car, and from her car seat reached as far as she could with her foot to shove my arm. She had been immediately disciplined of course, but in the midst of worshipping our God—His Spirit was alive and active with her. She whispered again, “I’m not going to be mean anymore either.” She hugged me more times than I can count. I held her as the worship continued. We swayed back and forth in the presence of our almighty King together. It was such a beautiful moment of confession, repentance and learning in the presence of our God. My heart once again just couldn’t contain both my joy and my thoughts on why this interaction was so important.
When worship ended, with a blank piece of paper and crayons given to us at the door for her, she began to draw. The sermon began. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to her doodles. I looked down about 15 minutes later. There it was. She recreated the image from our basics of our faith lesson several weeks back. She drew the chasm between us and God with Jesus connecting it. She drew the cross. She drew the tomb. She even included the arrows going in and out of the tomb. She whispered to me and explained every bit of it. She didn’t need to explain it. I knew exactly what it was. I looked at my husband. Tears filled my eyes again. God had my full attention on the matter.
Watching God working in her heart and growing her into His child—it took my breath away. In some ways it boosted my own faith, watching the sweetness of Him moving in her in ways she understood. It felt right to be there with her. From here forward, I know these kinds of interactions need to be part of her world. They need to be part of my world. God absolutely wanted me to see all that He could do. He wanted me to experience a glimpse into what He experiences when we learn things, when we respond to His spirit, when we flat out nail it.
So, why am I sharing this story with you?
I was reminded in a beautiful way, one I won’t soon forget, how important sharing these kinds of experiences with our children can be. My hope is that by telling you about our experience, that you will seek out your own experiences like these. I don’t think they are always going to just happen. I think we need to be intentional with them. You can even help your church start offering them.
There is power in a basic discipleship class, teaching our children the foundations of our faith. It meant more doing it together—for both of us. She paid attention more. She was eager to show me what she remembered and learned. It was Jesus-centered discipleship with my baby girl. And, best of all? It was really simple to make happen.
What kinds of action steps did we take?
Well, we decided to dedicate a lot of space this issue to discipling our children. We sought out some examples of that kind of discipleship to share with you.
Other steps? We started a new LifeGroup (Bible Study) at our church inviting parents and children to take the journey together for 6-8 weeks. The focus? Discipleship 101 with our kiddos. It’s a great way to teach the children. It’s also a safe way to help newer believers to become solid in the basics of their faith with their children. It’s one easy way parents can grow with their kids in the basics of our faith in a safe, fun environment.
What actions could you take? Whatever you do, don’t just put it off. I’m a full time mom with a high maintenance rugrat. What we put off until tomorrow—well, that tomorrow becomes next week, next month, next year. These kids are only little for so long. They only embrace such interactions with excitement for so long. If you need help? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll sign you up for a class we are putting together to teach others these basics in a way they can share them!
If you’re already engaged? Incredible! Send your tips on disciplining children to us. We’d love to publish and share more ideas! It’s too important for their walk with Christ to miss the chance while we have it.
My mind had been almost yelling at me inside my head for two years—GET ORGANIZED. We moved in quickly after a long remodel. When you have everything in storage for 10 months, you forget what you have. You also buy things you packed that you needed, because you weren’t planning on being out of a house that long. When you have a high maintenance daughter, in the cutest ways of course (MOSTLY), free time isn’t exactly something you get. When you do, it’s difficult to choose to tackle a closet or a toy room. Right? You know what I’m saying. You have your own stressful disasters needing attention.
So, I was sitting in the middle of the bed working on the magazine, when I received a note. We had a Christian organizational genius wanting to advertise. Interesting. We sent emails. Ideas were flying. We talked through who she would be targeting. Somewhere in the exchange, I realized “Hold on. I am her target market.” I’m a completely worn out, super busy mom, doing more things than sound possible to keep up with our family daily to-do lists. Are you with me? You don’t have to answer. You probably don’t have time.
Pretty soon she was ringing my doorbell like an angel from heaven. I heard her own little theme song in my head, “Here I am to save the day.” She started the next day. Just knowing she was coming gave me relief. My super busy soccer/dance/gymnastics mom brain needed RELIEF. I didn’t even realize it when she reached out. I was so worn out that it took a little bit.
Was it possible God sent her to get me settled, so that I could focus on all that He had given me that mattered? I absolutely think so. Of course, I think He had plans to help her with her business. God can and does send us blessings that are precisely what we need JUST when we feel at the end of our rope. So, she tackled my daughter’s massive number of toys as her first project. Now, we have neat little baskets, lined up under tables and in cabinets, offering my daughter a pleasant playtime experience. She can also keep organized now because things have a place where they go! It’s a beautiful plan. She found toys my daughter thought she lost. My daughter was thrilled. So was I. And, RELIEVED. What a breath of fresh air—and I needed some really fresh air.
When she left, I thought—maybe YOU also need to know she exists. It’s highly likely YOU could be a super busy mom caught in the cross hairs of happy exhaustion. We love our families, but sometimes keeping up is just beyond what we can do. Sometimes a little relief—maybe in the form of a super organizer is exactly what you could use too. Moving? Unpacking? Pantry hiding your food until it expires? Closet overtaking your bedroom? The list goes on of things God has really gifted her to do to organize worlds. Plus, she loves it. That’s a perfect fit for us all.
In case you’re me, give her a call and see what she can do for you. Whether she inspires you to tackle other rooms using her ideas after she gives you a start or comes in and takes the whole mess off your very full plate—I hope you feel some of what I felt today. She was a breath of fresh organized air.