Category: GOD

Title--Man2Man: In the Image of God

Written by R.A. Goodnight

(All verses from ESV unless otherwise noted.)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:26, 27

Found in the opening statements of The Bible, these two verses have serious significance. It explains our origins and the origins of everything around us. It gives us clarity into God’s view of human sexuality when confusion seems to abound (I am not just referring to the “male and female” part of the verse). And, when these verses are understood in a more complete manner, it gives us insight into how we can have a satisfying and meaningful life.

I believe that when considering the creation account, many only think of the natural image that God bestowed upon us. This is how they would define “made in the image of God,” that like God, we have head, shoulders, knees and toes. Physiologically and emotionally we are like God, as similar as flesh can be to spirit. And this is true, we were made in the natural image of God. But there is so much more truth in these verses than only this.

Along with the natural image, we were also made in His moral image. What does this mean? In the beginning, prior to the corruption of sin, God gave us the ability to see choices and decisions as He did—to know the difference between right and wrong. It was as if His standard of morality was part of our DNA, and through that, He gave us the ability to choose good and to do good because we were good. (Genesis 1:31) That was until the fall. This ties in closely with the third way that we are in the image of God.

God chose to make us in His political image and to use humans to be the means by which His current creation as well as future creation would receive His blessings. 

God also created us in His political image. No, we are not referring to Democrat vs. Republican or any other politicized human definition. What we are referring to would be the original reasons that God brought us into existence or, simply put, our original purpose. Further, we are referring to the abilities He gave us to fulfill that purpose (such as His moral image, to tie the two points together). Let’s unpack what it means to be made in His political image some more.

The first truth that I find of interest is that God Himself chose life (our theme for 2020). Originally, there was nothing—we were nothing. But God chose to bring forth life from nothingness. What does God do next, or more importantly, what does He NOT do next? Once His creative works were done, God could have chosen to be the primary means by which His creation would be taken care of and blessed. What do I mean? He could have named the animals Himself. He could have cultivated the Earth beyond Eden Himself. He could have chosen to directly create all future generations of mankind Himself. But that is not what He did.

To the contrary, God chose to make us in His political image and to use humans to be the means by which His current creation as well as future creation would receive His blessings. The scriptures state that He blessed us, humans, and then commissioned us with a purpose. We are His representatives on Earth, the stewards of His creations. We were chosen to take care of the animal kingdom. We were chosen to take care of the Earth itself. We were chosen to be the method by which mankind would continue to grow, to bring into existence future generations of life and introduce them to God. The same as a political entity today would represent the government who sent him/her, we are God’s ambassadors. We are equipped to fulfill our original purpose with His natural image, His moral image and His political image. (Genesis 1:28-31; 2:5, 15, 19-20) Yes, God chose to bless and protect life through life—through me and you. And His purpose for us has not changed. (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17) That truth resonates through time and helps us understand part of our purpose. The question becomes, how can we live up to the image in which we were made? How can we fulfill our original purpose, as we represent God, and choose life as He does?

The first and foremost way is that we must choose the truth even when it is difficult. Why did I choose truth as the first way? Because the lie (the opposite of truth) was the first weapon used against life. Not a rock, not a sword, not a gun—a lie. (Genesis 3:4, 5) If we struggle to even side with truth, any other steps we attempt to take will be difficult. Remember what we discussed regarding being made in God’s moral image. It is true that we are currently under the influence of sin and have lost that perfect moral image. But, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, God has restored to all humans (not just those who follow Him) a measure of the moral image. (Romans 2:14, 15) He has given us, even in this life, what we need to side with truth and choose life.

We are equipped to fulfill our original purpose with His natural image, His moral image and His political image.

Beyond that, there are many practical ways that we can choose life. There are several good groups right here in Tulsa doing some great work to be ambassadors of God. Any of these groups would welcome help. In this edition of the magazine are several articles regarding The Demand Project. This is a group of folks, that in some of the rawest ways possible, are reflecting the image of God and choosing to protect life. If there is any cause that we could get behind, the combating of human trafficking should be an easy one. This group could use your training, your brain, your time or your financial support. (www.thedemandproject.org)

Another group in Tulsa is Restore Hope. The principle ways Restore Hope supports life is: hunger reduction, homelessness prevention and emotional and spiritual healing. These are practical ways that our community is being impacted for good. Beyond financial support and food donations, this group is looking for fellow ambassadors of God to help with receptionist work, food pantry help, or even prayer volunteers. Check out their website for other ways that you can help (www.restorehope.org)

In conclusion, Paul reminds us, “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) Do you see yourself and a worker alongside God? You should, but you should also see this as a great privilege to be able to work alongside The Creator of life itself, to be a means to bestow His blessings upon others. Let’s take our original commission seriously. As we move through 2020, I challenge each of you to pick one of the great charitable organizations in Tulsa and get involved. For God . . . for Christ . . . and for life!

TITLE: Apologetics Produces a Confident Christianity

WHAT is Christian Apologetics?

