May the God of ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that TOGETHER you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The 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 email@example.com 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.
When the flood waters were coming up, so was the power of God to move through His Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. We spent days talking with flood victims, as many just needed a friend to hear “their” story. Story after story, we were heartbroken. However, what we saw above the heartbreak? God moving as His Church was moving. We were simply BLOWN AWAY at the way the churches of Prattville and Sand Springs mobilized as a force of power and relief for the flood victims.
You may have heard, as the news repeated over and over for Prattville/Sand Springs to check out “www.ChurchthatMatters.com,” who had organized a website with resources available to the flood victims. Pastor Rusty Gunn of that church said, “www.Sandspringsfloodrelief.com is a site we set up to compile information for flood victims regarding resources available to them. It is a one stop shop for them.” However, in talking with Rusty—we found there was much, MUCH more to the story.
“Sand Springs is blessed with an incredible network of local churches. We work together on a regular basis.” said Rusty, “So, when this crisis hit our city, it was only natural for us to come together. The pastors of the Sand Springs Local Church Network meet every month to plan ministry projects together such as a huge “Back To School Bash” at the end of the summer, our city’s downtown Halloween event called Boo on Broadway, or a thanksgiving meal where 2,000 hot meals are delivered on Thanksgiving Day.” Rusty said, “We have a community-wide Thanksgiving worship service, the National Day of Prayer, and more.” I was really blown away. We’ve been hot on the trail of what the Church could look like if we united as we felt God has called us to do. We were all talking about it, but these guys have been doing it for 20 years.
“We also meet a second time each month at City Hall with our city manager, mayor, and other leaders who join us periodically to pray over our city together” shared Rusty. He went on, “Our local church youth ministries also unite regularly for events, serve days, and a Spring Break local mission trip where the groups serve around our city together during the daytime and then have worship rallies at night. We rotate between different church facilities each night.”
For Rusty, he felt it was this ongoing relationship and partnership that made it easy to come together at this time and be the Church. He’s not wrong. Their movement as the Church was really astounding. I witnessed it. I felt it. I was drawn to it. I went back to their facilities over and over. I haven’t spent that much time in Prattville for a while. I think I have been craving such a unification that I just needed to be right in the middle of it. It gave me a place to go help families right where they were.
Another thing that really helped, Rusty said, “I had been certified through FEMA’s NIMS (National Incident Management Systems) back in 2009. I have not really used much of that training since then, so I am certainly no expert, but I did know that we needed to take one of the approaches suggested by FEMA in a situation like the flood in our city.” Rusty continued, “One of the approaches is simply a commander of sorts to take charge and make decisions. The other approach was to form a response team or committee. This was a much better option for us, because of the great cooperation we already have in our city. So, we called together a meeting of all of the local church pastors, city leaders, a state representative, and the superintendent of our schools, along with disaster relief organizations who were beginning to make their way to our city including The Red Cross, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Samaritan’s Purse, and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.” Rusty shared, “The meeting was amazing and the support and cooperation was evident. We nominated and elected the Sand Springs Flood Response Team. It is made up of four local church pastors, a city government leader, and our school superintendent. This team also had connection with state government leaders and county leaders.” I couldn’t believe that the activity I admired that was being rolled out at City Elders was already in full force in action right here in Sand Springs, OK! They were nailing it, honestly.
Rusty had the mission statement down perfectly for their churches. They were being the Church. He stated, “Our local churches are not just churches IN Sand Springs. We are churches FOR Sand Springs. We mobilized this way because this is what the church does. We come together under the banner of Christ to be His hands and get to our neighbors.” Rusty went on, “We know that what we have in Sand Springs is unique. It is special. God has brought it together over many years. We do not take it lightly nor take it for granted. Pastors over 20 years ago prayed in our city specifically for what we are seeing today.” I believe they prayed for it. I’ve prayed for it—quite recently in fact, but I didn’t really understand how beautiful it would be until I saw it in action. Then, I couldn’t get enough of it.
As far as the flood, it’s been really rough on this group. Rusty said, “The most difficult part is seeing our neighbors hurting and knowing, even with the great cooperation and the great accumulation of people from our churches collectively, some are having to wait for a long time to get the help they need.”
