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.
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit…Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
The unification of the body of Christ to do good works together…ahhh that sounds nice. At least we think so. Although we’d like to take credit for the concept, it’s actually woven throughout God’s word. At the end of the day, we are to be united in Christ as His Body. Sometimes we get so caught up in being a certain church, denomination or organization that we lose sight of the advantages for God’s Kingdom when we come together as His “Body.” When you have an amazing group of arms, who can flex their power inside their realm effectively, can you imagine what they could do paired together with some legs to move around? A torso for stabilization? What if they found some super fingers, who could be instrumental in finer tasks of detail? Sometimes we just think too small as the “Body” of Christ. Can you imagine if we applied our strengths and abilities in a unified manner?
With decades of diversity training in the workplace under my belt, I can attest that Corporate America spends gigantic budgets teaching the value of diversity in the workplace. When we bring together people with different skills, different vantage points looking at a situation, and varied approaches to being effective, we can create a more powerful solution to the problem. When we bring together all sorts of companies in an industry association, we can share those approaches, finding ways to work together for the common good of the industry.
The application of diversity in effecting positive change under a unified movement can greatly expand the reach of that movement. Just using the famous expression—we all understand resources can be saved from “trying to reinvent the wheel.” So, it’s puzzling why, as a “C”hurch, who is directed by God to be unified in purpose, that we would hold so tightly within our own boundaries. What could we do if we applied God’s direction, which is a proven strengthening tactic in the business realm, to our efforts to reach the community for Christ? There are so many business skills that need applied to strengthen the church. (That’s for discussion another time!)
God already made us aware of His plan for our unity. He also made us very aware of our varied gifts and strengths. And, of course, he gave us the symbolism behind the “Body of Christ” to demonstrate exactly how we can work together for the greater good of the Kingdom. (Check out the interview with Jason Law from “Unite My City” for another great demonstration of this plan!)
We recently found great strength in partnering with pregnancy resource centers, abortion recovery ministries, those with a heart to help little babies, and those in Tulsa who are here to help families in crisis or need. We all partnered up proactively with Focus on the Family and their event “Alive from New York,” displaying a 4-D ultrasound in Times Square–showing our support for life here from Oklahoma. The Alive from Oklahoma “Standing in Love” event held May 4th, is an exact representation of the power God puts in our unification of His body, working for His purpose. None of us could have pulled this event off alone. I can’t wait to see what we do together next! (Did I mention we also did a red carpet event together for the movie Unplanned, which beat all the expected box office records? The movie rips the veil from Planned Parenthood revealing truths that need told!)
We feel God is definitely calling us to continue to work together for His kingdom! It is our prayerful goal to be a vessel to God’s followers, to the “C”hurch, so that we can have a greater impact together. We’re here to help. Let’s do this! #Go.Do.Be
Written By Teresa Goodnight
What’s up with all the “Unite my City” Buzz?
We caught up with Jason Law, who has a passion to see the Body of Christ in cities work together in unity. Jason is the President of World Compassion Terry Law Ministries and the author of Unite My City. Jason shared, “Not only is Unite My City a book but a movement I believe God is reigniting in His Church today. Some people may be trying to figure out what Unite My City really is. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book. Generally speaking, it’s the concept of unification of the Body of Christ. It takes a little bit of explanation and understanding of what this can look like in the context of a city. The main thing we want to communicate is that ‘Unite My City’ is a movement not just a set of events. It’s even beyond the efforts of what we help facilitate through World Compassion. There are other churches or groups that coordinate unity efforts among churches as well. We have met many in the Tulsa area who have a similar heart and vision. To me, this is a sign of a movement, when God puts something on the heart of many that is similar, I think we should pay attention to that.”
Jason went on, “The events we do are more catalytic to help inspire the movement. Unite My City’s message to the church is unity is not something that we do – it is who we are. We are one in Christ. Our heart is to encourage local churches in our city to continually walk in unity by finding ways to collaborate to serve our city in an ongoing way. So, it’s never just an event for us.”
I asked Jason what was next on the horizon. He said, “We’ve got the big ‘Serve My City’ day June 8. The heart of the event is really to see churches work together to meet the needs of our community.” Jason continued, “So it’s nothing new in the sense of churches serving the community. We have done that, but we haven’t been great at doing it together consistently. It’s important that we serve with one another at such a high level that our city takes notice. I believe in doing so we point people to Jesus in a significant way.”
Jason said, “John 17 is a very famous passage of Scripture where Jesus is praying for his entire church. He prayed we would become one, and then our unity would accomplish two things. First, the world would believe that God sent His Son for them. Second, our unity shows God’s love for the world just as He loved His Son – Jesus. For the world to experience these two truths, we must show them what the Church working and walking in unity looks like. This is powerful in the context of a city or town.
It’s not enough to say we are united; our spiritual unity in Christ must be visibly manifested by the Church. When unbelievers in a city learn of churches and Christian organizations of diverse ethnicities, denominations, and generations united in citywide prayer and worship events and especially see our unity through community service projects, they witness our unity in action. I believe it presents God’s love in a refreshing and powerful way.
John 17: 20-23 (NLT) says “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
Jason also quoted John 13:34-35 (NLT), ”So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Jason shared, “It’s our love for one another that our cities will know we are followers of Jesus. That’s what Jesus said. So, what does the world see when they look at the church? We know we all have our own banners on things and that’s great. We are each unique. In no way do I believe that Bible unity requires us to lay down our uniqueness. It doesn’t require us to give up our diversity or different cultures or styles. Rather, I think it calls us to come together with those differences and even our disagreements and say, ‘Our love for one another is stronger than what could divide us because that’s the command we have from Jesus. We are more united than we are separated. What unites us is stronger than what divides us. What unites us is more important than our differences – that’s love.’”
Jason emphasized, “So, unity is really a dissertation on God’s love. I don’t know if we really understand what the sacrifice of loving one another really means. I’m still learning this. Jesus commanded us to love one another as Christ loved the church. There’s a self-sacrifice that’s required. A lot of times we allow our opinions on social issues, politics or unforgiveness to get in the way of truly loving one another and defending the bond of unity we have in Christ as the Church. Events that we help facilitate in the Unite My City movement are designed to help begin to build and protect that culture of unity amongst the local church in the city.”
