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.
When I was in junior high school my father retired from 30 plus years of service in the Social Security Administration to be an at home dad with my at home, homemaking mother. Make no mistake he didn’t quit working. After being in retirement a few years, he often said, “I don’t know where I ever found time to go to work!” Between our ever-growing family, running a small 200 head cattle ranch, gardens, being an elder of the church and Sunday School Superintendent, and volunteer work through Gideons International, Big Brothers, writing a column for the newspaper, etc; he was a busy man. One thing both he and our mother delighted in was hospitality around the family table. Not the least in importance to them, were the holidays. The events were almost always at their home and they did the majority of the cooking for years until the seven of us (their children) grew into our new positions as contributors. That is the backdrop of the most recent generation of my family roots and value placed on holidays. How about yours?
About how many holidays have you experienced now that you have reached the wonderful age of grandparenthood? How many of those holidays were exceptionally memorable? Satisfying? Rich? Rewarding? Empty? Frustrating? Stressful? May I ask you, at this point in your life, what is your part in your family’s holiday activities? Are you still doing most of the planning and implementation? Have you primarily taken a behind the scenes position and passed the baton to the next generation? Are you the matriarch/patriarch still providing perspective and strong roots to help keep the family on course?
Me? Well, my parents are now both with the Lord. I’m in my sixties. My hubby is in his seventies. All five of our sons are in their thirties, with the first one turning 40 this January. The establishment of their dreams is well underway and most of them have their quivers full of children. We do hope to have a few more grandchildren however before it’s all said and done. So, how are holidays for us? As a peacemaker and fun loving, hardworking provider of our home, Hubby is all about family, food, and fun. I love that, too. However, as the researcher for the family assignments that bring its fair share of struggles, it’s also super important to me that we make the holidays accomplish all they were created for. Holidays for me are “holy-days”; i.e. days set aside to remember to focus on various topics. Remembering helps us stay the course. It helps us keep our priorities and check the pulse of our values. Holy days are connecting days where we nurture our roots with traditions. Why is it important to do this? Because we are human beings created with a design out of heaven, let’s look to the Owner’s Manual God made available to guide us.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.” This says to me that holy-days (holidays) are our Creator’s plan for us.
Leviticus 23: 2 (KJV)
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
Psalm 78:4 (ESV)
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
Psalm 145:4 (ESV)
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:”
Psalm 102:18 (ESV)
These verses say to me that we need to be intentional about sharing the deeds and ways of the Lord from one generation to another. We have a purpose. Let me first share a couple of wonderful resources, then a few practical ideas to prime the pump. Martha Zimmerman’s books Celebrating Biblical Feasts and Celebrating the Christian Year have been invaluable books to me since the 1980s and are still VERY relevant today. I’d start by purchasing those two books. But I wouldn’t wait until reading both of them to get started. We are entering the fall and winter holidays this month. So what are some intentional things we can do right now?
How about having an All Saints Day meal with your family and share some of the strengths of your family with them. Put a strong emphasis on God’s involvement in the journey, through the battles and peace times of the spiritual battles of life. If you don’t have Christian roots in your section of the family tree, emphasize Christian character and morals that are present and have obviously been taught somewhere in the roots of your tree. If possible show pictures of the family of whom you are talking, or something that belonged to that relative as a tangible item for your family to hold on to from their story.
Thanksgiving could include an autumn tree with pictures of Squanto, the Pilgrims, and fun facts about the harshness of their story and the beautiful outcomes. Include also one or two of your family’s stories about lives that went different than their original dreams, were full of harsh realities, and many intimate moments with God as He birthed something very beautiful through them.
Christmas season could be filled with gifts that tell your family story. For instance, write a thirty day devotional with stories from your life or your family roots that share how you came into relationship with God and how He has revealed Himself to you through His word, His names, His creation, His care, His love . . . Could you round up a few items to put into a shadow box for each of your grown children and their families with a story about that item on the back? Last year I started a tradition of cutting a little tree in the woods to bring in for a one evening event thus it is fresh and not a fire hazard. We string popcorn and cranberries as garlands and tie bags with home-made cookies onto the boughs. Lastly we put on the dozen clips with candles I purchased on line from Germany on the tree and light them. This year, I hope to add some family story ornaments that we will let grow into a collection, and use each year forth to tell the generation to come of our family’s assignment in the body of Christ. An assignment that like a terrific page turner of a book has its dark moments of fear, shame, doubt, insecurity but is miraculously turned around as our Hero, the King of kings and Lord of lords enters the scene. If you have been born again spiritually, you have the Creator living within you. Therefore, you have limitless creativity waiting to be tapped to enrich your holy-days and strengthen our part of the world one family at a time. May God richly bless your efforts and give your families ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to receive we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Holiday traditions really bring about excitement and expectation for the season to come. Some of the ones I have appreciated (or implemented) can be an easy addition to your holiday season. Traditions don’t have to start the day your children are born! They can start at any season that God puts them on your heart quite honestly. So, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t really been doing anything for years and years. It might take a little coercion with older children, but it will be worth it when you have memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanksgiving (or any holiday) candle: One of the loveliest traditions I know, I first did with a group of friends I worked with many years ago. We passed around a candle to each person at a Thanksgiving meal with our group. We each shared one thing we were thankful for (work or personal). As awkward as you might think it was, as this was just not my girls gathering together, but our entire team—it was memorable even now, 15 years later. We all talked about it each season. Our company was sold, but our last holiday together set a light to the meaning of friendships!
Thanksgiving serving: As filling as the holiday meal is gathered around the table with family, many find heading down to John 3:16 in Tulsa to serve holiday meals is even more filling in the end. Serving others a meal, when they have no regularly scheduled meals, can bring about a whole new meaning to the season of thanks. It reminds us to help those who are less fortunate for whatever reason. Most didn’t set out hoping to be homeless or jobless. Life happens. It also reminds our families to be thankful for what we do have. Together, giving to others because much has been given to you—that’s a dish worth serving!
Gingerbread Houses/Christmas Cookies: Ok. I know. It feels like a whole lot of work (and you don’t really get to eat the yummy house—cookies are another story!). However, with today’s amazing retailers, you can grab a ready to assemble house at Costco if you aren’t inclined to do your own. My daughter starts asking when we get to do ours at least two months before Christmas. With a little Christmas music, hot chocolate, and nibbling on the icing, it’s quite fun. Our house isn’t going to win any contest, but it’s made with a lot of love enjoyed by all. For the cookies, you can go completely homemade to Walmart pre-made but not yet baked Pillsbury yummies. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a fun tradition. The operative word here is FUN!
Christmas Caroling: Sounds out of date a bit? Maybe. But, update it with a set of Christmas lights with a battery and you’re golden. Then, wrap up the participants and start knocking on doors. (whoever has a free hand!) You can learn 3–4 songs (most of which you likely already know). Give the neighbors a Christmas smile. If you want to really make someone’s day—add in a local nursing home or retirement center to the list (call first of course!). Pack your hot chocolate and give it a go!
