Category: GOD

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Biology, the study of the human body. Anthropology, the study of humankind. 

Carson Lowe started Biological Anthropology not thinking much more about what to expect than that he was taking a basic course in college. After all, in this age of where we are to accept anything and everything, you would expect a college course to be fair and balanced. Right?   

“The professor started the first week in a 250 person class in a big auditorium talking about deities, creationism, and about a creator blatantly saying ‘There is no creator.  There is no deity,’” said Carson.  Carson said the professor went on, “He explained there is really just no God that created us. My fraternity brother and I looked at each other like ‘Did he just say that? Did he call us out that way?’”  

“We had never been told that as a ‘fact’ by an authority figure we were supposed to trust. It just threw me,” said Carson. He followed, “They are so quick to say not to offend anyone with genders or whatever the social issue is—and I’m sitting there as a Christian wondering where the balance is. I wanted to stand up on my table and ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ but the professor was kind of a jerk. He was pretty cold. You could tell he wanted an argument. He would spout off information that was just not true and how there just couldn’t be a God as if he were an authority with facts to back up his beliefs.”  

Carson first found himself wondering if the guy had ever seen the Grand Canyon or the ocean. He said, “God is so evident in everything around if you look at the complexity of life, but it was a little rattling to experience that kind of forceful declaration from a professor. Then, he continues that tone for the whole semester.” Carson stayed in the class, but was constantly in awe of the hard-pressed nature of the anti-deity rhetoric he taught. Carson said, “I don’t know exactly how God created what He created, but I do know He did it. So it was something to hear this guy just speaking against it with some kind of authority like he could possibly know.”  

Carson’s foundation with his Christian education at Mingo Valley Christian laid the groundwork to keep him centered during a time of attack. Carson explained his Christian education was spread throughout his tenure, but it was really ramped up with Nate Madden, his Bible teacher. During the college class, Mr. Madden’s lessons came rushing back to him. Carson said, “Mr. Madden taught a theology/world views class his senior year. It was basically about understanding your faith, what it is you are saying, and what it is you believe in. We even had classes in years past with him about what other world religions believe.” Carson felt he had been prepared to face this kind of pressure although he didn’t really realize it at the time it was happening. He said, “Mr. Madden taught us exactly what we needed for moments like this. In the class, it was really getting a hold on what I believe and then understanding what others believe so that I can have that conversation with actual knowledge.” 

Carson believed those years and years of preparation with Mr. Madden made such a difference. Carson said, “Those classes really sparked questions I had thought about before that had gone unanswered until the class. The training inspired me to learn more and to pursue my faith as my own. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they enabled me to be able to stand on my own two feet when talking about my faith–and in a way that wouldn’t have happened in the church and certainly would not happen in a public school.”  

It was “years and years and years” of doing school with Mr. Madden and the other teachers at Mingo Valley Christian that Carson felt prepared him for what he was facing.  Carson said “Mingo Valley went into deep theology for high school. You wouldn’t believe it. I would come home and have these complex conversations with my parents.  Sometimes, I was even explaining some of it to them just because the theology was advanced stuff.” Carson explained they were really diving into Calvinism for one. Then, his teachers would dive into some of the harder questions about the Christian faith, things he felt they would never get into in church.

Carson continued, “I didn’t realize it while I was there. I really didn’t. I was a bit arrogant in high school and I’m probably still a little bit arrogant. I was just going through that information, but I was retaining it, holding onto it, and then in college I was really clinging to it.” 

So I just analyzed everything I was taking in. It was all just surprising to me. I remember getting out of that class and wanting to give Mr. Madden a call and tell him like “DUDE! You prepped me for today. I fought something off today and I’m happy about it.” 