Jason said, “I’m a champion of the big ‘C’ Church and want to encourage the Church in our calling. I want the Church to know that we have an opportunity to share the love of God by how we interact with one another, how we speak towards one another, how we talk about one another or how we interact. The event is great because we get to set an example of unity through love to our city. But, we also get to share the love of Jesus with people by practically meeting their needs.” Jason added, “For example, Chris Campbell with the 111 Project rallied the Church community and made a significant dent in the foster care issue in our area. Imagine what’s possible as the churches unite together to serve our schools consistently? What impact could be made if five or ten churches collaborated around serving one school consistently? Where could that school be in a year? What impact could we make if the Church improved our coordination on feeding the hungry and shelter for the homeless. What if? What’s possible? As we work together in unity, we hope we challenge us all to think bigger – to think about what once was impossible may now be possible.”
Jason continued, “I get to travel to various countries through our international ministry World Compassion. Over the past 16 years of doing this, one thing I’ve learned is the love of my own nation has grown. I’m thankful for the services our government provides to our people, but I still believe there’s more the Church can do to better serve our communities even to the degree in which it could help decrease government provided services, saving our cities and state tax dollars. If that’s possible, it may be a perk in all of this, but our main goal is to inspire the Church to love people and point them to Jesus. Whether they are Christian or not, whether they choose to accept Jesus as their Lord or not, I think we should keep on loving and serving them.”
As Jason touched on the role of tax dollars trying to alleviate the suffering of humanity. As soon as he did, I remembered Steve Largent, while in the House, sharing with the Tulsa World that the church was called to rally around the widows, orphans, poor and degenerate—not the government. Jason feels strongly, “I’d really like to see a movement begin to almost take the weight off of our city officials. I think a movement like this doesn’t only serve those in need but also serves our city officials, elected officials and allows the Church to come alongside them in a significant way helping to find solutions to better our communities for all. We’re here to serve with a united, servant-leadership mentality—it could really make an impact.
The Unite My City Serve Day weekend will kick off at the “Great Lawn” at The Gathering Place on Thursday night June 6th, before the event day, June 8th. Jason said, “This is an opportunity to come together to celebrate our diversity and get our hearts and minds ready to serve our city. It’s another chance to promote unity, connect and get excited about serving our cities. It will be a fun night for the family with live music presented by a variety of churches. All are welcome to come even if they are not Christians. For those participating in the Serve Day, it’s kind of like a pep rally before the big game. We’re honored to be able to host this at the Gathering Place as they have created, with excellence, a space for our city to gather from all backgrounds.”
Jason shared, “Last year, the Unite My City Serve Day had 35 churches participate and 963 volunteers mobilized in one day. This year, we are expecting much more. The goal for the Serve Day is for churches to partner together with another church. It’s about churches interacting together, planning and preparing. It’s in this process that relationships are being established around a common cause they both care about. It’s through these relationships that we can begin asking the question, ‘What else is possible together?’”
“We’re not asking them to reinvent the wheel or to add something to their plate. We’re asking them to rewire the way they approach outreach.” Jason thought rethinking our approach was really the first step to becoming greater than our individual selves. He said, “They rewire it by doing it together rather than isolated. So, if one church was reaching an apartment complex or school, other churches could consider coming alongside them and contribute. The hope is a church partnership will continue throughout the year and beyond.” Jason added, “We’re looking for the event on June 8th to be a catalytic event to help launch people into sustainable ongoing relationships to keep meeting needs together throughout the year. Our hope is every year, it just builds and builds and builds until this becomes the norm of how we serve our city.”
It’s not too late! If you’re reading this and it’s ringing true in your heart—just reach out to Unite My City and they can help connect you and your church to other groups that may be a good fit.
Beyond the events in June, if you’re interested in being a part of what God is doing in the Tulsa area, feel free to reach out to the Unite My City team. They would love to connect you any way they can. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination, heart and passion for serving and of course, the power of the One True God we serve!
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)
Then if my people who are called by my name will (1)humble themselves and (2)prayand (3)seek my faceand (4)turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
In 2 Chronicles, God offers us a 4 part path to recovery from sin. Sometimes we feel like we just can’t be forgiven. Sometimes, there is so much silence around our specific offense, that we dwell alone in satan’s realm of pity and condemnation. Sometimes we feel the silence is absolutely fitting. We start to think “What else do we possibly deserve?” It becomes a comfortable place of darkness. Without God’s light–how in the world can we find our way out of that darkness? So let’s put the light right in the middle of it.
James 2:10 (NLT)
“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”
It’s difficult to add anything meaningful to this very clear statement. Sin is sin is sin. If we have committed one, we are as guilty as one who has committed all. We should remember that when we need God’s forgiveness–the same as we should remember it when someone sins against us. So, when God speaks of forgiveness–rest assured, even the sins we tend to not name because they feel too big, too horrible, to shameful, he includes them all.
Knowing God’s grace applies to whatever silent darkness you are in matters. So, now what? How do we get some light in Satan’s perfect prison of condemnation? After all, who else would benefit the most if we think God’s grace doesn’t apply to our mistakes?
1 – Humble Ourselves
Before we can start to seek forgiveness, we have to come to term with our own mistakes, admitting they are actually sin. It sounds easy enough, but we all know there are some sins we want to justify. Abortion is a great example of such a difficult sin to admit. If we admit it is a sin against God, then it opens the entire experience for more guilt and shame to attack. That’s why it’s so critical to have people coming alongside to help guide us on our recovery journey. When we are getting right with God–Satan absolutely wants to condemn us so badly that we walk away.
In our interview for the cover story, Jamie Harrell mentioned “I actually had to spend time thinking it through to admit it to myself as wrong—and then finding a way to forgive myself before I could think about talking to God about it.” That’s not for everyone, but it was a real step in her recovery process that helped. Jamie wasn’t even ready to forgive herself. People often find great solace in living with the pain of our mistakes, as it becomes a home we feel we deserve—one we have earned with our decisions. Not feeling worthy of our own forgiveness, much less God’s forgiveness, is actually a humble, broken place to go before God–because in those moments, we are knee deep in the feeling unworthy of God’s forgiveness. We are free from pride and arrogance, which often entangles us. And, He is RIGHT THERE to let us know He absolutely loves us. He absolutely can remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.