If you’re more inclined to stay at home? Start one night of Christmas Carols around the tree either with family or host a youth event with a few of your children’s friends and play some on your device! If you aren’t musically inclined, I love How Many Kings, Toby Mac, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns or well . . . I’m not gonna lie. I love me some Elvis Christmas—and he really makes for a fun evening to boot! Finish the evening by piling in the car and heading off to Rhema (or start there!) or drive through some well-lit neighborhoods, like 106th and Sheridan (go north and south in there!) and wander around the neighborhood towards 111th. There are some BIG sets of lights to see! Even singing in the car on your way to the lights can be a tradition all its own!
Advent Calendars: Yeah, I know. Everyone does them, but not everyone does them like you might! We bought one from Pottery Barn for Kids (although honestly you could make your own with some hot glue in about 20 minutes or less). Fill it with candy or little toys. Then start your countdown. We use the Life.Church Children’s Storybook Bible to read the story of the birth of Jesus to our little one every night while she eats her candy. Last year for Christmas? Our 3-year old recited the entire story to our whole family after Christmas dinner. You can imagine how that felt! (No kids Bible? Download the free Life.Church Kid’s Bible on your phone or tablet. Done.)
Giving (Anything/Anywhere/Any Time): Let your kiddos participate in some form of giving to others over the holidays. It’s a great tradition built on the generosity of the God we serve. Maybe it’s another meal. Maybe it’s one of the many trees around town with presents children might be wanting. Maybe it’s sneaking a bag of presents or food onto the porch of a family who just lost a job and ringing the doorbell as you hide. Maybe it’s just sitting down taking advantage of tax breaks with end of year giving to your favorite charities/church. Whatever way you decide to create a tradition of giving, build it into your traditions with your children. It will remind them of the reason for the season—which has very little to do with Santa Claus and a whole lot to do with Jesus!
Christmas Eve (SERVE)ice: Don’t just go. Serve! There are usually WAAAY more services for Christmas than just the one you will attend. For this season, create a moment of sharing with your kiddos as you serve at your church. Churches often need door greeters, decorators, and more. There are lots of ways you and your family can make the Christmas season special for your church staff by helping out (plus all of those attending!). When you’re done? Go have a Starbucks or a meal and talk about things that happened. There’s always that ONE STORY you won’t forget.
Anything you do can be a holiday tradition. Last year, I might have started a new tradition by not actually cooking the Christmas dinner for our extended family. We had this incredibly overpriced, fancy new Dacor oven that wasn’t heating up high enough. There was a system malfunction that required complete replacement. I didn’t realize it since we eat out all the time. (No judging!) So, unknowingly, I served everything doughy, raw, and ummm yeah just not done! You get it. People were trying to eat it believe it or not. Talk about love! The world didn’t fall apart. We went straight to the desserts everyone bought. My family still laughs about how I could own an oven for over 6 months and not realize it wasn’t working. Anyway, you get the idea.
So, here are my holiday tradition rules:
Don’t overthink it.
Memories with a giggle are magic.
Your family and Jesus still love you—dry turkey or not.
Enjoy family and friends. Period.
Written by Andrea Stephens
Generosity. The giving of good things to others freely and abundantly out of a heart of genuine kindness. Generosity is something we are challenged by during this season of thankfulness and gift giving. It affords us the opportunity to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Have you ever met someone who is generous? Not just someone who repeatedly tells the story of her one-time over the top act of kindness. I mean someone who lives it. Someone who sees what they own, what they earn, what they do with their time, and their words of encouragement as tools to use to bless the lives of others. Someone who has experienced the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive and can attest that giving increases their own well-being and happiness (Acts 20:35). Someone who’s heart has been so touched by the love of God that it overflows toward others in a consistent, almost natural way.
Several years ago, I met Marge. She was an older lady, a widow, the mother of two adult sons who were inattentive to their mother. Her life had not been easy but her disposition was one of gratitude, a key to generous living. She could be heard thanking the Lord for this or that and giving Him credit for all the good in her life; Marge had well learned Jesus’ command to love the Lord with everything within her and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39). I got to watch up close as she would hear about a need and find a way to meet it. Mr. Avery had been laid off and his family needed groceries; Suzette didn’t have a winter coat and the temperature kept dropping; Karen was in the throes of chemotherapy and just couldn’t prepare Thanksgiving dinner as usual. Marge had three bags of groceries delivered to the Avery’s, took Suzette shopping, and shared her festive meal so Karen could rest. The majority of her most generous giving was done anonymously so that the credit went to God alone. Even as someone who became one of her close friends, I didn’t know all the giving she was up to, yet that smile on her face let me know that she and Jesus were up to something good. Together, they were on an adventure that brought energizing joy, contentment and purpose to her life.
Her example taught me that I, too, could possess the quality of generosity. Generosity is not about how much you possess, or how much money you make. It’s about the condition of your heart, your mindset, your willingness to put it into action. Caring, sharing, and giving because it blesses the Lord, blesses the recipient, and blesses you.
Sometimes our generosity is an act of obedience to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. A friend tells the story of having lunch at one of her favorite restaurants—the kind with country style cooking. When she was getting ready to leave, the Holy Spirit whispered to her/impressed upon her to leave her waitress a $20 tip. She admits that her first reaction was what, $20? After all this wasn’t one of her regular waitresses but a new person she didn’t even know, a person with a pink streak in her hair. Well, she knew the thought hadn’t come from her. So, she had a decision to make. Should she trust the impression or pass it off as a ridiculous thought?
Obedience won. She tucked the money along the side of her plate and left the restaurant. The next week she returned to that restaurant for lunch. While scanning the menu she heard someone say, “Hey, you’re the lady that left me that awesome tip last week.” She looked up to see the waitress with the pink streak in her hair. She smiled. “I was having such a bad day. Several customers had been mean and no one was tipping. In fact, I had just been alone in the walk-in freezer crying and asking the Lord to help me. Then I came out and there was your tip. Thank you so much.”
Wow. Who knew her obedience was actually the answer to someone’s prayer? My friend was doubly blessed. She had followed what the Lord lead her to do and she had impacted another life with her generosity.
Of course, the greatest example of generosity was done by God, our Heavenly Father, when He choose to send His Son, Jesus, to earth as a human baby who would one day sacrificially give His life to save the world from the wrath of sin and restore all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. When Jesus gave His life for you and me, it was the greatest demonstration of love being the motivation for generosity. First, God loved the world which resulted in the giving of Jesus (John 3:16). Then Jesus loved His Father so much that He obediently went to the cross to die for the world His Father loved (Matt 26:36-44). Yes, Jesus loved us, but His motivation came from the love he had for God.
To complete this demonstration of love, Jesus rose from the grave having defeated death and paying our sin debt so that we can live forgiven, free, and forever reconciled to our Heavenly Father. This alone, gives each of us reason to be grateful and to show our love for God by loving others. Life can be hard, messy, and disappointing. Yet when we intentionally keep our focus on the generosity of God toward us, we will recognize our blessings and be motivated to bless others.
