Month: January 2019

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Meet the queen of the remodel. Jenny has been redefining everything in her life for decades. It seems each year she finds a new project to launch – some by necessity and some by choice. Jenny was in shock when her seemingly perfect world came crashing down around her in 2006. She never imagined going through a divorce. Jenny has this gigantic heart with a passion for family and friends. “It just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t see it coming. So, it really knocked me off my feet.” Jenny grew up in a very traditional Christian family with divorce being more “something other people did” than anything she ever imagined experiencing. So, Jenny was thrust into single parenthood with two young sons – the lights of her life. “Yeah, I never imagined it all, but I would endure any of it again for the chance to be the mom of these guys. They fill my heart with more love and life than I can really explain, but I think you know. I really wouldn’t change a thing.”  

In 2015 Jenny began remodeling her single parent life of two outstanding then young teens: Peter (who is now 16) and Harry (14) by marrying her longtime love, Jason Sotkin.  Adding Jason’s lovely daughter, Lexi (16), and his suave young son, Reid (14), they were just two kids shy of the Brady Bunch.   As if that level of chaos wasn’t enough, they chose to add two gigantic dogs, Maggie and Champ to the family.  Peter and Harry each stay very busy with sports, primarily focusing in on basketball these days.  Lexi, on the other hand, is a vibrant young cheerleader at Jenks High School.  Reid, a tennis player by day and crafty skateboarder by night, is into gaming and is a freshman (as is Harry).  At a minimum, these kids could collectively be called a handful. It’s a lot to even write about, much less live.  

“Jenny, let’s take a step back just a bit because any one of these roles is a lot.  So, you are a Christian woman, a mom of 4, dog owner times 2, an entrepreneur, a work-out-aholic, plus, of course, a wife.  For 9 years though, you were a single mom.  You raised your boys on your own for the most part. What was the most difficult transition for you as a woman who had to learn to do things on her own?”  

 “Flying solo.  Definitely.” said Jenny.  “When my situation left me a single mom of my boys, I had to change gears. I took a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep and started mobilizing forces to be able to give them the kind of life I wanted for them.  It wasn’t easy.  There were nights I fell asleep long after them and rose much earlier, just trying to make sure I had everything in line. They would sometimes ask why I was so tired, and I just thought ‘Boy if you only knew.’”  

Back then, Jenny burned the candle at both ends with the boys in almost every sport imaginable.  It took a while for their family to find their groove, but once they had it, they HAD it.  Everything ran smoothly, although it left Jenny a little worn down at the end of the day. “You just do what you have to do.  People don’t talk about it a lot, but in a high percentage of divorces, most of the moms end up carrying more of the burden of keeping the kid’s lives straight.  Usually the child support doesn’t cover everything the kids are in.  It’s just hard.” Jenny said. 

As mentioned, Jenny was single for about 9 years before marrying Jason. “It’s a lot of time to get into your own rhythm”, said Jenny. “Dating is one thing but actually moving everyone in together—well that’s just SOMETHING ELSE!”   It was easy for them to see both the joy and the difficulties their family faced as they tried to find a new rhythm – together.  Jason added, “When you have dated a long time, you don’t expect it to be that difficult to blend the families under one roof.  But you really have a rhythm to your single parenthood style.  We did premarital counseling but found no difficulties in anything they talked about; however, there have been a lot of challenges we just didn’t think of. No one would’ve even thought of most of the things that have been super difficult. For example, one thing that seems small—groceries. You don’t think about it, but teens are used to their own things, including their own brands of certain foods. Suddenly, even the mundane parts of life became a merger and compromise situation.”   Jason added, “In fact, we didn’t expect anything that happened to happen.  It’s just hard to be prepared. You just have to listen.”  Then Jason continued, “We were both single parents and we were in a rhythm and had our own way of doing things. Then, all of the sudden you bring in 3 other people and the rhythm just changes.”

