May the God of ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that TOGETHER you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The 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: email@example.com. Get her on your calendar to speak to your group, church or event.
Caring for broken people is a beautiful path towards helping God’s kingdom be restored. When restored, we can all operate from His powerful platform of mercy and grace.
We can be the mighty warriors for Christ He has called us to be and ALL LIVES can come out of the silence and matter again.
Ephesians 4:3-3-16 (NLT)
“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.