Carson continued, “When you hear that from an authority figure, you want to just believe it. I’m a trusting person, some might tease I’m a bit gullible, but when someone tells me something I am not very skeptical. I tend to believe what people tell me for the most part.” Then Carson explained, “In my faith, when it comes to people discussing theology and people discussing God, I have learned to keep my guard up in ways I don’t do in other areas of my life. I got that from Mingo Valley Christian, which is a very hard thing to do. Even when I hear a pastor talk about the Gospel, even when I’m sitting in my church, I’m fact checking and making sure ‘Is this guy preaching truth?’ and taking it to the Bible. It’s not because I don’t trust them, but really it’s because it’s my duty to stay true to scripture above all else.”

It’s amazing to me how much my Christian education from Mingo Valley has played a part in me keeping true with the Gospel. It built the groundwork for me basically to be able to run.  

Carson spoke highly of friends in several private Christian schools around Tulsa, confirming how incredibly lucky we are in Tulsa to have so many options. Each one has a different appeal—a different way of being a fit for your child. Large, small, Montessori style or a specific denomination you prefer–we are truly blessed.

To wrap up, I asked Carson what he felt like was his main message to the Christian community. Carson immediately replied passionately.

“Honestly I can say this wholeheartedly, that Mingo Valley Christian, or really just Christian education, as a whole, may have been the single most beneficial thing for my faith that I have had in my life.

That’s a bold statement considering I go to a good church. I’m in a Christian fraternity. I’m doing all these communities that are about the gospel, but none of them prepared me for the Christian faith more than Mingo Valley, or just Christian education has done.

“And, truth be told, I don’t understand if you have the resources to do it—I do not know why you wouldn’t regardless of what school. I think as a Christian parent, if you can, it’s almost foolish not to do it. You should do it.”

Written by R.A. Goodnight

Before His ascension into Heaven Jesus spoke these words to the small group of followers that had gathered with Him, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19,20). In these final words he gave three directives: Make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey his commandments. Especially in today’s times, we should not downplay the importance of the responsibilities Christ put upon as – not as individual Christians nor as the collective Church.  This concept especially holds true for the Christians’ commission to make disciples. Let’s unpack these statements further.

Pew Research statistics indicate that the overall Church is in decline.  The number of the Baby Boomer generation in the church is decreasing due to age.  So much that the population of Gen X has now caught up (and surpassed in some polls) the number of Boomers.  This isn’t due to large growth in the Gen X age range.  It’s simply that some of the Boomer population have graduated on to Heaven.  While growth in the Gen X range is slowing, we are simultaneously seeing a decline in numbers from the newest generation – the Millennials.  

Here is a direct quote from the study: 

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants.

The study attempted to dig a little deeper to identify why we see decreasing numbers in Millennials.  The highest sighted reason (49%) for a new one to stop pursuing their relationship with Christ was that they no longer believed.  When asked why, many stated it was due to “doubts and questions about The Bible that are going unanswered.”  I pray that the previous statement resonates inside each of us.  How are their questions going unanswered if each of us have a commission to answer their questions in the disciple making process?  Yes, this data helps demonstrate the importance of Christ’s commission to make new disciples. There is an implication that the body of Christ is potentially not as focused on living out the Great Commission. 

AtheistAgnosticNothing In Particular
I question a lot of religious
teaching
77%71%51%
I don’t believe in God89%37%21%
Religion is irrelevant to me63%40%28%
I don’t like the position
churches take on social/
political issues
54%48%47%
I don’t like religious
organizations
49%51%34%
I don’t like religious leaders37%42%31%

This trend has not gone unnoticed by the main stream media either. On September 9th, Fox News did an article sighting the same research study I have above. Recognizing the potential gap, what can each of us do to help bring others to Christ? For this article let’s focus on two ways. The first is to simply get involved. Secondly, we need to be effective teachers.  How can we do this though?