The fun bunch consolidated into Jenny’s lovely home that she had built in 2009. On her own, she championed one of the loveliest homes in the neighborhood on a tight budget.  She really is a powerhouse.   Now, with Harry and Reid suddenly sharing a bedroom, it might be said that they carried the biggest burden of the blend. Harry once enjoyed the room by himself, which makes this type of transition even more complicated.  The family quickly decided it might be better to spread everyone out a little bit if they could.  Reid (then 12) agreed which lead to him spending hours on Zillow searching for homes. In the end, the family decided to remodel an older south Tulsa house Jenny found to make it their own and to accommodate the needs of their new family of six.

The kids all had the same answers to the myriad of questions this life change brought about with a different twist on both the fun parts and the difficult parts.  Peter, Jenny’s oldest, said, “It had always been me, my mom and Harry. I mean, my dad was there when I was young. But really, all my life, just the three of us. It really didn’t hit until after the wedding. I mean, they were dating, and he proposed, but then they came back from the honeymoon.  3×2 now we’re at 6. Doubled my family.  I’m still adapting.  Can’t say I’m a 100% used to it yet. At first it was kind of chaotic but moving houses to a bigger house really helped.” 

Reid, Jason’s youngest said, “The other house, it was smaller. We could’ve been fine.  We planned to move but we kind of moved 3 years late, which no one minded.  Dad and Jenny were picky, which was a bit annoying.” Reid chuckled.  “I would always be on Zillow trying to help them find something, but they knew what they wanted. Trying to get good deals (gasp). It took forever to get a house.  When I first saw this house, it wasn’t terrible but it was pretty bad though.  Weird walls.  Now it’s amazing. I don’t know if you saw it before. It’s an insane transformation.” I could see in Reid’s eyes that he’s proud of what they’ve accomplished as a family with the new house. 

When asked why the remodel, Jenny explained, “After searching for quite a while, with the minimum requirement for 5 bedrooms, we decided we had to go with really great bones and remodel.”  So, while remodeling their family, they also decided to remodel a place for their new family to call home. “Remodeling was just a necessity for our situation.,” said Jenny. “I wanted to make an incredible family home for us to call our own.” Jenny continued.  “I think it took us a year just to figure out more about who we were and who we really are now, as a blended family.  So, with a little life under our belts and a lot of ‘my house’ comments due to it being mine before, we were ready to get this party started and over.” 

Jason chimed in, “We dated for 4 years, so I think the adjustment was more in moving 6 people into one place, not necessarily Jenny’s place. Even though you all know each other, when you go to live with someone it doesn’t matter what house. It’s a good experience for the kids, hopefully they’ll adjust much quicker when they get to college.” Jason went on, “The toughest thing is to take the emotion out of remodeling. You want it so right—it’s your home.  The other thing is patience. No timeline is going to work, and no budget is going to work. The kitchen had pillars. Jenny didn’t like them. I said get rid of the pillars.  They said the pillars didn’t support anything.  We tore them down. Then, they said ‘Whoops, looks like they did support something’ and there we were.”  

When asked about remodeling both family and a home, Jenny and Jason laughed that there are similarities in advice for remodeling both.  Jason said, “In some ways, the two are similar.  You can have all the plans you want, but it will not happen as you planned.  Of course, you also have to plan that it won’t happen on time and it will cost more than anyone tells you.”  They laughed. It’s kind of true of both situations.  

After a few beams and a lot of cash, the remodeled kitchen turned into a marvelous masterpiece with an island about the size of Texas (if I were guessing).  With seating for the entire family and a few friends, it makes the perfect gathering place for the new blended family to come together for a quick bite.  They also redesigned the master bath, the living room, added new lights, flooring and carpet for an exhaustively brilliant family home.  The remodeled house definitely hits on all points as one of the most elegantly styled homes in Tulsa.

