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.
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”
It was late, around 1 a.m., when I was ripped from my dreams. As consciousness returned to me, I recognized the sound of our home alarm screaming in the night. I looked to my right and, through the glow of the television, I could tell by Teresa’s eyes that she hadn’t triggered the alarm system. As my feet hit the floor, I grabbed an HK pistol from the bed side safe and chambered a round. Teresa grabbed our infant daughter dialing 911 and headed for the closet, while I stepped outside the bedroom and closed the door behind me. Until the police arrived, almost twenty minutes later, I stood between an unidentified threat and the safety of my family. (BTW—That’s 20 minutes IN THE CITY for the police to arrive).
I look forward to the day when firearms have no place in our world; to when we each live securely in our own homes and have no need to know the ways of war. (Isaiah 32:18; Isaiah 2:4 NIV) But today is not that day. In the current environment in which we live, I have been thankful more than once to possess a means with which to defend my family or myself.
Regardless, we cannot deny that such rights do get abused. The country has been terrorized by many tragedies over the last few years, even the last few weeks. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I received a phone call telling me I had been separated from my daughter or wife due to a violent act fueled by another’s disorder or hate. My innermost being cries out for those who have had to live that nightmare. And, in the middle of the tears, the pain and the regret perhaps we find ourselves questioning and searching for solutions. But, hidden amid the chaos and fear, there are cleverly disguised traps in some of the solutions being proposed.
The “Red Flag Laws” that have gained support should raise red flags themselves for any who value their freedoms, regardless of our opinions on firearms. These proposed laws, should they become law, will pave the way for the abuse of many of our liberties, not just our second amendment rights. The basic idea proposed is simple: If an individual believes another person is capable of acts of violence and owns firearms, the concerned individual can petition to a judge. If the judge agrees, law enforcement will be dispatched to the accused’s place of residence to confiscate any firearms. Many believe that this is a reasonable idea.
Why do I suggest that we be concerned?
I believe many individuals reason such laws would never have an effect upon them, as these laws are only for those who intend harm toward themselves or others. But think for a moment on how intent is being established under these laws. If you offended someone, if a social media post was misinterpreted or if your religious persuasions were deemed hateful, an opposing individual could raise a red flag against you, even if you didn’t own a firearm. “So what?” some have responded. “A judge would be able to tell the difference. So, these laws have no way of being abused.” Do we really believe that?
Consider this. For the last two years we have seen the country waste millions of dollars on legal action attempting to prove that our current elected leaders committed treason. How did all of this begin? The opposing party convinced a judge of alleged guilt, based upon lies and motivated by hate. If similar laws can be used against the highest office in the land, why would we believe ourselves to be immune from such tactics?
What effect could such laws have upon our other protected rights? Consider these:
The first amendment protects our right to religious beliefs. It protects our right to think, believe, speak or write ideas as we choose. Red Flag laws pave the way for those beliefs, ideas and words to be weaponized against us. This is already happening at an enhanced rate toward Christian beliefs and these laws will only make that easier.
The second amendment is obvious. A citizen of this country has a protected right to own a firearm, unless they have forfeited such right through proven and convicted criminal activity. Your religious beliefs and expressions of your Christian faith do not constitute criminal activity, even though many would like to change that.
The fourth amendment protects private individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. How reasonable would such laws be if activated only by the word of another?
Similarly, the fifth amendment ensures that our property (in this case a firearm) cannot be confiscated without just compensation. It also protects our right to due process. Due process would demand that any claim be proven prior to confiscation.
The tenth amendment states that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states or the people. The power to confiscate personal firearms has not been granted to the United States via the Constitution. To the contrary, it is restricted from it. The states are given the authority on how they would choose to deal with the reoccurring issue of private firearms ownership.
Let me be clear on this point: This article is not about firearms. Ownership and use of firearms are subjects that each Christian needs to decide upon for themselves. What this article is about is our awareness, our ability to look beyond the clamor and see dangers that threaten other fundamental liberties that we will not compromise on. Freedoms such as religion, speech, press and due process. When did these ever become negotiable? It is about giving authority to men over aspects of our lives, where they do not have any authority (constitutionally or spiritually), nor should they.
Even if not a firearm owner, why would we trade our liberty to think, believe and worship without immediate fear of retaliation at the promise of security provided by men—a questionable promise in of itself? It is a high price to pay for something they cannot even guarantee. In the end, we risk losing both. No additional security paid for with our liberties and, once you give them up, they are difficult if not impossible to get back without a fight.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Thankfully, I have heard two of our state representatives express grave concern for the dangers these laws pose. Both Congressmen Kevin Hern and Congressman Markwayne Mullin have expressed similar concerns should such laws be officially proposed. They have both stated they will not support them. Congressmen Mullin shared a nice podcast addressing why he would not support them and you can listen to it on Soundcloud (link below). In his podcast he asks some very thought-provoking questions. For example, “So how can a judge, by asking a few questions make the determination that a male or female is not fit to bear arms without due process? We can’t.”
We thank both of these Congressmen for their continued cautious support to protect our freedoms.
In the meantime, let’s pay attention and listen to what is being said (or not said). We certainly can’t just go by what we see and hear on television. There are many important aspects of our daily life hanging in the balance. These kinds of proposals require extensive research and thought. They are not to be taken lightly, because sometimes the very essence of the law is in what is NOT said rather than what is written.
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
WILMORE, KY—Asbury Seminary Tulsa allows pastors, leaders and laity to pursue a theological education without uprooting their life and ministry. Along with the Master of Divinity degree, the Seminary offers master’s degrees in ministry and leadership.
Asbury offers a hybrid degree option so students can study online while staying on mission. With the hybrid format, students in the Tulsa and Midwest region can experience the convenience of online learning with meaningful in-class sessions just two to three days during the term of the course. This course structure gives students full access to the “Asbury Experience” in a rich, theological community. The Tulsa site is made possible by a partnership with Asbury United Methodist Church.
Asbury Theological Seminary was founded in 1923 by H.C. Morrison with a class of three students and an audacious seal that said, “The Whole Bible for the Whole World.” Its mission is to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world. Almost 100 years later, the Seminary has nearly 11,000 graduates serving in every time zone around the world through social justice initiatives, government, art, mission organizations, education and the church.
To schedule a site visit, check out asbury.to/visit. For more information about the Asbury Seminary-Tulsa site, email Tulsa site coordinator Allison Gardner at email@example.com or call 918.392.4590.
Student Who Recently Selected Asbury:
Asbury’s M.A in Leadership Studies balances between both continuing my studies from a spiritual and secular point of view. The M.A. in Leadership path I chose will give me skills I can put to direct use in my secular career, as I lead people across cultures, countries and beliefs. I looked at many other colleges– secular colleges as well as Christian colleges. Most of them only focus on one direction or the other. Either you will get a good secular education or a good Christian education. I was looking for a program that gave me both. Asbury definitely filled that need.
I wanted to study Bible truths to make my personal ministry and my responsibilities inside the church more effective. There are more and more differences inside mainstream Christian organizations. I believe generational gaps, cultural differences, as well as a decline in formal discipleship programs are to blame. A divided church was not the model Christ left us. There was only one church, the Church. Even spiritually, when dealing with a group of diversified individuals, leadership skills help navigate across differences. Asbury’s M.A. in Leadership program equips graduates with skills to lead and effect change across and increasing complex culture.
In addition, I wanted a college with a wholesome environment, where I would study with like-minded individuals. I liked the hybrid models we discussed. I needed a program that gave me the ability to do studies online on my own schedule. The blend between classroom time and independent study time is perfect. I think this is a good balance for the working adult who is also trying to pursue a degree.