APOLOGETICS is commending and defending
the Intellectual Case for the the Claims of Christ
and the Christian Worldview in a context-sensitive
and audience-specific manner.

The Impact of Christians Trained in Apologetics:

  1. Believers are strengthened in their faith;
  2. Christians provide answers to non-Christian’s
    questions about God, Christ, and the Bible;
  3. Culture is shaped and influenced.

The Battle for the Bible: Word of Man or Word of God?

by James Burkett

The Christian Faith has been increasingly under attack from different segments of our culture: college professors, school teachers, cultural elites, media and business leaders. Their statements not only mock the Christian faith but indicate they are ill-informed and have misunderstood the basic message of Christianity. This dilemma can be seen with the increasing mistrust of the Bible as being a reliable historical document, let alone the Word of God.

How Do We Know That the Bible Is Accurate and Trustworthy?

As a pastor for over thirty-four years in major university communities. I was surprised that professors, graduate students, university students, and notable scientists would insist that the Bible could not be trusted. Although professors would be focused on facts within their particular academic discipline, I was amazed at their conclusions regarding the Bible. They spoke on the basis of unjustified assumptions, bias, or a simple ignorance of the facts. I am not making this last statement with a critical attitude. But, to argue against the facts is not exhibiting an investigative mind that follows the evidence to a rational and logical conclusion. Consider the following points about the trustworthiness of the Bible.

Fact One: MANUSCRIPT PRESERVATION

The Bible is far more accurately preserved than any other text of ancient history. There are far more New Testament manuscripts copied with far greater accuracy and far earlier dating than for any secular classic from antiquity. The Old Testament was also preserved with its overall historical accuracy having been factually confirmed by scholarly works such as Walter C. Kaiser’s The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? or K.A. Kitchen’s On the Reliability of the Old Testament.

How can the Bible be rejected as “unreliable” when its documentation is at least 100 times that of other ancient literature? No other literature has supplied historians and Biblical scholars with such an abundance of evidence. The manuscript data is so massive that scholars such as Westcott and Hort, Ezra, Abbott, Philip Schaff, A.T. Robertson, Norman Geisler and William Nix place the restoration of the original text at 99 percent plus!

THERE IS NO OTHER DOCUMENT OF ANTIQUITY that is as accurately preserved as the New Testament.

Fact Two: ARCHAEOLOGY

The declarations that the Bible is filled with mythological tribes and peoples have ALL been dramatically disproven. Over a century of meticulous and scientific archaeological excavations have failed to prove a single Biblical statement incorrect. But archaeology has confirmed thousands of historical and geographical details in the Bible.

Former Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology and author of the 17 volume Archaeology, the Bible, and Christ, Dr. Clifford Wilson states: “ . . . the Bible stands investigation in ways that are unique in all literature. Its superiority to attack, its capacity to withstand criticism, its amazing facility to be proved right after all are all staggering by any standards of scholarship. Seemingly assured results ‘disproving’ the Bible have a habit of backfiring. Over and over again the Bible has been vindicated. That is true from Genesis to Revelation. . . .”

Historian and apologist Dr. John Warwick Montgomery expressed the conclusion of archaeologists and historians regarding the reliability of the archaeological data: “Modern archaeological research has confirmed again and again the reliability of New Testament geography, chronology, and general history.”

Fact Three: Scientific Prevision

There are scores of biblical directives and statements which conform to the facts of modern science. These statements were made centuries before modern science and medicine. An excellent example is Dr. S.I. McMillen’s None of These Diseases: The Bible’s Health Secrets for the 21st Century or former ABC News Science Editor and Harvard University physics professor, Dr. Michael Guillen in his Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree.

With three earned doctorates in science, the late Dr. Wilder-Smith, shared his assessment of the scientific accuracy of the Bible: “Many leading scientists and philosophers, past and present, accepted the entire Bible because they actually researched these matters.” PLEASE NOTE THE LAST PHRASE: “ . . . they actually researched these matters.”

Mark Eastman, M.D., and computer specialist, Chuck Missler, concluded, “In the twentieth century, more than any time in history, it can be demonstrated that the Bible is a skillfully designed, integrated message system that evidences supernatural engineering in every detail.”

Fact Four: Certified and Accurately Fulfilled Prophecies

Only the Bible has specific prophecies that have been fulfilled. No other religious “sacred book” has this component. Leading Old Testament scholar, Alfred Edersheim, stated that there were 456 prophecies concerning the first coming of the Jewish Messiah. He provided extensive confirmation that Jesus Christ fulfilled all of these prophecies. Math Professor Peter W. Stoner details in this book, Science Speaks, the astounding confirmations of fulfilled biblical prophecy.

The statistical probabilities of the prophetical fulfillment is staggering! For example, Professor Stoner and 12 different classes of 600 college students calculated that the statistical probability of a man fulfilling just eight of the Messianic prophecies would be 1 in 1017 or 1 chance in 100,000 trillion. That number would allow you to cover the entire surface area of Texas with a two feet stack of silver dollars. As additional calculations are made, the probabilities are beyond the possibility of mere chance, but indicate a Divine direction.