The remodeled house gave way to helping with the family blending as well.  Teens thrown together to be siblings are in a much different place than young children.  Teen identities really take a stronghold when those ages hit.  As Jason pointed out, “It wasn’t just our rhythms that were thrown off a bit.  It was the kids’ rhythms as well.  Everything was just different.”  “It’s really difficult to merge very active kids, for starters.” Jenny said.  “I have basketball players, cheerleaders, and a tennis player with activities in every possible direction.  I have had days while Jason was travelling, where all 4 kids had an activity at 6:30. Sometimes you just get one there super early, one early, one on time and one a little bit late.”  With so much chaos, it’s difficult to say there is even a rhythm to be found.”  The kids were going in 4 different directions even on the day of our interview – with Peter rushing off to Bedlam.  I honestly couldn’t catch where all of them were even heading it was so crazy.

Directly after the remodel, Jenny decided her next adventure for 2018 would be to launch a brand new company—HaPe Chic (a combination of her sons names, Harry and Peter!).  Jenny’s new company offers some of the most trendy women’s clothing items on the market.  Jenny’s experience in the fashion industry was at the ground level but her sense of style has always left friends in awe. As I told Jenny, “Now, you’ve launched your own HaPe Chic clothing line. It’s exhausting me to just get to my questions regarding everything you do these days.  These are all really big changes and roles.  Are you ever overwhelmed by all you have on your plate?”

Jenny replied with a roaring “Yes ma’am!  I want so much for my family. I love traditions and time together, but I just found I needed a little ME time too.  It’s chaotic yes, but it is soothing as well because I am really loving the business.”

Jenny’s favorite part is meeting with friends and customers both in her home as well as events around the city.  “It’s a great excuse for me to stay plugged in with my tribe of women.  We have photoshoots, mimosa events and a lot of fun with the clothing line.  I couldn’t be happier with the success.” 

Jenny’s drive, strength and determined nature are some of the things Jason loves most about Jenny.  Jason said, “Jenny is a very determined person and she kinda keeps me on track. When she sets her mind to something, it’s pretty much going to get done.  She makes things happen.”  When I watched Jenny in action preparing the house and the kids for our interview, I could see both her command of the situation and a little bit of sweat on her brow.  It’s a skill to push through the chaos to make everything come together.  As you can see from the cover photo, she rounded the troops for a great photo. 

Blending a family is not easy.  It comes with amazing highs as well as a few lows.  However, it is incredibly worth it as you create something new out of two really good families.  

Remodeled and Blended from The Teens Parents always have a perspective on the family blending, of course. However, there’s a bit of truth to the old adage “out of the mouths of babes” when it comes to putting families together.  Younger children can be more adaptable, because they haven’t quite found all of their grooves yet.  Teenagers are a lot more set in their ways, but are also old enough to have adult-sized opinions on situations.  It’s tough deciding the difference between listening to justified concerns versus making them to the line with discipline. Blending a family is difficult for the parents, but the kids have more adjustments than anyone might think.  Let me share just a few more of their thoughts on family blending with you.

Lexi, the couple’s only daughter, shared “It’s different being a new family.  For one, we obviously grew up with different sets of morals I think. I grew up with a more lenient family. Overall, it’s benefitting every person to experience this. I think we’re all learning from each other and it’s helping us all grow.” For all the kids, it was a tiny rumbling of ‘there are different rules for each of us’ as an underlying comment.  As Lexi said, “I think there are more of us now.  So, it’s just difficult for them to keep up with each of us.”  As an adult listening to their comments, I realized it’s more of a norm for any family to have different sets of rules for each child—because each child is different.  Some privileges are earned, and some are lost. Even in a non-blended family, there are a lot of ‘that’s not fair -type complaints.  The goal is the same for each child: primarily—get them to a place to have a successful life, whatever that path may be.  One thing teens need to know though is that the path to get there rarely ever looks the same.