As an example of a heartfelt prayer in humility and confession in front of God, I offer a Psalm speaking specifically of the “shedding of blood,” because of the grave depth of the offense and God’s specific inclusion of this sin in the Bible. God is not silent on such sins. As any parent would, God wishes to protect us from making mistakes that will destroy our lives. He restores the humble heart in despair. All of Psalm 51 has such a broken, humbled confession to the Lord, but let’s look just at these 3 verses:
Psalm 51:13-15 (NLT)
“Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.”
I love Psalm 51 for so many reasons, but verse 15 really speaks to why we need to know God has forgiven our sin. “Then…(after He forgives), THEN, I will joyfully SING of your forgiveness. By healing your heart, God will “Unseal” your lips so that your mouth may praise him from a place of even more gratitude for His mercy than you had before. When shown that kind of mercy, it allows God to use something Satan meant for evil to bring about good. How much more mercy does a heart have to give that has been given so much recognizably undeserved mercy from our Creator?
2 – Praying before God
Humbling ourselves before God and admitting what we’ve done is NOT an easy “said and done” kind of experience. Don’t misunderstand, God’s forgiveness operates that way, but coming to terms with it ourselves does not. There are absolute repercussions to our sinful decisions; however, shining God’s light in on the situation helps bring about a peace. If we’re dwelling in the darkness, we are losing out on feeling the freedom to think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy, which will help guard our hearts and minds. Humbling ourselves before God frees us to find all the healing He freely offers us to restore us and then protect us when Satan tries to use this tactic to bring us down again. Praying to God in that humility offers great comfort and peace that makes no sense considering the situation we’re facing. Going before God humbly and telling him what we need brings about the exact healing we need:
Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT)
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
God has always known us–before anyone else knew us. There is nothing you are going to say in your prayer that surprises him. He knew you before you were ever born.
3 – Seeking God
Talk to God about Psalm 139: 1-17 below. Acknowledge that He already knows as He is omnipotent (knows everything). This step is critical when you think about God’s guidance in this scripture above. God says He knew us when we were formed and that He knew the steps we would take in our lives. There’s nothing you need to tell Him that He doesn’t already know. He has always known you. So, humbling ourselves is really admitting to God that we know what we have done is a sin against Him. It’s finding a broken spirit to lay before Him knowing we just don’t deserve what He has to offer—His payment for our sins and His forgiveness.
Psalm 139 (NLT)
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and
know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You
know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at
home. You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say even
before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me. You place
your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too
great for me to understand!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the
light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from
you. To you the night shines as
bright as day. Darkness and light are the
same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of
my body and knit me together in my
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully
complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—
how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in
utter seclusion, as I was woven together in
the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born. Every day
of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single
day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,
O God. They cannot be numbered!
4 – Turn
Tell Him what you have done. Tell Him you need His forgiveness and healing. Tell Him your heart’s desire is to commit such an offense no more. There are so many great places where God speaks of His overwhelming grace and forgiveness when we confess (tell him we are wrong and what we’ve done). I love 1 John 1:9 for this kind of prayer, where we can cling to God’s promises. If we confess, he will cleanse us from “ALL WICKEDNESS.”
I will repeat for those who really like to feel they have the ONE thing God won’t forgive—that’s ALL WICKEDNESS.
1 John 1:9 (NLT)
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
Then, while humble, while praying, while seeking Him, pray for the plan to help you turn from your sins. Some sins are addictive. Let’s not miss this critical step. There’s not a way to list HOW to turn from any kind of sin here. There are lots of ways I can suggest. For one, get an accountability partner, one whom you will be honest with and one who will absolutely be honest with you. Seek out resources inside your church. In some cases, you might need to seek out a Christian counselor. In other, you might need to download an app to keep you from going to certain websites. If this is any sort of addictive sin, you should seek a restorative group. There’s a great chance any of us can stumble again and having a group or accountability partners (people to keep us on track and check on us) helps. Someone in your church leadership or in your church can help point you in the right direction to get the support you need to kick this sin or recover from one that has a lot of emotional weight. God can absolutely use Christians to help hold you along this path.
God is super clear. If we humble ourselves, if we pray, if we seek His face, if we turn from our wickedness–He will forgive. It’s humbling just to think about it. It can bring us to our knees to dwell upon it. Being forgiven when you know you are horribly wrong, when you know you can’t undo what you’ve done AND when you know how holy and perfect God is—that’s seriously some kind of AMAZING GRACE.
Written By Teresa Goodnight
The Silence is being Filled
Satan is winning battles all over the place in our silence. It leaves a void being filled by everyone but the church–and being filled exactly how Satan wants. In silence, we hear the rationalized, non-Biblical views on topics that the church finds too sensitive to discuss. If we don’t offer God’s word from those with the most qualifications to explain it–well, you can do THAT math.
Satan is on a path to make us all victims—whether it’s of this sin or that sin. The more he can get us to make wrong choices, the more we become prisoners of our own making with the whisper of shame and guilt. Maybe that’s the wrong wording. I think sometimes it’s more like the shouting to the depths of our souls that we are not worthy. If Satan can trap us in condemnation, he thinks he has us. We will feel unworthy to lead our families or the church.
Just pick the sin—it really doesn’t matter. He is targeting us to make us feel unworthy of anything God offers, and as such, unworthy of anything God would ever call us to do. The victimization of Christians is staggering. Satan does not care one bit which trap he sets that we fall into as a Christian or really as a human being. He only cares that we fall. He loves for us to feel the weight of guilt and shame that we never imagine finding the forgiveness and power to rise again.