Fact Five: Alleged Bible Errors and Contradictions are Answered Logically and Factually

The great majority of alleged errors and contradictions in the Bible are the result of three issues:

  1. A hasty examination of the Bible text;
  2. Faulty assumptions and misunderstanding of translation procedures by the critics;
  3. The selective use of data by the author.

It is important to observe proper definitions especially with terms like “error” and “contradiction.”

Dealing with alleged contradictions, scholars such as Dr. John W. Haley, William Arndt, and Gleason Archer collected over a thousand errors and contradictions, almost all of which were adequately resolved by careful attention to the relevant detail. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery commented: “I myself have never encountered an alleged contradiction in the Bible which could not be cleared up by the use of accepted principles of literary and historical interpretation.”

Noted Old Testament scholar and one of the world’s leading linguists, Dr. Robert Dick Wilson stated: “I have made it an invariable habit never to accept an objection to a statement of the Old Testament without subjecting it to a most thorough investigation, linguistically and factually . . . I defy any man to make an attack upon the Old Testament on the grounds of evidence that I cannot investigate.” Dr. Wilson’s conclusion was that no critic has succeeded in proving an error in the Old Testament.

Although we have only briefly touched on the subject, The Battle for the Bible: Word of Man or Word of God, we can readily ascertain that the evidences for the reliability of the Bible is overwhelming! Plus, the evidence can bring a person to the conclusion that the Bible is more than the Word of Man but is indeed the Word of God. There is an increasing number of professors, scientists, and scholars who have been “compelled” by the evidence that the Bible is more than just a human book: The Evidence indicates the supernatural element in it’s composition. 

Conclusion: The BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD!

Apologetics Study Centers:

  • Reasonable Faith Chapter—Mark Goodnight (mark-goodnight@reasonablefaith.org). Meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month;
  • Reasons to Believe—Dr. Dominic Halsmer (dhalsmer@oru.edu)
  • Oklahoma School of Apologetics & Practical Theology—Dr. Jim Burkett
    (Ccccpastor@aol.com; text: 918-691-8756). Next Course: The Case for the Deity of Christ. Dates: Tuesday evenings, March 24, 31, April 7, 14, 21, & 28 (Time: 6:30–8:30 PM)
  • Oklahoma Apologetics Alliance—Mark Tedford (Mark@tedfordinsurance.com)

Apologetic Websites:

TITLE--HEART2HEART: Taking Care

Written by Andrea Stephens

Here we are getting to ready to welcome the coming of spring. After a few super cold winter days, we dare to focus on warmer weather and the first sight of yellow daffodils and purple crocus. Allow me to interrupt these dreamy thoughts and ask how are you doing with the resolutions and goals you set for yourself when you were courageously ringing in 2020? Remember those?

Statistics show that a majority of people have given up on and even forgotten about the goals they set, the new habits they were determined to develop, the inspirational pictures and slogans on their vision board and the hopes they recorded on their resolution list just a few months ago.

Along with a zillion other people, one of my goals for 2020 is to take better care of myself. My intention has been to eat healthier and increase my exercise. Eating healthier, which to me means cutting out sugar and empty carbs, is a daily challenge and an unrelenting battle. I argue with myself every Wednesday night at our church dinner about whether or not I’m going to eat that awesome looking bread pudding or cherry cobbler or fudgy chocolate cake. And this argument takes place after I have already told myself I cannot have one of the homemade dinner rolls. Ugh. Give a girl a break. I’m exhausted (and slightly depressed) by the time I finally sit down to eat.

Yes, I’m making sure I eat some of the traditional superfoods like blueberries, avocados, dark leafy greens, almonds, and the cruciferous vegetables—I actually like roasted brussels sprouts and riced cauliflower these days. I have been somewhat diligent about protein shakes, green smoothies, and even a splash of lemon or apple cider vinegar in my water.

Working out is more challenging for me because I admit it, I don’t like to sweat. It makes me itch. It causes body odor. I don’t enjoy either of these things. So, I only put out enough effort to ensure that I burn off some calories. Yes, I know that sweating from exercise may help detox the body, improve mood (thank you endorphins and dopamine), reduce stress and build a healthier heart.

But let me be honest. What I eat or don’t eat, what amount of exercise I do or don’t do, has been about maintaining a specific weight—not necessarily to feel more energetic, build muscle or strengthen my cardiovascular system. I, too, buy into the lie that I will appear healthy and all will be well in my world if I can just get my skinny jeans zipped and continue breathing at the same time.

So, keeping a watchful eye on the scale has been my number one indicator of whether or not I thought I was healthy and taking care of myself. But the fallacy of that came crashing down hard recently when I had a surgical procedure on my foot. In the recovery room, through a fuzzy brain, I heard the doctor tell me that I had osteomalacia, which in layman’s terms means soft bones. What? Soft bones? I’ve heard of bones becoming brittle or weak, but soft?

