Category: FOR HER

Written by R.A. Goodnight

DO YOU ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM OR DO YOU VALUE IT?

I spent most of 2007 living abroad in the Philippines.  Prior to leaving, I had to take a class that taught me important cultural and lifestyle guidelines: what I could and could not say, what I could and could not do, as well as where I should and should not go.  Even before leaving the United States, this was a new experience, as living here, most of us never have to give much consideration as to what we can or cannot say and do.  At least in 2007 we didn’t.

Once I was in the Philippines, I would attend weekly meetings with a security detail, as they briefed me on current threats I had to keep on my radar.  Each morning, when I returned to my hotel, I would be greeted by soldiers with automatic weapons.  A K9 would sniff me down and I would be searched.  My backpack would be emptied, as they checked for explosives or other weapons.  Sometimes I would be questioned; I even experienced the beginnings of a violent coup d’etat.  Could you imagine living in such an environment every day of your life?  You might not have to use your imagination. It is actually starting to happen here.

On the weekends I joined  with missionaries from Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. as we took the Good News into the shanties and the villages on the outlying islands.  In predominantly Muslim villages, we had to be cautious on how we shared the message for risk of violence.  During these trips I would witness utter poverty, victims of human trafficking, malnutrition and illiteracy.  When I returned at night my food, water and per diem would be depleted having given it to the children.  My eyes would be tired from reading the Bible to those who couldn’t read it for themselves, even in their native tongue.  Can you imagine having your family try to survive in conditions such as these?  Some are dealing with a few of these circumstances right here in the U.S.  

During these experiences, I remember a thought that kept going through my mind – “You are complacent, and you take for granted too many freedoms you have back home.”  I have experienced similar conditions and this same convicting thought in other countries as well.  Upon my return home, I always find myself thankful for the freedoms my family can enjoy.

All of us ENJOY our freedom, some of us maybe too much.  But, as you read this article, ask yourself – do I really VALUE, and not just enjoy, the freedoms that I have?  There is a difference.  If you do value them, what are you doing to protect and keep them?  Several of them are already being targeted.

THE CROSSROADS

It is an obvious statement, but the secular freedoms we have are not experienced in most countries around the world.  Despite their rarity, more and more of our countrymen are showing their disregard for the freedoms they were born into as American citizens.  With a few exceptions, most have never experienced life without the present degree of freedom we have; many have never had these freedoms come at a personal cost.  We must remember, these freedoms were not achieved by chance.  To the contrary they came at great cost.  The stark reality is we will not retain them if we do not give them the respect they deserve.  At this point in American history, “We the People” stand at a crossroads, struggling to make up our minds on which direction we should choose.  Do we move to the right or to the left? 

To the right, a path lies before us remembering and honoring things for which honorable men and women fought and died.  It protects the mainstays to freedom – our ability to believe as we choose, to worship as we choose and to have access to unbiased information.  If we choose the path to the right, we will retain our ability to select from among the people, the individuals that will respect our opinions and represent our will as citizens.  That path will allow us to have a say in our own lives instead of being subject to someone else’s agenda for us.   This path does come with costs though.

Regarding the costs of freedom, President Ronald Regan reminds us, 

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.  

Yes, to remain free we must be brave, willing to take a stand and to be involved in our communities.  It asks each of us, as individuals, to be willing to teach future generations the importance of freedom and sanctity in protecting it.  It requires sacrifice from each of us to be personally accountable and responsible for our freedoms.   Sigmund Freud stated, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”  

Perhaps that is why the path to left seems appealing to so many.  This path entices the population to a life without personal responsibility–a new nation where everyone can be and do whatever they want.  After all,  the government will take care of the rest.  It advertises with words such as equality and tolerance.  It even promises a release from accountability to financial burdens such as education costs, healthcare costs and mortgages.

But when we pull back the curtain and examine what is really being offered, we find frightening compromises.  The financial freedoms they promise will come at the cost of three inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  To achieve the world’s definition of tolerance and equality you will be asked to turn in your freedoms of religion, speech and press (as well as others).  That path asks you to renounce your allegiance to key elements of God’s word.  In its place, you will  bend your knee to man and fear.  There’s not enough time to get into all of the costs of socialism.  In many ways though, our country essentially become slaves to sin.

With the two paths having been identified, does the Bible give us any direction to consider on freedom and our responsibility regarding it?

FREEDOM AND THE BIBLE – 

THE GOOD

Throughout human history, we have seen God liberate His people from worldly governments 

such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Rome.  In most examples recorded in The Bible, humans (both men and women) played a part with helping God’s servants become free, as well as interceding on behalf of His people before the rulers of the time.  We have examples such as:

Moses and Aaron (Exodus 5:1,2)

Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4,5)

Esther (Esther 3:8; 4:12-17; 7:3,4)

And Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-7)

Understanding that neither God nor His purpose has changed, we can be confident that He still desires for His people to be free. (Malachi 3:6) Additionally, we should gain courage from seeing Him bless the efforts of those who work for the good of His people in the political spectrum.  But most importantly, we should understand that freedom is a gift given to us from God. (James 1:17) Knowing this, it only makes sense that He expects us to value the freedoms we have.  However, He will not force us to take it if it is not wanted.  He will take it away if we toss it aside.  Let’s discuss this more.

THE BAD

We find an important lesson that God teaches those paying attention in the story of Samuel.  The Nation of Israel had been liberated from Egypt; they were now in the Promised Land.  They had seen God take care of them in many miraculous ways.  But, after all He had done for them, notice what they asked Samuel to do.  “They said to him, ‘You are old…now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’” (1 Samuel 8:5) Yes, the Nation of Israel came to see little value in the freedom God had given them; they had lost respect for those that had sacrificed for them.  They wanted to be like the nations, like everyone else.

How did God respond?  He told Samuel, “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1 Samuel 8:9 NLT) Samuel did as God directed and warned them of the political decision they were making; telling them that they would come to regret their choice. (1 Samuel 8:10-18) Even though they were warned, they proceeded anyway. (1 Samuel 8:19, 20) History shows that God was right.  Think of all the turmoil Israel went through due to many wicked kings and the decisions they made.  

What lesson do we learn from this?  

God may warn us against taking a certain political path, but He will not stop us if the people’s hearts are set upon it.  How wise it would be to listen to the warnings in advance.

Does this not remind us of today?  Many are clamoring for something different.  We are watching the divide begin to occur, some choosing the right while others choose the left.  Some of what they say might seem appealing to us, but we have been warned – by history, by true leaders bold enough to speak up and by God himself via The Bible.  We have been told, as good as it may sound, do not go down the path being pushed by the left.  But, He will not prevent it…even if we ultimately regret it.

We need to give serious consideration to which path and which leaders we are supporting.  We need to pray for those elected, as well as our fellow citizens, that they make the right choice as it affects all of us. (1 Timothy 2:1,2) While time remains, each of us should show we value the freedoms we have.  Do not allow them to be stripped away freely by the lunacy of the world.  We should be involved in the capacities each of us have been given, making it known that we choose God and His gift of freedom.