Haven’t you ever felt that way yourself? I have. I could list my sins right here—and so many of them have pushed me to silence myself on different matters. After all, if you’ve committed a sin, it makes you feel like a hypocrite to say it out loud to someone else about to make the same mistake. My boyfriend in college was so plagued with his own sins of his past, he just never could believe God had truly forgiven him. He lived in torment. It felt like he was tormenting himself, but the truth was (and is), that’s EXACTLY what kind of self-inflicted pain Satan loves to dwell in. He thrives on convicting, on shaming, on guilting us into not believing God would EVER forgive what we’ve done.
So, we are here today to stand with the wounded from Satan’s merciless attacks and share that God is ABSOLUTELY offering you all the grace, forgiveness, and the same love He offers to every one of His children. God’s word is very specific. “For God so loved THE WORLD…” (John 3:16, NLT)
In that one statement, He included EVERY one of us. EVERY one of our closet sins. EVERY one of our gigantic, seemingly unrecoverable missteps and struggles. He even included those in charge of torturing His son, on a cross, for the sins of the very world He was being sacrificed to save. (Watch the “Passion of the Christ” if you really want to get a glimpse of how bad they were.) If He included those torturing and killing His own son, why in the WORLD wouldn’t He include you? Jesus own words from the cross after suffering so horribly? Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NLT).
If you are suffering in silence, alone—start with your pastor and those on staff at your church. They will be able to help you and point you in the right directions. If you are seeking help with recovery from abortion, we have included a page with abortion recovery ministries in Tulsa, who can help specifically with guidance in this area. If you aren’t part of a church or don’t know where to turn—reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you contact information for local churches where we can plug you in with people we know who can help. There are incredible churches all over our community ready to show you God’s love and help you know that you are NOT alone.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Easter brings about so many emotions, but gratitude usually tops the list. We stop in the season of Easter to remember Christ, His death–His burial–His Resurrection. Even when writing it seems a bit surreal to truly think through what those elements of Easter actually represent.
Every one of us has made mistakes of all shapes and sizes. God being both loving and just, with our simple logic, was sort of at a crossroads on what to do with our decision. He couldn’t just forgive our sins without a payment for them being that He is just. Without a payment, our choices were deadly. They brought about a destination separating us from God for eternity. On the other hand, God created us in His image. He seriously loved us. What in the world was He to do?
Being God, He knew exactly what He would do. It would require a sacrifice–the ultimate selfless act. God knew the way to bring man back into fellowship with Him was through the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus. It sounds simple enough, but to truly understand the depth of that offering, it helps to think of someone we love deeply. Imagine that person tortured by ungrateful men, who didn’t care they were thrashing your loved one, while you had to watch. Imagine knowing your loved one was being sacrificed to pay for their mistakes. Imagine having the power to stop it, but choosing to love the accusers and the world so much that you let it happen. Imagine that moment, when broken, you turned your back because you couldn’t watch the final moment as the debt was finally paid. Can you even let your mind go there?
Stopping to thank God for His sacrifice, for the sacrifice of His Son–it’s not to be taken lightly. It WAS a big deal. It is THE BIG DEAL God made with Himself to remain both just and still our loving Father who paid the cost for our mistakes.
As you stop to do this in remembrance of Him, it might be more fitting for all of us to fall to our knees in humble gratitude. He paid a debt He did not owe. We owed a debt we simply could not afford to pay. The only thing worse than not being truly thankful for His sacrifice we didn’t deserve, would be to NOT accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Who else would do that for us? For you? He leaves that all important choice to us. However, one thing we can NEVER do is doubt His love for us. He loved us so much He gave His all that we might be made right. Where can we find bigger love than that?
One of my favorite Christian bands, DownHere penned one of my all time favorite Christmas songs in 2010. It brings me to tears just thinking about these lyrics:
“Follow the star to a place unexpected Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger? Lowly and small, the weakest of all Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl Just a child Is this who we’ve waited for?
‘Cause how many kings step down from their thrones How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? And how many gods have poured out their hearts To romance a world that is torn all apart How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me.
James 15:12-13 (NLT) “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
This Easter: Remember His death and sacrifice. Celebrate His amazing resurrection. Rest in His love. There is no greater core to who we are as Christians than this display of UTTERLY AMAZING GRACE. Then, when you stop to really think through what He did–do what comes naturally and show that same full of grace love to everyone else. The world is waiting for us to get this right. I think God is too.
Written by Sean Farver
I’m not ashamed to admit it… The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time. There. I said it. It has everything: sword fighting, a fire swamp, rodents of unusual size, quicksand, the Cliffs of Insanity, iocane powder, more sword fighting and, of course, a six-fingered man (oh yeah, and some romance as well… but let’s be honest, you can find romance in tons of other movies but only one combines it with the magic of shrieking eels). What’s not to love?
Like many adventure stories, the drama is heightened because it centers on matters of life and death – most notably, the (presumed) death of Westley at the hands of Count Rugen in the dreaded Pit of Despair. After being examined, however, the best news the audience could have hoped for is delivered by the aptly-named Miracle Max: “It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” So, all is not lost; true love can go on and the evil king can still be defeated. The hero is only “mostly” dead.
Why am I yammering on about an old movie? Well, believe it or not, it offers us a chance to reflect on a true matter of life and death. There’s no question that Easter is for many reasons the most important day of celebration, worship, and reflection that Christians enjoy. The main reason, of course, is summed up in one word: resurrection. We bank everything on it. We believe that Jesus’ resurrection not only confirmed God’s promises to bring salvation but also that it paved the way for those who are in Christ to one day be resurrected as well. Jesus’ resurrection was God’s way of driving the final nail into the coffin of death itself. No longer would sin and death hold any power over us. We believe that when Jesus was resurrected, death died.
No wonder the Apostle Paul joined with the prophets Isaiah and Hosea and wrote these stirring words in
1 Corinthians 15.54-55: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
There is a nagging question, however, that has been asked for the past 2000 or so years: did Jesus really rise from the dead? After all, it’s not our normal experience that people who are truly dead come back to life. For many, it seems like a far too convenient ‘plot twist’ meant to prop up the desired outcome of a larger religious story. At best, it’s wishful thinking. At worst, it’s a dangerous delusion. In that spirit, many alternative theories have been proposed as to what Jesus’ (supposed) resurrection is all about.