How can we become more generous women? First, study God’s Word. The more we know His love, the more we will love Him (and the more we will want to obey Him). January will be a great time to get in on a local Bible study. Check out these studies for women: Bible Study Fellowship held at Asbury Church on Thursday mornings and Community Bible Study held at Evergreen Baptist Church on Wednesday mornings. Second, practice an attitude of gratitude. Challenge yourself to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Get in the habit of telling others when you are grateful for them. Third, just start being generous. Yes, begin paying attention to how and when you can be generous to those around you—whether it is someone you know or a seemingly random person God puts in your path. As you do these things, your desire to be more generous will grow. Your joy will increase. You will become a natural at it!
Written by Teresa Goodnight
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
I know. I couldn’t help the reference with the holidays coming, but our fruitiness is pretty important. Our CORE is a pretty good indicator of our status with Christ. Makes sense. God tells us that the closer we get to Him, the more the Holy Spirit will produce these kinds of fruits within us:
God tells us “There is no law against these things!” Makes sense. Why would there need to be a law against such things? I know no one complaining at the Thanksgiving table—“Kenzi, she’s just too loving. I always feel like she is just joyful or something. It’s really aggravating me. When things aren’t going her way, she’s peaceful. It’s like she thinks that no matter what happens, everything is going to be ok. She’s kind when I think she should be boiling over. It’s like she’s full of goodness or something. I mean her faithfulness and gentleness anger me. I wish she wasn’t so stinkin’ self-controlled. I just don’t like to be around people like her.”
It’s so silly—it’s difficult to write (and probably read). I just don’t hear people complaining about people filled with the Spirit. In fact, I’m more likely to step back and challenge myself when I’m around such people. There’s no one in my life who would naturally call me self-controlled. Gentleness isn’t exactly on my type A personality trait list either. I want it to be. In fact, when I spend more time with God, it actually starts to creep into me. I notice it. Then, when life gets busy and I get off track. It’s gone. Type A me, me, me is right back in action wondering if anyone noticed I was next in line and not the person they waited on ahead of me. As I wonder in my head how they missed me, I stand there annoyed I’m having to wait longer, fighting rushing up to get my turn that was due. It’s not just self-control I’m lacking there. It’s patience. It’s love. It’s goodness. It’s certainly gentleness. All not happening. ARGH!
So, why can’t I keep producing the fruit I want? Many times, it’s because I AM PRODUCING THAT FRUIT. When I’m just doing it on my own, it won’t last. It doesn’t have the sticking power that a fruit of the Spirit does. People can sense you aren’t even happy with what you are trying to force yourself to do, but when it’s just growing out of you—it has its own life and power, God’s Holy Spirit’s power.
It’s not that I shouldn’t try to be good. We should all try of course. It’s just that there is a different power source behind the actions when we are plugged into Christ. When I’m reading God’s word, spending time in prayer about it—all of a sudden, the fruit just starts growing in me. Sure, I’m participating. I’m there letting the seed be planted with God’s word. I’m listening to God as I pray, letting the Spirit water me like a garden if you will. Then I’m out there operating in the sunshine watching it grow inside me. It really is a very different crop though. One is born out of pushing myself to do it myself. The other is truly born of the Spirit. It actually can feel a bit effortless at times. In fact, it can even surprise you that it’s just happening. I know it has me. (Mainly because I know it is NOT my natural instinct. Hey. Don’t judge. LOL)
My daughter is addicted to a dumplin’/carrot kid’s meal at the Cracker Barrel (Please stay with the no judging theme here. Ha! ). She’s a picky eater. Anyway. One day, we had a waitress who was just downright grumpy with us. Anything we asked seemed like an enormous drain on her. I wanted to throw down a bit of righteous indignation that a paying customer feels they deserve to throw when things aren’t going well. I own that mode when needed (Sadly!). However, we had been challenged at church to be a bit different. The seed had been planted just the service before. It was watered with some Biblical teaching and addressed in prayer. So, without even having to debate it, which still baffles me, we left a $100 tip. It wasn’t because we made ourselves do it. It really flowed right out of us. We left being thankful that God had turned us that direction in that moment.
Several weeks later, my daughter and I went back to the Cracker Barrel. Honestly, I didn’t remember the waitress, but she remembered us. (Don’t even know how she knew it was us, because you pay at the front desk at CB!). Anyway, she came over and talked about what a horrible day she was having that day. She talked with me about some of her trials. She knew she had been pretty awful to us. She was so thankful to us for being generous on her really bad day. I had to tell her—I think God wanted you to have that encouragement. He must have known you needed it. We do NOT do that all the time. We have done that only when we feel a tug that feels from the Spirit and we just respond immediately. It’s difficult to put into words, but it is just different. I’m sure you’ve felt that tug.
So how fruity are you? Are you working on any kind of spiritual fruit crop at all? Do you have some artificial, genetically modified fruit crop that looks a bit like real fruit out of “I oughtas or I shoulds” or are you plugged into the Holy Spirit and watching God grow something amazing in you that you know couldn’t be produced without Him? Again, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t put for the effort, but I’m telling you—there’s something different when the Holy Spirit is growing it in you. There just is.
So, I think we should throw down the holiday fruitcake challenge for this season. Let’s spend some time with God to be as fruity as we can be going into holiday time with our family and friends. See what happens!
Let’s read and study Galatians 5.
Look up a definition of the words Paul used like love, patience, etc. day by day.
Pray about at least one of them daily.
Pray that God will bring you opportunities to display them and that He will grow them in you like a harvest!
We’d love to get some notes from you over the holidays with any stories of God producing a bountiful crop in your life through His Spirit! Be blessed, but more than that, BE A BLESSING!
What does a SUPER Lost World Need? A Savior.
Goodness. America feels upside down and torn apart. Admittedly this country has made more than its fair share of mistakes growing up. So have I. One of the best parts of who we become grows out of the grace God gives us for those mistakes. At our worst, at our best, or somewhere in the middle—God loves us, sent His son to die for us, and offers forgiveness that knows no limits. So, in these times of social media wars, families divided over our political state, and hearts that fully reject God’s Word, His grace and even ours, how do we love? Like God did.
God being under attack isn’t anything new although it feels a bit new to our generation. In fact, although we focus on the amazing birth of our savior in this season, we must also remember He too came into a very tumultuous world. There was a hunt to find where the Messiah would be born—to destroy Him. The horrible taxes drove Mary and Joseph to travel when she was with child to get them paid. There was no room for a woman giving birth at the inn? Really? Would noone give their room? The owners? Even through the hunt, the lack of common decency, God still saw fit to send His son. He was born in a barn. He would die on a cross at the hand of the very people He came to save.
Why? Because then and now, the world still needed a savior. That’s how God loves.
This is not our home. It’s not. No matter how “blessed” we feel with all the frills even America offers, at the core of every human being, it remains true: THE WORLD IS STILL VERY MUCH IN NEED OF A SAVIOR. You have the answer to a broken and hurting world living inside of you. Breathing His Spirit into you. His grace covers you. You are grounded in Christ. In this season, #GoDoBE Christ wherever you find the opportunity. America is crying out desperately for a savior, reminding us of the real reason why Jesus was born. Give the gift of a savior with God this season. It just may change someone’s eternal life.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
The Wiggles. Most people who have had a child in the last three decades have had at least a small dose of “Fruit Salad.” As the Wiggles have said, it is “Yummy. Yummy.” This group, launched in Australia by Anthony Field, sets most of life to funny little tunes for singing and dancing. Their shows are full of energy. The kids are up singing and dancing. It’s truly a big, super duper dose of fun. They sing about allergies, play games with song and dance, and employ the crazy antics of a singing pirate, Captain Feathersword. Plus, there’s Henry the Octopus, Wags the dog, and Dorothy the Dinosaur.