Naturally, I discussed this with Siri. Bottom line, it is a vitamin D issue—either not getting enough or not being able to absorb it properly. And this interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and utilize calcium and phosphorus which are needed to form the hard-outer layer of bone. Sunlight, supplements, eating foods rich in vitamin D and calcium, and weight bearing exercise are the basic remedy. One article recommended reducing salt, soda, caffeine and alcohol intake as they block calcium absorption.

Here comes a little more honesty. I already knew that I should be taking vitamin D and calcium.

And I have been—occasionally. Sometimes I forget, or I’m too hurried or too nonchalant. Well, not anymore!

The why behind my nutritional plan and workouts have been totally messed up. No longer can it be about the scale. It’s about my bones, muscles, heart, and skin. My why needs to be about my health and quality of life. I need to see this body of mine the way the bible describes it—a temple or home of the Holy Spirit. It is gift from God. I have the responsibility to take care of it.

The resolution of taking care of myself in 2020 has taken on a whole new level of seriousness and commitment. It prompts me to ask, not just how you are doing on your resolutions and goal, but are you taking care of yourself? Perhaps you work, have a family, are involved at your church or kid’s school, have to cook, clean, grocery shop, do laundry, make time for aging parents—the list is endless. I get it, we are busy. But being too busy to care for our health will reap a result we won’t like. So, whatever it looks like for you, will you commit to caring for the one and only body you have? I’ll be right there with you cheering you on.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV

Andrea Stephens

Turning Point Thrift Store

Title--CORE: Our "Core" Is in Trouble

Written by Teresa Goodnight

I want to look at our Core a little differently this month. The main reason? Statistically speaking the “Core” inside our church is in a bit of trouble. It’s not what you think. Stay with me and I’ll get there.

Have you ever had those times when you feel like God is telling you something, but you just want to ignore it?

The Demand Project came up in almost every conversation I had with readers, advertisers or anyone associated with the magazine or who knew that we did the magazine. Honestly? Human trafficking is a topic that is so horrible that my mind doesn’t want to acknowledge exists. I feel like it’s something that happens far away from here—something that wouldn’t happen right here in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt. So, to think that we needed to talk to The Demand Project was just something I didn’t want to consider.

I’m not saying I was Jonah. However, there did finally come a point where I felt like I’m either going to have to tackle this whale or the whale is going to swallow me.

Truth? Sex trafficking is very real right here—right where we are. I watched groups of arrests around our area. I saw nine people from my hometown of Sapulpa, Oklahoma be arrested for human trafficking. The fact was this—no matter what I believed about it, it was real. It is real.

When the Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project said—“If your child has a phone or if they have access to the Internet—they are already targeted.” 

There are little girls and little boys who are suffering every day. Some of them have been sold into trafficking by their parents. I can’t comprehend that concept, but I’ve never been addicted to drugs. Some of them are talked into sex slavery unknowingly online with what feel like very innocent conversations between them and a random stranger on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook.

When the Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project said—“If your child has a phone or if they have access to the Internet—they are already targeted.” I shuddered being the mother of a five-year-old with an iPad. To think that someone would want to defile her innocence—imagining the tragedy that horrible experience would have on her mentally was more than I could handle.

This is the only interview I’ve done where I cried. Twice. I’m crying as I write this now. The thought of someone doing that to my baby breaks my heart. These are other people’s little babies. We have got to stop pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping to talk about more pleasant things. We have to stop assuming it would never happen to our kids. We have to support The Demand Project trying to restore these victims and teach how we can end the demand for this sexual product.

I am as guilty as you are. It’s just not in my Christian upbringing to think about and talk about these things. Just the things that The Demand Project folks said out loud to me made me uncomfortable. They made me realize that the kind of world our kids are growing up in isn’t the world I grew up in. It’s not as safe as it was. It’s just not. People have access to our children; however, we can’t just strip them of the Internet and strip them of their phones. But, we can become a very active part of what they are doing with them.

So much of this issue is for those of you out there like me, who want to live in a bit of a fairytale land that just isn’t real. It’s a great place because it allows us to continue to be “happy.” In our apathy we don’t have to participate. We don’t have to get our hands dirty. We just ignore it and assume that it would never happen to our children.

It doesn’t take much to fool a beautifully innocent child into believing that you, as a sex offender, are a friend and not a criminal. So only read this article if you want to wake up. If you’re wanting to continue on living out your 19??’s fantasies, then I would just put the magazine down. This isn’t for you. Do you want to know how to protect your kids? Do you care about helping victimized children suffering right here in our part of the world? Keep on reading.

Church-Pornography-Trafficking Link

Statistically speaking, if you look to your right and to the left in your pew at church—just over 6 out of 10 men and 1.5 out of 10 women are actively viewing pornography on a monthly basis. (Barna Group 2014) According to another survey by the Barna Group in 2016:1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and are currently struggling. To be clear, that is over 50,000 U.S. church leaders.

Statistics show our “Core” is under attack. Part of the reason I had to go down this path was how many people I encounter inside the church who admit to pornography addiction destroying their marriage. Pornography addiction is seriously blowing up church families left and right.