One difficult part for Lexi is, “The girls at school don’t realize Harry is my younger brother. They all have crushes on my brothers.  They like to flirt with them. It’s just awkward.”  I’m pretty sure Lexi isn’t the only sister out there with that dilemma with her brothers.  But now she has two additional good-looking ones, which can lend itself to a lot more attention from her girlfriends.  That said, Lexi continued, “Being a blended family helps a lot with a lot of stuff.  I don’t know what I’d do if we had never met them.  I love them. The kids have never gotten in a fight. We’ve argued but never actually fought. We’re pretty
chill really.” 

I asked Lexi about her experience with Jenny as we all know the difficulties that could occur with moving two women into the same household.  “So, what’s been different?” I asked Lexi. “For one thing, I’ve been in cheer my whole life.  Jenny is at every single thing.  I really appreciate that.  All my friends know her.  She tries to teach me how to be a woman. I don’t believe all the same things she does—I think the men and women should have equal roles in the house.  But I respect her.  I mean, she drives us around everywhere we need to go.  I think the biggest part is she’s just very involved. She still makes time to be there for EVERYTHING.”   

In talking with Peter, I wanted to know the real side of having a “new dad” in his life. One of the traumas of divorce can often be the absence of the father, as often moms end up with primary custody regardless of the plan or circumstances.  It’s difficult to truly do a 50/50 split with bedrooms, school districts, friends and activities.  Peter’s dad lives in Texas, which although somewhat close, keeps him generally at bay.  Peter said, “It’s interesting.  It’s like always you have your dad and then there’s Jason.  My grandpa has had a very big influence on my life growing up, coaching my sports teams. I’ve always viewed him as my father figure—just not living in the house. Advice, life lessons, my grandpa has always been that go-to guy, but Jason and I have gotten a lot closer lately. He’s stepped up into a bigger role of that in my life as I’m growing up into more of a young adult.  He’s starting to teach me a lot about what you should do, how to do this, how to do that–things that matter.  I’m gonna be outta here on my own in 2 years.  So, there’s a lot to know.” Then Peter went on, “Honestly getting closer, to know Jason more, has been my favorite part. Having that void of a father figure and watching him step into that part has meant a lot.”

Peter’s not alone in having a grandparent step in to fill the absentee role of a father. Many grandmothers and grandfathers step into these roles for several reasons.  It’s often a result of exceptional grandparents filling the voids they see in their grandchildren’s lives in whatever way they can.  Our boomer population has honestly raised quite a few grandkids; however, it was easy to see in Peter’s eyes that having a new dad around was a big deal to him.  As young men start to mature, it becomes really critical for the father figure to give them guidance on everything from dating to adulthood.

Of course, being the adoring son, Peter also threw in “My mom honestly has done a heck of a job. I feel like shuffling the kids, cleaning the house, making dinner, just making sure everyone is where they need to be is a chore.  She’s done it all. She really is amazing.”  It’s clear through every child, that Jenny taking the time to be there for them—even if it gets a bit rattling – is a foundation for their family.  With Jason travelling regularly for work, it’s often left to her alone to be that piece that holds everyone and everything together.

Harry, being the youngest (and ending up with a brother his same age) has been through a lot of changes. “The impact and joy they can make on life is amazing,” said Harry.  “I can be there for them and they can be there for me. It’s just, like, another person to just be there for you forever.” He continues, “Getting along was tough. For a long time, I shared a room with Reid and it took a long time getting used to it–sharing everything. Not as much space. We got used to it though and our relationship is much better now.” 

Harry and Peter both had a lot to say about Jenny’s role in making the family function properly.  A determined mom with a vision for her family can set the pace.  Harry said, “My mom, she has a cARaaazy TON of patience.” Patience seems to be the key according to this astute, insightful teen.