THE UGLY

Compared to the world in general, it should be crystal clear that each of us as American’s have been given a great gift in freedom.  The Bible, through Jesus’ words,  gives admonition to people who have been entrusted with such gifts, “For everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48 NLT)

Our gift of freedom demands our continued action.  Right now, we are being asked to protect the freedoms entrusted to us.  By our actions or our inactions, we will prove if we are worthy of what has been given to us.  There is a second scriptural principle that applies as well, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much”. (Luke 16:10) By no means am I suggesting freedom is a ‘very little’ thing.  What I am stating is this: if we want God to continue to bless us with more, to trust us with more, we must be faithful stewards with what He has already asked us to oversee.  For The United States of America, freedom is part of what has been given.

We must pay attention to this important principle, as there is an alternative outcome for those who are not good stewards.  In the parable of the talents, Christ issues a warning to those who do not value the gifts that God has given to them. (Matthew 25:14-30) He says, “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside…where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25:28-30) If we continue as a country to show disregard for the freedoms that have been given us, they could be taken from us all together.

We are the stewards.  As much, we must take a stand against what we are seeing happen.  Your current freedoms, and maybe even more importantly, the freedoms of the next generations are dependent upon your actions today.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

At the outset, I asked if you could imagine living in such an environment where freedom was limited or non-existent.  As each day passes, this country appears to move further in that direction.  Will you spectate while this is occurring?  Will you not have any involvement?  Being “neutral” in the issues of our time gives way to victory for the side you likely oppose.

And what about our children and grandchildren?  

Can you imagine them afraid to speak? 

To believe? 

To learn the truths that God gives?  

Time is still on our side.  The ability remains for us to hold back what would transform where we grew up into something unrecognizable.  As Nehimiah said to those helping him rebuild Jerusalem, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14) 

If you more than just enjoy,  if you truly value what you have, then help ensure an inheritance of freedom for the next generation. Each of us must be responsible.  Each of us must get involved.  We must hold fast our stand with God and His views on freedom no matter how unpopular, and we must do our part to secure freedom for our future generations.   

#GoDoBe

Written by Teresa Goodnight

My four-year old daughter was in awe of Captain Marvel.  The show was much too old for her, but I had wanted to take my 17-year old niece to inspire her.  When I described the show over the Bluetooth in the car—my kiddo insisted it was a movie for her.  I decided to comply and took them both. 

I’m not a superhero junkie, but Captain Marvel exemplifies an oppressed person with amazing power.  Because she was convinced by the world she lived in that she was less than she was, her strength was buried by lies.  She was imprisoned by rules crafted to control her, as well as emotional manipulation used to dominate her.  When she finally realized the truth and shed the deception, she set free the strength and power suppressed inside of her.  When she did, the whole theater about flew out of our seats with excitement. 

Seriously.  

Does her power being minimized by her world remind you of anything today?  Are you seeing Christians being pressed back into a corner?  Told our beliefs in the Bible aren’t correct?  Told we need to modify the Bible to fit the culture today?  Sound familiar at all? 

This morning at the City Elders meeting, I heard a description of who we are meant to be as the Body of Christ, the capital “C” Church.  It painted quite a picture.  Being in the midst of some of the most devastating floods our state has known—we can see firsthand the power of the force of water.  I can see it in the movement of the risen rivers.  Their immense forces were set free a bit, but still controlled by the flood gates and levies.  We were reminded that when the river starts to show its real power, we are forced to step back and get out of the way.   

However, imagine the waters from all of the rivers and lakes rising so that you could no longer identify the origination point of the water.  Imagine those smaller entities flowing together as a massive, powerful force, sweeping across the land.  The power of those waters would be definitive as a body but really unidentifiable as a specific source.  They would just be the massive floodwaters—full of strength, unleashing their power.  

The question at the meeting?  What if the Body of Christ approached God’s work for the Kingdom with such united strength and power that it could only be credited to that capital “C” Church?  (as opposed to church x or y or denomination a or b). 

It’s a concept that seems a bit foreign to us, as the size of communities has grown to give thousands of smaller church groups their own form of a “kingdom” inside of the Kingdom.  However, looking at the Bible, we read the smaller church groups addressed from the same leadership of the Church.  They were all very much a part of the Capital “C” Church but were grouped together to spread the word and to disciple as smaller groups.  Since there were fewer of these smaller groups in the disciples’ time, it was much easier for them to know in their core that they were part of the larger unified Body of Christ.  The Bible clearly points to the disciples and Paul as those charged with leading that capital “C” Church.  Paul went from church to church with guidance and direction, which was put into the Bible to give that same guidance to each of our churches today.  

The Bible is full of books written specifically to the churches by the governing authorities put in place by God.  My favorite, Romans, was written to the churches in Rome by Paul.  Peter writes his book First Peter, as a letter to the Jewish Christians who are spread around the Roman Empire.  First and Second Corinthians; Paul writes to the churches he planted in Corinth.  Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians are all written directly to churches or groups of churches in a geographic area.  It was quite clear these churches were very much a part of the Body of Christ.  They were teaching and training while being a part of the bigger picture.  They were growing the Kingdom of Christ and not just their specific churches.  These letters were also assembled into the Bible, God’s word.  That alone gives that stronger unification as their role was in the capital “C” Church.

As instructed, that Church spread throughout the world doing exactly what God instructed them to do.  

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

Lip Service to the Capital “C” Church 

With those smaller entities growing (some quite massively) in size and being separated by greater distances, the sense of simply being a local governing entity of a group of Christ’s followers became lost in the shuffle.  Don’t get me wrong.  We like to say it.  We speak of being a part of the bigger capital “C” Church, but we honestly move about in our own affairs with very little time to pull our thoughts out to the original Kingdom entity created in the New Testament.  The result?  The separation of church and church and The Church.  

Sure, there are different worship styles, prayer styles, preferred worship times, places, and spaces but at the end of the day, all of the Christian churches are the Body of Christ.  We are united, as one, on God’s word.  We are inseparable by the adoption as the Children of God through the sacrifice God made of His Son Jesus Christ for the WHOLE world. 

We are all sinners saved by grace.  People who have messed up in one way or another and were separated from God by those mistakes.  People who have accepted that Jesus Christ died and rose again, paying the price for our mistakes.  By accepting his gift, we all became united as Children of God, the Body of Christ. We have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, full of power, full of might, to advance for the Kingdom of God.   Together, we are HIS capital “C” Church.

No Division in the End 

It’s certainly not going to be a divided house in heaven.  God’s Kingdom will most definitely unite, but what if God is waiting on us to come together now?  What if we went back to the roots of THE Church to find the position of “our” church in that Kingdom?  Wow.  We would transform into THE CHURCH, the Bride of Christ.  We would operate in such a way that we know the Gates of Hell (the powers) could not prevail against us—just as Christ said they would not.  We would be a mighty force sweeping across this land, coming into the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us.  There would be no levy, no flood gate, and no dam that could stop us.  Not one.  Can you even imagine it?

Back to the Avengers

I’ll circle back to the Captain Marvel story to bring it all together.  She finally found who she was and came into her incredible power bursting out of the control of those who tried to put her in a box. 

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT)

More than we might ask or think?  There is so much power promised to the children of God in just those 6 verses than we can even imagine? Hmmm.  As we cower back, we slip into a comfortable place giving away our freedom, surrendering our God-given powers.  We have yet to break free and rise up as a force to be reckoned with, who will not be shoved into a corner.  With all of the thousands of churches around the world, it’s time to go back to the Bible and remember who we are.  We are the children of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  With that identity comes great power–”more than we might ask or think.”  Can you imagine every church finding God’s power inside of us?  What would that even look like? I can imagine quite a bit. So MORE than that?