Truth is, if you are watching pornography, you are 100% participating in the realm of human trafficking. You just are. How far you will venture into that land? Well, that is a really good question. Chances are, it will be farther than you ever imagined you would go. Marriages and families are destroyed. Pedophiles are created. Sexual addicts, who cannot get their needs met at home, find ways to go outside of the marriage bed for sexual satisfaction. After all, those paid to perform acts just do as they are paid to do (although not likely along the same lines as the fake stuff in the shows).

Porn is even attacking our children. Do you know most kids have seen pornography at school? If not on their phone, on someone else’s who pressures them to watch. If you think this stuff isn’t happening, Satan is really doing a better job than I’d care to admit.

Participating in any way with pornography essentially supports the horrors of sex trafficking. It’s taking part in an industry that creates the demand for these girls and boys to be pulled from their homes into a life that they feel they can never escape.

Keep thinking it’s not you. Keep thinking what you’re doing is fine. Keep thinking I would never be that kind of person. Better yet, keep thinking it’s better to keep it a secret. Satan LOVES that line of thinking. I’m guessing King David didn’t think he’d fall to sexual temptation when he saw his great warrior’s wife taking a bath and continued to watch. I bet Uriah wished David had been a bit wiser about sexual temptations since it cost Uriah his life. I’m also guessing that the man I was just told about who keeps a bucket under his desk because he can’t leave his desk to go to the bathroom from his porn addiction didn’t set out for that life either. It is kinda safe to assume he wanted more at some point. I’m thinking he probably had bigger dreams, but that’s just me.

The Church should not have these statistics for pornography addiction. As the Church, we can’t sit by and let this world of sexual sin and depravity continue to destroy our congregations. When an “innocent” viewing of porn invades the mind, it starts to unravel the barriers we have to protect us. It creates a new home where addiction brews in secret. Those “harmless addictions” become the focus of lives and the path towards destruction begins.

Porn is just one way to create the demand for human trafficking. They are definitely linked. There are also many others but together they are all the breeding grounds for sexual predators, broken marriages and broken families. It’s a realm where men and women can become something they never imagined.

This stuff is real. What we’re getting ready to talk about lands on us, as the Church, to hold higher standards of living in alignment with the Bible. The indifference of Christians on all accounts is probably the worst reality of all. I’m guilty of ignoring it. You might be guilty with me. We don’t have to stay there. We have to get in this battle where Satan is taking prisoners in our homes. We have to offer help to bring them out of their addictions. We might even need to help them understand (as men, women, and youth) that it’s actually NOT ok. It actually DOES lead to bad things.

As you follow along with Community Spirit, in our next issue, we will tackle porn in the church head on. We are going to be talking to a very well-known Pastor from Tulsa, who fell to the temptation of pornography himself. He’s going to get real with us. He has an incredible ministry to help those battling addiction. We are also going to talk to people who are in the midst of recovery. We want you to know it’s not just some crazy guy locked up by himself in the middle of small-town America. Trafficking, porn addiction, they are real and they are right here in our backyards.

Written by Teresa Goodnight

It’s such an invigorating time of year. It’s crisp outside. Things feel new as the year breaks through. We start on our new path. We buy a new journal. Maybe set new goals. Then life rolls around. It doesn’t hit all at once. However, very slowly we ease back into our old ways. They’re comfortable. They feel less stressful. Truthfully, they feel just easier than these new goals. Most of us simply slide into failure. It just feels like home. Mmmm. Cozy. Not really though.

Familiar? It’s just easier to stay in patterns of thought and behavior than to turn over any kind of a new leaf. Is it any wonder, when we try to walk with God why we slip back into old sins? Find ourselves becoming less and less offended at our offenses? We dull and lull ourselves back into what feels the easiest. Same old same old.

Can we Change our Core?

As a reigning queen of the #EPICfail New Year, I know the pattern all too well. However, last year—I decided to do something about it. I made one big change. Just one. Funny enough, it wasn’t even at the New Year. It was at the end of November.

I’m sure it’s not a big deal to most of you. I hesitate to write it. But, my fellow Sodaholics will know my plight. I went from a few sodas per day to zero. Anyone who knows me knew that was just not ever going to be possible. Dr. Pepper was my end all be all crutch for a stressful day for over 30 years. I knew which states didn’t serve it and consistently offered a root beer when I asked (as if it were even close to the same!). I knew where to get it overseas in France, Italy, China—you name it. I could find it. I could easily distinguish between a Mr. Pibb and a Dr. Pepper for those who tried to pass it off as the same. I’m not proud. I’m just saying—it wasn’t an easy break-up.

I called it “When my Daddy took away my last Dr. Pepper.” (not intentionally but it became an extra funny part of my goal!) He literally held it for me at the hospital one day and I could not figure out where he put it. I kept asking everyone if they knew. It was funny. He didn’t intentionally hide it but it popped into my head as a fun way to stop drinking it. Why? Because I liked saying it. It makes me laugh. I also love to see him crack a smile in the corner of his mouth when I say he took my last one. I actually partnered him with me on the journey not really realizing what I was doing. It worked!