I think Asbury’s program fits perfectly with all aspects of my life—professionally and spiritually.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
In the July issue, I shared a story about nearsighted children. Dr. Chenoweth had my full attention, explaining how he could stop most nearsightedness for children in its tracks with CRT, potentially preventing eye diseases later in life that could lead to blindness. I was so amazed, I started asking parents who had children with glasses, “Are they nearsighted?” I’m not kidding. I did it across Epcot, Hollywood, and the Magic Kingdom. I wanted everyone to hear the good news. Then God kicked me in the shins. HARD.
Why in the world do I not have that same gusto (if not greater of course) for sharing Christ with people? When you have such incredible news—you just can’t HELP it. Right? You want to share it. I am not sure I ever have had that same gusto for telling folks about Christ. Why? I mean preventing potential blindness is big news. Don’t get me wrong. You should check out the July issue. But really? Knowing Jesus makes an eternal difference. Every single day people lose their life without knowing Jesus. Every single day, they are destined to be separated from God for eternity. How in the world is THAT life altering news not coming out of my lips with everyone I met? I have the information that could save their soul for crying out loud.
I used to stop at booths in the mall with the Campus Crusade Four Spiritual Laws booklet in tote. I USED to know sharing Jesus was THE most important thing I could ever share with anyone. If you’re reading this magazine, you likely already know Christ. (If you don’t—we need to talk!) So, you would agree what God did for us sending His son—it was a bit monumental. Life changing. It restores man to a relationship with our heavenly Father.
Why doesn’t it flow into my conversation with such zesty purpose as it did with the news about protecting a kid’s vision?
What in the whole big world is more important than sharing the life-altering, eternal redemption found in how He removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?
Judging by my life?
I considered myself a spiritually charged evangelist when I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). It’s an organization built around Jesus’ basic ministry: You go share Christ. You bring in the new believers. You teach them. Then, you challenge them to go out and do the same. Discipleship 101.
I wasn’t as good as CRU founder, Dr. Bill Bright, at getting someone into a meaningful conversation about Christ, but I was learning. Watching. Trying to get better. It was an active pursuit while I was in college and while I was on staff. It mattered. Then somewhere along the way, it didn’t. It faded? Maybe having a job and other responsibilities took away my focus? Whatever it was—it faded until it was so close to non-existent, it simply moved from my priorities—from my heart.
Really, you have to wonder. How did a CORE message from Christ get pushed out from our daily duties as His followers? I can tell you for me, it was not a difficult push. I believe in reaching people for Christ. However, it was much, MUCH easier to slip into a complacent mode. In fact, I slipped so much that I can’t tell you when I personally shared Christ with someone in a one-on-one situation aside from mission’s trips. I can’t. It’s not that I’m shy. I’ve sold large multi-million dollar deals to the largest telecom giants out there. I can talk to a wall. It comes straight down from my grandfather to my mother in my DNA. I mean, come on—I’m asking strangers about their kid’s eye condition on the other side of the country. My limits aren’t exactly pressing me in.
You know what I think? I think I slowly shifted my focus onto things of this world. I spent my time like other things mattered more. I just kinda let the “Good News” of life everlasting, salvation from sins, and finding a way to live a more meaningful life under God’s grace and out of shame fall out of the front of my mind. Maybe Satan, the oh so powerful distractor, snuck in through a tiny crack and repurposed my focus? Seems like his game. He is quite the master. Regardless of how it happened—I’m still in control of it. It is still off track, but I’m repenting, confessing and hopping back onto God’s path. I can tell you this: It was NOT going to get back on track unless I purposefully moved it back.
The Great Commission is a direct command in its simplest form. The last Jesus shared before heading to Heaven. I guess it might have been important from his perspective?
Have you been there?
Are you there right now?
Have you let the passion for the things that matter most disappear? Let them get pushed behind everything else?
A Look Back at The Call
One thing Jesus did was to focus His teaching on the things that mattered. He didn’t waste time. He knew He didn’t have much time to train His disciples if they were to be the instruments for spreading the news of His death, burial, and resurrection. He poured into them. He lived out the “Great Commission” by example and then challenged them to repeat the process.
It didn’t take years in the church to train His disciples. He spent about 3 years with them. However, they were certainly a part of His ministry as they were being trained through doing life together. They were reaching people with Him. Some of the best training parts in the Bible are Jesus’ ministry days shared by the disciples. (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John). The New Testament shares the teachings as the disciples themselves learned more and guided new believers to keep them in line with Jesus’s teachings.
How long have you known Christ? Been in the church? Been receiving from head pastors teaching into your life? It’s quite likely you are more than well trained.
I suspect most reading are not super new believers. I bet many, like myself, have known Christ for decades, but somehow missed that following His command to go and make disciples wasn’t really optional. It’s certainly not a call for just the pastors of the church. In fact, I could (I will) write an entire article on the role of pastors in the Church. We put a large burden upon their shoulders they were never meant to carry alone.
Jesus called the 12 disciples because He needed to train up a group, who could share the good news. He trained the 12, who got to experience His teaching. Those 12, who after Judas betrayed Him became 11, did exactly what Jesus called them to do. Spiritual multiplication. In fact, through their obedience and of course God’s Holy Spirit, therein lies the path for how you and I came to know Christ. They are our spiritual forefathers.
So if I’m not doing it and you’re not doing it, then who in the world is reaching, teaching and training the next generation for Christ? Just the pastors? I need to break it to you. That kind of teaching does not fall on just the pastors of the Church to pursue. Goodness. They’ve been pouring into most of us for decades. They are probably worn out waiting for us to rise up and take on our role alongside of them.
It’s something we can do with Bible studies—Discipleship 101. We teach the basics of the faith (saved by grace, not works, nothing we can do to earn it) kind of stuff. Then, we take the new believers into the world and show them how to teach those studies. We show them how to share Christ. The greatest lessons are by example as much as by teaching from the Bible. In fact, I would put forth that the Millennial generation is constantly searching for people who do what they say. They want examples to follow.
We all aren’t called to use the Four Spiritual Laws kind of method. However, we should understand the Gospel enough and employ SOME sort of method. We should re-engage (or engage for the first time) with our God-given purpose shared by Jesus—to go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them, and setting them up to go and do the same. We should live a life that makes them want what they see we have—like peace that passes all understanding, love that gives when it’s not easy, and grace for when we miss the mark by a landslide.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19–20 (NLT)
If you are wondering: The time is NOW.
At the moment, Americans aren’t at risk of losing our lives for sharing Christ. We still live in a free country (for now). Others are not so lucky. I felt the fear while on a missions trip in China. I saw the guns in the hotel lobby. I knew to be careful what I shared. Here in America though, we are free to have those conversations without much fear of harmful persecution. There, they can be put in prison for having a Bible study in their home.
So, I challenge you, as I’m challenging myself, with Jesus’ command to go. Let’s get back to our CORE purpose. Let’s see what that kind of focus can do in our lives and in other’s lives. It’s a message that can change the world one lost soul at a time.
Not Equipped? Need a Refresher?
Don’t let it stop you! You are not alone. Come with us. If you aren’t in a situation to get the basics of our faith from your church for discipleship purposes—reach out to us. We will help plug you into a church. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Don’t Know Christ? Let’s get that introduction started. Just send me an email and we can help you understand that we are all lost—every one of us, until we choose a relationship with God. That relationship is made possible by the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. He died in our place for our mistakes. He takes away our shame and our guilt. He raises us to new life with God when we claim that gift in a prayer to Him. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can just read these few sentences to Him. He just needs our hearts.
“God—I know I’ve messed up. I can’t get to you without Jesus so you came to me. You sent him for me. He paid for my sins. I accept that payment. I can be born again as a new creation with you. In Jesus name I pray—Amen!”
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Guarding the City Gates: City Elders Call to Action Christian leaders. Standing on the Bible. Standing at the city gates. Uniting across all 77 counties in Oklahoma. Uniting counties across the country. Re-establishing the role of the Church in civil government. Protecting us from anti-Christian agendas plaguing our country. They are coming. City Elders is to be a national network of Christian leaders governing the city gates establishing the Kingdom of God.