Our Wiggles journey has spread from NY to LA, because our daughter enjoys them so much. We dress her up in the standard Emma Wiggles garb with her bow, yellow shirt and a tutu. Our daughter really loves them all. Lachy delights with a piano, a little gymnastics, and a whole lot of singing and dancing. Simon dances and sings a nice little rendition of Simon Says in a playful game. Anthony? He sings while playing his guitar and even his bagpipes leading the fun and rhetoric of the show.
What’s been incredibly interesting to us is the large portion of the audience full of differently abled children, who are so excited to be there. At the show in Los Angeles, we sat next to a young autistic boy, who clapped the entire show with utter delight. At the show in Tulsa, the crowd was just full of children who couldn’t speak, walk or really communicate well—except there was no disguising their love for the Wiggles. The young boy next to us was 13. He was getting a little impatient waiting for them, but was in such a happy place for the entire show. In fact, of all the children’s shows we have seen—this was by far the most diverse audience all united in their love of giggles with the Wiggles.
After interviewing Eastland Assembly of God about their ministry for handicapped children and adults, we have come to understand the amazing appreciation of musical performances to the majority of the differently abled children and even adults. The expressive singing and dancing with the colorful attire seems to be the exact right mix for most of these kiddos. It’s a great program to watch to gain ideas for expanding church programs to teach these kids about Christ. It’s not complicated. In fact, there are likely lots of teens and even adults in the congregation, who would love to get a chance to express their sillier side with song and dance while making a difference in these precious lives.
We were able to see a young girl, maybe 13, participating in the “Make a Wish Foundation” program. I’m not sure of her exact condition, although most children participating in this program are not likely to live much longer. She had her sensory headset on to keep the music from being too loud for her little ears. She danced with amazing joy, even once clapping her hands with utter delight in a super happy moment she experienced. I snapped a few photos from my seat with tears running down my face. It was just the sweetest moment to share with her.
Sometimes being silly, having a little fun in your heart and sharing some singing and dancing is all you need to bring delight to any audience. It removes the walls put up by differences—mental, physical, financial or political (OK. I am hoping there!), It is an experiential reminder to us all that within each of our differences lies the joyful heart of our Father in Heaven. As Natalie Stitt reminds us of in her thesis, we are ALL made in God’s image. When you’re at a Wiggles show, it’s really a living, breathing example of what doing life together can be when you open your hearts and minds and take down the perceived barriers.
Written by Mary L. Williams
My widowed, 80-year-old mother used to say, “I had to help the elderly person in the grocery store.” She remained active and healthy until her mid-eighties. Her wisdom and understanding of God’s Word was astounding. Her years in the church and her divine encounters through prayer and fasting became a comfort to many, both young and old. She learned to trust in Jesus Christ and His finished, atoning work on the cross. My mom was certainly an overseer in the church and in her neighborhood (as well as an ordained minister). Her spiritual enlightenment in Christ came through years of growth in wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God’s word, purpose and plan. As an elder, the imperative is to help others grow and avoid pitfalls by sharing wisdom and experiences—to oversee as a shepherd to a flock.
Are elders trivialized in the modern church structure? Young people seem to be recognized more as leaders of the church and needed for expansion of ministry. However, to trivialize a contribution an elder (or the elderly) can make in the modern church structure is indeed a tragic mistake. Statistics site that in American Christian congregations, older adults consider religion more important than adults 39 years of age or younger. Young adults are 10 percent or more less likely to attend weekly worship services and pray on a consistent basis. Millennials tend to give financially to purposes or causes to fight for more than to organized churches or religion. Therefore, the question becomes can millennials substitute for the sagacious directives of the silver hair, laugh lines around the eyes, un-botoxed foreheads of men and women who are proven faithful to family, friends and the church? Absolutely not. We need both.
Paul needed young Timothy in furtherance of the gospel, yet, Timothy needed Paul as a spiritual father and instructor on “How” to establish the church and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Timothy was admonished by the Apostle Paul to “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity (love), in spirit, in faith, in purity.” I Timothy 4:12. Paul’s advice to the church overall is to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to wait before ministering to develop in ministry. He is not time specific about age, but more so about being conscience of the time for development before ministering.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
In the previous biblical examples, the young and the old were able to mutually work together to effect change necessary for the Body of Christ to exist today. Therefore, the question is not “Do we need elders or should the young and energetic (not restless) lead in the magnitude we’re experiencing today?” The vital question may be “Are elders discipling the young and are the young receiving discipleship?” In both cases, the giving and receiving must be done with love and mutual respect of each other’s place and calling in the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, call for the elders of the church and do not despise the young. Teach, preach and encourage all people to prayerfully embrace their season of purpose with meekness to the glory of God. There is no such thing as retirement in the Bible while we are still on the earth. To be finished means to no longer exist in this life in view of biblical standards. At 80 years old, Caleb told Joshua “Give me my Mountain!” (Joshua 14:12) Like Caleb, know your place and occupy it with love, wisdom, knowledge and humble dignity to fulfill God’s mission to build His Kingdom in the earth. He will give you strength in times of weakness (Prophet Elijah outran a chariot; 1 Kings 18:46) and courage with provision in times of trials and every season of your life (in the wilderness Hagar said “ . . . in this place God sees me and cares for me,” Genesis 16:13).
The Holy Spirit can guide us through the ever-changing trends in our society and church programming. God has already set the structure through the five-fold ministry and the gifts and administrations of the Holy Spirit. Young and elders alike are subject to God’s ordained structure to achieve holistic growth in Christ. And when it comes to defining “old,” I agree with the person who said, “Old is always 15 years older than my current age.”
Dr. Pfanstiel operates Broken Arrow Pediatrics, which has provided care to children and families for decades now. As a parent who specifically sought out their office due to their reputation as doctors, Christians, and fantastic care—I really wanted to share their hearts with our readers. When you have an appointment with Dr. Pfanstiel, you come out with great healthcare but also nuggets of wisdom to help you be a better parent. Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “Part of what I bring into my practice is that I try to impart rather than teach from experiences. Dr. Terry and I both try to connect with our patients and their families. We probably both do it in a little bit different way, but we want to connect.” That connection demonstrated in their practice funnels into each patient’s life in a multitude of ways. So, now for a few of those nuggets!
I asked Dr. Pfanstiel his thoughts on the main ingredients for raising our children right in a Godly home. Without hesitation, he answered, “The key, I believe, to being a good parent in all cases is being there, being present with them in their lives and activities.” Dr. Pfanstiel emphasized the importance of prioritizing that “presence” for our kids and how that demonstrates our love for them. We all know it’s easy to get wrapped up in life, careers, and mile long to do lists just needed to get into bed. It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in things that seem important (and maybe are important), but making time for things that matter plays a critical role in children’s lives. Sometimes we don’t realize how much it actually DOES mean to them.