Let’s look at a less-studied disciple maker from the New Testament, Philip.  Philip was so effective he has been known as ‘Philip the Evangelizer.’ In Acts 8:30 we see Philip beginning a conversation with a new believer.  The scriptures tell us, “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.”  As a first step Philip simply takes a personal interest and proactively approaches the man.  This simple approach can be effective for us as well.  Do you remember when you first came to Christ?  It can be hard to ask questions or identify ourselves as new disciples.  It can be more difficult for a new Christian to know what questions they even need to ask.  If we take the initiative and approach them not only could it help the new follower overcome any feelings of anxiety, but it also reinforces that we are invested in their success as a Christian.  It’s important for a new believer to know we care about them personally and are there to help them.  If you care first, it many times opens doors to people’s hearts and minds.  This also emulates God’s attitude toward all of us. (Rom. 5:8)

What does Philip do next?  He asks of the man, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  This individual responds, “How can I…unless someone explains it to me?” (vs. 31). By using an effective question Philip now knows the direction he needs to move the conversation in.  Questions can help us determine what this person might be thinking or how well they are understanding what they are being taught.  It can help us identify concerns or doubts they might have.  Questions are so powerful that Jesus would ask his disciples questions over lecturing as a form of teaching.  Notice some of the questions Jesus used to draw his followers out: 

• Who do the crowds say that I am? (Luke 9:18)

• Who do you say that I am? (Luke 9:20)

• Why are you anxious? (Matt. 6:27,28)

• Do you believe? (Matt.9:28)

• Why did you doubt? (Matt. 14:31)

• What do you want me to do for you? (Matt. 20:32)

• And many, many more

By asking questions Christ could determine their internal motives, level of comprehension, as well as what was on their minds.  Questions are a powerful tool to draw people out and get them involved in the conversation.  Questions and genuine personal interest go hand in hand with being effective in sharing Christ with someone else.

In the story, the Ethiopian basically explains he knows the prophesy, but he didn’t understand it.  Now that Philip understands his audience, he continues to share. “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35). As his third tactic, Philip took it upon himself to help teach this individual the good news about Jesus.  Yes, he personally got involved.  He did not leave it up to the local congregation of believers or the next Christian that the man might encounter.  He started sharing the good news himself.

In today’s culture the importance of teaching about Christ and handing down the information we have been taught has slowly been overlooked.  Part of your being a disciple is your personal participation in the making of new disciples.  Disciple making is an effort that each of us should be playing a part in.  The responsibility of individuals in the disciple making process is further highlighted in the scriptures.  The writer of the letters to the Corinthians states, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it…For we are co-workers in God’s service.” (1 Cor. 3:6, 9). The scriptures effectively point out that individuals are employed by God to go and make disciples.  And in this case two of them working together made an effective disciple making team.  Because of their attention to this important assignment the scripture tells us that their efforts were blessed as God made the seeds they planted in others grow.  

Once these spiritual seeds have grown and the new follower accepts Christ our work needs to continue.  New followers need help to develop into mature Christians.  They need someone to explain The Bible, as the Ethiopian stated to Philip.  Many of us grew up in the church and the lessons make sense because we’ve been taught them from an early age.  For a new believer, it’s not as easy to wrap your mind around many truths contained in scripture.  For example, why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?  What is a ransom and why did Christ have to die for our sins?  A critical part in the spiritual maturing process is to understand why we believe what we believe and how to (eventually) teach this to others.   

Let’s reflect on Christ’s example again and see how he developed his new followers.  We know he made disciples as he chose the Twelve.  The scriptures specifically mention 72 others he developed into followers as well (Luke 10:1, 2). Beyond this it is reasonable to believe that more became His disciples than only the 84 just mentioned.  But what did Jesus do with these once they became his disciples?  He furthered their training and then sent them forth to make more disciples themselves (Mark 6:7). In order for them to go and make disciples, they had to be well taught. They had to be capable of defending their faith and sharing it with others.  Yes, Christ did not just make disciples.  He made well trained disciple makers.  Had He not trained them on how to go, to share, to teach – the first century Christian church might not have seen the rapid expansion that it experienced.  What if Peter had been unable to speak to the crowd at Pentecost?  Because of the training he received as a disciple the scriptures tell us “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts. 2:14-40).