Do I have your attention yet? It’s not just time to get ready. It’s time to answer the call.
In just one gathering of the City Elders, I was ready to go. Everything I heard was everything I longed to hear from anyone in the Church right now. Anyone. From guest speaker Congressman Kevin Hern to his counterpart Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, they spoke Biblical truths, prayed with authority, and challenged the audience to stand on God’s word and to stop being silent.
I was overwhelmed with excitement. The City Elders President, Jesse “Leon” Rodgers, had not even started to speak. I’ve been watching our freedoms erode in our silence; Christians are pressed into corners finding no ground to stand on. Most don’t even want to stand. The persecution has been heating up in America. It’s been slow enough to desensitize us as the heat was rising; fast enough that we started to boil over in the pot with our freedoms going down in flames.
When did we allow liberal agendas to enter our school shaping the minds of our children? When did believing in God’s word make you subject to discrimination from operating your business in a city or airport? When did Christian religious beliefs become grounds for blocking your businesses like Chick Fil A? When?
God gifted citizens of this country with inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are rights deemed given by God to human beings. However, we are consenting to give them away. We just sit in our rocking chairs in silence. We lost a biblically based education system originally created at the hands of our forefathers. We let our guard down. We watched it slip away with barely a mention from most pulpits. It feels like the guards, who were to be at the city gates, were on a break for the last few decades. We let the walls around the cities God gave us fall down.
Before Jesse took the podium, he aired a video recounting some of the exact battles lost along the way in this war for our freedom in America. In it, Jesse shared those fires lighting us up towards this boiling point when prayer and the word of God were removed from our schools. He flashed blazes of heat from when the courts stripped away the sanctity of life with Roe V. Wade. Flames whipped around us as the sanctity of marriage was abolished in our courts. He spoke of states targeting the purity and innocence of our children to be trained in the LGBT community. One by one, he highlighted the combustions leading us toward destruction.
Then, the video shared how government funded public education is now the sanctuary for secular humanism and evolution—maybe the best secret weapon being used. Honestly, it was a bit like watching him paint an explosive, verbal erosion of morality in America. It was a battle plan connected in its core to remove God from our country. Completely.
In it, Jesse also shared the staggering statistic that over 80% of the children of evangelicals walk away from Christ in their first year of college. We shared this concern in our April issue, interviewing Dr. Everett Piper, former President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, (available online at communityspiritmagazine.com or on Issuu).
The premise was really this: If we want this country to remain free, then we must stand up and unify with a Kingdom purpose.
Why would Christians “Guard the Gates?”
Maybe you are asking why this freedom should really matter to the Church. Why should you think about getting off of your sofa, tossing your weekly commercial free Netflix binge? Well, that same freedom allows us to share Christ and follow the Great Commission. It allows us to worship. To pray. To gather together in His name in His churches. In other countries, we know people are imprisoned or killed for telling someone about Jesus. They face the same kinds of punishments for gathering to worship or to pray. Freedom should matter to the Church maybe more than any other people group out there, if we have any interest in worshiping our God and bringing people into His Kingdom.
Jesse took to the podium and shared, “The premise behind the City Elders is based on the Biblical pattern of the fortified cities of Israel, who guarded and governed the cities at the city gates. These leaders were the first line of defense against attacks or intrusions of any kind. Their responsibility was the protection of the inhabitants of the city, including their families.” Jesse continued, “It’s a Biblical role that we, as the Church, have let go of. We really have forgotten to keep up with our defenses.” I listened as deeply as I’ve listened to anything in a long time. I knew he was right. I saw the walls down myself. I saw them crumbling before me even in the last decade. There was nothing I could do, but hang my head with others in the room, recognizing my own part in letting those walls be torn away.
Jesse went on, “City Elders are proven Christian leaders from sectors of the Church, business community, and civil government, who when they convene constitute the spiritual governing council of the cities or a community. They are local leaders whose lives are guided by Biblical principles, Judeo Christian values, and who are committed to the exaltation of Christ Jesus and the practice of His Lordship in every sphere of life. Their mission is to govern the gates spiritually, politically, and economically so that life is protected, liberty is defended, Christ is exalted and families can flourish.”
If God doesn’t speak to you in that message, I just didn’t use the right font or something. I couldn’t hold back my spirit wanting to applaud for the God who was calling us to rise up together and defend our cities. Our freedom. Our right to worship Him. To follow Him. It was incredibly overwhelming as I contemplated my part in the destruction (from my silence) and my potential to possibly be used by God to right the wrong. With my four-year old daughter’s future at stake—my heart was burdened with the need to tell our readers about the hope God was providing. The calling God was instigating in spirits across the city in the hearts He dwells in. My hope? That you too would hear God’s call to support this group in whatever way God specifically might call you.
Unity with Kingdom Purpose
As a “Watchman on the Wall,” Jesse has had plenty of exposure in the political realm, making a mark for both religious freedom and the sanctity of marriage, family and life. During the election in 2016, Jesse told then candidate Trump, “While you’re focused on building the wall, the economy, the military and decentralizing education, there is a corollary to what you are going to be doing politically that the Church must be doing. The Church must get our spiritual walls back up. 9/11 showed us that the walls around America are down. So, we have to start righting the foundation and building again.” The City Elders are taking up that call to rebuild it. They are going into our counties to recruit those called by God to be a part, whether as leaders or supporters.
Jesse shared he believes, “Education is key, as well as pure discipleship. There’s got to be a brand new system of discipleship implemented. The Sunday School systems have broken down. Now, we put our children in children’s Church and there’s not the substance oriented foundational teaching that’s going on. It’s piecemealed instead of systematic didactic teaching.” Jesse went on, “What’s happened is America has become biblically illiterate. The stats show it. We’re having to start at the foundation. Foundationally, we are talking about government, divine order. I believe that we are going to participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing in reestablishing the government of God in the earth, bringing the Church together and bringing civil government into one Kingdom context.”
Jesse stressed, “This effort is not about being just multi-denominational. It has a Kingdom context in the Church’s role in relation to civil government and how the Kingdom of God operates.” Jesse added, “Unity movements have failed in the past because they were unity for the sake of unity, just for the sake of the Church. The purpose for the unification of the Church is a Kingdom impact. So, the Church must have a Kingdom context for it to have its significance, purpose, motive, goal, and Modus Operandi in check.” Jesse continued, “The Kingdom context is civil government, the Church and the family. There’s more to it but these are the fundamental institutions that are divinely ordained and have their origin in God himself.”
God’s Leaders on their Knees
Jesse recently attended the national pastor’s conference in Washington D.C. with other members of the City Elders, as well as hundreds of pastors from across the country. They all reported gaining an understanding of today’s political and policy issues we are facing. Jesse said, “The best part of the conference was that the prayer was just so powerful. God’s leaders gathered together and praying in Washington D.C. to redirect our nation back to God.”
While in this particular City Elders meeting that day, Congressman Hern burst into the room. He had been across the street interviewing on the radio about the devastating floods. God prompted him to head to the Doubletree, where he knew the City Elders were gathered, and request prayer for our city and for these people whose lives were upside down. Those kinds of leaders, requesting those kinds of prayers, agreeing with us that God is in control both in Heaven and on Earth—we need more of those.
While in D.C., Jesse ran into Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education. Jesse shared, “She is possibly the most important figure in the Trump administration for the purpose of the restoration of education. Education is the number one issue. Abortion is critical. All of the agenda and points of battle are important, but education is the foundational issue, because the secularization of America is the result of a secular humanist education system. So, to have a Godly, praying woman in that post, working with President Trump is key.” Jesse then added, “We will be inviting her to Oklahoma. We will have a symposium on the reformation of education before the year is over.” Again, those kinds of leaders, praying, seeking God for His direction to lead our nation back to Him. Those are what we need.