The most obvious theory is that, perhaps, Jesus wasn’t really dead. He was only what Miracle Max would call “mostly dead.” I see two issues with this explanation. First, it seems to imply that ancient people might not have known when someone was really dead; those who crucified him and those who buried him were simply mistaken in thinking that he was actually dead.
After all, we are much more scientifically advanced than they were! We forget, however, that ancient people lived in much greater proximity to death than we often do. They witnessed it in their homes and communities. For us, it’s often hidden away in modern clinical institutions. I think they knew when someone was truly dead.
Second, the Bible’s witness is that Jesus didn’t simply ‘come back to life’. He wasn’t merely resuscitated, he was resurrected. He didn’t appear in the same state as prior to his death, he appeared in a state that represents the other side of death. He had a resurrection body, one that actually made him hard to recognize by those who first saw him. He wasn’t “mostly dead.” He was totally dead and came out on the other side!
Another theory is that Jesus’ resurrection was a fabrication, the result of a conspiracy among his followers that involved stealing and hiding his (actually) dead body and claiming that he had risen. Again, I believe there are at least two difficulties with this explanation. First, the gospel writers and especially Paul stake their message, their reputations, and even their lives on the eye witness testimony of those who saw the risen Jesus. In a culture that was steeped in oral tradition (the passing on of truth, history, memory, etc. in oral form), it would literally have been incredible for Paul to have claimed that so many people (hundreds, several of them named) had seen the risen Jesus and to make those claims within the lifetime of those same witnesses if they did not concur. Paul’s claims would have been very easy to falsify.
Second, it seems highly unlikely to me that a small band of people could have perpetrated a conspiracy of this magnitude in the face of the Roman Empire, literally altering the trajectory of world history by virtue of their own efforts. Charles Colson, who was convicted and served prison time for his role in the Watergate cover-up (young people, look it up on ‘the google’), argued many times that some of the most powerful men in American government couldn’t keep their Watergate conspiracy together for more than a few weeks before it fell apart as they all gave way to self-preservation. What hope would the small band of Jesus’ first followers have in the face of persecution? The entirety of Christian faith resting on a conspiracy seems more far fetched to me than someone being “mostly dead.”
A third explanation is that what we call Jesus’ resurrection is really just a metaphor for how he lives on in the memory and even the mystical experiences of those who follow him. In this view, Jesus didn’t literally rise in resurrection-bodily form but instead ‘lives on’ in the lives of his people (for one explanation of this view, see Marcus Borg’s chapter called The Truth of Easter in the book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions).
On the surface, this view might seem to have great appeal for modern (or maybe postmodern) people because it makes the question of a literal resurrection irrelevant (Borg’s point) but still allows for Jesus to be remembered, honored, and even worshipped. It seems to make Christianity and naturalism compatible by eliminating the need for the supernatural. The ‘reality’ of the resurrection is that it is real to me (metaphorically speaking), not that it actually happened in any literal sense.
One of the issues that I have with this view of resurrection is that I’m fairly certain that someday I will die (insightful, I know). What I mean is that my death won’t be metaphorical, it will be real (certainly not ‘mostly’!). And, it raises real questions. What happens to us when we die? What eternal significance does our present embodied existence have? I need more than metaphors and I believe God’s Word gives us more. It gives us real substance. It tells us that God created us with bodies. It tells us that Jesus entered the creation and was embodied himself. It tells us that he rose bodily from the grave and that someday I will as well. I love metaphors as much as the next person, but they only make sense if there is some reality to which they point.
So, why does all of this matter? One main truth that underlies our celebration of Easter is that Jesus was really dead. Not ‘deceivingly’ dead. Not ‘mostly’ dead. Dead. Period. And so will you and I… someday (unless he returns beforehand). The other main truth, however, is that he is now alive. Not ‘metaphorically’ alive, but alive in the same way that all who believe in him will someday be alive.
For people of faith, Easter is a glimpse of the future. It fills us with hope. It reminds us that life is not, “as you wish” (yeah, I had to get one more movie reference in there; I saw that eye roll…) but is based on the certainty of God’s promises and power. I don’t know about you but I need more certainty, not more speculation. I need more hope, not more wishful thinking. I need a Savior who was fully dead but is now fully alive because I can be certain that’s exactly what I will be.
May your celebration of Easter fill you with hope and joy!
Sean Farver, Kirk Crossing Campus Pastor
Sean worked as the youth minister for The Kirk for six and a half years before transitioning into other ministry roles which included overseeing the The Kirk’s communications, directing some adult discipleship programs and being the first worship leader for The Kirk’s contemporary worship service. He then went to Seminary and afterward, returned to The Kirk in a pastoral role. Currently, Sean is the campus pastor at Kirk Crossing – The Kirk’s second campus in Jenks.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
UGH! I jumped right into salvation by grace, faith generating actions, and was ready to dive in further for March. Then it hit me. If I wanted to start at the CORE…the true basis for everything we know and believe as Christians, then the obvious place to start is with the Bible. What do we believe about it and why? It’s a topic I can’t dive into super deeply in a magazine article. However, even when you scratch the surface—it’s a useful write-up to help give you a place to start.
At Community Spirit, we hold true to the Bible being the inspired and inerrant word of God. So, what does that mean? Simply put: God gave it to us, and it has no errors in it. It is THE word of God. It is THE authority for every aspect of our Christianity. If the Bible isn’t as God said in passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 “breathed out by God” then the validity of all the Scriptures comes into question. The Bible is too clear that it is God’s word to pick and choose what parts we want to believe. Either we believe it or we do not. When someone starts referencing their “thoughts,” as a Christian, but cannot back those thoughts with God’s word—throw a RED FLAG. I cannot count the number of conversations I have been in or overheard where people were spouting off their personal opinions about Christianity but presenting them as if they were what we believe as Christians. Opinions are everywhere, but when it comes to Christianity, they need to be fact-based, Biblically certified statements. When opinions are shared as if they are factual Christian statements, simply put, it leads people astray.