Rusty continued, “There are so many stories from this, but one in particular is a man name Chester who is a military veteran. His wife had passed away not too long ago and then the flood filled his home with water destroying almost everything he owned. He had already been facing depression after the loss of his wife, but this really set him back. When our team encountered him, he was ready to just give up on life. He wanted to light a match and just let the house burn with all of his remaining belongings and he literally did not want to live anymore. Our team went in and did mud out on his house, carried all of the damaged property out and got the home ready for contractors to come restore it. Another part of the team just ministered to him, built a relationship and shared the gospel with him. He prayed and surrendered his life to Jesus and was saved. He was in our church’s Worship Encounter this past Sunday and was so full of joy he was beaming and smiling from ear to ear. His neighbors have commented to our teams that he is a changed man.” Now isn’t THAT what it’s all about at the end of the day?
“The unity of our local churches through this has strengthened my belief that we really can see our city transformed for the glory of God one life at a time. The impact on the affected neighborhoods, on government agencies, and even on disaster relief organizations has been talked about all over town. This will truly be a legacy moment for the churches of Sand Springs in this season. Pastors and other individuals from other communities have commented how unique this has been to see. I do believe we have set a great example of what churches can do if we lay down our preferences and pride and humbly serve, not caring who gets the credit other than Jesus.” Rusty—AMEN BROTHER! AMEN. I couldn’t have said it better myself. #GoDoBe
The ongoing needs will be here for years to come. People who had income disruptions, people who will be waiting for FEMA and insurance claims. The seventy five percent who were uninsured for floods will not recover for a very long time. We still have families with continuing needs from the 2015 Tornado that hit the same area.
You can help. Reach out to these guys to see exactly what needs they have. These are people who are displaced, who will not be back in their home for maybe into next year.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
My four-year old daughter was in awe of Captain Marvel. The show was much too old for her, but I had wanted to take my 17-year old niece to inspire her. When I described the show over the Bluetooth in the car—my kiddo insisted it was a movie for her. I decided to comply and took them both.
I’m not a superhero junkie, but Captain Marvel exemplifies an oppressed person with amazing power. Because she was convinced by the world she lived in that she was less than she was, her strength was buried by lies. She was imprisoned by rules crafted to control her, as well as emotional manipulation used to dominate her. When she finally realized the truth and shed the deception, she set free the strength and power suppressed inside of her. When she did, the whole theater about flew out of our seats with excitement.
Does her power being minimized by her world remind you of anything today? Are you seeing Christians being pressed back into a corner? Told our beliefs in the Bible aren’t correct? Told we need to modify the Bible to fit the culture today? Sound familiar at all?
This morning at the City Elders meeting, I heard a description of who we are meant to be as the Body of Christ, the capital “C” Church. It painted quite a picture. Being in the midst of some of the most devastating floods our state has known—we can see firsthand the power of the force of water. I can see it in the movement of the risen rivers. Their immense forces were set free a bit, but still controlled by the flood gates and levies. We were reminded that when the river starts to show its real power, we are forced to step back and get out of the way.
However, imagine the waters from all of the rivers and lakes rising so that you could no longer identify the origination point of the water. Imagine those smaller entities flowing together as a massive, powerful force, sweeping across the land. The power of those waters would be definitive as a body but really unidentifiable as a specific source. They would just be the massive floodwaters—full of strength, unleashing their power.
The question at the meeting? What if the Body of Christ approached God’s work for the Kingdom with such united strength and power that it could only be credited to that capital “C” Church? (as opposed to church x or y or denomination a or b).
It’s a concept that seems a bit foreign to us, as the size of communities has grown to give thousands of smaller church groups their own form of a “kingdom” inside of the Kingdom. However, looking at the Bible, we read the smaller church groups addressed from the same leadership of the Church. They were all very much a part of the Capital “C” Church but were grouped together to spread the word and to disciple as smaller groups. Since there were fewer of these smaller groups in the disciples’ time, it was much easier for them to know in their core that they were part of the larger unified Body of Christ. The Bible clearly points to the disciples and Paul as those charged with leading that capital “C” Church. Paul went from church to church with guidance and direction, which was put into the Bible to give that same guidance to each of our churches today.
The Bible is full of books written specifically to the churches by the governing authorities put in place by God. My favorite, Romans, was written to the churches in Rome by Paul. Peter writes his book First Peter, as a letter to the Jewish Christians who are spread around the Roman Empire. First and Second Corinthians; Paul writes to the churches he planted in Corinth. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians are all written directly to churches or groups of churches in a geographic area. It was quite clear these churches were very much a part of the Body of Christ. They were teaching and training while being a part of the bigger picture. They were growing the Kingdom of Christ and not just their specific churches. These letters were also assembled into the Bible, God’s word. That alone gives that stronger unification as their role was in the capital “C” Church.