Jesse also mentioned with excitement, “Congressman Hern and Congressman Mullen are going to help us invite President Trump to Oklahoma. We are going to invite 3,141 county seats from across the nation to converge on Tulsa to cast the vision of City Elders being established in all counties across the nation. At some point that meeting will take place—either this year or next.”
In closing, Jesse said, “The City Elders are here to rise up in Christ, guard the city gates, and protect our freedom and families. We are rising up to say ‘You will not bring these things against Christ into my city. Not on my watch.”
Jesse “Leon” Rodgers and his lovely wife, Tammy, have served as pastors, evangelists, resident missionaries in South East Asia and as Bible College instructors. He is a graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary where he received his post-graduate degree. Jesse is the chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council, Washington, D.C. and the Founder of “City Elders” a Reformation Model of City Governance. His unique role with the Family Research Council has positioned him to influence government officials from the local municipalities to the White House. He is a sought-after conference speaker, with a heart to teach others to reign in this life, by the power and authority of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve gave up their freedom. They had it all. Everything. With one choice, God took it all away from them. Generations to come sought to gain it back only to have those who had it no longer appreciate it. In many cases, they worshipped false Gods and turned their back on the God who had provided the freedom. In Exodus, in the story of Moses, the Israelites had God’s power leading the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. They trembled in fear when they saw the Egyptians coming. These are the same people being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Then, God splits the Red Sea, gets them to the other side, and closes the sea back upon the Egyptians pursuing them. You would think they would be thanking God for their freedom over and over. For a short time they did. But, when they were crossing the desert and found no food, they were once again pining to be slaves in Egypt. God gave them manna, flatbread, they found each morning to feed and nourish them. Did that calm them into worship? Yeah, ok. I think it lasted like 5 minutes.
Just a short time after all of these things, when Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, where were they? Worshiping false Gods made of gold that they crafted while he was up there getting direction from God. We are taught these stories from the pulpit.
We shake our heads in disbelief that they could so quickly forget God and what He did for them. But, here we are. We’ve prepared our children so little that Satan trips up 80% of them in their freshman year? Abortion is so horrible, we’d just like to not talk about it? How long will our weakened platform of freedom remain in tact? How long will God allow us to be like the Egyptians worshiping our false God’s of our relaxed and slightly selfish lives, while we ignore the state of our union? It’s really difficult to say. That said, looking at Biblical references, I fear we might not be too far from the end of His rope.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
My four-year old daughter was in awe of Captain Marvel. The show was much too old for her, but I had wanted to take my 17-year old niece to inspire her. When I described the show over the Bluetooth in the car—my kiddo insisted it was a movie for her. I decided to comply and took them both.
I’m not a superhero junkie, but Captain Marvel exemplifies an oppressed person with amazing power. Because she was convinced by the world she lived in that she was less than she was, her strength was buried by lies. She was imprisoned by rules crafted to control her, as well as emotional manipulation used to dominate her. When she finally realized the truth and shed the deception, she set free the strength and power suppressed inside of her. When she did, the whole theater about flew out of our seats with excitement.
Does her power being minimized by her world remind you of anything today? Are you seeing Christians being pressed back into a corner? Told our beliefs in the Bible aren’t correct? Told we need to modify the Bible to fit the culture today? Sound familiar at all?
This morning at the City Elders meeting, I heard a description of who we are meant to be as the Body of Christ, the capital “C” Church. It painted quite a picture. Being in the midst of some of the most devastating floods our state has known—we can see firsthand the power of the force of water. I can see it in the movement of the risen rivers. Their immense forces were set free a bit, but still controlled by the flood gates and levies. We were reminded that when the river starts to show its real power, we are forced to step back and get out of the way.
However, imagine the waters from all of the rivers and lakes rising so that you could no longer identify the origination point of the water. Imagine those smaller entities flowing together as a massive, powerful force, sweeping across the land. The power of those waters would be definitive as a body but really unidentifiable as a specific source. They would just be the massive floodwaters—full of strength, unleashing their power.
The question at the meeting? What if the Body of Christ approached God’s work for the Kingdom with such united strength and power that it could only be credited to that capital “C” Church? (as opposed to church x or y or denomination a or b).
It’s a concept that seems a bit foreign to us, as the size of communities has grown to give thousands of smaller church groups their own form of a “kingdom” inside of the Kingdom. However, looking at the Bible, we read the smaller church groups addressed from the same leadership of the Church. They were all very much a part of the Capital “C” Church but were grouped together to spread the word and to disciple as smaller groups. Since there were fewer of these smaller groups in the disciples’ time, it was much easier for them to know in their core that they were part of the larger unified Body of Christ. The Bible clearly points to the disciples and Paul as those charged with leading that capital “C” Church. Paul went from church to church with guidance and direction, which was put into the Bible to give that same guidance to each of our churches today.
The Bible is full of books written specifically to the churches by the governing authorities put in place by God. My favorite, Romans, was written to the churches in Rome by Paul. Peter writes his book First Peter, as a letter to the Jewish Christians who are spread around the Roman Empire. First and Second Corinthians; Paul writes to the churches he planted in Corinth. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians are all written directly to churches or groups of churches in a geographic area. It was quite clear these churches were very much a part of the Body of Christ. They were teaching and training while being a part of the bigger picture. They were growing the Kingdom of Christ and not just their specific churches. These letters were also assembled into the Bible, God’s word. That alone gives that stronger unification as their role was in the capital “C” Church.
As instructed, that Church spread throughout the world doing exactly what God instructed them to do.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
Lip Service to the Capital “C” Church
With those smaller entities growing (some quite massively) in size and being separated by greater distances, the sense of simply being a local governing entity of a group of Christ’s followers became lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong. We like to say it. We speak of being a part of the bigger capital “C” Church, but we honestly move about in our own affairs with very little time to pull our thoughts out to the original Kingdom entity created in the New Testament. The result? The separation of church and church and The Church.
Sure, there are different worship styles, prayer styles, preferred worship times, places, and spaces but at the end of the day, all of the Christian churches are the Body of Christ. We are united, as one, on God’s word. We are inseparable by the adoption as the Children of God through the sacrifice God made of His Son Jesus Christ for the WHOLE world.
We are all sinners saved by grace. People who have messed up in one way or another and were separated from God by those mistakes. People who have accepted that Jesus Christ died and rose again, paying the price for our mistakes. By accepting his gift, we all became united as Children of God, the Body of Christ. We have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, full of power, full of might, to advance for the Kingdom of God. Together, we are HIS capital “C” Church.
No Division in the End
It’s certainly not going to be a divided house in heaven. God’s Kingdom will most definitely unite, but what if God is waiting on us to come together now? What if we went back to the roots of THE Church to find the position of “our” church in that Kingdom? Wow. We would transform into THE CHURCH, the Bride of Christ. We would operate in such a way that we know the Gates of Hell (the powers) could not prevail against us—just as Christ said they would not. We would be a mighty force sweeping across this land, coming into the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us. There would be no levy, no flood gate, and no dam that could stop us. Not one. Can you even imagine it?
Back to the Avengers
I’ll circle back to the Captain Marvel story to bring it all together. She finally found who she was and came into her incredible power bursting out of the control of those who tried to put her in a box.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT)
More than we might ask or think? There is so much power promised to the children of God in just those 6 verses than we can even imagine? Hmmm. As we cower back, we slip into a comfortable place giving away our freedom, surrendering our God-given powers. We have yet to break free and rise up as a force to be reckoned with, who will not be shoved into a corner. With all of the thousands of churches around the world, it’s time to go back to the Bible and remember who we are. We are the children of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. With that identity comes great power–”more than we might ask or think.” Can you imagine every church finding God’s power inside of us? What would that even look like? I can imagine quite a bit. So MORE than that?
So, hold on.
Imagine even greater things with me.