“The key, I believe, to being a good parent in all cases is being there, being present with them in their lives and activities.”
As a busy doctor, Dr. Pfanstiel knows the demands of career as well as most. Being on call, needed in an emergency—these are just commonplace occurrences in his field taking you away from the family. He shared, “There was a movie several years back that really impacted me. It was based in West Virginia— ‘October Sky.’ The young boy in the movie built rockets in his backyard. He always invited his dad to come to his things, but his dad was a coal miner and couldn’t make it. Finally, when he was getting ready to make his big rocket launch, his father took off work and showed up. It was such a meaningful moment for the son for his dad to be there. Something in me just broke as I watched it.” Dr. Pfanstiel started to carve more of his own time out for his children. He continues to do that with his grandchildren today, as it was evident from all of the smiling family photographs. It’s time invested that builds relationships that last.
Dr. Pfanstiel and his wife, Roberta, raised 6 children. They have children in all sorts of meaningful careers making a difference in the world—doctor, lawyer, teacher, IT, police officer/military and Philip, business manager for the practice, who arranged the interview for me. Really, those kinds of paths for their children are evidence of the kind of character and walk with God their parents had. They learn from what they see. Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “We have to understand that everything we do and say is picked up. We don’t realize it sometimes. Just the gifts that they are (children), we believers would believe they are gifts from God. Each of us have our own experiences with our own background, our parents, our family, our heritage, our history that affect us. Those experiences reflect who we are and how we respond or act.” That’s certainly evident in the Pfanstiel children with all of their careers being impactful to society. They are positions making a difference in the lives of others. I wonder where they learned such traits? Dr. Pfanstiel gives all the credit to his wife Roberta, but it’s easy to tell that a great set of parents making right choices can make a difference in the future of their children. I agree. Being there for our kids just matters to them. It’s not always possible, but purposefully trying to make that time is incredibly impactful when you make it happen. Set your heart and mind on a mission to carve out time—plant those seeds, and watch your children grow!
Dr. Pfanstiel encourages families to think a little bit about just how busy they get. He said, “One thing we did, I would encourage people to do, I see a lot of these kids that are every quarter in some kind of event out there. I think that’s too much. The parent is just run, run, run. I think you need to have more time. We tried to limit our kids to one sport a year.” It’s pretty easy to fall into the “soccer mom” curse with kids in multiple seasons, multiple sports and little time to breathe as a family. His sage advice always makes me stop and listen whether we’re visiting him in the office as a patient or talking at an event. Maybe that’s because his family has such a legacy.
Dr. Pfanstiel has been in a solo practice since 1983 in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow area. Broken Arrow Pediatrics has been here for almost 13 years with Dr. Terry being with him every step of the way. The Pfanstiels landed in Tulsa after what felt like a direct call from God. While running a successful practice in North Carolina, his wife Roberta came to him and said that she felt God was calling them to move for Bible school at Rhema. Dr. Pfanstiel didn’t really hesitate. He made arrangements, packed their bags and headed west. He gives a lot of spiritual leadership credit to his wife, which fits with his history. “We were raised Lutheran. My wife came from a Presbyterian background. My mother was a spiritual leader then as is my wife now. I’m really thankful for that.” It’s clear that Dr. Pfanstiel has always appreciated the role of Godly women in both the household and the workplace. It definitely shows.
Dr. Pfanstiel said, “My wife survived six kids spending an hour or two with the Lord every morning. She says that’s what has taken her through. I’d leave at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning but it was so important to know she was home with the kids. I didn’t worry about my kids.” “We both tried to be there for our kids events. It was an advantage of having a solo practice. I could say that I wasn’t working on a Thursday, because I had a soccer game.” Each of the kids, as adults, have been appreciative of the fact that we tried to be at their events.
As a father, he learned to balance between being the provider and being present in his own children’s lives. “I think the highlights are that along the way I looked at different avenues, but I wanted to be free to do it my way.” said Dr. Pfanstiel. That translated to having free time to spend with his kids when he needed it. It also included being able to pray with patients or discuss the Lord as was appropriate for the situation. Dr. Pfanstiel said, “Dr. Terry and I, I think we practice good medicine. Dr. Terry prays without everyone. I pray with some. Sometimes I’ll ask the older children that if I pray for them that they also pray for me. It just delights me.“ His dedication to following God, being a present father and husband, as well as play out in all that he touches.
Dr. Pfanstiel encourages family time for his patients. He said, “I try to encourage meals together. My wife kept the family together. I didn’t get home some nights until 7:30 at night and she would hold dinner for me so that we could have time together as a family. Those are events and moments that are kind of checklist, but I try to emphasize the things that I thought were good to families when I’m with my patients.”
In their home life, it seems Dr. Pfanstiel would come home to take on a role akin to Richard Pryor in “The Toy.” He shared, “I came home and played with the kids. Roberta would get us all packed up and ready, taking care of everything. I’m so thankful we were two. I’m so thankful she stuck with me.” It was clear their family had their own secret sauce in how they worked—but the key takeaways have lessons for all of the families in his care.
We were lucky to have one of Dr. Pfanstiel’s sons, Philip, in the room with us for the interview. Philip is a teacher as well as the practice’s business manager to name a few of his many hats. Philip recounted his life with his mom and dad working to make the kids a priority. He said, “I was always impressed by how they (office managers) would always get him out of the room (when he was with a patient). Now that I’m his business manager, I’m realizing that was a big deal.” Philip went on, “My parents always had time for us. They came to our events. We ate meals together. We went to church every single time the doors were open. We went to Sunday School. We went to church. We had wisdom searches or devotions on a routine basis.” It was easy to see what an impact his family’s decisions had made on him as a child and even as a father today.
Philip shared about how he and his siblings learned such valuable lessons from their parents. They really exemplified a life with Christ. Philip said, “As a father, the two things that have kinda stuck with me: Children spell love T-I-M-E and more is caught than taught.” He went on, “My parents walked the walk. They are both people of integrity. We saw how they reached out to people. We saw how they brought people into the home. We saw how they would give. My dad’s a doctor and he’s driving an old beat up car. He’s not gonna spend money on a car when he has kids. He’s gonna take care of us. You do what God’s called you to do. In his case, it meant giving up a good practice in Charlotte, NC to come to Rhema.” I heard a play by play list of exactly what discipling your children in Christ looks like in action.
Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “We built this practice with newborn babies. We would work at the local hospitals and get to know parents. Meet them. Try to address them and encourage them.” He continued, “I am where I’m supposed to be. I do try to touch father’s lives. I try to ask them what they think. I really try to let them know this is a special gift from God (being a father).” That’s my heart: Fathers, families, the Lord, giving kids goals to go for, being there for them.” He ended with this, “God doesn’t make any carbon copies. Everybody is unique. Everybody’s got a purpose. Everybody’s got a story and a history. Everybody’s got a reason to live. I see it that way and life’s special.”