So, hold on.  

Imagine even greater things with me.  

After all, God says it’s more than we can even think of.  As incredible as Captain Marvel’s day of awakening was–in the last Avengers, I can draw a parallel to the Body of Christ, the Church that might blow you away like it did me.  In the end of the movie, each of the hundreds of superheroes realized they were not meant to do this battle alone.  They couldn’t win.  They discovered a plan set in motion long before they knew there would even be a war of such great proportion.  

The bigger, more popular hero guys we know and love were losing the battle.  It was nearing the end.  Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with a force of might—“they” showed up.  “They” being the rest of the united heroes in the land.  They combined in their fullest forms and power to defeat their ultimate enemy.  You could see each one playing a critical part.  When they converged—there was that mighty feeling that this war was over. The enemy would be defeated. You just knew.

Rest assured, I’ve read Revelation.  God will unite us as a mighty force with heaven and earth in the end.  What a day that will be.  However, what I read in the Bible calls us to remember that unification and who we are today.  I don’t think we’re supposed to wait.  We are in the battle right now.  On some fronts, in our great country, we are losing, but my heart almost explodes with excitement to think of what a force we could become if we united as the Church of God.  Can you imagine?  United, with His power working in us that is more powerful than we might ask or think? did you read what I just thought of?  More powerful than even that??? 

It would far surpass any unification of the bodies of waters into a massive force.  It would eclipse any show of power in the Avengers.  I can’t sit still even as I’m typing this as the excitement of just a hint of God’s power rises up inside of me.  That power by the way–it is already inside of any of us following Christ.  It’s just sitting there, masked by confusion, deception.  It’s shackled by chains put on by others or even by ourselves in some ways.  Satan has us in some sort of trance with the things of this life, but it is RIGHT THERE. Whatever way you want to think about it–it’s right there.  It’s RIGHT THERE WAITING.  God is waiting.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 1:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

May each church find its strength.  May it rise up to take it’s part in the Kingdom, God’s capital “C” Church, the “Body of Christ,” whichever name He gives for that unity that you want to use.  Because, when we do come together, when we do put our stake in the ground and draw our line in the sand, we will come into that Kingdom of God as His Children and the Gates of Hell WILL simply NOT PREVAIL against us.  They won’t win.  

Come on. 

What are we waiting for?  #GoDoBe

Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

Christ set us free. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” John 8:36 NASB

Freedom and Work

Do you feel free in your work? I mean do you look forward to your job or thank God for Friday’s? Do you feel empowered by your occupation or chained to your job? Work or situations we dislike can contribute to our feeling trapped in our work.

Studies I found online suggest as little as 15% or as high as 30% of the American workforce are engaged in their work. Trapped or disengaged employees go through the motions. They’re not present with energy. Engaged employees bring more energy, produce more, and stay longer. 

If you feel chained to your job, but you follow Jesus, are you free?

Freedom is ours for the taking because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But many people, whether they follow Jesus or not, work chained into situations we dislike serving people we dislike. If Jesus made us free, why don’t we change? 

Could it be we fail to understand the freedom given to us by Jesus?

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 NASB

Christian Freedom Looks Like Love

Paul suggests our freedom will produce a love through which we can serve one another. I often thought “one another” meant other Christians. When I first became a Christ-follower, I worked with people in the trucking and logistics industry. Many didn’t seem to follow Jesus. And most were from a different background and experience than me. Instead of even trying to understand them, I just decided I didn’t like them much. It’s easier to dislike someone than it is to get to know them. So, without seeing myself as the solution, I often chose instead to beg Jesus to get me out of that career in that industry. 

How often do you catch yourself hurrying to get out of your workplace? It is work, right? If the term “one another” in Galatians 5:13 means other Christians, it would be easy to follow this command. When I get around other Christians, I find it easy to serve them in love! If everyone I was around every day was “my kinda person” this would be much easier.

But what if Paul’s “one another,” meant everyone? The Greek word can mean “fellow man.” In the next verse, Paul references the 2nd half of the Great Commandment, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” Galatians 5:14 NASB. Paul seems to equate “one another” to my “neighbor”. And Jesus already said my neighbor is anyone and everyone, whether I like them or not. (See Luke 10:27-37.)

God’s Freedom

God created Adam free, but ever since that first sin, we have each given up our freedom as slaves to sin. Jesus purchased our freedom again when he paid for our sin on the cross. But we may still live like a slave to sin and to myself. The difference, maybe even the answer, is my willingness to serve my fellow man. God makes me free to do what’s in the best interest of everyone I interact with. Regardless of my situation, Jesus makes me free to serve others. And when I do, I get a new energy and a new passion. 

Want some proof? Pray for your coworkers for the next 30 days. Ask God to bless them and do whatever he knows they need for their best interest. And ask him to use you to bless them. Avoid the temptation to pray that God make them likable. Rather, get to know them better so you can pray for them better. 

Two Results

If you sincerely pray for your coworkers, supervisors, or customers, you will experience 2 outcomes. The first is that you will see God at work. God actively works in their lives already, but often we focus on ourselves and never see it. As we connect with Jesus on behalf of our coworkers and customers, we will see his miracles in our ordinary, daily life.

Second, we will experience Jesus’ freedom. He frees us to serve others. When we give our freedom away, it multiplies. When we keep it to ourselves, or if we deny the freedom and continue in sin, our freedom withers and dies. Jesus’ frees us to serve others. We gain new strength from God as we serve others and wait on him. And we see him working in everything we do. 

We receive freedom in our situation instead of freedom from it. Jesus’ freedom makes us free in any situation. And he makes our freedom visible as we serve others, too.

Take the Challenge

Does this sound too good to be true? Try it for 2 weeks and see what happens. Our Marketplace Mission Trip (www.marketplacemissiontrip.com) is a 2-week trial serving others at work. Each “trip” has produced miracles and energy in the lives of those involved. Whether you sign up for the “trip,” or you enlist 1 friend and pray for your coworkers daily, Jesus will show you the freedom he bought for you. Either way, you will gain a new appreciation for the freedom we have in Jesus.

Written by Andrea Stephens

The other day I wasn’t feeling so good/well.  I had just come through an intensely busy time at work that left me drained of energy. I had a dull annoying headache, and didn’t even want to go out for lunch with a friend—you know I don’t feel good when I don’t want to eat out!  Therefore, I declared it a sick day and stayed home. Well, while I was lying in bed feeling sort of sorry for myself, I started thinking about the word joy—probably because I needed some right then.  

I thought about some of hard things that happen in life that try to snuff out our joy.  We all know about some of those, maybe a broken relationship, being gossiped about, bills that are piling up, an illness, issues at work—the list is never-ending.  And then, there is the everyday stuff that tends to wear us down causing joy to leak right out of our heart; you know, things like laundry, making dinner again, picking up after the kids, cleaning the house, car trouble, yard work, and an endless list of errands.

We can easily end up feeling overwhelmed and anything but joyful.