Each of us likely enjoy that moment in Church when we see the hands go up of people accepting Christ.  But what happens to them after that moment is over, after they walk out the door that Sunday and back into their lives?  Are we helping them, developing them into the fullness of Christ?  The success of a new follower of Christ depends upon a teaching regimen focused on the new believer.  It helps them become firm in the foundations of Christ.  We must take an active interest in these individuals we celebrate so happily the day they raise their hands.  As Philip and Christ did, we must welcome them and get them paired with a mature Christian or into a small study group of believers.  This method is the best way to help ensure that their questions and concerns are being answered.  Additionally, by pairing them with established disciples they can be shown how to do personal study as well as the importance of prayer.  All of this will help encourage and strengthen them as they progress toward the next step of baptism.  Some of us have been Christians so long we have long forgotten the complexity of this seemingly simple path.

We are at a point in history where we established believers need to take personal responsibility in explaining to new followers what it means to be a Christian.  We need to show them from scripture why we believe and why it’s true.  Faith may be the confidence in realties unseen, but this does not mean that faith is blind (Heb. 11:1). How did Christ help build people’s faith?  He pointed people to The Bible, showing them from scripture why they should believe.  In many of his answers he would say “for it is written” or “have you not read”.  By effectively using scripture we can provide new believers with forensic reasons to have faith in what they are being taught (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Each of us can play a part in providing them with satisfying answers to relive any doubt.  Remember this, if we do not answer new believers questions the world will try to fill them with their ‘answers’.

All of us, individuals and as Churches, have a place in the disciple making process. Christ told his followers that the harvest was plentiful, but the workers are few (Matt.9:37). How true this is.  Today more than ever we need workers in God’s harvest field helping bring disciples to Christ.  What a privilege to be living at this time when there are so many to still come to Christ!  Get involved! Come be a fellow disciple maker alongside Christ.  It is an important part of your personal growth as well as the growth of those we teach.

References: Pew Research Center Poll 

Fox News https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/young-christians-are-leaving-the-church-heres-why


Core: Back to the Basics.

Back to the basics. We all know it’s where we should start when things seem kind of crazy or we seem kind of lost. So, to kick off the year, we’re going to do a series on the basics of what we believe as Christians. The hope is to strengthen you to Go. Do. Be. 

No one we know will get into heaven just
by being nice.

SIN AND GRACE

Why are sin and grace important? We all talk about each but we tend to speak about both lightly. Sometimes I wish we could use other words to spark our hearts as we have grown a little callous to the brilliant basics of our faith. In Romans, Paul takes us through our foundation with two main items we need to be crystal clear on for starting at ground zero. 

“for ALL have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God”

Romans 3:23.

ALL HAVE SINNED, ALL CAN RECEIVE GRACE 

As individuals, in order to understand our need for Christ, we must recognize who we truly are. Truly, who all of us are is the real bottom of the stack. The Bible is painfully clear, “for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. Regardless of how many times we say it, the verse simply doesn’t resonate with some.

NONE of us deserve to go to heaven. There is no shortcut here. If you are alive, you have sinned. Somehow. Regardless of how—without Jesus Christ, you will not see heaven when you die. There’s no “Oh, he was a good person. He didn’t follow Jesus, but I’m sure he’s in a better place.” The Bible is very clear.  For many, we want to believe something better than reality, because it troubles us to think God would punish people so harshly.  Funny enough, we all want justice when someone wrongs us, but for some reason, we do not seem to think God deserves that same justice.  

Without Christ, we are all destined for an eternity apart from God, apart from all things good, apart from love, apart from happiness. All things. The Bible calls this place hell. It’s tough to read. We don’t like to believe it. We think for some reason that our God is so kind that He just wouldn’t let this happen. However, it’s critically important to understanding the whole basis of the Christian faith. We all deserve separation from God. No one we know will be get into heaven just by being nice. The only ticket through those pearly gates is salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s not up for debate across the Christian denominations. “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6.