I finished up with Reid, the unassuming smiling one, who had quite a lot to say.  Reid said, “At first, it was kind of like you could be best friends with someone, but you live with them every day and it becomes different. You have differences in the way you were raised. In the first year, we argued a lot. Now, we’ve adapted and changed, you know to satisfy the other. We’re still not fully there but we’re a lot closer.” Reid really appreciated gaining a new part of his family. Reid said “I like their side and their family. I have a pretty cool side but it’s kinda cool having another side. My family lives all over the country. Theirs lives all over Oklahoma.  We might have a reunion every year. They do Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m Jewish but I love Christmas. It’s such a festivity. 

“I enjoy the family. I like eating the meals and spending time with them.” 

Reid ended commenting on Jenny’s parenting points, “Jenny kind of keeps us in line. She’s taught me a lot about manners and stuff. She always helps us clean. The house would be a mess without her.  She has a really good work ethic. It’s kinda just cool to watch it. She’s very, very dedicated to making whatever we need available to us.” 

It was easy to see that the whole group was happy to have each other, but they didn’t want to mask the fact that they’ve had tough times mixed with the good times. In the end, their comments didn’t sound all THAT different than comments that my sisters and I might’ve shared in our teens.  I think sometimes it feels different, because their situation is new, but really—it’s not THAT different.  

In closing, it’s critical to understand that although you are very close with the children that you brought into the blended marriage, they are not your partner.  Your spouse is now the one who should be in sync with you when it comes to parenting.  We’re not even venturing into the effect of exes in each blended situation each of whom add a different dynamic.  Regardless of the situation, the husband and wife (and the kids) need to remember the new couple is now a team—THE team, in fact.  Sometimes it’s necessary to step back from tough situations to regroup and then get back in step together.  It’s ok to admit when you aren’t perfect.  Biological/married parents aren’t perfect either.  Listen and communicate with each other.  The kids, regardless of age and maturity, are still just kids counting on the adults in their lives to guide them. 

In the end, Jason said “‘Don’t give up’ is the best advice I have. I think that being open minded helps. It’s been a great process, because neither of us are naturally that open minded.  You realize that what’s a ‘10’ to one person might be a ‘3’ to the other. So you try to find a ‘7’ compromise.  Of course sometimes, it’s easier to decide to go with what Jenny says.” Jason admitted while chuckling.  “I also think I have to give the kids credit. I think every kid wants a family. I think sometimes even when we get off track the kids are like ‘You need to stop. Sit down and talk.’” It’s the total overall family.  I don’t think it’s something you can prepare for everything you will encounter.” 

I don’t think I could say it better myself.  In the end, it absolutely is the whole family venturing into something together that none of them can really be prepared for, but with a caRaaazy ton of patience, and a guiding light like Jenny, something beautiful can be born!

Here are a few tips from Jason and Jenny:

Counseling helps but doesn’t cover it all

Embrace the unexpected. You will be toppled by things you didn’t see coming.

Realize rhythms need reset. They take time. Don’t expect it to happen all at once.

Space is good if you can make it. If you can’t, just be a little understanding that it’s not always easy.

Parents need to be on the same page. Period. “Mine” and “yours” can’t be operational adjectives.

Different children in a family need different parenting styles. Period. Blended and unblended.

Children are smart. They get it. Don’t underestimate their prowess to play the situation.

Find a cARaaaZy TON of patience (per Harry!). These aren’t overnight transitions.

Family Life Blended and Blessed

The only one-day live event and livestream just for stepfamily couples, single parents, dating couples with kids, and those who care about blended families. The event discusses what you can do to have a healthy stepfamily marriage.  If you or someone you know is in a stepfamily, sign up or pass it on.  This is a can’t-miss opportunity.

Livestream to your church or your home, April 27, 2019: http://familylifeblended.com/

Asbury Church Blended Families

Wednesdays, January 9 – February 27, 2019

6 – 8 pm, Room 1335

Cost: $10/couple

Facilitators: Brian and Beverly Bryan

Registration: myasburytulsa.org

Whether you are remarried or planning to remarry, discover the key steps to building a healthy stepfamily with expert Ron Deal, using his Smart Stepfamily book and participant guide. Through eight engaging DVD sessions, you’ll learn practical solutions for everyday living and gain valuable insight for raising your stepfamily the smart way.