Yet, in the Bible, Jesus talks about us having joy no matter what is happening around us.  Though some confuse joy with bubbly emotions that come when things are going their way, which is better defined at happiness.  Happiness is generally based on one’s circumstances which are ever changing thus sending emotions on a roller coaster of ups and downs. But joy, especially as a Christ-follower, is different.  Real joy doesn’t fluctuate.  It is not based on our current situations or feelings, but on something deeper.  Something solid.  

So how do we have that kind of joy?  A joy that is solid, steadfast and unshakable?

First, spending some time every day in the Bible and talking to God gets us started on our journey to joy.  That may sound like such a standard answer, but it is just the truth.  We are spiritual beings with a spiritual Father.  Intentionally connecting with Him through scripture reading and prayer is essential.  The quality of time is more important than the quantity.

Second, making sure we have a clear conscience before God is vital.  Dealing with guilt or shame over something will definitely steal one’s joy.  One of the things I appreciate about the program Celebrate Recovery (A Christ Centered 12 Step Program) is that it teaches people to end their day by asking God to show them where they missed the mark (sinned) that day—so they can ask God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).  And when necessary, ask someone else’s forgiveness.  So, keeping a clear conscience before God, is essential to our having joy.

These first two are areas where Satan will try to trip us up.  He wants to kill, steal, and destroy—including our joy (John 10:10).  He wants busy and distracted from our time with the Lord.  He wants us feeling guilty and less than enough in our own eyes and the eyes of others.  Shame is one of the first things Satan used against Adam and Eve and he still uses it today to keep us hiding instead of walking in the fullness God has for us.  Let’s not let that be our story.  Let’s pay attention to protecting our time in the Word, prayer, and confession.

Next, choosing to focus our thoughts and lives on the truths in the Bible will provide the solid foundation we need to build our steadfast joy upon.  They are facts.  They are promises of God.  They are unchanging and unbreakable based on God’s inability to lie or break a promise.  Now that’s good news!

Though there are hundreds of promises we can find in the scriptures, here are just a couple to get us on the road to joy, deep joy which the bible refers to as inexpressible and full of glory 1 Peter 1:8 NLT “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you don not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have become children of God.

We have been adopted into the family of God and are co-heirs with Christ.

The Holy Spirit has sealed us for eternity—we are heaven bound.

This life, with all of its issues, is temporary but heaven is eternal. 

The best is yet to come. God is with us!  

We are never, ever alone. Never abandoned, never rejected, never

forsaken, never put on hold while God is busy doing something else.  He is actually in the trials of life with us giving us wisdom for our difficulties and strength so that we do not grow weary in our well-doing. 

God’s love is unending!  Think about it.  We have never lived one unloved day in our entire lives.  

Wow.  Every single day of our lives we have been loved and will continue to be loved no matter what.  Now that will make your heart happy!  

Jesus’ forgiveness is available for the asking! 

Scripture tells us that if we confess our wrongs to Jesus, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  Instant gratitude and joy.

Jesus is praying for us!  Seriously.  

He is currently seated at the right hand of God and 

is making intercession for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).  We so easily forget this awesome reality.  Jesus sees us, He knows the details of our lives, and He is speaking up for us to our Father.  He is our advocate, our mediator, our intercessor.  He understands us because He was human—He can help us because He is divine.

These are just a few of the truths found in God’s Word.  When we take time to close our eyes and meditate on one truth at a time, it will begin to infuse our spirits with a fresh joy—the kind of joy that is sustainable and never to be taken away, even on our hardest or most frustrating days.  Joy benefits us in many ways.  Most importantly, it gives us inner strength which is something we all need (Nehemiah 8:NLT “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength!)  Our joy will benefit others—those whom we are called to minister to as well as those we work with and live with.  

Let’s not lose sight of the joy that is ours when we keep the promises of God in the forefront of our hearts and minds.  We can do this!

Written by R.A. Goodnight

I had a chance to meet with Brandon Outlaw, owner of Commercial Fitness Concepts.  Brandon is a local business owner with a drive for giving back into the community.  Brandon’s business began in 2003; since then, his business has grown from an e-commerce model based out of his garage to five warehouses he uses as distribution points.  Today, CFC is the largest warehouse of new, refurbished, cleaned and serviced, as well as “as-is” fitness equipment in the Midwest.

During our talk, Brandon expressed to me that he recognizes how Christ has blessed his business throughout the years.  Because of how he has been blessed, Brandon likes to use his business as a blessing for others.

Brandon works regularly with The Wounded Warriors organization, donating exercise equipment to help get the country’s finest back on their feet.  Speaking of his partnership with Wounded Warriors, Brandon said, “If someone requests a machine, we are going to try and fulfill that request.”  Brandon expressed to me that regardless of its use, for rehab centers or personal homes, they do their best to help when called upon.

From there we moved on to other organizations with which CFC likes to partner.  Brandon shared, “We donate as much as we can to The Boys and Girls Clubs.  We also partner with Planet Fitness; they donate some cardio and we donate some strength.  The fire department is another.  We donate as much as possible to them.  Just about anybody that needs help.”  

Brandon mentioned other fire and veterans’ associations he partners with as well.  He said, “Anybody that comes to us that needs help, I am willing to go the extra mile.  If it’s a legitimate organization, if someone needs something, we like to help if we can.  Recently, we just did a deal with Make a Wish foundation.  A girl here in Tulsa had a wish to give some fitness equipment to a school.  We were able to help them get what they needed within the allowance they had to do it in.”

From Community Spirit’s point of view, we need more of this is the kind of guy and company in the community.  What a great example of emulating Christ, not just in personal life, but even through his business practices.

Outside of Brandon’s altruistic activities, he is also happy to work with local gym owners.  Brandon said, “We can do everything–from kettlebells to barbells, rowers to rigs or squat stands.  We can get anything for them.” CFC can also help individuals with home gyms, “Anybody who is looking for an individual machine at home – spin bike, treadmill, elliptical – anything.  They should reach out to us.” said Brandon.

What about us lowly gym goers?  He didn’t leave us out either.  I asked Brandon if he had any recommendations as far as the health club scene in Tulsa goes.  Brandon shared, “Sky Fitness. I think they are great.  Lifetime, if you want amenities, they are incredible.  For lower cost memberships – 10 gym has great ownership and great management.”  He added, “You really understand the judgment-free zone when you attend Planet Fitness, then go somewhere else.  Many people feel comfortable over there.  The YMCA’s have great facilities and great management as well.”  

He finished up by giving a call out to some local shops as well, “Body Masters on Memorial is a great place, with a great guy.  There is a great personal training facility down on 111th and Memorial called Journey Fitness.  They are great people.”  Community Spirit did a story on Journey in April and we agree; they are a great group of people.  They even give free memberships to pastors. That alone is pretty cool!

All said and done, Brandon is one outlaw that we are glad to have in the community.  If anyone knows of a charitable cause looking for a partner, a local business owner in need of some equipment or you’re looking to upgrade your treadmill – hit up Brandon (brandon@commercialfitnessconcepts.com) or Dean (Dean@commercialfitnessconcepts.com) at CFC! Tell him CSM sent ya!