So, I’m sitting here a year later quite proud of myself. It’s certainly not a game changer, but it did prove to me I could do it. I can make changes. I can break difficult habits. My keys to success?

  1. Pick it. Pick one thing or just very few (2!). 2020 is about focus and we can’t focus with 15 goals in 15 directions. It just doesn’t work. Get laser-focused on a goal and stay on it.
  2. Plant it. Be really specific and plant that seed in your heart and mind. Don’t just decide “I’m going to be a better person in 2020.” Decide “I’m going to be a more financially generous person.” Or, maybe, “I’m going to read my Bible daily even if it’s just a verse.” General goals are nice, but they don’t give you specific plans for success. Plant the specific seed you want to grow.
  3. Present it to God. Get yourself what you need to grow the seed. Bring it before God. Pray. Ask for His help. Read what His word has to say about your issue.
  4. Partner Up. Ask Him for accountability partners (or a fun unintentional partner like my dad!). God uses others following Christ to help us get where we want to go. The “following Christ” part isn’t really optional. You need people who are lined up with God’s word to speak truth to you straight from the Bible. They pray with us and for us. They keep us challenged. They make sure we are staying focused. They nudge (or jerk) us back onto our path as needed. They are on board with keeping the seed growing with you.

Whatever you do, be realistic. Many make a list of resolutions as likely to happen as trying to get the Democratic and Republican parties to agree on their political agendas. Instead of making a list even the mightiest of willpower giants couldn’t accomplish, think a bit smaller. Few people can handle massive amounts of change. (Woohoo for those who can!) But if you find yourself reigning in my “#EPICfail” kingdom with your very own crown—why don’t you try a different approach?

Narrow down your list to a few things that simply must change. To reference Kristen Marie’s mantra “Choose Life.” Select YOUR one thing you want to change. Then, decide THIS thing will become a thing of your past (or these 3 THINGS for our overachievers who just can’t live within a limit (but please don’t overdo it if you want to have success).

Maybe this is the year that you want to “Choose Life” by becoming a giver. Write it down. Be specific as to what that would look like for you. Pray about it. Pray for a gardener, an accountability partner, to help you keep the seed growing. I told people I gave up soda. I made sure people around me knew my plan so they could watch me. I even brought my dad in on it, because I enjoyed the proud smirky smile on his face that he had been part of my little journey. Partners to keep you growing strong are absolutely a big factor in your success.

Then, start immediately. Set out to answer all situations you enter as the giver you want to become. Maybe you defined that as when you see a charity making a difference, you will pick an amount of money or time and just give it. Write it down. When the next one comes along—do it again. Write it down. Maybe challenge yourself with the number of times you want to accomplish your giving goal for the year. Then, take the opportunities in front of you (or seek some out!). When you look back at your list at the end of the year, you will find a sense of accomplishment along with the joy you received each time you succeeded. Somewhere along the way, your seed becomes your heart. It brings forth a beautiful change transforming you more into who God made you to be. It just becomes who you are. Then, you have a journal to remind you of the journey.

I know Dr. Pepper isn’t a big problem. Maybe for you it’s something a little more life impacting. Maybe you have a sin that has been kicking you and possibly your family, that you need to kick back. Maybe you have lost your patience with your family and need to find some grace again. Maybe your relationship with your spouse has been strained and it might be your fault. Maybe it’s a substance abuse situation. Maybe you have found yourself wrapped up in a porn addiction. The list could go on and on. Whatever it is—the solution isn’t THAT much different for a serious problem. You have to “Choose Life.”

Do you want to make a change?
Do you want to choose life? 

Some bigger problems have very specific accountability groups that can offer the exact kind of support you need—groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. You can march yourself into an AA meeting and find a system proven to work. If it’s something like porn addiction, download a software system like covenanteyes.com and then find some accountability partners. Whatever you do “Choose Life” and get God involved in your decision.

These bigger items are better tackled with a team, but rest assured, you CAN beat them. You do need a team in your corner. God’s got the foundation. Build on it with Godly men and women who can help hold you accountable. Get real with them. (Check out Accountability Partners in this issue!). Trust me, you are not alone. You are NOT the only one facing that kind of problem. You just aren’t.

What you can’t do this year is try it the same ways you’ve tried before and fail.

Once you know how to be successful, the question really comes down to do you want to make a change? do you want to choose life? If you do, pick it, plant it, present it to God and get on down that road with some partners in your corner. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow to get it right. We are guaranteed that God will never leave us and never forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. He’s right there to take this journey with you—to kick the soda or to kick the habit before you kick the proverbial can. Just kidding. (Kinda). Seriously, not kidding at all. Some of these problems are very big deals and if you have one afflicting you, it’s absolutely time to make a change.