After all, God says it’s more than we can even think of. As incredible as Captain Marvel’s day of awakening was–in the last Avengers, I can draw a parallel to the Body of Christ, the Church that might blow you away like it did me. In the end of the movie, each of the hundreds of superheroes realized they were not meant to do this battle alone. They couldn’t win. They discovered a plan set in motion long before they knew there would even be a war of such great proportion.
The bigger, more popular hero guys we know and love were losing the battle. It was nearing the end. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with a force of might—“they” showed up. “They” being the rest of the united heroes in the land. They combined in their fullest forms and power to defeat their ultimate enemy. You could see each one playing a critical part. When they converged—there was that mighty feeling that this war was over. The enemy would be defeated. You just knew.
Rest assured, I’ve read Revelation. God will unite us as a mighty force with heaven and earth in the end. What a day that will be. However, what I read in the Bible calls us to remember that unification and who we are today. I don’t think we’re supposed to wait. We are in the battle right now. On some fronts, in our great country, we are losing, but my heart almost explodes with excitement to think of what a force we could become if we united as the Church of God. Can you imagine? United, with His power working in us that is more powerful than we might ask or think? did you read what I just thought of? More powerful than even that???
It would far surpass any unification of the bodies of waters into a massive force. It would eclipse any show of power in the Avengers. I can’t sit still even as I’m typing this as the excitement of just a hint of God’s power rises up inside of me. That power by the way–it is already inside of any of us following Christ. It’s just sitting there, masked by confusion, deception. It’s shackled by chains put on by others or even by ourselves in some ways. Satan has us in some sort of trance with the things of this life, but it is RIGHT THERE. Whatever way you want to think about it–it’s right there. It’s RIGHT THERE WAITING. God is waiting.
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)
“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 1:10 New Living Translation (NLT)
May each church find its strength. May it rise up to take it’s part in the Kingdom, God’s capital “C” Church, the “Body of Christ,” whichever name He gives for that unity that you want to use. Because, when we do come together, when we do put our stake in the ground and draw our line in the sand, we will come into that Kingdom of God as His Children and the Gates of Hell WILL simply NOT PREVAIL against us. They won’t win.
What are we waiting for? #GoDoBe
Written by R.A. Goodnight
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free…” Galations 5:1 (NLT)
At this time of year, Americans celebrate the secular freedoms that were won at a great price, as well as the birth of The United States of America. Since 1776 until now, we give honor to all who gave, as well as for what they have achieved.
It is of no doubt that our secular freedoms are of great importance. But our spiritual freedom should not be overlooked, as it far surpasses the freedoms we have at home. I would summarize the overall theme of The Bible as ‘The King and His Kingdom’. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals to us who The King will be, how The Kingdom will be established and what it will accomplish for us. And in two words, what it will achieve is ultimate freedom–freedom from sin and death, freedom from slavery to supernatural forces from which only one man had the power to save us. And, the same as our secular freedom, our spiritual freedom came with great sacrifice; it came at the cost of another’s blood.
Understanding what it took to redeem us, we should use our lives to show that we value the price that was paid. How can we do this? One way is found in our opening verse. There It states, “Now make sure that you stay free.” What did Paul mean when he wrote those words?
HOW TO STAY FREE
In Romans chapter six, Paul helps us see the relationship between God’s grace through Christ sacrifice, sin and spiritual freedom. In verse 14 he tells us, “Sin is no longer your master…Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14 NLT) How great our God is for providing us a release from the power of sin in our lives. But there is a catch. Even though freedom has been provided for us, it is up to us to avail ourselves of it. Paul goes on to say, “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free…does that mean that we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin…or you can choose to obey God.” (Romans 6:15, 16 NLT) God wants us to be free; He took the first step by providing the path to freedom. But it is up to each of us to become and remain free by choosing to accept Christ and obey God and not our sinful tendencies.
It is interesting that Paul uses the words “make sure” that we stay free in Galatians 5:1. We don’t just trip into freedom. As Paul helps us see in the spiritual sense, freedom is a choice. It requires action from us to ensure our freedom remains intact. When we make active decisions in our life that protect us from temptation, we are “making sure” that we stay in the freedom God has given us. Freedom is not passive; it requires us to be deliberate in our life choices.
THE FREEDOM KILLER
In a world controlled by Satan, there are many sin’s that can compromise our freedom and enslave us as men. Today, one of the biggest freedom killers among men is addiction to pornography. Notice some of the recent statistics regarding pornography use among Christian men:
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/research/porn-in-the-digital-age-new-research-reveals-10-trends/)
• 57% of pastors say they have struggled
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/)
• 64% of youth pastors say
they have struggled
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/)
• 45% of Christians admit pornography is a problem in their home
(Focus On The Family – https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/pornography-and-virtual-infidelity/virtual-infidelity-and-marriage)
• 16% of those Christians say they are trying to quit but have been unable
(Barna Group – https://www.barna.com/research/porn-in-the-digital-age-new-research-reveals-10-trends/)
How can we consider ourselves free if we are unable to break free from something that entangles us? What steps can we take to become free or to remain free?
WAYS TO MAKE SURE
One of the first steps to help gain control of any addiction is to identify your trigger. If you have ever been able to speak with someone battling an addiction, most will tell you of some external trigger that causes them to struggle with their addiction. Some examples of such triggers could be:
• Marital problems
• Even boredom
Once you have identified your trigger(s), you can begin addressing the underlying issues driving you toward your addiction. For example, if boredom is your trigger (common to younger Christian men) then find something wholesome to do with your time. Volunteer in your church, take up a hobby or even fill your down time with prayer or Bible study. Fill the voids and remove the boredom. The same tactic would apply with other triggers. Find a wholesome ‘de-stresser’, talk with someone about the depression or focus on your marriage with your spouse as opposed to fueling the problems with an addiction. The addiction is a symptom; address the underlying reasons behind the symptom.
An accountability partner can be of immense value as well. A fellow Christian man, someone whom you can talk to and be honest with, can be a powerful ally when temptations are high. When feelings of stress or guilt occur, talking to another man in Christ can help you get through those moments when we may feel weak. Technology can also serve as an accountability partner. Software such as Covenant Eyes helps provide support while we take control of the addiction.
Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Philippians 4:6 (NLT) advises us, “In every situation, by prayer and petition…present your requests to God.” Take your struggles to Him and identify them by name in our prayers. Remember, we can accomplish all things through Christ. (Philippians 4:13)
THE IMPORTANCE OF REMAINING FREE
Losing our freedom will eventually lead to spiritual inactivity or even death. Along the way, it will limit our effectiveness at helping anybody else attain freedom in Christ. How can we lead others to freedom if we ourselves are a slave to sin?
Accordingly, for those of us in leadership positions, it is important for ourselves and for those we lead that we remain free. As husbands and fathers, how can we help our children or our families through trials and assaults on their freedom if we are choosing to be a slave to sin?
Stay aware; pay attention to our choices and make sure that you stay free. Honor the sacrifice that was given for us, and do not lose sight of others we can help if we ourselves are free. Never forget, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. email@example.com
Written by Andrea Stephens
The other day I wasn’t feeling so good/well. I had just come through an intensely busy time at work that left me drained of energy. I had a dull annoying headache, and didn’t even want to go out for lunch with a friend—you know I don’t feel good when I don’t want to eat out! Therefore, I declared it a sick day and stayed home. Well, while I was lying in bed feeling sort of sorry for myself, I started thinking about the word joy—probably because I needed some right then.
I thought about some of hard things that happen in life that try to snuff out our joy. We all know about some of those, maybe a broken relationship, being gossiped about, bills that are piling up, an illness, issues at work—the list is never-ending. And then, there is the everyday stuff that tends to wear us down causing joy to leak right out of our heart; you know, things like laundry, making dinner again, picking up after the kids, cleaning the house, car trouble, yard work, and an endless list of errands.
We can easily end up feeling overwhelmed and anything but joyful.