I couldn’t agree more, as Broken Arrow Pediatrics is an incredible practice with two of the best pediatricians I know. They do their jobs with honor, while following Christ and imparting wisdom and experience to the families they see. They are about ministering. They are about families. They are living discipleship experts taking what God has put in them and sharing it with others. I can’t imagine a better purpose than that!
Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One
A disciple is a learner. But when we think of learning and learners today, we draw a different picture than the one Jesus intended. Classrooms are a modern invention. For ages, formal education was for the few. Before public education, most learning came by doing. We apprenticed or we followed a master to learn a trade. We did what our parents did. We learned how to grow crops or make furniture by watching and helping our parents.
Jesus last command in Matthew is often called the Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
When Jesus issued this command, I doubt many heard him say we needed to create a curriculum and start holding classes. We don’t need to pursue accreditation. The two steps to making disciples are baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he commanded. Teaching then was modeling.
When our children are young, we can tell them things. We can guide their thought processes and encourage them to see things from our perspective. But as children age, they want to make decisions for themselves. After a while, everyone chooses their own path. The people who work with us, or even for us, are volunteers. In the end, we all have a choice.
Jesus came, suffered and died so we could keep that choice. We forfeited it at the fall. But God sent Jesus to make sure we could all choose. Imagine what we would do if we all saw God in all of his glory. Once Adam ate the apple, he became afraid. God remains veiled so we are free to choose. Jesus died to give us a choice. We can follow him and receive eternal life or we can choose our own way.
Choices are also influenced by our resources. Jesus said it was more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25). The more money we have the more choices we have. Since we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, most people we work with and interact with every day have the resources to choose their own solutions. Asking becomes the big phobia. We don’t want to look like we don’t know, so we make our own decisions and we live with the consequences.
God designed his strategy around how we model our faith. In Acts 1:8, the resurrected Jesus said,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 ESV
As We Go
Many consider the above to be a command, but I think it is a statement of fact. The “Go” at the beginning of the Great Commission in some translations can also be translated “as you go.” When Jesus tells us we will be witnesses, he’s telling us as we go, we will testify to the truth of Jesus. Our lives will be on display everywhere we go. We’re God’s only marketing strategy.
We all have sincerity meters. We sense when someone isn’t genuine or when they have an ulterior motive. And you’ve heard sayings like “Talk is cheap,” and “monkey see, monkey do.” How we live matters more than what we say. God created us that way and he designed the strategy (modeling) for identifying and developing his chosen people.
To make disciples we must model our faith. We live like we believe Jesus and our faith is on display for others. Both baptizing and teaching require modeling. People won’t trust Jesus or follow him until they see how trusting Jesus works. They don’t want to look stupid and most people object to being told they’re wrong or “lost.” When we live dependent on Jesus, he causes others to question and choose.
Jesus is the model. He chose to come to earth and suffer and die in our place. He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). When we model Jesus our life will cause others to question. Our light shines before others so they may see our good works and glorify our Father (Matt 5:16). Our modeling becomes the first step to making disciples in any context.
Mike Henry Sr. is the Founder and CEO of Follower Of One, a ministry designed to mobilize Christians in the marketplace. Get started by taking the Marketplace Mission Trip.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
In the July issue, I shared a story about nearsighted children. Dr. Chenoweth had my full attention, explaining how he could stop most nearsightedness for children in its tracks with CRT, potentially preventing eye diseases later in life that could lead to blindness. I was so amazed, I started asking parents who had children with glasses, “Are they nearsighted?” I’m not kidding. I did it across Epcot, Hollywood, and the Magic Kingdom. I wanted everyone to hear the good news. Then God kicked me in the shins. HARD.
Why in the world do I not have that same gusto (if not greater of course) for sharing Christ with people? When you have such incredible news—you just can’t HELP it. Right? You want to share it. I am not sure I ever have had that same gusto for telling folks about Christ. Why? I mean preventing potential blindness is big news. Don’t get me wrong. You should check out the July issue. But really? Knowing Jesus makes an eternal difference. Every single day people lose their life without knowing Jesus. Every single day, they are destined to be separated from God for eternity. How in the world is THAT life altering news not coming out of my lips with everyone I met? I have the information that could save their soul for crying out loud.
I used to stop at booths in the mall with the Campus Crusade Four Spiritual Laws booklet in tote. I USED to know sharing Jesus was THE most important thing I could ever share with anyone. If you’re reading this magazine, you likely already know Christ. (If you don’t—we need to talk!) So, you would agree what God did for us sending His son—it was a bit monumental. Life changing. It restores man to a relationship with our heavenly Father.
Why doesn’t it flow into my conversation with such zesty purpose as it did with the news about protecting a kid’s vision?
What in the whole big world is more important than sharing the life-altering, eternal redemption found in how He removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?
Judging by my life?
I considered myself a spiritually charged evangelist when I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). It’s an organization built around Jesus’ basic ministry: You go share Christ. You bring in the new believers. You teach them. Then, you challenge them to go out and do the same. Discipleship 101.
I wasn’t as good as CRU founder, Dr. Bill Bright, at getting someone into a meaningful conversation about Christ, but I was learning. Watching. Trying to get better. It was an active pursuit while I was in college and while I was on staff. It mattered. Then somewhere along the way, it didn’t. It faded? Maybe having a job and other responsibilities took away my focus? Whatever it was—it faded until it was so close to non-existent, it simply moved from my priorities—from my heart.
Really, you have to wonder. How did a CORE message from Christ get pushed out from our daily duties as His followers? I can tell you for me, it was not a difficult push. I believe in reaching people for Christ. However, it was much, MUCH easier to slip into a complacent mode. In fact, I slipped so much that I can’t tell you when I personally shared Christ with someone in a one-on-one situation aside from mission’s trips. I can’t. It’s not that I’m shy. I’ve sold large multi-million dollar deals to the largest telecom giants out there. I can talk to a wall. It comes straight down from my grandfather to my mother in my DNA. I mean, come on—I’m asking strangers about their kid’s eye condition on the other side of the country. My limits aren’t exactly pressing me in.
You know what I think? I think I slowly shifted my focus onto things of this world. I spent my time like other things mattered more. I just kinda let the “Good News” of life everlasting, salvation from sins, and finding a way to live a more meaningful life under God’s grace and out of shame fall out of the front of my mind. Maybe Satan, the oh so powerful distractor, snuck in through a tiny crack and repurposed my focus? Seems like his game. He is quite the master. Regardless of how it happened—I’m still in control of it. It is still off track, but I’m repenting, confessing and hopping back onto God’s path. I can tell you this: It was NOT going to get back on track unless I purposefully moved it back.
The Great Commission is a direct command in its simplest form. The last Jesus shared before heading to Heaven. I guess it might have been important from his perspective?
Have you been there?
Are you there right now?
Have you let the passion for the things that matter most disappear? Let them get pushed behind everything else?
A Look Back at The Call
One thing Jesus did was to focus His teaching on the things that mattered. He didn’t waste time. He knew He didn’t have much time to train His disciples if they were to be the instruments for spreading the news of His death, burial, and resurrection. He poured into them. He lived out the “Great Commission” by example and then challenged them to repeat the process.
