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.
The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke Chapter 10:30-37 tells of a person on the road to Jericho who gets mugged and left for dead. A Priest and a Levite both pass the man without stopping. Only a Samaritan man, one the Jews would have hated, stopped to help the man.
Jesus told this story to answer a question asked by an expert in the Jewish Law, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
Would you stop?
I believe most people reading this magazine think we would stop. I’d like to think I would. But in 1973, J.M. Darley and C.D. Batson published a study “From Jerusalem to Jericho.” The study tested Princeton Seminary students. The students prepared a presentation to be given across campus. Half of the students were to present on career prospects and the other half on the parable about the Good Samaritan.
Some students were told they were running late for the presentation, some were cutting it close, and a third group had plenty of time.
Then, for the study, the path of each student went by a person who appeared to have just been mugged. The test was to see who would stop and help the victim.
While 40% offered some help to the man, only 10% of those who thought they were running late helped the man. Forty-five percent (45%) in a medium hurry stopped and 63% with plenty of time stopped to help.
Importance of Time
It seems the American epidemic is busyness. Most of us are in a hurry, period. Often we answer the question “How are you doing?” with, “I’m good, just busy.” Busy is the new black. If you’re not busy, you’re not very important. If you have time, you must not be in demand. Important people are busy.
Time, Attention, and Email
Another commodity seems to be attention. Do you answer all of your email messages each day? It seems fewer people read all of their email. I have friends with thousands of unread messages. If you need to contact these people, text them. And, then wait.
What Am I Missing?
How much of our busyness and attention deficit are related to our fear of missing out (FOMO)? New things happen daily. A new iPhone or a new movie just came out. Did you see this new viral video on Facebook? Our kids are in soccer and basketball, (and this and that) this year.
As Americans, we run from one thing to the next, consuming experiences like fast food and then running to the next experience.
We’re so consumed with our own lives, we never see our neighbors!
Love God and Love People
Jesus told this story because the Jewish lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. I guess he didn’t want to miss out. Jesus asked him what he thought, and the lawyer stated clearly the Great Commandment, that we love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus confirmed this man’s thinking. Then the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
The Neighbors We Miss
As we race from experience to commitment to experience, I wonder how many neighbors we miss. Could it be our neighbors and the things we do for them will last? Everything else will burn up. Our experiences and our busy lifestyles load us up with treasures on earth. Moth and rust will destroy those. The memories may linger, but I doubt they’ll compare to eternal life. And, the treasures will stay here.
Can we make time for people? Can we put some slack back in our own schedule, so we have time for our neighbors? Intentionally “see” others in every setting, especially those settings, like our family and work, that aren’t optional. Can you make more time for your family? Can you focus more of your life to get to know and serve your co-workers? I wonder how our workplaces and our co-workers might change if we made more time for them? I wonder if they would experience more of Jesus and his eternal joy if we lived more gracefully toward them?
Let It Go
Drop one thing to invest in people at work. We all need to move closer to Jesus. Help your work neighbor see Jesus. They want their life to last. They need a savior who gives meaning and purpose in this life and the next. Create some time in your schedule to serve others and make Jesus visible.
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.
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: R.A. Goodnight
“ . . . that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into this freedom and glory of the children of God.”
Romans 8:21 NLT
Liberty has been a topic of importance since the earliest days of this country. Quotes such as “Give me liberty or give me death,” as well as the quote in our title have garnered much attention through the years. I would wager the true source of life, liberty and happiness have become misunderstood, especially with our current generations. Or maybe, less misunderstood and more misappropriated.
This month liberty will be our focus. As Christians, how much importance should we place upon liberty? Does the Bible give any direction in relation to this topic? In our next issue, we will focus on happiness. Everyone wants to be happy, but how can we truly be happy? In the final piece in the series, we will focus on life and how liberty and happiness, as we’ve defined them, play a pivotal role.
What is Liberty?
We start our discussion with a secular definition of liberty. Oxford dictionary defines liberty as “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” As implied in the definition, liberty would be synonymous with freedom and antonymous with oppression.
Although I agree with this definition, I believe it is fatally incomplete. This definition leaves out the spiritual requirements necessary to becoming a truly liberated soul. Examples of spiritual liberty would include liberation from sin and death, oppressions that none of us can free another from except through Christ. Due to this additional element, it would be important for us to introduce the biblical narrative into our discussion as it addresses both the secular aspects of liberty along with the spiritual aspects.
Is Liberty in the Bible?