As instructed, that Church spread throughout the world doing exactly what God instructed them to do.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
Lip Service to the Capital “C” Church
With those smaller entities growing (some quite massively) in size and being separated by greater distances, the sense of simply being a local governing entity of a group of Christ’s followers became lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong. We like to say it. We speak of being a part of the bigger capital “C” Church, but we honestly move about in our own affairs with very little time to pull our thoughts out to the original Kingdom entity created in the New Testament. The result? The separation of church and church and The Church.
Sure, there are different worship styles, prayer styles, preferred worship times, places, and spaces but at the end of the day, all of the Christian churches are the Body of Christ. We are united, as one, on God’s word. We are inseparable by the adoption as the Children of God through the sacrifice God made of His Son Jesus Christ for the WHOLE world.
We are all sinners saved by grace. People who have messed up in one way or another and were separated from God by those mistakes. People who have accepted that Jesus Christ died and rose again, paying the price for our mistakes. By accepting his gift, we all became united as Children of God, the Body of Christ. We have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, full of power, full of might, to advance for the Kingdom of God. Together, we are HIS capital “C” Church.
No Division in the End
It’s certainly not going to be a divided house in heaven. God’s Kingdom will most definitely unite, but what if God is waiting on us to come together now? What if we went back to the roots of THE Church to find the position of “our” church in that Kingdom? Wow. We would transform into THE CHURCH, the Bride of Christ. We would operate in such a way that we know the Gates of Hell (the powers) could not prevail against us—just as Christ said they would not. We would be a mighty force sweeping across this land, coming into the power of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us. There would be no levy, no flood gate, and no dam that could stop us. Not one. Can you even imagine it?
Back to the Avengers
I’ll circle back to the Captain Marvel story to bring it all together. She finally found who she was and came into her incredible power bursting out of the control of those who tried to put her in a box.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT)
More than we might ask or think? There is so much power promised to the children of God in just those 6 verses than we can even imagine? Hmmm. As we cower back, we slip into a comfortable place giving away our freedom, surrendering our God-given powers. We have yet to break free and rise up as a force to be reckoned with, who will not be shoved into a corner. With all of the thousands of churches around the world, it’s time to go back to the Bible and remember who we are. We are the children of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. With that identity comes great power–”more than we might ask or think.” Can you imagine every church finding God’s power inside of us? What would that even look like? I can imagine quite a bit. So MORE than that?
So, hold on.
Imagine even greater things with me.
After all, God says it’s more than we can even think of. As incredible as Captain Marvel’s day of awakening was–in the last Avengers, I can draw a parallel to the Body of Christ, the Church that might blow you away like it did me. In the end of the movie, each of the hundreds of superheroes realized they were not meant to do this battle alone. They couldn’t win. They discovered a plan set in motion long before they knew there would even be a war of such great proportion.
The bigger, more popular hero guys we know and love were losing the battle. It was nearing the end. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with a force of might—“they” showed up. “They” being the rest of the united heroes in the land. They combined in their fullest forms and power to defeat their ultimate enemy. You could see each one playing a critical part. When they converged—there was that mighty feeling that this war was over. The enemy would be defeated. You just knew.
Rest assured, I’ve read Revelation. God will unite us as a mighty force with heaven and earth in the end. What a day that will be. However, what I read in the Bible calls us to remember that unification and who we are today. I don’t think we’re supposed to wait. We are in the battle right now. On some fronts, in our great country, we are losing, but my heart almost explodes with excitement to think of what a force we could become if we united as the Church of God. Can you imagine? United, with His power working in us that is more powerful than we might ask or think? did you read what I just thought of? More powerful than even that???
It would far surpass any unification of the bodies of waters into a massive force. It would eclipse any show of power in the Avengers. I can’t sit still even as I’m typing this as the excitement of just a hint of God’s power rises up inside of me. That power by the way–it is already inside of any of us following Christ. It’s just sitting there, masked by confusion, deception. It’s shackled by chains put on by others or even by ourselves in some ways. Satan has us in some sort of trance with the things of this life, but it is RIGHT THERE. Whatever way you want to think about it–it’s right there. It’s RIGHT THERE WAITING. God is waiting.