It didn’t take years in the church to train His disciples. He spent about 3 years with them. However, they were certainly a part of His ministry as they were being trained through doing life together. They were reaching people with Him. Some of the best training parts in the Bible are Jesus’ ministry days shared by the disciples. (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John). The New Testament shares the teachings as the disciples themselves learned more and guided new believers to keep them in line with Jesus’s teachings.
How long have you known Christ? Been in the church? Been receiving from head pastors teaching into your life? It’s quite likely you are more than well trained.
I suspect most reading are not super new believers. I bet many, like myself, have known Christ for decades, but somehow missed that following His command to go and make disciples wasn’t really optional. It’s certainly not a call for just the pastors of the church. In fact, I could (I will) write an entire article on the role of pastors in the Church. We put a large burden upon their shoulders they were never meant to carry alone.
Jesus called the 12 disciples because He needed to train up a group, who could share the good news. He trained the 12, who got to experience His teaching. Those 12, who after Judas betrayed Him became 11, did exactly what Jesus called them to do. Spiritual multiplication. In fact, through their obedience and of course God’s Holy Spirit, therein lies the path for how you and I came to know Christ. They are our spiritual forefathers.
So if I’m not doing it and you’re not doing it, then who in the world is reaching, teaching and training the next generation for Christ? Just the pastors? I need to break it to you. That kind of teaching does not fall on just the pastors of the Church to pursue. Goodness. They’ve been pouring into most of us for decades. They are probably worn out waiting for us to rise up and take on our role alongside of them.
It’s something we can do with Bible studies—Discipleship 101. We teach the basics of the faith (saved by grace, not works, nothing we can do to earn it) kind of stuff. Then, we take the new believers into the world and show them how to teach those studies. We show them how to share Christ. The greatest lessons are by example as much as by teaching from the Bible. In fact, I would put forth that the Millennial generation is constantly searching for people who do what they say. They want examples to follow.
We all aren’t called to use the Four Spiritual Laws kind of method. However, we should understand the Gospel enough and employ SOME sort of method. We should re-engage (or engage for the first time) with our God-given purpose shared by Jesus—to go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them, and setting them up to go and do the same. We should live a life that makes them want what they see we have—like peace that passes all understanding, love that gives when it’s not easy, and grace for when we miss the mark by a landslide.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19–20 (NLT)
If you are wondering: The time is NOW.
At the moment, Americans aren’t at risk of losing our lives for sharing Christ. We still live in a free country (for now). Others are not so lucky. I felt the fear while on a missions trip in China. I saw the guns in the hotel lobby. I knew to be careful what I shared. Here in America though, we are free to have those conversations without much fear of harmful persecution. There, they can be put in prison for having a Bible study in their home.
So, I challenge you, as I’m challenging myself, with Jesus’ command to go. Let’s get back to our CORE purpose. Let’s see what that kind of focus can do in our lives and in other’s lives. It’s a message that can change the world one lost soul at a time.
Not Equipped? Need a Refresher?
Don’t let it stop you! You are not alone. Come with us. If you aren’t in a situation to get the basics of our faith from your church for discipleship purposes—reach out to us. We will help plug you into a church. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Don’t Know Christ? Let’s get that introduction started. Just send me an email and we can help you understand that we are all lost—every one of us, until we choose a relationship with God. That relationship is made possible by the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. He died in our place for our mistakes. He takes away our shame and our guilt. He raises us to new life with God when we claim that gift in a prayer to Him. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can just read these few sentences to Him. He just needs our hearts.
“God—I know I’ve messed up. I can’t get to you without Jesus so you came to me. You sent him for me. He paid for my sins. I accept that payment. I can be born again as a new creation with you. In Jesus name I pray—Amen!”
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Guarding the City Gates: City Elders Call to Action Christian leaders. Standing on the Bible. Standing at the city gates. Uniting across all 77 counties in Oklahoma. Uniting counties across the country. Re-establishing the role of the Church in civil government. Protecting us from anti-Christian agendas plaguing our country. They are coming. City Elders is to be a national network of Christian leaders governing the city gates establishing the Kingdom of God.
Do I have your attention yet? It’s not just time to get ready. It’s time to answer the call.
In just one gathering of the City Elders, I was ready to go. Everything I heard was everything I longed to hear from anyone in the Church right now. Anyone. From guest speaker Congressman Kevin Hern to his counterpart Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, they spoke Biblical truths, prayed with authority, and challenged the audience to stand on God’s word and to stop being silent.
I was overwhelmed with excitement. The City Elders President, Jesse “Leon” Rodgers, had not even started to speak. I’ve been watching our freedoms erode in our silence; Christians are pressed into corners finding no ground to stand on. Most don’t even want to stand. The persecution has been heating up in America. It’s been slow enough to desensitize us as the heat was rising; fast enough that we started to boil over in the pot with our freedoms going down in flames.
When did we allow liberal agendas to enter our school shaping the minds of our children? When did believing in God’s word make you subject to discrimination from operating your business in a city or airport? When did Christian religious beliefs become grounds for blocking your businesses like Chick Fil A? When?
God gifted citizens of this country with inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are rights deemed given by God to human beings. However, we are consenting to give them away. We just sit in our rocking chairs in silence. We lost a biblically based education system originally created at the hands of our forefathers. We let our guard down. We watched it slip away with barely a mention from most pulpits. It feels like the guards, who were to be at the city gates, were on a break for the last few decades. We let the walls around the cities God gave us fall down.
Before Jesse took the podium, he aired a video recounting some of the exact battles lost along the way in this war for our freedom in America. In it, Jesse shared those fires lighting us up towards this boiling point when prayer and the word of God were removed from our schools. He flashed blazes of heat from when the courts stripped away the sanctity of life with Roe V. Wade. Flames whipped around us as the sanctity of marriage was abolished in our courts. He spoke of states targeting the purity and innocence of our children to be trained in the LGBT community. One by one, he highlighted the combustions leading us toward destruction.
Then, the video shared how government funded public education is now the sanctuary for secular humanism and evolution—maybe the best secret weapon being used. Honestly, it was a bit like watching him paint an explosive, verbal erosion of morality in America. It was a battle plan connected in its core to remove God from our country. Completely.
In it, Jesse also shared the staggering statistic that over 80% of the children of evangelicals walk away from Christ in their first year of college. We shared this concern in our April issue, interviewing Dr. Everett Piper, former President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, (available online at communityspiritmagazine.com or on Issuu).
The premise was really this: If we want this country to remain free, then we must stand up and unify with a Kingdom purpose.
Why would Christians “Guard the Gates?”
Maybe you are asking why this freedom should really matter to the Church. Why should you think about getting off of your sofa, tossing your weekly commercial free Netflix binge? Well, that same freedom allows us to share Christ and follow the Great Commission. It allows us to worship. To pray. To gather together in His name in His churches. In other countries, we know people are imprisoned or killed for telling someone about Jesus. They face the same kinds of punishments for gathering to worship or to pray. Freedom should matter to the Church maybe more than any other people group out there, if we have any interest in worshiping our God and bringing people into His Kingdom.