Let’s break it down further in a quick history synopsis. God made Adam and Eve without sin. He only forbade one thing…the thing they decided to do. As such, sin was born into the world and every human being was born into sin, as we originated from Adam. Through one man sin was born and passed to every generation. Your nice neighbor, your everyday criminal—all born into the same status–sinful.  The degrees of separation from God are not set on how far apart you are from Him.  Regardless of the distance, it’s one solution for all.  The consequences of the sins might play out differently in our lives, but our status is either FORGIVEN or NOT FORGIVEN. 

Fast forward. Jesus dies on the cross. A sinless man, born of the Holy Spirit and MARY, sacrificed himself for us and was raised again to life. This sacrifice paid the price for the sin that started with Adam. Jesus was buried and rose again on the third day.  He was the sacrifice.  We, as Christians, have accepted that payment. Freely given. Freely received. As such, we are now born a second time through Jesus Christ. Thus, the term “born again.” 

If someone does not accept Christ that person will not be entering into any kind of heaven. (and no, there aren’t multiple heavens. Just one.). They have only been born once—into sin. Being born again is incredibly critical once you understand where sin started in the human race. Sadly, if we are born, we cannot avoid being a sinner. If we don’t accept Christ as our savior, our punishment and the justice served is to spend eternity separated from God (Hell). 

Once you understand the destination set at birth for everyone (as we all know we have sinned at least once in line with our sinful ancestry), then it really evokes two big thoughts:

How do I avoid this punishment and how do I tell others? 

ENTER GRACE

When we truly understand our status without Jesus, that’s where grace rings truest. It’s a gift we are offered that we do not deserve.  This is where we see God’s issuance of judgment with the gift of the payment. 

It’s justice wrapped in complete love. 

Grace is also where we see God’s amazing love for us. “For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  

The Bible makes grace very clear—it’s not something you earn, but it is a gift from God.  It’s not about how many little old ladies you have walked across the street. It’s not about how many you haven’t (although we can talk about how faith generates action later this year!).  It’s simply about accepting what God has done for you.  You were a sinner.  You deserved punishment.  Hell.  Jesus died on the cross. He was raised on the third day.  He paid a debt only He was fit to pay for us. Part one–we all deserve to be punished. Part two–the grace God extends to us is He provided the payment for that sin. Both just AND loving.  

For the record, that’s exactly why we’re called to GO. (Matthew 28:19). If we understand who we are (sinners) and we understand we deserve Hell (justice for sin),  then our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude for the grace God showed us by sending Jesus to pay the price for us.  This position of a grace saved grateful Christian paired with our love for our family and friends should motivate us to share with them the same AMAZING grace we have already received. I’m baffled at how lulled into sleep we can be when it comes to sharing Christ with others. Once we realize where we were, what we deserved, and where we were headed before someone shared Christ with us—how do we look anyone in the eye without wanting to help set them free as well? 

So returning to this CORE belief of sin and grace is where we start. We simply need reminded of where we were before Jesus and his AMAZING GRACE that made us right with God.  I would challenge you to spend some time in prayer and reflection with God on these really heavy concepts.  They are paramount to living a life worthy of our Lord and Savior. They could also be the foundation you need to build an incredible ministry in your life for Christ. If you know what you deserved… if you know what He did for you… how can you NOT share it with others? If by chance you are reading this article and you find yourself KNOWING you are sinful and wanting to accept God’s grace, I simply invite you to pray this prayer:  God, I am sitting here understanding who I am and what I deserve. I’m in awe of your grace through your son Jesus Christ. You sent Him to die on the cross for my sinful self. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and I accept the gift of salvation from you through Jesus. It’s in your son Jesus’  holy name I pray, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, we welcome you to head to our website for information on what to do next to start following Jesus. Being forgiven is step one. Getting involved in a church/Bible Study is really step 2.
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