The idea of liberty is central to the entire narrative of the Bible. In a previous article, I asked the question, “What was the theme of the Bible?” We answered with, “The King and His Kingdom.” It helps us to understand the Bible better if we read it in the context of its theme. Accordingly, it is of equal importance if we answered two related questions: Have you ever asked yourself ‘why was the Bible written,’ or even better, ‘to whom was it written’?
Many people answer these two questions with a simple response, “It was written for us so we know what God wants.” This is true (even though I would respond to you with “What does God want?”), but this answer is also incomplete. A more accurate answer is:
The Bible was written for the oppressed—the whom.
The Bible was written to explain to the oppressed how their liberation would come—the why.
Combining these ideas together at a higher level, the oppressed (the whom) will be liberated (the why) by The King and His Kingdom (the overall theme of the Bible).
And as a bonus, we also answered “What does God want?” He wants you to be free, to be liberated. To help you see how that can happen, He wrote you twenty-seven letters collectively referred to as the Bible.
Now we begin to understand the Bible in its “symphonic harmony,” if you will—from Genesis to Revelation—and its meaning for us as a whole: We are oppressed and God has a plan to liberate us.
From Oppression to Liberation
The creation account (Genesis 1-2) tells us that, in the beginning, all of creation existed in a state of liberty. Everything God created was good and all creation worked in harmony with each other for the benefit of the other, but we then see the fall occur. The serpent, through a lie, introduces oppression into human existence. And, as we move through biblical history, we see oppression compound as the human family grows. Examples of such oppression would be the Israelites as slaves to Egypt, their exile in Babylon, and their existence under Roman dominion and pharisaic rule.
More important to our conversation is how we see God react to that oppression with provisions to liberate His people. In the beginning, immediately after the fall, He issues the first Messianic Prophecy—the coming liberation from sin and death. (Genesis 3:15) Later, we see him use Moses and Aaron to free the nation from slavery. He uses Cyrus to free them from Babylonian captivity. Eventually, He sends His son in fulfillment of that first prophecy.
Beyond the liberation of his chosen nation, God shows his desire for the liberation of individuals as well. After God forms Israel into a nation, He gave them laws to help suppress individual oppression from occurring in Israelite society. For example, He commanded the provision for the jubilee year. Through this provision, everyone’s debts were forgiven them every 50th year or upon the death of the high priest (foreshadowing Christ). What a wise provision to help maintain a level of equality throughout the nation. Other examples of such laws were:
The provision of gleaning (leaving some crops for the poor) (Leviticus 19:9,10)
The treatment of immigrants—those that were allowed into the land (Exodus 22:21)
Letting the land lie fallow (Exodus 23:10,11)
Sacrificial provisions for those with less money (Leviticus 5:7-11)
This same pattern is carried forward to the Christian congregations and observed in first century Christian’s dealings with those in need, those affected by natural disasters and how they treated those who were orphans and widows. Lastly, in the Bible’s finale, we see ultimate liberty restored to all through the events of Revelation.
The pattern is clear, and God has not changed. (Malachi 3:6 NIV “I the Lord do not change . . .”) He wants you to be free and political, economic and spiritual liberty will be among the grand achievements of God’s Kingdom. But, that is future state. What mark then, should this understanding have on us today? How can we enjoy a degree of liberty now?
Christians and Liberty Today
Satan stands in opposition to any form of liberty. Oppression is his tool. This is why we see today’s liberties coming under attack at an accelerated rate. The Bible reminds us that Satan has the ability to transform himself into an angel of light, the ability to deceive those who are not looking for his tactics. We have seen him use this tactic before. “You will not die,” he said, “ . . . you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5 NIV) But this was not true. He transformed the truth; he became an “angel of light” and deceived the first human pair into a decision that led to their oppression.
Today, this same oppression tactic is alive and well. It could be disguised in the form of women’s rights, (it’s your right to get rid of that inconvenient child in you) modern views on sexuality (have sex with whomever you want) or the acceptance that religious beliefs are actually hateful (Christians must hate homosexuals because they believe marriage is between a man and a woman). In some forms, these rights and freedom bring about very oppressive ideas. If we choose these, they do not free us, but bind us to the negative consequences of those decisions. This bondage is not what God wants for us.
So, what can we do?
God’s call encourages us to stand strong and to reject the “wisdom” of this world. First, we should free ourselves from our own oppressive beliefs and vices with which we bind ourselves. Remember, some of what you are seeing suggested on the news is likely a tool of oppression used by Satan himself. Next we should carry God’s view of liberty to those we meet. He appeals to awake and mature Christians to take a stand and tear down the belief systems that are oppressing our women and children. He calls us to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, fight for those that are less fortunate than us. Be an agent of God’s Kingdom and work to liberate as many as we can from the grip of this backwards world. Hold fast to our hope that soon “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
“Serve the king…protect the people. Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.”