Written by R.A. Goodnight

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

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

Here is a direct quote from the study: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Do you believe? (Matt.9:28)

• Why did you doubt? (Matt. 14:31)

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

• And many, many more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References: Pew Research Center Poll 

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


The beginning of the new year is traditionally thought of as the perfect time to start fresh and set new goals for the year. But most New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. What if this year, instead of making a resolution that you’ll give up on within a few weeks, you resolve to change how you think? What if you worked to change the physical structure of your brain? It just might help you make long-lasting, positive changes in your life. This year, resolve to go beyond the typical resolution.

Winning the Battle in Your Mind

Most of life’s battles are won or lost in the mind. No matter if your thoughts are positive or negative, your life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts. It’s like what Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, once said: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” 

With each thought and decision, we are creating neural pathways in our brains. The more we think the same thoughts and make the same decisions, the deeper our neural pathways get and the stronger those habits become. If you don’t like the direction your thoughts are taking you, there’s good news! You have the power to retrain your brain.

Think about your front lawn. If you walk through the grass, taking the same shortcut to your car every day, eventually you’ll wear a path in the grass. But if you decide to stop walking in the grass and choose to take the sidewalk, over time, it will become your new default. The grass will grow back, and it will become easier and more desirable to continue taking the new path. In the same way, you can change the physical structure of your brain by choosing to think positive thoughts. Neuroscientists call it neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity was substantiated in the 1970s, and there have been numerous scientific studies since then that support the brain’s ability to be rewired. But it wasn’t a radically new concept. The idea also appeared in the Bible. In a letter to the ancient Church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Regardless of the terminology—rewiring your brain or renewing your mind—scientists and people of faith agree that the practice can help people lead more positive, fulfilling lives. 

How to Retrain Your Brain

The first step in the process of retraining your brain is to commit to doing the work. You can’t learn any new skill or create any new habit overnight. It takes hard work and consistency. On average, it takes at least three weeks to create a new habit, and research shows it may take more than two months for a new behavior to become automatic. Creating new neural pathways will take time, but be encouraged that once you’ve created the new pathway, it becomes easier to stay the course. Promise yourself you’ll make every effort to be consistent.

Next, identify the number one thing holding you back. While it may be tempting to try to tackle multiple areas, you’ll have more success if you choose to focus on just one. Give it some serious thought. Put in the effort to dig below the surface and discover the root of what’s causing you to struggle. For example, your relationship problems, job performance, or poor health may all be caused by low self-esteem, and by changing that one thought pattern, you could see improvements in several areas of your life.

So, what are the negative or empty things you say to yourself over and over? Maybe it’s, “I’m an idiot,” “I’m too busy,” or “There’s never enough.” What are the hurtful things you tell yourself that you’d never say to another person? Maybe something like, “I’m not good enough,” “Because of my past, I don’t deserve anything good,” or “Things will never change. I’ll always struggle with this.” Identify one recurring phrase that keeps you from living a positive life.

Once you know which thought needs to change, replace it with a positive affirmation. If you struggle with feeling inadequate, your positive phrase might be, “I am smart, resourceful, and capable.” And if you’re a Christian, look at what God says about His creation in the Bible and use that as inspiration for your daily declarations. For example, if you’re often worried and afraid, consider what the Apostle Paul shared with Timothy: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Kickstart the renewal of your mind by writing down the positive thought and placing it where you’ll see it regularly—on your mirror, on your desk, or on your phone’s background. When the negative thought enters your mind, proactively pause in the moment to replace it with your positive statement, both in your mind and out loud. Refuse to give voice to the negativity. Only allow yourself to say the positive affirmation aloud. Repeat it as often as you need to so that you believe it.