Yet, in the Bible, Jesus talks about us having joy no matter what is happening around us. Though some confuse joy with bubbly emotions that come when things are going their way, which is better defined at happiness. Happiness is generally based on one’s circumstances which are ever changing thus sending emotions on a roller coaster of ups and downs. But joy, especially as a Christ-follower, is different. Real joy doesn’t fluctuate. It is not based on our current situations or feelings, but on something deeper. Something solid.
So how do we have that kind of joy? A joy that is solid, steadfast and unshakable?
First, spending some time every day in the Bible and talking to God gets us started on our journey to joy. That may sound like such a standard answer, but it is just the truth. We are spiritual beings with a spiritual Father. Intentionally connecting with Him through scripture reading and prayer is essential. The quality of time is more important than the quantity.
Second, making sure we have a clear conscience before God is vital. Dealing with guilt or shame over something will definitely steal one’s joy. One of the things I appreciate about the program Celebrate Recovery (A Christ Centered 12 Step Program) is that it teaches people to end their day by asking God to show them where they missed the mark (sinned) that day—so they can ask God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And when necessary, ask someone else’s forgiveness. So, keeping a clear conscience before God, is essential to our having joy.
These first two are areas where Satan will try to trip us up. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy—including our joy (John 10:10). He wants busy and distracted from our time with the Lord. He wants us feeling guilty and less than enough in our own eyes and the eyes of others. Shame is one of the first things Satan used against Adam and Eve and he still uses it today to keep us hiding instead of walking in the fullness God has for us. Let’s not let that be our story. Let’s pay attention to protecting our time in the Word, prayer, and confession.
Next, choosing to focus our thoughts and lives on the truths in the Bible will provide the solid foundation we need to build our steadfast joy upon. They are facts. They are promises of God. They are unchanging and unbreakable based on God’s inability to lie or break a promise. Now that’s good news!
Though there are hundreds of promises we can find in the scriptures, here are just a couple to get us on the road to joy, deep joy which the bible refers to as inexpressible and full of glory 1 Peter 1:8 NLT “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you don not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”
Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have become children of God.
We have been adopted into the family of God and are co-heirs with Christ.
The Holy Spirit has sealed us for eternity—we are heaven bound.
This life, with all of its issues, is temporary but heaven is eternal.
The best is yet to come. God is with us!
We are never, ever alone. Never abandoned, never rejected, never
forsaken, never put on hold while God is busy doing something else. He is actually in the trials of life with us giving us wisdom for our difficulties and strength so that we do not grow weary in our well-doing.
God’s love is unending! Think about it. We have never lived one unloved day in our entire lives.
Wow. Every single day of our lives we have been loved and will continue to be loved no matter what. Now that will make your heart happy!
Jesus’ forgiveness is available for the asking!
Scripture tells us that if we confess our wrongs to Jesus, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Instant gratitude and joy.
Jesus is praying for us! Seriously.
He is currently seated at the right hand of God and
is making intercession for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). We so easily forget this awesome reality. Jesus sees us, He knows the details of our lives, and He is speaking up for us to our Father. He is our advocate, our mediator, our intercessor. He understands us because He was human—He can help us because He is divine.
These are just a few of the truths found in God’s Word. When we take time to close our eyes and meditate on one truth at a time, it will begin to infuse our spirits with a fresh joy—the kind of joy that is sustainable and never to be taken away, even on our hardest or most frustrating days. Joy benefits us in many ways. Most importantly, it gives us inner strength which is something we all need (Nehemiah 8:NLT “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength!) Our joy will benefit others—those whom we are called to minister to as well as those we work with and live with.
Let’s not lose sight of the joy that is ours when we keep the promises of God in the forefront of our hearts and minds. We can do this!
Written by Mary L. Williams
Although Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April, 1865, the Executive Order No.3 was still in effect. As Christian Believers, God gave Jesus an Executive Order to free all humankind as declared by the Savior Himself in Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…”
Even after the Executive Order by General Granger, some of the slaves due to the fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the moment of what is unseen, chose to remain captive to their slaveholders. So, it is with all human beings who reject the freedom God has freely offered through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The historical overview of slavery in America certainly imprisoned more Africans and African Americans who were born in slavery than any other people group. “Chattel Slavery” was birthed in Europe and other people groups as Irish and Irish Americans were indentured and shipped to the Carribean under British rule. Native Americans soon began to sell other Native Americans under this hideous form of human debauchery. However, the African humans and those of African descent was by far the largest indentured people group. It was so far exceeding that a “Caste System” was created for those with darker skin. By this time, Black, Irish, and Native American Slaves were intermating, ( as not all were legally married) producing mixed race children of color. Some Black Africans were already wealthy and free both coming to America and many gained freedom fighting for America in the Revolutionary War in 1776 under George Washington. African Americans who gained their freedom after fighting in the war and many remained in southern states to help abolish slavery.
Like many countries, African sailed the ocean and were resourceful in the trade of gold, ivory and other precious commodities. Some regions of Africa sold their people into slavery and other regions retaliated. The earliest known captivity of slaves from 1619 elicited a retaliatory movement as early as 1625 by Northern Africa. These Africans became known as “Barbary Pirates.” As many as 700 colonists were captured as slaves for Africans. The retaliation movement by Africans was deemed “Barbaric” and by March 1794 the United States Navy was born. Yet, slaves held in the new world was considered a justifiable system of manifest destiny and freedom for the chosen class.
Therefore, we ask the imperative question “What is Freedom?” I believe two definitions are in order. One definition, which I describe as the secular term is:
“Freedom is the power to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; the absence of subjection to a foreign domination or despotic ruler.”
The second definition has been delineated in Luke 4:18 earlier. Jesus said, “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” John 8:36. Free indeed encompasses the spirit, soul and body in this life and the life to come. Free indeed is the act of receiving the nature of Christ Jesus in the mind, will and emotions of the human soul. Thus, The truth of freedom can only be experienced through Jesus Christ.
Partial freedom provides laws and governing agencies which we all need. However, the unregenerate cravings of carnal minds and insatiable flesh will always seek to medicate its deficient desires through the subjection and unlawful domination of other human beings and human systems of government. What one person or people group calls barbaric is to another person or people justifiable. The vain glory of pride and self-exaltation out of a spirit of greed and insufficiency stimulates strong delusion which leads one to steal, kill or destroy at any cost. Yet the insatiable cravings increase instead of diminishing and one becomes a slave to a destructive power within their own existence. This is the most tragic form of slavery and the most illusive aspect of freedom.
We realize in modern society, despite the laws that offer freedom of choice, humans continue to enslave themselves and others out of a lack of knowing and receiving the Executive Order God made through Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.
Jesus Christ offers all human beings freedom from the despotic ruler and overlord called Satan. Like some of the slaves, who did not believe they were truly free, many people choose to remain held captive to drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse, pornographic addictions, hate, racism, sexism, classism and other vices that seek to steal, kill and destroy the value of human life.
One acronym for FREEDOM can be ascribed as:
F– Forgiveness of sin (God) ; Forgiveness of self (You), and Forgiveness of others (relationships; both people and systems that have hurt you)
R– Redeemed to live Righteously by Receiving Jesus Christ as savior
E– Eternal life for His Excellent glory and Empathy for Every human being
E– Experience of life more abundantly in this Earthly Existence
D-Divine Deliverance through a born again nature in Christ
O-Ownership of love and Offering it freely by God’s Omnipotent power and Omnipresence
M-Meekness and Mercy with the scholarship of a renewed mind in the word of God
Executive orders made by man such as: GENERAL ORDERS, No. 3. — The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are tree.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.
And, the Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, governments are instituted among Men…”
Men and women have fought, bled and died for freedom. But the struggle with “isms” continue even with laws in place. Thank God for the laws. We need legal systems in place. However, let it be said, the true freedom is birthed out of the truth within the human heart. Jesus Christ offers that truth, and He has promised, if you know the truth, the truth shall make you free!