Godfrey of Ibelin – Kingdom of Heaven
I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. firstname.lastname@example.org @omegaleagueman
Written by Betsy Catrett
When I was in junior high school my father retired from 30 plus years of service in the Social Security Administration to be an at home dad with my at home, homemaking mother. Make no mistake he didn’t quit working. After being in retirement a few years, he often said, “I don’t know where I ever found time to go to work!” Between our ever-growing family, running a small 200 head cattle ranch, gardens, being an elder of the church and Sunday School Superintendent, and volunteer work through Gideons International, Big Brothers, writing a column for the newspaper, etc; he was a busy man. One thing both he and our mother delighted in was hospitality around the family table. Not the least in importance to them, were the holidays. The events were almost always at their home and they did the majority of the cooking for years until the seven of us (their children) grew into our new positions as contributors. That is the backdrop of the most recent generation of my family roots and value placed on holidays. How about yours?
About how many holidays have you experienced now that you have reached the wonderful age of grandparenthood? How many of those holidays were exceptionally memorable? Satisfying? Rich? Rewarding? Empty? Frustrating? Stressful? May I ask you, at this point in your life, what is your part in your family’s holiday activities? Are you still doing most of the planning and implementation? Have you primarily taken a behind the scenes position and passed the baton to the next generation? Are you the matriarch/patriarch still providing perspective and strong roots to help keep the family on course?
Me? Well, my parents are now both with the Lord. I’m in my sixties. My hubby is in his seventies. All five of our sons are in their thirties, with the first one turning 40 this January. The establishment of their dreams is well underway and most of them have their quivers full of children. We do hope to have a few more grandchildren however before it’s all said and done. So, how are holidays for us? As a peacemaker and fun loving, hardworking provider of our home, Hubby is all about family, food, and fun. I love that, too. However, as the researcher for the family assignments that bring its fair share of struggles, it’s also super important to me that we make the holidays accomplish all they were created for. Holidays for me are “holy-days”; i.e. days set aside to remember to focus on various topics. Remembering helps us stay the course. It helps us keep our priorities and check the pulse of our values. Holy days are connecting days where we nurture our roots with traditions. Why is it important to do this? Because we are human beings created with a design out of heaven, let’s look to the Owner’s Manual God made available to guide us.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.” This says to me that holy-days (holidays) are our Creator’s plan for us.
Leviticus 23: 2 (KJV)
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
Psalm 78:4 (ESV)
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
Psalm 145:4 (ESV)
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:”
Psalm 102:18 (ESV)
These verses say to me that we need to be intentional about sharing the deeds and ways of the Lord from one generation to another. We have a purpose. Let me first share a couple of wonderful resources, then a few practical ideas to prime the pump. Martha Zimmerman’s books Celebrating Biblical Feasts and Celebrating the Christian Year have been invaluable books to me since the 1980s and are still VERY relevant today. I’d start by purchasing those two books. But I wouldn’t wait until reading both of them to get started. We are entering the fall and winter holidays this month. So what are some intentional things we can do right now?
How about having an All Saints Day meal with your family and share some of the strengths of your family with them. Put a strong emphasis on God’s involvement in the journey, through the battles and peace times of the spiritual battles of life. If you don’t have Christian roots in your section of the family tree, emphasize Christian character and morals that are present and have obviously been taught somewhere in the roots of your tree. If possible show pictures of the family of whom you are talking, or something that belonged to that relative as a tangible item for your family to hold on to from their story.
Thanksgiving could include an autumn tree with pictures of Squanto, the Pilgrims, and fun facts about the harshness of their story and the beautiful outcomes. Include also one or two of your family’s stories about lives that went different than their original dreams, were full of harsh realities, and many intimate moments with God as He birthed something very beautiful through them.