Truth is, God did not leave room for us to go through the Bible to pick and choose what we want to believe inside His word. Either we believe it is HIS word or we believe it is not. When we decide to selectively follow what works for us, it becomes our own brand of spirituality and likely not anything anyone should label as Christianity. (That’s a whole other topic for another article, another day).
Wikipedia defines the inerrancy of the scripture fairly well–“Divine authority. For a believer in biblical inerrancy, Holy Scripture is the Word of God, and carries the full authority of God. Every single statement of the Bible calls for instant and unqualified acceptance. Every doctrine of the Bible is the teaching of God and therefore requires full agreement.”
Why is this doctrine important? It’s simple. Christianity itself is based on the inspired, inerrant word of God. It is our authority. It is what God has to say about the matter. It is useful to guide, teach, and correct us if we lose our way. It is not something we can pick and choose a few philosophical items we think are universally applicable and call it Christianity. If we base our faith on anything else…anything…then we’re not actually following Christ. We’re simply following our version of what becomes our own religion.
Nature itself, in all its complexities, tells us so much about God if we look around. We can learn quite a bit. However, it is really an incredible gift to have God’s word to reference and hear His voice in what He speaks to us. If we aren’t basing our beliefs on the word of God, then we have navigated away from Christianity. God gave us many privileges and the ability to choose what we believe or say. However, nowhere did He offer us the freedom to change His word. In fact, He specifically warns against it. Altering His word has direct consequences on our faith and even potential consequences spelled out in different areas in scripture (Revelation 22:19).
We live in a time where more and more people speaking on behalf of the Church, Christianity and God without using any reference to scripture to back it up – or ‘adapting’ scripture to suit their argument. These same people are confusing the message of Christ and causing a problem with the CORE of who we are as Christians. When you study the teachings of Christ, He constantly sent people back to scripture–usually quoting the Old Testament, as he was a master student of the Bible.
The Moody Bible Institute summarizes it well on their web:
“The Bible is verbally inspired. This means that the words of the Bible, not just the ideas, were inspired. What is more, this is true of not just some, but all the words of the Bible. As a result, the Bible is free from error in what it says. Moody Bible Institute believes strongly in the factual, verbal, historical inerrancy of the Bible. That is, the Bible, in its original documents, is free from error in what it says about geography, history and science as well as in what it says about God. Its authority extends to all matters about which the Bible speaks. 7 It is the supreme source of our knowledge of God and of the salvation provided through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 It is our indispensable resource for daily living. 9 Even though the Bible is God’s revelation, it must still be interpreted. Interpretation has to do with our reception and understanding of that which God revealed and recorded. 10 Revelation is a divine act. Interpretation is a human responsibility. Divine inspiration guarantees the truthfulness of God’s word but not the accuracy of our interpretation. The Bible is infallible in all it affirms to be true and therefore absolutely reliable. We, however, may be fallible in our interpretation of the Bible.”
1 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21
2 1 Corinthians 2:11–16
3 Psalm 19:1
4 Romans 1:19, 20
5 2 Timothy 3:16,17
6 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Corinthians 2:12–13
7 Matthew 5:18; John 10:35
8 John 5:39–47
9 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1 Peter 2:2
10 John 16:13
So, what does this mean for us today? We should take everything we believe/hear about God/Christianity through the filter of His word. Double-check scripture references when given. Request them when they are not given. For us to develop a healthy relationship with God and walk with him, we want our relationship built on His inerrant truths in the Bible–not our human wisdom or the wisdom offered by the world. He left us everything we need to know Him in truth. That truth is the truth that will set us free.
Scripture is inspired, breathed out by God:
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV “All Scripture is God-breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…”
Scripture is living, piercing:
Hebrews 4:12 ESV “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Scripture needs nothing added:
Proverbs 30:6 ESV “Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”
Scripture should have nothing taken away:
Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”
Examine what others say WITH scripture:
Acts 17:11 ESV “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Written by Teresa Goodnight
In James 2:18 in the New Living Translation (NLT), James writes “’Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith BY my good deeds.’” Before that, James also writes the verse we’re often more familiar with “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James goes on to say “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
Last month, we talked about how we are all sinners—and through faith in Jesus, all of us can be saved. It’s sort of a ground zero building block to be a Christian. However, this rather basic building block of faith is something many are confused on out of the gate. First, it is important to remember before we go any further—“God saved you by his GRACE when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is NOT a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2 8-9 NLT). So sin comes first. Grace from God comes next. Faith in God and his gift of grace would simply be the step to follow. Then, as our hearts change—gratitude for that grace we love to have slathered all over us leads us to actions—actions of love because He first loved us.
I say simply, but faith itself can feel like a mystery. God gives us some clear definitions. He specifically tells us how much we need—faith of a child (Psalms 116:6), small as a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). Then, if you want to think it through a little further, He actually tells us what kinds of actions we will be compelled to take if we truly have faith. These actions are NOT required to have faith in God; however, if you have faith in God, your heart and God’s Holy Spirit inside of you will compel you to these types of actions. To say you have faith, but to do nothing with it, is on par with a doctor running around talking about having a cure for a devastating disease but refusing to share it. I can imagine the families of patients with the disease beating down this doctor’s door saying “You say you have it. Prove it. Give it to us.” If the doctor continued to do nothing but talk, the families would depart calling the doctor a hypocrite or a liar—someone who says one thing with his mouth but does nothing about it with his actions. Pure puffery—all talk and no action.
Hebrews 11 is one of the best chapters to read on faith. There is a list of God’s people and their actions based on things they could not see. Plus, these actions came with outcomes they hoped in and believed God would honor. The chapter starts, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Oftentimes, we equate this kind of faith with simply doing good to others. In our minds, giving a thanksgiving meal once a year through our church or a toy through Toys for Tots for Christmas might be some of our best examples of faith in action. Those are on the list of generous things to do of course. However, for those in Hebrews, you see faith in action with excruciatingly difficult outcomes involving the lives of those taking action.
Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Some examples of this faith are Noah, who built a boat to board animals on a sunny day. Ok, maybe it was cloudy, but no one saw an earth-wide flood coming requiring such massive efforts. God spoke. Noah obeyed. Abraham left his home and took his family to a place he didn’t know—a stranger in a foreign country. Sarah, his wife, through mustard seed style faith (I mean, come on! How much could Sarah have knowing she was well past the age of childbearing?) bore Abraham the son of the promise of God, Isaac. Hebrews goes on to say many of these people died without even seeing the things promised—they just saw them from a distance and really believed they were coming. Their actions were based on promises from a God they could not see and many hopeful results that were impossibly far from tangible. These people were even looking forward to a Messiah, who would come to rescue them. They believed. They hoped. They had faith. That faith led them to action.
Hebrews talks further about Moses’ parents’ faith. They risked being killed, hiding him until they could no longer do so. Then, they found a way to send him in a basket they crafted to float down a river in front of an Egyptian princess—hoping He was as special as they believed, and God would somehow intervene. He did. That alone is more faith than I can even imagine trying to have. His family waited decades while Moses had to realize who his people were—and a few decades more for him to discover God’s calling to lead the Israelites out of the captivity. Their captivity lasted generations. They prayed. They waited. They clung to God’s faithfulness with their remaining faith.
Moses’ tale included another sacrifice–revoking all the earthly pleasures he had being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter to eventually lead his people out of captivity (a calling he didn’t yet know). By faith Moses led those same people through the Red Sea when God parted it. Can you even imagine? “Hey guys. Let’s go this way.” It had to require more faith than I really know to take those steps. Then, those same steps led to the death of the Egyptians chasing them as the parted waters merged. Those were steps of faith in action without knowing the outcome—but believing in God. They were difficult for all involved, but they chose to follow God.
Paul, the writer of Hebrews, goes on to tell us of more incredible feats of faith—and how some saw imprisonment, torture, and even death. Some lived in caves and holes in the ground, wandered deserts—taking their faith to the extreme, as they refused to revoke following Jesus. These people didn’t just say they believed. They lived it. Some even died for it.
Isn’t that God? Instead of defining faith for us with simply words—God shows us faith by the incredible faith-filled actions of these people. Their faith has left a legacy to impact generations to come. Interesting. Seems I’ve heard that concept somewhere before? Show me your faith BY your good deeds? (James 2:18).
So what does that look like for us today? I think it looks a little different for each of us. It’s based on circumstances in your life, gifts God has given you (spiritual gifts, financial gifts, parenting gifts, etc.). To stick with the cover theme as an example, it COULD look like fostering or adopting a child in this state where about 8,500 kids are looking for a home. The faith part MIGHT be that you don’t know how it will turn out. Maybe it scares you to bring someone into your home? Maybe you aren’t sure how you would find the time? Maybe you like your life as it is and don’t want to risk messing it up?
Another example? Parents who take on a second job to send their children to a Christian based school—because they believe God put on their heart that a Christian education for their children is the right choice for their family. For Community Spirit Magazine, it was purchasing the magazine not knowing what God would do with it, but knowing we wanted to touch the city for Christ and be part of His plan to motivate the Body of Christ (the “C”hurch) to action. It’s a bit of a battle in our hearts to press forward some days—but to think of God using us in His plan to change lives, to change one life? It’s worth pushing on.
What faith-based action does God have for you? It’s not the same for everyone. It’s between you and God. A faith-based choice would be answering urges from God’s Holy Spirit working inside of you to take action without possibly understanding how it will turn out. We CAN know we serve a God who does not leave us alone where He leads us (or where he doesn’t for that matter). Faith lived out is about following God’s prompt to action in our hearts, based on an understanding of who He is and what He seeks from us. The most basic thing he seeks? Jesus said it like this: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38).
Living out your faith, can certainly be as small as daily choices like deleting a Candy Crush (or dare I say Facebook/Instagram/Twitter) from your phone to free up time for reading the YouVersion Bible app on your phone. It’s not like you can see how much stronger you would be in your faith if you read the Bible as much as you invested time in those items, but isn’t that faith? Taking action? Hoping and believing God will bless you for following Him? Don’t these actions really prove our faith more than our words?
I cannot tell you exactly where that faith-based action move might be for you. I can just tell you what it MIGHT look like and send you off to be on the lookout for it. Whatever you do though, don’t be the doctor with the cure…talking and puffing about, but not having actions showing anything to be true. That won’t help anyone—certainly not an unbeliever.
These choices—actions based on faith, small or grand, they are the CORE of our faith. They are our legacy, our witness. Without them, it could be proof that some of us are just full of hot “Christian” air. †
To say you have faith, but to do nothing with it, is on par with a doctor running around talking about having a cure for a devastating disease but refusing to share it.
Written By Ingrid B. Skarstad Williams
Reminisce with me for a moment. When you were a kid, did you have a bike? Did you clip playing cards on your bicycle wheels? Wasn’t that cool? If you don’t know the joy of turning your bike into an imaginary motorcycle with just a clothespin and a card, I’ll explain.
We would bend a playing card at one end around the bike frame by the wheel, then pin it so the other end reached into the spokes (Clothespins were in abundant supply then. We dried laundry on outdoor clotheslines back in my childhood days. Nowadays it seems like clothespins are more like crafting supplies!). When the wheel turned, the spokes flipped the card. The sound made it seem like the bike roared to life as a Harley Davidson!
Some kids got fancy and pinned several cards on their wheels. Oh the magic of making noise! The louder and more interesting the sound, the more we enjoyed it. Then again, it seems like anything that made noise was fun!
But as an adult, the fun doesn’t last when the clatter of living haunts your days (and nights). Every deadline and responsibility is like another card clipped to your wheels—slappety-slap-slap-slapping to demand your attention. They multiply. Even one new event on the calendar can create an array of to-do’s to conquer.
The growing list of what you should be doing gets noisy. The “shoulds” hit the spokes every time you move forward. The faster you move, the louder they get. That’s a lot of noise! No wonder we have the saying, “Stop the world—I want to get off!”
What’s the answer? I reflect back on sentiments I expressed nearly a decade ago. It was written during days that seemed to hold everything but peace.
Thankfully much has changed, and some of it because of the big lessons in that small moment. I still reflect on that picture of my son on his Big Wheel. It reminds me that no matter how hard I listen for God’s voice, if I don’t stop the noise, I won’t hear Him.