Written By Teresa Goodnight

Ever have someone walk into your life and you just instantly feel connected? Like you have been friends all of your life?  When Jamie walked into my house, it felt a bit God ordained. She was so lovely inside and out; I knew exactly why my long time BFF introduced us.  We had an instant connection we both felt.  Talking to her was so easy. We didn’t stop. Then, she started sharing her story.  It was her mission birthed from an experience she had buried deep inside her heart.  That is, until someone touched the scar and sent her reeling.  All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to say.  She continued pouring out her heart. We both realized, this story needed told.  We changed the entire focus of the next issue in fact.  People aren’t talking about it, but they desperately need to talk.  There are people in our churches who are suffering all alone and they need to know God loves them.  Someone needs to share that overflowing undeserved mercy and love God offers to all of us who have made mistakes–ALL of us. 

Someone needs to break the silence.  

Abortion is a tough topic in the world in general.  You can’t breathe it without stepping on a landmine.  In Oklahoma, one in four women have had an abortion.  In the country, that stat jumps to one in three according to local Catholic Charities workers.    “In the United States, where one half of all pregnancies are unintended, almost one third of women will seek an abortion by age 45.” according to the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG).  The stat doesn’t improve much inside the church.  It’s a decision defined as a woman’s right to choose what happens inside her own body.  For that reason alone, it’s a political hot button.  

Churches steer so far clear of it that in Oklahoma, 25% of the women in our congregations are left facing this alone.  Many believed what Planned Parenthood told them when they walked in the doors.  Then, when they found out it was different—they were left to suffer alone, without anyone to help them walk through it.  There was no one to help talk through the shaming—done both by well-meaning but hard core protesters and the convicting shaming led by Satan himself.  They were left without anyone to help them with that shame Satan uses to minimize them.  They are without anyone to help them know what God thinks about what’s been done and where to go from there.  These women, for the most part, are just alone.

So, we want to start this off and set the record PAINFULLY straight:  God absolutely offers the same grace, love, forgiveness, and removal of all sins as far as the east to the west to anyone who has made ANY mistake. 

To the liar, the adulterer, the person lacking any trace of integrity, the convicted criminal, fill in your blank here–He offers His love and grace as a free gift. We don’t have to earn it.  We do have to turn to him, humble ourselves, and confess our mistakes to him.  He absolutely will forgive anyone.  The difficult part of finding God’s grace though often comes in a battle of trying to find our own.  No matter what God offers, if we feel so much shame—and there’s no one to talk with us about it—we will find ourselves nursing our scar rather than ever being set free from it.

These women were encouraged to save this joyous occasion for a time in their life when they were more ready.  Some were told they were just carrying a blob of cells.  Some were told by the child’s father this was the only way to face the situation. Others knew exactly what they were doing.  Almost all believed they could just go on with their life just as it was after the choice was made.  Jamie said, “The biggest deception in this war on women is that you can just go on with life.  It’s just not true.  You are forever changed.  Your lenses for seeing life are altered.  The truth is, you will never be the same.” 

We run around offering God’s forgiveness He has promised to everyone who has made regrettable choices. However, somehow, as a church (and not all, but most), we’ve decided it’s just too controversial to address from pulpits, where we are supposed to help our congregations.  There are large churches in town, where we have heard it is absolutely a policy that abortion is not an allowable topic for discussion.  

We know the silence, because Jamie heard it.  Over, and over, and over again.  She even heard it when she tried to launch a recovery group inside her church and found her request lost in the shuffle in what seemed like purposeful avoidance.  She heard what no one wanted to offend her with loudly and clearly.  But, when no one addresses your pain, what you hear becomes a deep-seeded pain buried inside your heart for you to bear alone.  That is, until someone accidentally punches through.

Jamie is involved in a women’s group started through a local church.  The women get together, study God’s word and share things they are facing, needing advice or prayer.  They also laugh and fellowship together.  One day, at this group, Jamie mentioned something about not singing anymore.  The woman, unknowingly said to Jamie, “God will use your singing again.  He will.”  Jamie looked up at her with rage in her heart and thought “Don’t you ever say that to me again.  You don’t even know what you are talking about.”  Then, she left her friend’s house.  Jamie said, “I think I didn’t speak directly to her for a month. I just didn’t know what to say.”  Jamie then explained, “When I had come clean about my abortion my church in Minnesota asked me to step down from the praise and worship team. I had decided that this was the price I would pay for what I had done. I vowed that I would never sing again and that God didn’t need someone like me to lead people into His presence.”  Jamie locked away her torment, her pain, and so much more of her heart than she realized until her friend accidentally punched through. 

Jamie said, “I was so upset by what she said. I just felt she had no idea what she was saying, and the vow I had already made.”  Jamie continued, “Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much it mattered to me.”  She went on, “When I lived in Minnesota, I sang on the worship team at my church. The people there became like family to me.  I just knew my boyfriend would get saved and our relationship would change. However, I found out I was pregnant causing my two worlds to collide.  I didn’t know what to do. I talked with my boyfriend, who was very convincing that we would never be together if we tried to be parents right now. He wanted me to terminate the pregnancy. It was not something I ever thought I would even consider.  I just wanted everything to go back to normal and I was desperate to make things work with him. So I compromised everything I believed in for the sake of convenience and what I thought was love.”

Jamie shared, “I walked in to a waiting room full of other people aborting their babies. There were so many people. Really? Is it always this busy? Probably not. I waited and waited and was finally told that the doctor was involved in a car accident on her way to the clinic. My eyes were big as saucers and I distinctly heard God say, “Stand up and walk out. I’ll take care of you.” I shrugged it off, but was visibly shaken by the way this was unfolding. By this time, the waiting room was almost standing room only. I couldn’t believe it. People were laughing and talking like it was no big deal. Was I the only one that was battling a war in my spirit? They finally called my name and I went back alone. The counselor talked to me and told me they had to do an ultrasound to see how far along I really am. So I laid down and she put the cold gel on my belly. She asked me if I wanted to see and I said yes. I saw flashes of light on the screen and what looked to be a pinto bean. The beating of my baby’s heart was right there. Trying to grow, trying to live. The gravity of what I was about to do hit me for a split second and I asked her to turn the screen around. I prayed at that moment that God would just “leave me alone.”

Jamie said, “I was lead to the ‘procedure room’ where I was asked to undress from the waist down and the doctor would be in shortly. Fifteen minutes go by, then thirty, then forty-five. I finally poked my head out of the door and asked if they forgot about me. It was torture just laying there in a cold, sterile room without God’s presence and with the weight of my sin. Why didn’t I just get up and leave?” Jamie went on, “Once the doctor and nurses came in things moved pretty quickly. Bright lights turned on. Clanking of sterile equipment. The nurses were talking amongst themselves about who knows what and I was just laying there with tears streaming down the sides of my head. I finally spoke up and said, “How can you just talk like that when I’m laying here crying?” One of the nurses looked me square in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, we haven’t done anything yet if you want to change your mind you can.” I’ll never know why I didn’t get up and get out of there. It’s a question I’ve asked myself time and time again. I just knew that I wanted to go back to ‘normal.’” Jamie was so solemn, as she shared the events of that day.  She said tearfully, “I had no idea that my ‘normal’ would never look the same again. It was gone. There was no such thing as that anymore.”