Christmas season could be filled with gifts that tell your family story. For instance, write a thirty day devotional with stories from your life or your family roots that share how you came into relationship with God and how He has revealed Himself to you through His word, His names, His creation, His care, His love . . . Could you round up a few items to put into a shadow box for each of your grown children and their families with a story about that item on the back? Last year I started a tradition of cutting a little tree in the woods to bring in for a one evening event thus it is fresh and not a fire hazard. We string popcorn and cranberries as garlands and tie bags with home-made cookies onto the boughs. Lastly we put on the dozen clips with candles I purchased on line from Germany on the tree and light them. This year, I hope to add some family story ornaments that we will let grow into a collection, and use each year forth to tell the generation to come of our family’s assignment in the body of Christ. An assignment that like a terrific page turner of a book has its dark moments of fear, shame, doubt, insecurity but is miraculously turned around as our Hero, the King of kings and Lord of lords enters the scene. If you have been born again spiritually, you have the Creator living within you. Therefore, you have limitless creativity waiting to be tapped to enrich your holy-days and strengthen our part of the world one family at a time. May God richly bless your efforts and give your families ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to receive we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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 Teresa Goodnight
Holiday traditions really bring about excitement and expectation for the season to come. Some of the ones I have appreciated (or implemented) can be an easy addition to your holiday season. Traditions don’t have to start the day your children are born! They can start at any season that God puts them on your heart quite honestly. So, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t really been doing anything for years and years. It might take a little coercion with older children, but it will be worth it when you have memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanksgiving (or any holiday) candle: One of the loveliest traditions I know, I first did with a group of friends I worked with many years ago. We passed around a candle to each person at a Thanksgiving meal with our group. We each shared one thing we were thankful for (work or personal). As awkward as you might think it was, as this was just not my girls gathering together, but our entire team—it was memorable even now, 15 years later. We all talked about it each season. Our company was sold, but our last holiday together set a light to the meaning of friendships!
Thanksgiving serving: As filling as the holiday meal is gathered around the table with family, many find heading down to John 3:16 in Tulsa to serve holiday meals is even more filling in the end. Serving others a meal, when they have no regularly scheduled meals, can bring about a whole new meaning to the season of thanks. It reminds us to help those who are less fortunate for whatever reason. Most didn’t set out hoping to be homeless or jobless. Life happens. It also reminds our families to be thankful for what we do have. Together, giving to others because much has been given to you—that’s a dish worth serving!
Gingerbread Houses/Christmas Cookies: Ok. I know. It feels like a whole lot of work (and you don’t really get to eat the yummy house—cookies are another story!). However, with today’s amazing retailers, you can grab a ready to assemble house at Costco if you aren’t inclined to do your own. My daughter starts asking when we get to do ours at least two months before Christmas. With a little Christmas music, hot chocolate, and nibbling on the icing, it’s quite fun. Our house isn’t going to win any contest, but it’s made with a lot of love enjoyed by all. For the cookies, you can go completely homemade to Walmart pre-made but not yet baked Pillsbury yummies. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a fun tradition. The operative word here is FUN!
Christmas Caroling: Sounds out of date a bit? Maybe. But, update it with a set of Christmas lights with a battery and you’re golden. Then, wrap up the participants and start knocking on doors. (whoever has a free hand!) You can learn 3–4 songs (most of which you likely already know). Give the neighbors a Christmas smile. If you want to really make someone’s day—add in a local nursing home or retirement center to the list (call first of course!). Pack your hot chocolate and give it a go!
If you’re more inclined to stay at home? Start one night of Christmas Carols around the tree either with family or host a youth event with a few of your children’s friends and play some on your device! If you aren’t musically inclined, I love How Many Kings, Toby Mac, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns or well . . . I’m not gonna lie. I love me some Elvis Christmas—and he really makes for a fun evening to boot! Finish the evening by piling in the car and heading off to Rhema (or start there!) or drive through some well-lit neighborhoods, like 106th and Sheridan (go north and south in there!) and wander around the neighborhood towards 111th. There are some BIG sets of lights to see! Even singing in the car on your way to the lights can be a tradition all its own!
Advent Calendars: Yeah, I know. Everyone does them, but not everyone does them like you might! We bought one from Pottery Barn for Kids (although honestly you could make your own with some hot glue in about 20 minutes or less). Fill it with candy or little toys. Then start your countdown. We use the Life.Church Children’s Storybook Bible to read the story of the birth of Jesus to our little one every night while she eats her candy. Last year for Christmas? Our 3-year old recited the entire story to our whole family after Christmas dinner. You can imagine how that felt! (No kids Bible? Download the free Life.Church Kid’s Bible on your phone or tablet. Done.)
Giving (Anything/Anywhere/Any Time): Let your kiddos participate in some form of giving to others over the holidays. It’s a great tradition built on the generosity of the God we serve. Maybe it’s another meal. Maybe it’s one of the many trees around town with presents children might be wanting. Maybe it’s sneaking a bag of presents or food onto the porch of a family who just lost a job and ringing the doorbell as you hide. Maybe it’s just sitting down taking advantage of tax breaks with end of year giving to your favorite charities/church. Whatever way you decide to create a tradition of giving, build it into your traditions with your children. It will remind them of the reason for the season—which has very little to do with Santa Claus and a whole lot to do with Jesus!