God Is Right Here
God has our answers—all of them. He is ever present. He is very near. And He is not silent. He wants us to know His ways, His plan, His purpose, and His peace. So if we need to get quiet to hear our Father’s voice in our lives, it seems to me that it would be of utmost importance to create stillness.
How do we do that? The myriad of answers could be dizzying, but I will share one that is simple and visual: stop the noise and listen. It’s visual to me because I can still see my son riding in circles, loud and unlistening. But there’s more to that little story. After a while of not hearing his father’s responses, my son became a little more frantic. The original sing-song, “Daddy, where are you?” escalated with punctuated frustration. “DADDY! (clackety-gaspy-clack) WHERE (clickety-demandy-click) ARE (clitter-clatter-sobby-click-clack) YO-O-O-O-O-O-U?”
Days are a blur.
I race through trying (and failing) to do everything that cries out for attention.
I am reminded of a day when my son was racing in circles on his Big Wheel in the basement.
Those things are LOUD! And he was doing a good job of stirring up the noise.
Above the clatter of the wheels, I could hear him yelling over and over
in rhythm with the wheels, “DADDY! WHERE ARE YOU?”
His father answered every time from the floor above,
but there was no way he could hear him over the noise he was creating.
The picture seems a lot like me when life is so busy that I feel like I’m running in circles.
And I am!
I’m making so much “noise” in my life that I can’t hear the answer to my heart’s cry …
whether it is to know where my Father is, recognize my purpose, feel connected,
or simply taste the sweet relief of peace.
How simple would it be to stop for a moment and ask those questions in silence?
Maybe more simple than I realize.
God has not been silent.
I have not been quiet.
Written by Pastor Alex Himaya
Years ago, I did a sermon series we called F.A.Q, which stood for Frequently Asked Questions. During the series I asked lay people to submit questions for me to answer and to preach on. The first question I read was, “Why have I never heard you preach on orphan care?” My initial thought was, “Wow. This is going to be much harder than I thought!” My response was to sit down and re-read the entire bible. I marked every time God’s heart was revealed. My journey was literally life changing and gave birth to an international adoption ministry called ADOPT(ED).
As I read the bible, I came across four things that He speaks of over and over and He values.
4 things God values
1. God values: Marriage and Family.
The bible begins with a marriage between Adam and Eve and instructions to leave, cleave and become one. The Bible ends with another marriage between Jesus and the church and the marriage supper of the Lamb. God told us to address him “our father” or “daddy”. Marriage and family are valued by God. It is how He chose to help us understand how to relate to Him.
2. God values: Children.
Psalm 127:3 (NLT) states, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from Him.” Gift, reward, blessing, inheritance. But our culture and world sees them as a wait, cost, burden, inconvenience. What do you think when you see a family with 6 kids? Be honest!
The bible teaches that God values children. In Mark 10:13-16 (NLT) people were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Then He took the children in His arms, and placed His hands on them & blessed them.”
There is another time that the disciples were admonished related to children. In Luke 9:46-48 (NLT), an argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had Him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me also welcomes My Father, who sent Me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” God values Children. John 1:12 (NLT) states, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”
3. God values: Orphans.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NLT) states, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures orphans and widows receive justice.” Over and over in scripture we see that God has great compassion for orphans and fatherless children.
Exodus 22:22 (NIV) “Do not take advantage the widow or an orphan. If you do, and they cry out to Me, I will certainly hear their cry.”
Psalm 27:10 (NIV) “Though my father & mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”
Psalm 68:5 (NIV) “a Father to the fatherless…is God,”
John 14:18 (NIV) “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”
4. God values: Adoption.
Psalm 68:5-6 (NLT) states, “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Have you considered the fact that Jesus was adopted? Yes, Jesus’s earthly father, Joseph, adopted Him. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew traces the bloodline of Jesus not through his biological mother, Mary, but through his adoptive father, Joseph. Even though one might easily pass over this fact as insignificant, this detail reveals something amazing about God’s nature. God does not make mistakes, and He certainly doesn’t need a back-up plan. Through this footnote in history we see that for Jesus, adoption wasn’t plan B.
The first century church opposed abortion, child abandonment, deviant prostitution, human sacrifice and suicide. Their high view of life led to the rescue of many children. The church did more than just oppose the actions. They took those children in and adopted them, hospitals, education, economic reform and provided whatever they needed. I wonder. What would happen if just five percent of 400,000 churches in America established adoption ministries? How many millions would be adopted?
May the stigma of “I am adopted” become non-existent in our church and reversed. The number of children worldwide without families to love and care for them is overwhelming. It’s easy to forget that each/every one of these children is precious to the Savior. I am convinced that Christians should be leading the international dialogue about our responsibility to provide a home and a family for those who have none. I believe that as adopted children in God’s family, believers should be the first to reach out to orphaned and abandoned children around the world.
Yet many are unaware of the great need, or of God’s call on the church to be actively involved in helping the fatherless.
At theChurchat, we have a ministry we call ADOPT(ED). ADOPT(ED) is an educating and exhorting ministry dedicated to supporting and helping the fatherless and connecting those children with loving, Bible believing families. I want us to challenge the heart, head and hands of believers. http://www.thechurch.at/adopted
Just because there are orphans doesn’t mean every Christian needs to adopt. But we all need to be involved – Adopting, Praying, Funding, or Supporting. I don’t know for whom it is God’s will to adopt, but I am confident that adoption is not a second best choice and it’s not just for couples coping with infertility. It’s not a last resort and it is certainly not Plan B.
God only works with one plan, and that is His divine plan, established before the foundation of the world. Just as He predestined the birth child’s existence, He also predestined the path of the child by adoption. Perhaps God is calling you to change a precious little one’s life today. What an awesome opportunity you and I have to reach the world for Christ, one home, and one child at a time. †
If you read this article and felt God was calling you to be His child, to be adopted into His family, please send us a note at email@example.com and we can help connect you to a local church to help you in your next steps as a believer. What an incredible choice! Welcome to the family of God.