Jamie said she left the clinic and went to eat with her boyfriend and then worked an 18 hour shift. It was done.  However, it would never be done in her heart.  Just a few months later, she was working her church booth at a music festival. She saw a booth across the walkway showing graphic video of mid and late term abortions. Jamie said, “I lost it. My mind began reeling, taking me directly back to the clinic, replaying over and over the decision I made. I started to shake and eventually knelt down on the ground to hide my emotion. My pastor’s wife came over and asked if I was ok. I eventually told her what I had done. She was heartbroken for me. She prayed for me, loved me and accepted me where I was. But in reality, no one could have shamed me or judged me more harshly than I had already done to myself. After some discussion, I was asked to step down from the praise and worship team. I understood. In my mind, this would be the price I would pay for what I did. I vowed to never sing again, I wasn’t worthy to lead anyone into His presence.”

The difficult part for Jamie was that she was now all alone.  There was no one to talk with about her situation.  Who would understand?  She said, “I just dealt with it the best I could.  I think I covered it up—buried it deep inside, and finally found the strength to move on.”  Jamie said she and her boyfriend broke up within a few months of the decision. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She didn’t want to think about it anymore.  Then, she was back in church.  About two months later, she was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Israel where she met her husband. She went with her church in Minnesota and he was with his church from Oklahoma. They talked long distance for a while and he eventually came to visit her. 

During their first date, she just blurted out “I’ve had an abortion. Is that gonna be an issue for you?” Not exactly first date material. Jamie said, “I really was just so ashamed and felt so unworthy of anything.  I thought I would just go ahead and end it there. Turns out he actually did have to take some time to pray about how he felt about it. It just further seared into my heart the lie “What you did is unforgivable.” He eventually asked me if I would date him exclusively. I told him I wasn’t going to move again for a guy. So, he moved to Minnesota and the rest, as they say, is history.”

“I can’t really share all the emotions I experienced about my decision over the years. I couldn’t go back. It was done. I was never the same again and I had to learn how to be ok with that place.  It was a dark, lonely place—so I just decided not to go there.  I think I buried it and decided to go on with life.  However, the scar and the pain were always heavy on my heart.” lamented Jamie.  

After marrying, Jamie found herself pregnant.  About 5 weeks into the pregnancy, she miscarried. She was devastated. She said, “I just felt like I was being punished because of what I had done. Would I even be able to have kids? What if God decided He couldn’t trust me with children? I actually understood that. I was just heartbroken.” Fortunately, shortly after, she was pregnant with her third child.  She was elated.  She was so excited to get to meet her Jacob.  Jamie said, “I just couldn’t wait to hold him, to look in his eyes, to be the best mom I could possibly be to my baby, but my previous decision was always there haunting me in the back of my mind.  It crept up enough to shame me and condemn me until I suppressed it again.”  

When Jacob was born, Jamie’s heart was overwhelmed with instant love for his precious face. Being the best mother she could be to him became a top priority for her daily.  Then, just a few years later, she gave birth to her fourth child, Payton.  Payton was a bright, beautiful baby girl with a joyous heart.  Jamie’s life had never been more right with her better-than-dreamed-of family, except for that nagging voice of condemnation always trying to steal her moments of joy.

That’s where we started, Bible study with the friend who drove into Jamie’s scar like a bulldozer speaking words of encouragement that felt like a knife through her heart.  The incident forced Jamie to reexamine her choice, and search God’s heart for what He wanted to with it. How would He turn these ashes into beauty? Jamie said, “All I had was my story, my guilt and shame and a willingness to share it all.” With that, she began sharing her story with close friends, at first, and then acquaintances and eventually people she’d never met.

“The more I shared my story, the more I realized how many people were suffering in silence. I started to become painfully aware that we are in the middle of a crisis. Not only with abortion itself, but the souls caught in the aftermath.

I decided I wanted to do my part. I said ‘YES’ to God’s heart and am willing to do what I can to bring healing, wholeness and restoration to the hearts and destinies of men and women suffering with the torment of a sin that no one is willing to openly talk about.” 

Jamie said the more she talks about it, the more healing it brings–the more God shows her how much He loves her and how His grace covers her. So, that’s what she is doing. Creating space for men and women who have been touched by the effects of abortion. Jamie said, “A lot of people can’t explain why they feel stuck or why they feel depressed, unworthy or don’t feel ‘alive’ anymore. I didn’t realize until much later that the lies I chose to believe about myself as a result of the abortion caused me to sabotage my entire life. Once I realized that, I was blown away. I wasn’t going to allow Satan to steal my destiny. In fact, I was determined to fulfill the destiny God has for me AND the baby I aborted. Her life is going to matter.”

Talk About Destiny:

Jamie’s humble heart is in ministry to help men, women and families who have been touched by silence of sins like abortion to find God’s grace and healing.  Her message of God’s overwhelming mercy can be restorative to people facing Satan’s army of convictive thoughts like shame and guilt.  Let the church be silent no more. 

You can reach Jamie at: talkaboutdestiny@gmail.com.  Get her on your calendar to speak to your group, church or event.  

Caring for broken people is a beautiful path towards helping God’s kingdom be restored.  When restored, we can all operate from His powerful platform of mercy and grace. 

We can be the mighty warriors for Christ He has called us to be and ALL LIVES can come out of the silence and matter again.

Written By Missy Nicholas

Greeta and Jami had been friends since childhood and now were pregnant with boys, due on the same day.  Conversations assured the strengthening of their bond as they planned to raise their sons together, as friends.  I had not known either of them long and did not know either of them well; I was merely a witness of what was about to unfold.  I met Greeta after she found out that she would not raise her son because of a terminal prognosis.  He would only live for hours, if he lived at all.  She would love him for as long as she was given–just 8 hours after his birth. 

Jami’s pregnancy resulted in a beautiful baby boy–a drastic difference shattering all of those fantastic fantasies of fun. Instead of walking the same path, it seemed that a crossroads was forcing them to go different directions.  Jami organized for the normal things a new baby brings.  Greeta, bulldozed over with loss,  was preparing for a road of grief.  

Most friendships fall apart here.  Many relationships end when there is still affection left to be shared. We are not skilled at being in someone else’s reality when it is different from our own. We prefer swimming in the warm waters of comfortable emotions in order to keep our friendships intact.  The difference between what Greeta and Jami had planned and what occurred seemed too drastic to comprehend. Impossible, it would seem, to move through it together while remaining present in each others lives.  It’s often easier to allow these kind of differences to create distance and let the relationship fade into a memory with nobody to blame other than life’s tragic turns.  It wouldn’t have been the first relationship lost at the crossroads of “I don’t know what to say,” and “I don’t know what to do.”  And yet, what I witnessed between these two friends has forever changed my heart and life regarding love in the differences. 

Imagine a new mom stepping out of her euphoria after childbirth enough to sit with her friend in grief because she just lost what you brought home.  Jami could have stayed home in the joy of her new nursery, relishing the gift of health.  Instead, she showed up for Greeta in ways nobody else could have.  Without knowing what to do or what to say, Jami bridged the gap between gratitude and grief simply by just being there. Later, she was brave enough through tears to ask Greeta to be the caregiver for her son, Jericho when she returned to work.  An uncertain and potentially damaging conversation.

Yet she extended an invitation to share in the blessing of life to her friend who had been swallowed by the grief of death.  Jami took a risk to find the solid ground of friendship instead of allowing it to get lost in the unspoken and assumed.