Christmas Eve (SERVE)ice: Don’t just go. Serve! There are usually WAAAY more services for Christmas than just the one you will attend. For this season, create a moment of sharing with your kiddos as you serve at your church. Churches often need door greeters, decorators, and more. There are lots of ways you and your family can make the Christmas season special for your church staff by helping out (plus all of those attending!). When you’re done? Go have a Starbucks or a meal and talk about things that happened. There’s always that ONE STORY you won’t forget.
Anything you do can be a holiday tradition. Last year, I might have started a new tradition by not actually cooking the Christmas dinner for our extended family. We had this incredibly overpriced, fancy new Dacor oven that wasn’t heating up high enough. There was a system malfunction that required complete replacement. I didn’t realize it since we eat out all the time. (No judging!) So, unknowingly, I served everything doughy, raw, and ummm yeah just not done! You get it. People were trying to eat it believe it or not. Talk about love! The world didn’t fall apart. We went straight to the desserts everyone bought. My family still laughs about how I could own an oven for over 6 months and not realize it wasn’t working. Anyway, you get the idea.
So, here are my holiday tradition rules:
Don’t overthink it.
Memories with a giggle are magic.
Your family and Jesus still love you—dry turkey or not.
Enjoy family and friends. Period.
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 Kim Thomas
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
When you hear the words, “let it go,” it would not be surprising to learn the popular Disney ballad from the animated film, Frozen, comes to mind. The song, “Let it Go” became one of the top 10 songs of 2014 and quickly following its release, had children of all ages belting out this catchy tune at the top of their lungs. Frozen tells the tale of a fictional character, Elsa, who is born with magical powers of ice and snow. When faced with her own emotions of anxiety, stress and anger, she loses control of her powers and unknowingly thrusts her kingdom into eternal winter and unintentionally freezes her sister’s heart. To avoid further harm, Elsa creates an ice palace where she isolates herself away from all others. But the story does not end here. By the time the story unfolds, Elsa learns that the harm she has caused is only undone when she shows love and compassion for others.
As I thought about this story, I began to reflect on how too often, unbeknownst to us, we find ourselves battling with our own frozen or hardened hearts. A frozen heart may be the result of a betrayed friendship, a wrongful accusation, wounds from past abuse, or any other occurrence that has allowed bitterness to take root in our heart.
To protect ourselves from further injury, just like Elsa, we create a kingdom of isolation. Isn’t that just what the devil wants us to do? He wants us to believe that if we put up walls, keep score of the wrongs done to us, or even refuse to forgive others, we can protect ourselves from being hurt again. He encourages us to rehearse our negative thoughts until they crystalize like an icy blast that continues to freeze and harden the walls of our hearts. Instead of protecting us, this isolation can lead to loneliness, misery, regret, and grief.
Forgiving others who have hurt or wronged us may seem like an insurmountable task. In fact, it can be one of the hardest things we will ever do. It is also one of the most freeing. Lewis Smedes once wrote that “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
In Ephesians 4:31, Paul instructs us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
In other words, Paul is saying . . . “Let it go!”
Scripture goes on to say, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.”
Forgiveness is not the same things as having a lack of boundaries or even restoring trust in a relationship. Forgiveness means giving up the right to punish the other person. Instead of appointing ourselves as both the judge and jury that convicts the one who has harmed us, we allow God to melt our hearts and let Him be the ultimate authority.
In Frozen, Elsa sings of freedom in “letting it go.” While this song is intended to be an “anthem about acceptance,” I would like to offer another perspective. When we choose to let go of the pain and hurtful memories of those who have harmed us, we too, can sense a freedom to move forward. No more keeping score.
If you don’t know where to begin with releasing the hurts and offenses from your past, begin by being honest with our loving, Heavenly Father. He sees, knows, and understands your pain. Ask Him to help you move forward by giving you His heart and eyes of compassion for others.
It begins with a decision . . .
Here’s to taking that first step!
Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
7 Tips on Surviving the Holidays with Family
Here come the holidays! And with the holidays come opportunities (and sometimes obligations) to spend time with family members who have at one time or another been difficult to get along with, we don’t have much in common with, or have caused us pain. Family members seem to know just how to push the right “buttons” in us. Negatively anticipating these encounters can surely put a damper on and create stress for what could otherwise be a pleasant time of year.