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)
“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 1:10 New Living Translation (NLT)
May each church find its strength. May it rise up to take it’s part in the Kingdom, God’s capital “C” Church, the “Body of Christ,” whichever name He gives for that unity that you want to use. Because, when we do come together, when we do put our stake in the ground and draw our line in the sand, we will come into that Kingdom of God as His Children and the Gates of Hell WILL simply NOT PREVAIL against us. They won’t win.
What are we waiting for? #GoDoBe
Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One
Christ set us free. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” John 8:36 NASB
Freedom and Work
Do you feel free in your work? I mean do you look forward to your job or thank God for Friday’s? Do you feel empowered by your occupation or chained to your job? Work or situations we dislike can contribute to our feeling trapped in our work.
Studies I found online suggest as little as 15% or as high as 30% of the American workforce are engaged in their work. Trapped or disengaged employees go through the motions. They’re not present with energy. Engaged employees bring more energy, produce more, and stay longer.
If you feel chained to your job, but you follow Jesus, are you free?
Freedom is ours for the taking because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But many people, whether they follow Jesus or not, work chained into situations we dislike serving people we dislike. If Jesus made us free, why don’t we change?
Could it be we fail to understand the freedom given to us by Jesus?
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 NASB
Christian Freedom Looks Like Love
Paul suggests our freedom will produce a love through which we can serve one another. I often thought “one another” meant other Christians. When I first became a Christ-follower, I worked with people in the trucking and logistics industry. Many didn’t seem to follow Jesus. And most were from a different background and experience than me. Instead of even trying to understand them, I just decided I didn’t like them much. It’s easier to dislike someone than it is to get to know them. So, without seeing myself as the solution, I often chose instead to beg Jesus to get me out of that career in that industry.
How often do you catch yourself hurrying to get out of your workplace? It is work, right? If the term “one another” in Galatians 5:13 means other Christians, it would be easy to follow this command. When I get around other Christians, I find it easy to serve them in love! If everyone I was around every day was “my kinda person” this would be much easier.
But what if Paul’s “one another,” meant everyone? The Greek word can mean “fellow man.” In the next verse, Paul references the 2nd half of the Great Commandment, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” Galatians 5:14 NASB. Paul seems to equate “one another” to my “neighbor”. And Jesus already said my neighbor is anyone and everyone, whether I like them or not. (See Luke 10:27-37.)
God created Adam free, but ever since that first sin, we have each given up our freedom as slaves to sin. Jesus purchased our freedom again when he paid for our sin on the cross. But we may still live like a slave to sin and to myself. The difference, maybe even the answer, is my willingness to serve my fellow man. God makes me free to do what’s in the best interest of everyone I interact with. Regardless of my situation, Jesus makes me free to serve others. And when I do, I get a new energy and a new passion.
Want some proof? Pray for your coworkers for the next 30 days. Ask God to bless them and do whatever he knows they need for their best interest. And ask him to use you to bless them. Avoid the temptation to pray that God make them likable. Rather, get to know them better so you can pray for them better.
If you sincerely pray for your coworkers, supervisors, or customers, you will experience 2 outcomes. The first is that you will see God at work. God actively works in their lives already, but often we focus on ourselves and never see it. As we connect with Jesus on behalf of our coworkers and customers, we will see his miracles in our ordinary, daily life.
Second, we will experience Jesus’ freedom. He frees us to serve others. When we give our freedom away, it multiplies. When we keep it to ourselves, or if we deny the freedom and continue in sin, our freedom withers and dies. Jesus’ frees us to serve others. We gain new strength from God as we serve others and wait on him. And we see him working in everything we do.
We receive freedom in our situation instead of freedom from it. Jesus’ freedom makes us free in any situation. And he makes our freedom visible as we serve others, too.
Take the Challenge
Does this sound too good to be true? Try it for 2 weeks and see what happens. Our Marketplace Mission Trip (www.marketplacemissiontrip.com) is a 2-week trial serving others at work. Each “trip” has produced miracles and energy in the lives of those involved. Whether you sign up for the “trip,” or you enlist 1 friend and pray for your coworkers daily, Jesus will show you the freedom he bought for you. Either way, you will gain a new appreciation for the freedom we have in Jesus.