Jesse took to the podium and shared, “The premise behind the City Elders is based on the Biblical pattern of the fortified cities of Israel, who guarded and governed the cities at the city gates. These leaders were the first line of defense against attacks or intrusions of any kind. Their responsibility was the protection of the inhabitants of the city, including their families.” Jesse continued, “It’s a Biblical role that we, as the Church, have let go of. We really have forgotten to keep up with our defenses.” I listened as deeply as I’ve listened to anything in a long time. I knew he was right. I saw the walls down myself. I saw them crumbling before me even in the last decade. There was nothing I could do, but hang my head with others in the room, recognizing my own part in letting those walls be torn away.
Jesse went on, “City Elders are proven Christian leaders from sectors of the Church, business community, and civil government, who when they convene constitute the spiritual governing council of the cities or a community. They are local leaders whose lives are guided by Biblical principles, Judeo Christian values, and who are committed to the exaltation of Christ Jesus and the practice of His Lordship in every sphere of life. Their mission is to govern the gates spiritually, politically, and economically so that life is protected, liberty is defended, Christ is exalted and families can flourish.”
If God doesn’t speak to you in that message, I just didn’t use the right font or something. I couldn’t hold back my spirit wanting to applaud for the God who was calling us to rise up together and defend our cities. Our freedom. Our right to worship Him. To follow Him. It was incredibly overwhelming as I contemplated my part in the destruction (from my silence) and my potential to possibly be used by God to right the wrong. With my four-year old daughter’s future at stake—my heart was burdened with the need to tell our readers about the hope God was providing. The calling God was instigating in spirits across the city in the hearts He dwells in. My hope? That you too would hear God’s call to support this group in whatever way God specifically might call you.
Unity with Kingdom Purpose
As a “Watchman on the Wall,” Jesse has had plenty of exposure in the political realm, making a mark for both religious freedom and the sanctity of marriage, family and life. During the election in 2016, Jesse told then candidate Trump, “While you’re focused on building the wall, the economy, the military and decentralizing education, there is a corollary to what you are going to be doing politically that the Church must be doing. The Church must get our spiritual walls back up. 9/11 showed us that the walls around America are down. So, we have to start righting the foundation and building again.” The City Elders are taking up that call to rebuild it. They are going into our counties to recruit those called by God to be a part, whether as leaders or supporters.
Jesse shared he believes, “Education is key, as well as pure discipleship. There’s got to be a brand new system of discipleship implemented. The Sunday School systems have broken down. Now, we put our children in children’s Church and there’s not the substance oriented foundational teaching that’s going on. It’s piecemealed instead of systematic didactic teaching.” Jesse went on, “What’s happened is America has become biblically illiterate. The stats show it. We’re having to start at the foundation. Foundationally, we are talking about government, divine order. I believe that we are going to participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing in reestablishing the government of God in the earth, bringing the Church together and bringing civil government into one Kingdom context.”
Jesse stressed, “This effort is not about being just multi-denominational. It has a Kingdom context in the Church’s role in relation to civil government and how the Kingdom of God operates.” Jesse added, “Unity movements have failed in the past because they were unity for the sake of unity, just for the sake of the Church. The purpose for the unification of the Church is a Kingdom impact. So, the Church must have a Kingdom context for it to have its significance, purpose, motive, goal, and Modus Operandi in check.” Jesse continued, “The Kingdom context is civil government, the Church and the family. There’s more to it but these are the fundamental institutions that are divinely ordained and have their origin in God himself.”
God’s Leaders on their Knees
Jesse recently attended the national pastor’s conference in Washington D.C. with other members of the City Elders, as well as hundreds of pastors from across the country. They all reported gaining an understanding of today’s political and policy issues we are facing. Jesse said, “The best part of the conference was that the prayer was just so powerful. God’s leaders gathered together and praying in Washington D.C. to redirect our nation back to God.”
While in this particular City Elders meeting that day, Congressman Hern burst into the room. He had been across the street interviewing on the radio about the devastating floods. God prompted him to head to the Doubletree, where he knew the City Elders were gathered, and request prayer for our city and for these people whose lives were upside down. Those kinds of leaders, requesting those kinds of prayers, agreeing with us that God is in control both in Heaven and on Earth—we need more of those.
While in D.C., Jesse ran into Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education. Jesse shared, “She is possibly the most important figure in the Trump administration for the purpose of the restoration of education. Education is the number one issue. Abortion is critical. All of the agenda and points of battle are important, but education is the foundational issue, because the secularization of America is the result of a secular humanist education system. So, to have a Godly, praying woman in that post, working with President Trump is key.” Jesse then added, “We will be inviting her to Oklahoma. We will have a symposium on the reformation of education before the year is over.” Again, those kinds of leaders, praying, seeking God for His direction to lead our nation back to Him. Those are what we need.
Jesse also mentioned with excitement, “Congressman Hern and Congressman Mullen are going to help us invite President Trump to Oklahoma. We are going to invite 3,141 county seats from across the nation to converge on Tulsa to cast the vision of City Elders being established in all counties across the nation. At some point that meeting will take place—either this year or next.”
In closing, Jesse said, “The City Elders are here to rise up in Christ, guard the city gates, and protect our freedom and families. We are rising up to say ‘You will not bring these things against Christ into my city. Not on my watch.”
Jesse “Leon” Rodgers and his lovely wife, Tammy, have served as pastors, evangelists, resident missionaries in South East Asia and as Bible College instructors. He is a graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary where he received his post-graduate degree. Jesse is the chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council, Washington, D.C. and the Founder of “City Elders” a Reformation Model of City Governance. His unique role with the Family Research Council has positioned him to influence government officials from the local municipalities to the White House. He is a sought-after conference speaker, with a heart to teach others to reign in this life, by the power and authority of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve gave up their freedom. They had it all. Everything. With one choice, God took it all away from them. Generations to come sought to gain it back only to have those who had it no longer appreciate it. In many cases, they worshipped false Gods and turned their back on the God who had provided the freedom. In Exodus, in the story of Moses, the Israelites had God’s power leading the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. They trembled in fear when they saw the Egyptians coming. These are the same people being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Then, God splits the Red Sea, gets them to the other side, and closes the sea back upon the Egyptians pursuing them. You would think they would be thanking God for their freedom over and over. For a short time they did. But, when they were crossing the desert and found no food, they were once again pining to be slaves in Egypt. God gave them manna, flatbread, they found each morning to feed and nourish them. Did that calm them into worship? Yeah, ok. I think it lasted like 5 minutes.
Just a short time after all of these things, when Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, where were they? Worshiping false Gods made of gold that they crafted while he was up there getting direction from God. We are taught these stories from the pulpit.
We shake our heads in disbelief that they could so quickly forget God and what He did for them. But, here we are. We’ve prepared our children so little that Satan trips up 80% of them in their freshman year? Abortion is so horrible, we’d just like to not talk about it? How long will our weakened platform of freedom remain in tact? How long will God allow us to be like the Egyptians worshiping our false God’s of our relaxed and slightly selfish lives, while we ignore the state of our union? It’s really difficult to say. That said, looking at Biblical references, I fear we might not be too far from the end of His rope.