This year, make a conscious decision to intentionally make an effort to go into the holiday season with a positive outlook. Rather than just “psyching” yourself up to merely “tolerate” or “get through” any family holiday gatherings, proactively make a plan on how to make this upcoming holiday season more enjoyable.
Begin with an attitude of gratitude. Instead of anticipating all of the things that could go “wrong” or ruminate on who has offended you in the past, spend some time focusing on the things you are thankful for as well as the things that could go “right.” Take a moment to be thankful for the friends and family members in your life that love and support you rather than the ones who offend or irritate you. The things you focus on, you will find more of.
Make a plan. Don’t wait until the last minute. Before any gatherings arrive, begin thinking about which family members you would feel most comfortable sitting next to, what you could talk about, and how to fill uncomfortable voids of silence if they arise. Think of questions you could ask and how you can respond if interrogated or put on the spot.
Avoid topics that could quickly turn into touchy subjects. This includes anything that encourages strong opinions such as talking about religion, politics, or any other sensitive subject that could strike a nerve with someone. Ways to do this include graciously asking the other person to “agree to disagree on this one.” Change the direction of a conversation by asking a question about what is going on in the other person’s life. Most people enjoy talking about themselves or things they are interested in.
Remind yourself, “What is in my control and what is not?” While you cannot control another person’s attitudes or comments, you are the one in control of your responses, attitudes, and actions. When feeling defensive, take a moment to breathe. Remember to “respond and not react.” Do your best to stay positive and hopefully, others will follow your example.
If necessary, excuse yourself and take a short break. Go check on children in another room, offer to clear the table and begin helping with dishes, go to the restroom, or simply go outside and get some fresh air. Looking at a funny text from a friend or favorite picture can make you smile and help relieve anxiety or stress.
Embrace family differences. Even when you don’t agree with someone, it is helpful to remind yourself to allow others to simply be themselves. Just like you want to be accepted, so do they. Someone else’s opinions and actions reflect only them and not you. Don’t try to change others and make sure you have realistic expectations of others.
Make a decision to forgive those who have hurt you in the past. Harboring grudges from years gone by only robs you of your mental energy and peace. Be willing to admit to ways you may have also contributed to any misunderstanding. Empathizing with the other person and trying to put yourself in their shoes can help facilitate a willingness to forgive. It has been said that, “hurt people . . . hurt people.” Remind yourself of all you have been forgiven for and God’s willingness to forgive us in spite of our sins.
ABOUT: Kim Thomas is a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist and I have a private practice, There’s Hope! Counseling. I am a monthly co-host on KNYD Oasis Network Radio. I am married with a blended family. I’m a mom of 4, mother-in-love to 2, and stepmom to 3 kiddos, and a dog mom to Rae. Contact info is (918)277-0777 or www.thereshopehere.com
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.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Let’s cut to the chase. Kids with “special” needs are looking for love, social encounters, opportunities to grow, and education. There’s nothing “special” at all on their radar. They are looking to grow their relationship with Christ just like the rest of us. These students and their parents want exactly what the rest of us want—a place to belong and to be a part. As the Church, and certainly as Christian schools, we are going to have to do some rethinking of our position here. Could it be that we’re simply not paying attention to what we are not paying attention to in the area with these children of God? There’s a gap. One group in Owasso decided to do something about it.
Julie Paul and a group of families and professionals launched King’s Grove School, a classical Christian private school for persons with special needs, this year in Owasso, Oklahoma. They started with 11 students, who are receiving an incredible opportunity to experience Christian classical education in an environment coupled with physical and occupational therapy. From my assessment, their program is possibly akin to Regent Preparatory School except that it’s moving at an appropriate pace and setting for their unique learners.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Julie, the Executive Director of King’s Grove. God has been challenging Community Spirit and our readers to think about the missing links in opportunities for those labeled with special needs in our existing structures. So, I wanted to get a peek inside the heart and souls breathing life into these amazing, but often overlooked souls. They challenged me right where I sat to even further rethink my own views on those with special needs.
“This is a program that hasn’t been tried before in our state.” Julie said. “ The three pillars of our school are Curriculum, Therapy and Community all built on the foundation of glorifying God in all we do while sharing the Gospel and making disciples of ALL men. We’re using a nationally recognized classical Christian curriculum specifically designed for special needs. We integrate therapy throughout every school day. We have a full time physical therapist and occupational therapist on staff. Next year we plan to add a speech therapist and an additional OT and PT aide.” Julie went on, ”We wanted a pilot group of families willing to help us begin this year, so, we self-selected for this first group. Within the design of community at KGS is the need for partnership with families to ensure a successful education for our students.. The Lord says the family is the primary teacher in the child relationship and we desire to come alongside families with special needs to help them in the areas of academics and education while they remain the primary source for life instruction for their children.”