#GoDoBe

Written by R.A. Goodnight

MAN—LIFE IS OVER­WHELM­ING! Really. With the pace of life these days, is it any wonder that we find it more and more difficult to keep up with our careers, our family, and oh yeah, our relationship with God? As we feel more and more like a failure, our decisions can become easier and easier to make in the wrong direction. Thoughts like “I didn’t make dinner last week and it was ok. I’m sure it’s fine if I work through it this week.” or “I’m travelling to support my family. What’s this break to watch this show? I’m married. I’ve seen it all anyway.”

We’ve all heard about the slippery slopes. We know we’re supposed to keep our guard up. We also know we’re charged with being the leaders of our family. We know. We know. We know. It gets a little old hearing it quite frankly. When it comes to a thought like “Choose Life,” that abundantly fruitful life that Jesus offers, as appealing as it sounds, it’s actually pretty easy to choose differently. Truth is, Satan knows it.

Satan is a slithering monster waiting in the darkness to spring just the right trap on us to take us down. He watches our weaknesses. He knows where he’s hooked us before. It’s no different than going to your favorite hunting spot, where you’ve sprinkled out the zestiest corn for the longest time. Your prey comes in cautious. Then, they get used to coming into the haven of their favorite food. Their walls go down. They move slowly and comfortably into the space. Then, when they least expect it? You show up and take them down. Hard. Game over.

If you think saying yes to the little things won’t lower your guard, you’re just wrong. I’ve been wrong. I have heard story after story of men who absolutely love their wives ending up in an affair at work. They never intended it to go that way. They grew comfortable. The friendship blossomed. If you think Satan wasn’t working right in the middle of that mess—you are just kidding yourself.

If Satan can take down the leader—He’s got open game day on the rest of the family. The wife becomes emotionally off her game. The children wonder what was real in their family. Everyone is left hanging in the balance. Satan had a playbook. He knew. He wasn’t surprised at all. You played right into His hands.

Maybe you’re in the middle of one of His nasty traps. Get out. Maybe you are standing on the edge just about to tiptoe lightly into the ring. Run. FAST. Do not look back.

God can restore us. He can rescue our wives. He can teach your children great lessons through your mistakes as you show them how to walk back to God. Don’t let past or current failures be an excuse. They are an opportunity for everyone to grow. Lead them through that growth with God.

Choosing Christ and leading our family requires discipline. There is actually quite a hefty load placed upon our plate by our Heavenly Father. It’s one He’s willing to carry with us and for us if we let Him. He says His load is easy and His burden is light. However, when we aren’t really making “Choose Life” choices to choose Him, we are blocking the power God has for us. That power enables us to have that abundant life He has created for us. As the spiritual leaders of our households, we are also blocking that power from our family. We have quite a burden of responsibility. When we stray from God’s path, we take a lot of victims with us.

One area plaguing Christian men like the black plague is pornography. It’s attacking men everywhere honestly and it’s winning. It’s just so easy to access. Our tv’s brought It into our home. Our VCR’s/DVD’s and then computers brought it further and further into our daily lives. Then our pone gave us a private access point with the internet. It has become as easy as typo to land on a site full of pictures we can’t get out of our minds. It can start that easily if we entertain the temptation.

The thing about porn? It has so many victims. Porn is really a gateway drug. Once people are fully addicted, they might never have imagined themselves facing child pornography charges. However, it happens. It just went across the screen during the impeachment proceedings. There was a man, George Nader, accused of transporting a 14-year old Russian boy for sex along with his own child pornography. These are men who have respected roles and positions in our society. This isn’t just in the dive bar scene.

One topic we are going to address next in 2020 will be sex trafficking. It’s big and it’s everywhere. This threat is real. We see people like Jeffrey Epstein in the headlines. We hear of the complete travesty that was his life and his choices. We hear all sorts of very high-level, affluent male names being associated to this man and his island of debauchery. These are men of power and influence. Leaders in our nation and in other nations. Financial men we expect more of. Granted, there’s not a court case on the news, since the head of this ring was found dead in his jail cell, but there’s still a question plaguing everyone as to who was involved.

Those stories feel a bit far off. However, the stories in Oklahoma are right here. They are very real. Recently the number of cases being closed in the Tulsa area alone has our eyes wide open. There are customers driving the industry. People wouldn’t be selling children for sex slaves unless we had buyers—bug buyers. You can bet that pornography had a part in creating that sickening addiction. It’s not just for fun. It carries potential consequences of life and death for all involved—but especially the innocent victims. Don’t be fooled. If you partake, you are supporting the evil. It’s gotta stop. Let it stop with you. Get help. You don’t have to fight it alone. In fact, maybe you can’t.

In the 90’s, I heard Stephen Curtis Chapman share an accountability partner story. He was travelling quite a bit on tour. Back then, one of the most tempting places to pursue pornography secretly was in hotel rooms while away on business. It was such a known threat to men that Stephen had set up an accountability partner he could call if he felt tempted. One night . . . he made that call. He felt himself tempted. He picked up the phone and called his person. He told the person about his temptation. He and the person agreed that when Stephen returned home, he would ask Stephen if he had watched anything inappropriate. It worked. Crisis averted. Temptation didn’t win out. Can you imagine the road where it did win?