On the other hand, imagine a grieving mom, who experienced the birth and death of her own son cradling and loving her friend’s baby within days of her own loss.  Greeta likely didn’t have words but she was present with Jami in her joy, grateful for what her friend experienced though it was so tragically taken from her.  Resentment and bitterness were surely vying for a place in her thoughts, but she welcomed into her heart a healthy baby boy.  She allowed herself to sit in the joy of new life with her friend, when grief was still her constant companion.  She not only became the primary caregiver when Jami returned to work, but she loved Jericho in ways that only she was able.  She loved him despite her grief, and because of her grief–a love so rooted in grace it formed an amazing bond between these families. 

I have been just close enough to understand that between these two friends is an intentional and compelling love. The place between them can only be described as holy.  Holy, because moving between them is a love that can only be seen as the hand and the heart of God.

Missy Nicholas is a professional psycho-therapist, an amateur photographer and a lifelong writer.

Catch her blog at www.sunsetsandsnowflakes.com



CRITICAL UPDATE:  

This article was written in early January and we loved it so much, we wanted to share it in our Mother’s Day issue.  Two days after Missy published it in her blog, Jericho who is 3 years old was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia.  Now these women with their beautiful friendship are arm in arm fighting together again. Jericho recently had an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy, causing him to code in his mother’s arms.  After 40 minutes of CPR and 3 days in the ICU, Jericho shocked medical staff with his miraculous comeback.  As of the printing of this article only weeks after coding, Jericho is back to his chemotherapy regime. These two women are a living, breathing testimony of love and grace for one another and an example to each of us.

There is a Venmo account for Jericho Roberts, as well as an account at RCB bank in NE Oklahoma (just drop by or mail) if you would like to assist with medical expenses.

Written By Betsy Gwartney Catrett 

Celebrating the Joys, 

Minimizing the Pain, 

Maximizing the Gain.

Here we go!

As next to the last of 7, I missed out on Mothering 101.  I flunked babysitting, too. I didn’t know what to do.  So, when I married and babies came up, I felt, ummm STRESS. What was I to do?

I prayed and turned to God’s word for help.  I read Psalm 127:3 (NLT) “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” So how did that scripture truth jive with my feelings about motherhood?  NOT AT ALL.

So, I kept coming back to the Lord each night until my heart was at peace.  I told the Lord I trusted Him to guide our family size and my fears and concerns of ineptness as a mother!  By this time, I had already miscarried our first baby who was named Levi Joseph. Then, in barely seven short years, the gifts of Larry Paul (Lars), Lynden Dale (Len), Lance David, Lark Daniel, and then Luke Stephen were given to us.  Whaaat?  Don’t worry, it’s ok. 

Despite a wonderful life of exciting travel, amazing people, and treasured life experiences I couldn’t have imagined the one area that tops them all is being a mother!  Seeing the joy on each sweet child’s face when he entered into the light and life of spiritual birth and growing in that walk is ecstasy.   3 John 1:4 (NLT) “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

So, what do we do with the sorrows?  And I don’t mean just the sorrows, but also the

SORROWS. Thankfully not all of you, but many of you KNOW exactly what I mean.  I had SORROWS that ended up lasting for decades. Little by little I believe the Holy Scriptures washed my mind and gave me a heavenly perspective that eased my pain. 

Family life can be a lot like the “no pain no gain” aspect in the gym. We can reframe the pain, frustration, sorrow, embarrassment, shame into a positive purpose that maximizes hope, energy and honor despite what one is going through.

Let’s give it a try by looking at 4 important foundational beliefs. 

1.  First things first:  Salvation is about becoming spiritually ALIVE; born again into a realm for which we were designed, but by the human choices of Adam and Eve the entire human race died spiritually.  Focus on being ALIVE, not saved.  (Salvation is a wonderful by-product, but tends to result in us trying and trying to be “good.”)

2.  Next, create a family atmosphere of LIFE-LONG LEARNING, with an emphasis on MATURING in our understanding of intimacy with God and the activity of spiritual warfare.  We LEARN by listening for God and acknowledging when we hear Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We LEARN from mistakes if we take the time to debrief, process and look for the truths in the experience.  A post I read recently on Facebook went something like this: “Boy did I mess up; Dad’s gonna KILL me!” Or is it, “Boy did I mess up, I’ve GOT to call DAD!” What kind of response does your belief system produce?

3.  Rather than life being about perfect performance of whichever Christian list you choose to follow, understand that life is about LEARNING TO LOVE and LIVE IN UNITY and HARMONY.  (John 17:15-23, John 13:35) How in this world do we authentically love people whose choices affect us negatively and their styles of relating are so irritating and frustrating? Try this, realize that we reap what we sow.  When we experience what we earlier “dished out” we have motivation for growth and change.  The irritating person does, so do we!  Give the amount of love and understanding that you want others to give you (Luke 8:31).  Another helpful tool is to “Get wisdom, but with all your getting GET UNDERSTANDING!” (Proverbs 4:7) Understand that our Creator’s plan is for us to defeat evil together, thus He uniquely designed us and placed us in family systems.  No mistakes on His part!  As we understand one another’s strengths, gaps and growth areas we can mature together resulting in a powerful synergy that dispels darkness and produces intimacy, peace, and provision in every way. 

4.     Thus (and lastly), every family has a spiritual ASSIGNMENT given by God. (Exodus 34:7) Beliefs produce behaviors in every family.  Identify the behaviors that rob of life and love and the beliefs behind them, then ask God for the Truth with which to replace them.  You will be delighted with the new fruit your TRANSITION GENERATION created!

You see, your children don’t need a perfect mother.  They need a mother who will show them where to turn when searching for answers, how to humbly receive God’s  heavenly perspective and the life-learning of others, and how to ask God for power to apply what they know.  You can relax and know that Elohim, our Creator, has a Master Plan for bringing us to spiritual life and maturing us in intimacy and spiritual warfare that results in a victorious harmony that will thrill our souls and delight His heart!  By focusing on spiritual life, being a life-long learner, growing in one’s ability to authentically love and unify, and accepting ones family assignment you position yourself to celebrate the joys, minimize the pain and maximize the gain.  

Let’s GO!


Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

The Offense

The Human Resources director of your company called. Suddenly, today is your last day. There’s a reorganization and your job is no longer necessary. You’re a great person and this isn’t personal. There’s nothing you could have done, but they don’t need you anymore. There’s a little severance, but you know it won’t last long enough. Meanwhile, it’s time to pack. 

Initial Reaction

“They” did it and it wasn’t fair. Or “They should…” The word “they” is a key.  When we focus on the past and we hold someone else responsible for what happened, we build walls of bitterness because we haven’t forgiven someone.

The Command

‘And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ Matthew 6:12

Can we forgive others in the workplace the way we want God to forgive us? Do you want God to forgive you the way you forgive others? The way I forgive others often falls short of the way I ask for forgiveness. When I’m honest, I appreciate God’s forgiveness. I’m glad he created forgiveness and I know my efforts don’t measure up. 

Three Steps

Even though I’m no expert in forgiveness, I still practice. And in my practice, I’ve found 3 activities that help me move toward God’s command and away from my natural reaction. 

Name the offense. Often, we need to make ourselves aware of the offense we feel so we can forgive properly. Think about this event. Step into the pain. Think about the costs. Get it out there where you can deal with it. Some people think they’ve forgiven someone, but they still harbor ill feelings. They still blame their former employer for debt they incurred while unemployed. Or they blame their boss for a poor review or a less-than-expected pay raise. When we name the offense, we begin to manage it.