Several similar schools have begun within existing schools on the east coast according to Julie. However, at this time, King’s Grove is a stand alone school and they decided to up it a notch with their integrated therapy specific to academics. This method allows the students to have access to having their sensory needs met within their daily school routine. King’s Grove wants to help families raise their children in Christ in their school the same as any other Christian school—even though that includes a few things not always found in a normal school.
So far, the feedback has been fantastic. I don’t know how parents could be anything but overjoyed. In just the small amount of time I spent at the school, everything I saw was truly magnificent. I saw their faces. These kids were thriving. It was so beautiful to see them in an environment tailored specifically to grow them into who God created them to be. There’s a sense of purpose to every encounter. “That’s not by accident,” according to Julie. “The student program is designed around purpose in everything they do.”
Julie knows firsthand the challenges of parenting a child with special needs. She and her husband’s eight-year old son went to public schools for a day before they realized the environment wasn’t right for him. He’s non-verbal and on the autism spectrum like so many students. So, she started homeschooling him with this specifically designed curriculum. She quickly realized her path was going to be bigger than just focusing on her son. Now she can offer him, and others, the Christian education she and her husband want for him, while he gets to experience socialization at the same time. When I walked by him in class, it was easy to see he was in his element. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Giving these incredible kids a way to be their best selves? I could see their joy, as they had instruction with a teacher engaging them on whatever level they needed to be drawn into the experience of learning.
The sensory rooms at King’s Grove School is one example of a simple way to meet these children’s needs. Any parent who has a child with sensory issues understands the need for some downtime to regroup. It can make the difference for the entire day if they just have room to regain their composure. Sometimes being in a classroom setting for too long can become a bit overstimulating. Sometimes the child needs a safe place to go and sort of catch their “sensory breath” if you will. It’s a simple technique that could easily be employed in every school with children who can experience sensory overload. It’s just one of the ways King’s Grove works to lead the way with instructional care fitting the needs of the students that attend there.
Julie added, “If the student can learn better self-regulating skills overtime through therapy and with a break in the sensory room or outside—it creates a win-win scenario. Then, the student can regain needed focus and composure to go back into the academic environment for instruction.” She continued, “A natural and calm setting is essential for our students to thrive. We spend a good amount of time outdoors to meet general sensory needs and then use a program called the Sonrise Method within our sensory rooms to encourage socialization and calmness to their abilities and meet sensory needs indoors when appropriate. Instead of our students having unmet sensory needs and derailing their education time, they can come into this room for a few minutes or longer depending on their needs that day. It gives them some time where they are not thinking about academics but are still in a learning atmosphere. There’s purpose to the play, instruction or interaction. Every single part of our day has a purpose to it. “
Through efforts towards community, King’s Grove School hopes to help Owasso and the greater Tulsa area see the need for special needs persons to be truly integrated into their communities. Julie said, “There is a benefit to our families to give excellent education to our special needs students. Yet, if there is no community willing to accept persons with special needs into their daily lives our purposes fall apart when our students reach adulthood. Unless their families move away, these students will become adults here. As a community, and especially in the community of believers, we want all of our citizens to be thriving in service, fellowship and work where applicable. Our communities and churches will not operate at their fullest purpose and potential unless all of our persons are involved and valued. We do not need to retrofit the community. We do not need a different part for some and another part for others. We need to retrofit people’s mindsets to value the personhood God has designed in all individuals within their community and network for the purpose of His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. We are to do this together as one body.” King’s Grove is teaching these students how to have a meaningful purpose in society. They are being discipled to serve Christ.
Julie said, “Students at King’s Grove aren’t just receiving an education. They are also receiving that needed discipleship to teach them how to be contributing members inside the Body of Christ. We see their giftedness for His good work daily. The fruits of the Spirit are being taught inside these classrooms along with the academics to help live them out. We are striving to walk alongside them in community, education and discipleship as God grows them into who He created them to be.” I agreed with her. These students were being taught how to fulfill God’s purpose for them—to do what God created them specially to do.
As a Christian community, as the Church, we need to be thinking about how to help them help us to fulfill God’s purpose in His kingdom.
How can YOU Help?
King’s Grove School is looking for persons to partner and champion their students and vision by adding volunteers to their school days and in securing a firm future to help more families through donations.