Written by Andrea Stephens
The other day I wasn’t feeling so good/well. I had just come through an intensely busy time at work that left me drained of energy. I had a dull annoying headache, and didn’t even want to go out for lunch with a friend—you know I don’t feel good when I don’t want to eat out! Therefore, I declared it a sick day and stayed home. Well, while I was lying in bed feeling sort of sorry for myself, I started thinking about the word joy—probably because I needed some right then.
I thought about some of hard things that happen in life that try to snuff out our joy. We all know about some of those, maybe a broken relationship, being gossiped about, bills that are piling up, an illness, issues at work—the list is never-ending. And then, there is the everyday stuff that tends to wear us down causing joy to leak right out of our heart; you know, things like laundry, making dinner again, picking up after the kids, cleaning the house, car trouble, yard work, and an endless list of errands.
We can easily end up feeling overwhelmed and anything but joyful.
Yet, in the Bible, Jesus talks about us having joy no matter what is happening around us. Though some confuse joy with bubbly emotions that come when things are going their way, which is better defined at happiness. Happiness is generally based on one’s circumstances which are ever changing thus sending emotions on a roller coaster of ups and downs. But joy, especially as a Christ-follower, is different. Real joy doesn’t fluctuate. It is not based on our current situations or feelings, but on something deeper. Something solid.
So how do we have that kind of joy? A joy that is solid, steadfast and unshakable?
First, spending some time every day in the Bible and talking to God gets us started on our journey to joy. That may sound like such a standard answer, but it is just the truth. We are spiritual beings with a spiritual Father. Intentionally connecting with Him through scripture reading and prayer is essential. The quality of time is more important than the quantity.
Second, making sure we have a clear conscience before God is vital. Dealing with guilt or shame over something will definitely steal one’s joy. One of the things I appreciate about the program Celebrate Recovery (A Christ Centered 12 Step Program) is that it teaches people to end their day by asking God to show them where they missed the mark (sinned) that day—so they can ask God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And when necessary, ask someone else’s forgiveness. So, keeping a clear conscience before God, is essential to our having joy.
These first two are areas where Satan will try to trip us up. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy—including our joy (John 10:10). He wants busy and distracted from our time with the Lord. He wants us feeling guilty and less than enough in our own eyes and the eyes of others. Shame is one of the first things Satan used against Adam and Eve and he still uses it today to keep us hiding instead of walking in the fullness God has for us. Let’s not let that be our story. Let’s pay attention to protecting our time in the Word, prayer, and confession.
Next, choosing to focus our thoughts and lives on the truths in the Bible will provide the solid foundation we need to build our steadfast joy upon. They are facts. They are promises of God. They are unchanging and unbreakable based on God’s inability to lie or break a promise. Now that’s good news!
Though there are hundreds of promises we can find in the scriptures, here are just a couple to get us on the road to joy, deep joy which the bible refers to as inexpressible and full of glory 1 Peter 1:8 NLT “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you don not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”
Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have become children of God.
We have been adopted into the family of God and are co-heirs with Christ.
The Holy Spirit has sealed us for eternity—we are heaven bound.
This life, with all of its issues, is temporary but heaven is eternal.
The best is yet to come. God is with us!
We are never, ever alone. Never abandoned, never rejected, never
forsaken, never put on hold while God is busy doing something else. He is actually in the trials of life with us giving us wisdom for our difficulties and strength so that we do not grow weary in our well-doing.
God’s love is unending! Think about it. We have never lived one unloved day in our entire lives.
Wow. Every single day of our lives we have been loved and will continue to be loved no matter what. Now that will make your heart happy!
Jesus’ forgiveness is available for the asking!
Scripture tells us that if we confess our wrongs to Jesus, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Instant gratitude and joy.
Jesus is praying for us! Seriously.
He is currently seated at the right hand of God and
is making intercession for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). We so easily forget this awesome reality. Jesus sees us, He knows the details of our lives, and He is speaking up for us to our Father. He is our advocate, our mediator, our intercessor. He understands us because He was human—He can help us because He is divine.
These are just a few of the truths found in God’s Word. When we take time to close our eyes and meditate on one truth at a time, it will begin to infuse our spirits with a fresh joy—the kind of joy that is sustainable and never to be taken away, even on our hardest or most frustrating days. Joy benefits us in many ways. Most importantly, it gives us inner strength which is something we all need (Nehemiah 8:NLT “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength!) Our joy will benefit others—those whom we are called to minister to as well as those we work with and live with.
Let’s not lose sight of the joy that is ours when we keep the promises of God in the forefront of our hearts and minds. We can do this!