Written By Betsy Gwartney Catrett
The reoccurring sections of Reader’s Digest that our family looked forward to reading each month were “Humor in Uniform” and “Laughter the Best Medicine.” My father was a WWII Captain who trained pilots in the European theatre. His base of operation was in London during the time when it was being bombed by the Nazis. He came home on a hospital ship and then, after healing, finished out his military career in the United States in administration at various military bases in California and Florida. He never spoke to me of the horrors of what he experienced. What he did do was subscribe to Reader’s Digest and he also had joke books by his recliner in our home. At any point during a day, you could find him sitting there quietly laughing with tears streaming down his face because he was laughing so hard. The scriptures say, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine!” (Proverbs 15:13) and “The JOY of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Probably few, if any, of you reading this are in the military or have ever been in the military. But whether you know it or not you ARE in a battle. It’s a spiritual battle. John Piper is quoted as saying “Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief.” So how does one belly laugh in the face of war — when life is so hard, the cost of freedom is so high, “friendly fire” is so real, and you and your comrades are full of shrapnel and bleeding out emotionally and spiritually, (if not, also in poor health due to the social, familial, economical battles many face every day)?
I don’t know what you need for your particular family assignment, but for me I choose to focus on the bigger picture of progress (rather than completion) and of heaven (rather than just the present time on earth). I realize these two things: #1 We may not control our circumstances (as the choices others make oftentimes affect us as well), but we do control how we choose to look at them! #2 There is a range of emotions that fit with various things we go through and WE get to choose which one we allow most of our energy! Practically speaking, our focus affects our emotion. So what do we need to focus on?
My friends and I laugh at the absurdity of the evil’s manifestations and the injustices that advance our “case” in the legal courts of heaven. To understand this, let’s back up to a root of the problem. So many of our Christian denominations are framing life about preforming enough of their chosen “Good Christian Check List” that they win the vote of “a true salvation experience” from their co-church attendees. Rather than framing life as “We are human beings reaping the consequences of choices made by Adam and Eve (when they chose to reject their Creator’s design and define “good” and “evil” their own way – resulting in the spiritual death of their relationship with their God). And now all human beings are free to receive the spiritual life made possible in the legal courts of heaven by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death. The next step would be to enter into the classroom of life (boot camp if you will) where one learns how to fight evil with the sword of God’s spirit (God’s Word) and our own spiritual birth testimony (Revelation 12:11) rather than fighting other human beings (Ephesians 6:12). Once we make that paradigm shift we begin to love people and fight evil by turning on the spot light of God’s word. THAT is FUN! Loving people instead of resenting, shunning, badmouthing them is WONDERFUL. Knowing our rights in the legal courts of heaven takes the sting out of the injustices and gives cause for laughter when they happen. Then, as James 1:2 says, we can “Count it all joy…”
Also, look at worst case scenario being heaven as your next stop? If that doesn’t cause your heart to do back flips then you might want to consider reading Randy Alcorn’s book on Heaven. I love my family, my friends, my life here on earth. I can hardly wait for heaven. I’m in a win win situation. So I laugh. Belly laugh. In wartime. In pain. In injustices. In seeming hopelessness. In loss. I do this with my knowledgeable comrades who get it. Join us?
There is a fellowship in suffering that is unparalleled in a life without pain (Philippians 3:10). Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it and be a soldier of courage. Charge your enemy. Like David towards Goliath (I Samuel 17). Like Benaiah who went down into a lion’s den on a snowy day (I Chronicles 11:22). Then laugh in the face of loss. For the big picture of eternity, honor, privilege of serving in the army of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lord. Laughter IS your BEST medicine and there IS Humor in Uniform!
Written By Teresa Goodnight
Ever have someone walk into your life and you just instantly feel connected? Like you have been friends all of your life? When Jamie walked into my house, it felt a bit God ordained. She was so lovely inside and out; I knew exactly why my long time BFF introduced us. We had an instant connection we both felt. Talking to her was so easy. We didn’t stop. Then, she started sharing her story. It was her mission birthed from an experience she had buried deep inside her heart. That is, until someone touched the scar and sent her reeling. All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to say. She continued pouring out her heart. We both realized, this story needed told. We changed the entire focus of the next issue in fact. People aren’t talking about it, but they desperately need to talk. There are people in our churches who are suffering all alone and they need to know God loves them. Someone needs to share that overflowing undeserved mercy and love God offers to all of us who have made mistakes–ALL of us.
Someone needs to break the silence.
Abortion is a tough topic in the world in general. You can’t breathe it without stepping on a landmine. In Oklahoma, one in four women have had an abortion. In the country, that stat jumps to one in three according to local Catholic Charities workers. “In the United States, where one half of all pregnancies are unintended, almost one third of women will seek an abortion by age 45.” according to the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG). The stat doesn’t improve much inside the church. It’s a decision defined as a woman’s right to choose what happens inside her own body. For that reason alone, it’s a political hot button.
Churches steer so far clear of it that in Oklahoma, 25% of the women in our congregations are left facing this alone. Many believed what Planned Parenthood told them when they walked in the doors. Then, when they found out it was different—they were left to suffer alone, without anyone to help them walk through it. There was no one to help talk through the shaming—done both by well-meaning but hard core protesters and the convicting shaming led by Satan himself. They were left without anyone to help them with that shame Satan uses to minimize them. They are without anyone to help them know what God thinks about what’s been done and where to go from there. These women, for the most part, are just alone.
So, we want to start this off and set the record PAINFULLY straight: God absolutely offers the same grace, love, forgiveness, and removal of all sins as far as the east to the west to anyone who has made ANY mistake.
To the liar, the adulterer, the person lacking any trace of integrity, the convicted criminal, fill in your blank here–He offers His love and grace as a free gift. We don’t have to earn it. We do have to turn to him, humble ourselves, and confess our mistakes to him. He absolutely will forgive anyone. The difficult part of finding God’s grace though often comes in a battle of trying to find our own. No matter what God offers, if we feel so much shame—and there’s no one to talk with us about it—we will find ourselves nursing our scar rather than ever being set free from it.
These women were encouraged to save this joyous occasion for a time in their life when they were more ready. Some were told they were just carrying a blob of cells. Some were told by the child’s father this was the only way to face the situation. Others knew exactly what they were doing. Almost all believed they could just go on with their life just as it was after the choice was made. Jamie said, “The biggest deception in this war on women is that you can just go on with life. It’s just not true. You are forever changed. Your lenses for seeing life are altered. The truth is, you will never be the same.”
We run around offering God’s forgiveness He has promised to everyone who has made regrettable choices. However, somehow, as a church (and not all, but most), we’ve decided it’s just too controversial to address from pulpits, where we are supposed to help our congregations. There are large churches in town, where we have heard it is absolutely a policy that abortion is not an allowable topic for discussion.
We know the silence, because Jamie heard it. Over, and over, and over again. She even heard it when she tried to launch a recovery group inside her church and found her request lost in the shuffle in what seemed like purposeful avoidance. She heard what no one wanted to offend her with loudly and clearly. But, when no one addresses your pain, what you hear becomes a deep-seeded pain buried inside your heart for you to bear alone. That is, until someone accidentally punches through.
Jamie is involved in a women’s group started through a local church. The women get together, study God’s word and share things they are facing, needing advice or prayer. They also laugh and fellowship together. One day, at this group, Jamie mentioned something about not singing anymore. The woman, unknowingly said to Jamie, “God will use your singing again. He will.” Jamie looked up at her with rage in her heart and thought “Don’t you ever say that to me again. You don’t even know what you are talking about.” Then, she left her friend’s house. Jamie said, “I think I didn’t speak directly to her for a month. I just didn’t know what to say.” Jamie then explained, “When I had come clean about my abortion my church in Minnesota asked me to step down from the praise and worship team. I had decided that this was the price I would pay for what I had done. I vowed that I would never sing again and that God didn’t need someone like me to lead people into His presence.” Jamie locked away her torment, her pain, and so much more of her heart than she realized until her friend accidentally punched through.