We don’t think of the big guys leading people in worship or leading churches as having the same kinds of temptations the rest of us have, but they do. We all do. Temptation is not saved for the weak. In fact, I would argue that it attacks the strong even more strongly sometimes. We are all in its path. Satan has his eye on each of us. He just needs us to crack the door to get his foot in it. Once in? He makes Himself at home.

Men. We are the leaders. We’re it. We have got to change our thinking and our priorities. We’ve got to do better. God won’t give us more than we can bear, but it is more than we can bear alone. He wants to be in the trenches with us. He is right there waiting on you to invite him in. Do it.

Start now for 2020 and “Choose Life.” Ask yourself every time a temptation pops up trying to steer you away from Christ, as the head of your household, is this a “Choose Life” choice? If that answer is no, and let’s be honest, you know when it’s no—then choose differently. Run away. Run towards that abundant life in Christ. You will be taking your family along for the ride with you. It will likely be the greatest choice you have ever made.

#GoDoBe #ChooseLife


I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. man2man@omegaleague.com 
@omegaleagueman


Heart2Heart January-February 2020

Written by Andrea Stephens

The idea of having a word for the year was first presented to me by my associate pastor’s wife several years ago when I was living in Florida. She was a very intentional and purposeful type of woman, so it made sense that having a special word, and a scripture to go with it, was something she grabbed hold of. But it wasn’t enough that she had a word, she insisted that everyone had a word.

I passed her enthusiasm (and persistence) onto those in my immediate circle. Each of my family members now select a word for the year. I record their word next to their name on my prayer list so that I’m sure to include it when I am lifting them up to the Lord. As the months go by, I’m sure to check-in to see how they are applying and experiencing the use of their word. We talk about whether or not it is making a difference in the way they are living, whether they are remembering to consider their word as they make decisions about the use of their time and how they choose to conduct themselves.

After all, that is the purpose of having a word. It serves as a guide. It serves as a motivator. It serves as a goal. It serves as a reminder of one thing a person wants to change or become or do as they live their life throughout the year. This is why much thought and prayer are put into the selection of a word. In fact, it can become a partnership—something you and the Lord are working on together.

Last year my sister’s word was outreach. As she analyzed her jam-packed schedule, she realized this was missing from her to-do list. Her job, as regional director for a popular cruise line, kept her traveling, planning presentations, and tracking sales numbers. And usually one of her three kids were in mini-meltdown mode, requiring her attention. And then there was the investment she and her husband made in a beach house that needed updating and some basic TLC before it could be offered as a vacation getaway for families. Of course, none of these things were wrong, she just felt the stirring to focus on being more outward than inward; to support a cause by volunteering her time and abilities.

So that is exactly what she did. She chose the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Mental health was near and dear to her heart since one of her kids struggles with anxiety. They welcomed her energy and her host of new ideas for fundraising. Over the course of the year, she served on the Board, participated in the annual NAMI Walks for awareness, helped deliver Christmas bags to area group homes for NAMI families, and through her community connections was able to raise a significant amount for the organization. In return, she was blessed with new friendships and the satisfaction of knowing she was helping others.

In September she came to Tulsa to celebrate my birthday. Knowing her word was outreach, I made arrangements for us to volunteer at Turning Point Thrift Store located next to Loaves and Fishes. We sorted clothes, tagged and priced items, and welcomed shoppers. We even found of few treasures to take home. I loved spending part of my birthday guided by her word outreach.

With the arrival of 2020, now is the time to select a word for the year. Are you ready to join in?

I have chosen the word kindness. I’m challenging myself to stop and ask: What is the kindness thing to do in this situation? What kindness can I offer a hurting person? How can I become a kinder person? Where can I speak a word, provide a meal, or offer a hug? Who needs me to watch their kids, run an errand or simply sit and listen to their story? What scripture can I focus on that relates to kindness?

To help develop myself in this area, I picked up The Kindness Effect by Jill Donovan. Jill is the mastermind behind the Rustic Cuff craze. This attorney and law professor at the University of Tulsa has become a wildly successful entrepreneur. Jill uses her profits to bless others. As the book subtitle claims, Jill has discovered the power of irrational giving, encouraging her readers to do the same. In other words, spread kindness whenever and wherever possible—and give credit to God.

Now, what about you? What will your word be? What are you missing? What do you want to add? Is there an activity or even an attitude you want to incorporate into your life? Give it some thought and prayer, then commit it to the Lord. Get ready for Him to open opportunities for you to put your word into action. What a great 2020 ahead!

Andrea Stephens

If you would like to know more about Jill and her adventures with kindness, you are invited to the Asbury Women’s Gathering on Friday, February 21 at 7:00 pm. Asbury Church is located at 6767 S. Mingo Road, Tulsa. No charge, refreshments provided. Register online at asburytulsa.org or call 918-492-1771.


Turning Point Thrift Store

Put On Your "God Goggles"

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.

MAN2MAN-“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” Part 1—Liberty

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. man2man@omegaleague.com 
@omegaleagueman


Heart2Heart: Generous YOU!

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!