KGS has a great first semester group of volunteers. They hope to expand their day to day volunteers for their students. Julie shared, “We are looking for persons who want a life changing experience. Our volunteers spend time with the students in both academics and socially. Most volunteers come once a week. Our school day is only 9:00–2:30. Some volunteers come in the morning and some in the afternoon. We vet our volunteers similarly to the Little Light House and provide training to help our volunteers feel ready to be with our students. Most of our volunteers have never had any formal training or time with special needs students. They just want to come and have a great day.” She continued, “So many of our volunteers comment on what a happy place KGS is. One volunteer texted me after their first day and said, ‘ Julie, the school broke me today. After seeing the students work hard, love on each other and then praise the Lord during music through song and dance, well, I just had to praise the Lord.’ That’s what we mean when we say we want persons who want a life changing experience. Be ready. It truly is.”
Julie also expressed the great need for donations during this first year of school. Private special needs education hasn’t been attempted at great lengths because it is very expensive. The national average to educate a neurotypical student is around $8500/ year. The national average sky-rockets to $34,000 / year for a student with special needs. King’s Grove School keeps things simple and purposeful with curriculum, campus and supplies. However, the cost of personnel that includes two teachers to a classroom and professional certified full time therapists is expensive but absolutely necessary. “Class sizes are intentionally small. That is a non negotiable for us. It is essential to the learning environment of our students. We never want money to be a reason that families cannot attend KGS. We want families who will partner with us in our approach to Christian education. Because of this our tuition makes up only ⅓ of our operations cost. We rely on fundraising and private donations to meet our annual budget needs and will rely on our community to continue to support us financially as we grow to accommodate more families.” Julie added, “ Since June of this year, we have had over 200 requests for application to our school. The need is so great. Our families share part of that financial responsibility but we pray our communities will see that this is an opportunity for all of us to improve and add beauty and value to our society and daily life. Your investment isn’t just for them it’s for everyone!”
King’s Grove Schools have several ways to donate. They encourage private giving and also are running a “GROW THE GROVE” campaign that encourages recurring monthly gifts of any amount. “Every single person in the greater Tulsa area can make a huge difference,“ said Julie. “Whether you donate $1 / month or $1000/month, you are impacting families and your own community. Two of our own students have donated their own allowance to their school. How beautiful is that? The Lord is using the smallest acts for the greatest impact to His kingdom.”
When I walked away, I found myself looking forward to more Christian schools in our area volunteering at the school as part of their own journey. KGS is looking for peer to peer volunteers to come on Fridays during their enrichment time to share in the non-academic experiences at KGS such as art, music and movement, with students their own age. I can already hear the stories from the students who went—thinking they were going to help and finding themselves walking away changed by these kids.
I’m envisioning kids volunteering at the fund raisers and coming up with ideas to help fund King’s Grove. Every encounter shows me the gaps and the distance we have to go, but new foundations are being built. When God is through with the Church, I’m praying that He finds a community so fully integrated with these amazing students. As they journey into adulthood, I pray that He shines the light on it to help replicate this success throughout all of His work here on Earth. After all, He is the one who knew these children in their mother’s womb. He has certainly prepared works in advance for all of His children to do.
Pray with me for God to move mountains to equip this school with the most integrated, fun-loving, people-loving students, volunteers and financial resources to make one GIGANTIC kingdom impact. Can you imagine? Hopefully very soon we won’t need to imagine it.
King’s Grove had over 200 families reach out to find out more. More will be trying to come. Right now they have nowhere else to go. There is no Christian school we can find offering an integrated program right now. Funding is always an issue, but now that we have someone making these amazing kids a priority, I think it’s at a minimum up to the rest of us to support them.
Do you want to be part of reaching ALL of God’s children: King’s Grove does not charge students the full amount needed to educate their children. It’s a ministry operating off of the donations, volunteerism, and hearts of people just like YOU! (yes YOU!). With the end of year “donation” season approaching—why don’t you add them to your list!
These kids are being left out on Christian education. They deserve to be educated with a Christian curriculum. Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Will you help King’s Grove bring the opportunity to know Christ in their school environment? Let’s not stop them. Let’s give them everything they need to impact the world for Christ. Then, just sit back and watch.
Hop online at www.kingsgroveschool.com. Scroll to the bottom left side for both the volunteer and donate buttons. If God’s children are all a part of the body of Christ (and we know they are)—then when we aren’t bringing in and equipping those with special needs, we are essentially a body trying to operate without an essential functional piece. Can you imagine how well the Body of Christ will function when we’ve enveloped ALL of God’s children, equipped and joining in God’s missions prepared in advance for us to do together? #GoDoBe