Jamie said, “I was so upset by what she said. I just felt she had no idea what she was saying, and the vow I had already made.” Jamie continued, “Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much it mattered to me.” She went on, “When I lived in Minnesota, I sang on the worship team at my church. The people there became like family to me. I just knew my boyfriend would get saved and our relationship would change. However, I found out I was pregnant causing my two worlds to collide. I didn’t know what to do. I talked with my boyfriend, who was very convincing that we would never be together if we tried to be parents right now. He wanted me to terminate the pregnancy. It was not something I ever thought I would even consider. I just wanted everything to go back to normal and I was desperate to make things work with him. So I compromised everything I believed in for the sake of convenience and what I thought was love.”
Jamie shared, “I walked in to a waiting room full of other people aborting their babies. There were so many people. Really? Is it always this busy? Probably not. I waited and waited and was finally told that the doctor was involved in a car accident on her way to the clinic. My eyes were big as saucers and I distinctly heard God say, “Stand up and walk out. I’ll take care of you.” I shrugged it off, but was visibly shaken by the way this was unfolding. By this time, the waiting room was almost standing room only. I couldn’t believe it. People were laughing and talking like it was no big deal. Was I the only one that was battling a war in my spirit? They finally called my name and I went back alone. The counselor talked to me and told me they had to do an ultrasound to see how far along I really am. So I laid down and she put the cold gel on my belly. She asked me if I wanted to see and I said yes. I saw flashes of light on the screen and what looked to be a pinto bean. The beating of my baby’s heart was right there. Trying to grow, trying to live. The gravity of what I was about to do hit me for a split second and I asked her to turn the screen around. I prayed at that moment that God would just “leave me alone.”
Jamie said, “I was lead to the ‘procedure room’ where I was asked to undress from the waist down and the doctor would be in shortly. Fifteen minutes go by, then thirty, then forty-five. I finally poked my head out of the door and asked if they forgot about me. It was torture just laying there in a cold, sterile room without God’s presence and with the weight of my sin. Why didn’t I just get up and leave?” Jamie went on, “Once the doctor and nurses came in things moved pretty quickly. Bright lights turned on. Clanking of sterile equipment. The nurses were talking amongst themselves about who knows what and I was just laying there with tears streaming down the sides of my head. I finally spoke up and said, “How can you just talk like that when I’m laying here crying?” One of the nurses looked me square in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, we haven’t done anything yet if you want to change your mind you can.” I’ll never know why I didn’t get up and get out of there. It’s a question I’ve asked myself time and time again. I just knew that I wanted to go back to ‘normal.’” Jamie was so solemn, as she shared the events of that day. She said tearfully, “I had no idea that my ‘normal’ would never look the same again. It was gone. There was no such thing as that anymore.”
Jamie said she left the clinic and went to eat with her boyfriend and then worked an 18 hour shift. It was done. However, it would never be done in her heart. Just a few months later, she was working her church booth at a music festival. She saw a booth across the walkway showing graphic video of mid and late term abortions. Jamie said, “I lost it. My mind began reeling, taking me directly back to the clinic, replaying over and over the decision I made. I started to shake and eventually knelt down on the ground to hide my emotion. My pastor’s wife came over and asked if I was ok. I eventually told her what I had done. She was heartbroken for me. She prayed for me, loved me and accepted me where I was. But in reality, no one could have shamed me or judged me more harshly than I had already done to myself. After some discussion, I was asked to step down from the praise and worship team. I understood. In my mind, this would be the price I would pay for what I did. I vowed to never sing again, I wasn’t worthy to lead anyone into His presence.”
The difficult part for Jamie was that she was now all alone. There was no one to talk with about her situation. Who would understand? She said, “I just dealt with it the best I could. I think I covered it up—buried it deep inside, and finally found the strength to move on.” Jamie said she and her boyfriend broke up within a few months of the decision. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him. She didn’t want to think about it anymore. Then, she was back in church. About two months later, she was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Israel where she met her husband. She went with her church in Minnesota and he was with his church from Oklahoma. They talked long distance for a while and he eventually came to visit her.
During their first date, she just blurted out “I’ve had an abortion. Is that gonna be an issue for you?” Not exactly first date material. Jamie said, “I really was just so ashamed and felt so unworthy of anything. I thought I would just go ahead and end it there. Turns out he actually did have to take some time to pray about how he felt about it. It just further seared into my heart the lie “What you did is unforgivable.” He eventually asked me if I would date him exclusively. I told him I wasn’t going to move again for a guy. So, he moved to Minnesota and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“I can’t really share all the emotions I experienced about my decision over the years. I couldn’t go back. It was done. I was never the same again and I had to learn how to be ok with that place. It was a dark, lonely place—so I just decided not to go there. I think I buried it and decided to go on with life. However, the scar and the pain were always heavy on my heart.” lamented Jamie.
After marrying, Jamie found herself pregnant. About 5 weeks into the pregnancy, she miscarried. She was devastated. She said, “I just felt like I was being punished because of what I had done. Would I even be able to have kids? What if God decided He couldn’t trust me with children? I actually understood that. I was just heartbroken.” Fortunately, shortly after, she was pregnant with her third child. She was elated. She was so excited to get to meet her Jacob. Jamie said, “I just couldn’t wait to hold him, to look in his eyes, to be the best mom I could possibly be to my baby, but my previous decision was always there haunting me in the back of my mind. It crept up enough to shame me and condemn me until I suppressed it again.”
When Jacob was born, Jamie’s heart was overwhelmed with instant love for his precious face. Being the best mother she could be to him became a top priority for her daily. Then, just a few years later, she gave birth to her fourth child, Payton. Payton was a bright, beautiful baby girl with a joyous heart. Jamie’s life had never been more right with her better-than-dreamed-of family, except for that nagging voice of condemnation always trying to steal her moments of joy.
That’s where we started, Bible study with the friend who drove into Jamie’s scar like a bulldozer speaking words of encouragement that felt like a knife through her heart. The incident forced Jamie to reexamine her choice, and search God’s heart for what He wanted to with it. How would He turn these ashes into beauty? Jamie said, “All I had was my story, my guilt and shame and a willingness to share it all.” With that, she began sharing her story with close friends, at first, and then acquaintances and eventually people she’d never met.
“The more I shared my story, the more I realized how many people were suffering in silence. I started to become painfully aware that we are in the middle of a crisis. Not only with abortion itself, but the souls caught in the aftermath.
I decided I wanted to do my part. I said ‘YES’ to God’s heart and am willing to do what I can to bring healing, wholeness and restoration to the hearts and destinies of men and women suffering with the torment of a sin that no one is willing to openly talk about.”
Jamie said the more she talks about it, the more healing it brings–the more God shows her how much He loves her and how His grace covers her. So, that’s what she is doing. Creating space for men and women who have been touched by the effects of abortion. Jamie said, “A lot of people can’t explain why they feel stuck or why they feel depressed, unworthy or don’t feel ‘alive’ anymore. I didn’t realize until much later that the lies I chose to believe about myself as a result of the abortion caused me to sabotage my entire life. Once I realized that, I was blown away. I wasn’t going to allow Satan to steal my destiny. In fact, I was determined to fulfill the destiny God has for me AND the baby I aborted. Her life is going to matter.”
Talk About Destiny:
Jamie’s humble heart is in ministry to help men, women and families who have been touched by silence of sins like abortion to find God’s grace and healing. Her message of God’s overwhelming mercy can be restorative to people facing Satan’s army of convictive thoughts like shame and guilt. Let the church be silent no more.
You can reach Jamie at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Get her on your calendar to speak to your group, church or event.
Caring for broken people is a beautiful path towards helping God’s kingdom be restored. When restored, we can all operate from His powerful platform of mercy and grace.
We can be the mighty warriors for Christ He has called us to be and ALL LIVES can come out of the silence and matter again.