Give it away. Once you name the offense, give it away or give it to God. Ask God to give you a heart for the person or people who offended you. Then ask God to make it right. Unforgiveness keeps you stuck in the past. When you can trust God to make something positive out of your offense, you experience the benefits of forgiveness.

Make it unconditional. We didn’t earn God’s forgiveness. I’m unaware of many of the offenses I’ve caused. None of us truly understand the vast scope of the unconditional forgiveness we have each already received. Don’t revisit the offense months from now when something else happens. Remember that you unconditionally asked God to restore you from this offense. Remind yourself everything related to this offense bills to the same account.

Perfect Job

I have always wanted to work where I could screw up BIG without fear of penalty or job loss. When I turned my life to follow Jesus, I got my wish. But I often saw only the temporal. While the pain was fresh, I did not see my eternal boss give me repeat chances. I did not see my career as what God was doing in my life. Whatever offended me was visible, not eternal.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Keep it Real

When we focus on visible things, we can find offenses everywhere. For work-oriented problems where we were let go, laid off, or we lost money or status at the hands of someone else, these steps can be a quick guide for how to focus on the future. An unforgiving spirit keeps us locked in the past. We continue to bear the misery of the past rather than giving it away, or even using the offense as a springboard to a new future. We know God uses our stories. Let God use your offense. Name it. Give it to Him. And make it unconditional.

God willing, I will continue to work on my weakness forgiving others. I hope to one day be willing to ask God to forgive me the way I forgive others. For now, I’m grateful he forgives better than I.

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Note: Often, issues at work are much less painful or costly than the others discussed in this issue of the magazine. But our workplaces are regular, daily places where we interact with others. Conflict and offense live there too and every grudge or bitterness we hang on to costs us daily. 


Written by Andrea Stephens

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when the Fertility Clinic called with the crushing news that none of the eggs from the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) procedure had produced an embryo.  We had tried so many other procedures but this was the time we were going to actually see what was happening by putting the eggs and sperm together in a petri dish and watching for results.  

But nothing.  

Nothing happened.

The doctor explained that the next step would be using donor eggs.  I could look at the profiles of women who had frozen eggs, select one, then have her eggs used in another IVF procedure.  But we had already decided that we would not take that route.  Though others were making that choice and joyfully producing little bundles of joy, we had decided we would draw the line at this point.  No third-party intervention.

To say I was devastated was putting it mildly.  I was already ten years into this infertility journey.  Hundreds of doctor’s appointments, invasive ultrasounds, blood draws, fertility drug injections, ovulation kits, six surgeries to remove painful cysts and endometriosis and I still had empty arms.  The hand-knit baby booties on my dresser, intended to be a symbol of hope, had become a disheartening reminder of the loss I felt from being childless.

I had already worked through the jealousy of birth announcements from friends.  The Lord had brought me to the understanding that what He was doing in someone else’s life had nothing to do with me and I eventually could rejoice with them.  I had already learned that taking non-emotional gifts like diapers to a baby shower helped me feel stronger (shopping for cute baby outfits could land me in a puddle of tears).  I had already mastered the art of redirecting the conversation every time someone asked me when I was going to start my own family.

I had also already worked through the tough God questions. Why won’t You give me a baby?  Why don’t You love me? What have I done wrong?  Is there unconfessed sin in my life?  Do You not think I would be a good mom?  Why won’t you bless me?  I promise to raise my children to love and serve You! The majority of my wrestling with God over my childlessness had been resolved with the biblical truth that my infertility was not a withdrawal of God’s love, not a judgment call, not a source of punishment, not proof that I’d been abandoned or forgotten about, and not proof that prayer didn’t work.

Yet, that day after the phone call, I felt like I was still missing something.   I still needed the Lord to comfort my heart and give me understanding.  As I sat and prayed, I sensed a whispering in my soul.  It’s time to focus on the bigger picture.  The bigger picture?  What could be bigger than God’s instructions to be fruitful and multiply?  What was bigger than the biblical accounts of God opening the wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and others in the Old Testament?  What was I missing?  What piece of the big picture was not in my puzzle?

I decided to dive into the Gospel of John, paying close attention to Jesus’ words in an effort to understand what God wanted me to see.  So, first we learn that Jesus is the Word, John the Baptist came with a message of repentance, Jesus turns the water into wine, then he turns over the tables in the temple.  Got it.  In Chapter 3, the nighttime chat with Nicodemus about being born again caught my attention in a fresh way.  Jesus said we must be born of the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and believing in Him, God’s Son, brings eternal life.  Hmmm. The eternal.  The kingdom of God.  A different kind of birth.

I continued on.  Finally, in chapter fifteen it happened.  A huge clue was uncovered.  Jesus is the vine, we are the branches; we are to bear fruit—eternal fruit!  I was starting to get it.  Fruitfulness was being given a new definition.  In the Old Testament, fruitfulness referred to bearing earthly children.  In the New Testament, it was about abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit.

God, does this mean that Jesus brought a new focus, a new sense of purpose? Could it be that being fruitful was not connected with having kids?

Jesus’ focus was not on the earthly development of the family of God, but the spiritual development of the Kingdom of God.  How?  Share the good news of saving grace found in Christ alone, so others might receive Him into their lives and be born again, born spiritually into the Kingdom of God, into His forever family.

Thoughts of New Testament people without children or without mention of children flooded my mind:  John the Baptist, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary of Magdela, Apostle Paul, and Jesus Himself! If having biological children was the end all, then God would owe Jesus, John, Paul, and others an apology for leaving their lives unfulfilled and incomplete!  Not possible.  God was at work in each of their lives, he loved them, He had an obvious plan for each of them and they fully completed their calling before heading to heaven. 

Whew.

As the idea of spiritual children twirled around in my heart, my head realized that according to this definition, I had lots of kids.  Through years in youth ministry and writing for teen girls, I had indeed seen many be born spiritually and had the joy of discipling them—growing them up in Jesus!

I began to take note of some awesome women God had put in my life throughout 

my baby journey, other childless but Kingdom-focused women.  He was using them—right then—to help me see there was a bigger picture.  Rhonda had a local Christian TV show for women and taught a seminary class for soon-to-be pastor’s wives.  Susie was editor of a teen magazine and led groups of girls on mission trips.  Gail had a puppet ministry that told little ones about God’s love.  Rebecca had a worldwide music ministry.  Lori was an award-winning second-grade teacher who developed a mentoring program.

The dictionary says that part of being a mother is providing affection, protection, nurture, and guidance.  It’s what many of us childless women do.  We love, we teach, we train, we coach, we encourage, we guide.  We are an important part of building God’s forever family.  It seems that on some level we meet the definition of a mom.

The various clues had come together!  This the “big picture” God wanted me to see.

Over the years, I have been so grateful for the truths God has revealed to me and grateful for grasping an eternal perspective.  Now I celebrate each Mother’s Day in a fresh way.  I celebrate all the ways God has used me to be a mom in the lives of teen girls during the previous year.  And I smile, remembering all the young ones who took my manners classes—allowing me to have a tiny part in parenting them.  And I focus forward knowing that I am a mother.  Just another kind.

-parts of this article first appeared in Just Between Us Magazine.