A Year of Cultivating Consistency

Knowing that you can change the trajectory of your life by changing your thought patterns, focus your resolutions on addressing that number one area holding you back. Ensure your life looks different one year from now by following these tips: 

Start with 1-2 small, specific actions. 

Choose something so small that you can’t help but succeed. If you want to be healthier and have more self-confidence, try cutting out just one guilty pleasure food item from your diet instead of every unhealthy food all at once. If you want to learn a new skill, resolve to read one professional development article per week instead of setting the goal to be an expert by the end of the year. If you conquer your small resolutions, you can always add more mid-year. You just don’t want to bite off more than you can chew and end up discouraged in a matter of weeks.

Plan to be consistent.

Set yourself up for success by scheduling time to make progress with your resolution. Leave yourself reminders so you can’t forget, and give yourself a deadline so you don’t put it off. Make it part of your weekly or even daily routine. Something for you to remember is that successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally. 

Keep training your mind toward truth.

As the year continues, you’re bound to hit some speed bumps or even the occasional roadblock. Don’t allow the lies that have held you down in the past to resurface and distract or discourage you. Continue repeating your positive affirmations, even developing new affirmations to combat new negative thoughts as they arise. You might consider hiding encouraging notes around the house that you’ll find throughout the year or giving them to friends who’ll mail one to you when they feel prompted. Find the method that works best for you, and hold on to the truth. Renew your mind by writing it, thinking it, and speaking it until you believe it.

Know your triggers and prepare your response. 

We all have weak spots, especially when trying to change a well-established habit. Do your best to identify the things that could derail, distract, or discourage you before you begin. Draw up a battle plan that will help you fight against your natural inclinations until you’re able to rewire your brain to follow the new neural pathway. If you can identify the things that may trigger you to respond negatively and decide in advance how you will respond with positivity, you’ll be more likely to succeed in the moment. 

Give yourself grace.

Perfection is not a realistic expectation. When you get derailed, be kind to yourself. Don’t let it give you an excuse to give up, but don’t be too hard on yourself either. What’s incredible about grace is there’s always enough. That’s something God made sure of. So, pause to consider what went wrong, make adjustments, and start again.

Find accountability.

You don’t have to tell everybody what you’re struggling with, but you should find a small group of trusted friends with whom you can share. Choose people you can be honest with and feel safe around. Be sure they will not just agree with you at every turn but will challenge you when you need it. You should also try to surround yourself with people who are succeeding in the areas you want to grow in. It will be difficult to learn about patience from impatient people or humility from the prideful. And if you want to grow in faith, add someone to your inner circle whose faith is strong. Surrounding yourself with a solid support system can be the thing that tips the balance in your favor.

Find your source of strength.

Determine what motivates you, and keep your eyes fixed on it. Maybe you have children who you want to set a good example for, or maybe you’re determined to outlive the age at which your parents died. If you’re a Christian, you’re motivated by your relationship with Jesus and your desire to be more like Him. Whatever inspires you to be better, keep it top of mind and don’t lose sight of it.

So many people feel “stuck” in today’s world, like they’re going nowhere fast. But there is hope for a better tomorrow. We have the ability to press into the uncomfortable and make changes that will have a lasting impact in our lives and in the lives of future generations. 

While his people were exiled from their homeland, the prophet Zechariah said, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10). Be encouraged by this passage, and today, take your first, small step toward the future you want. 

To get started with ideas for creating your own positive affirmations, visit www.life.church/declarations. 


Resources:

“Mastermind” Sermon Series by Craig Groeschel, Life.Church

Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer

Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Caroline Leaf

By Ingrid B. Skarstad Williams

Banners emblazoned the church entrance: Life 2.0 — a new ministry series. The simple title sparked my expectation! Being a big of a girl geek, I liked the 2.0 reference. Web 2.0 was a big deal then! The Internet had transformed from static information to an interactive explosion of possibilities. My life was on the cusp of such a transformation as well. 

Messages shared here were always markers of God’s kindness. His love repeatedly reached me with words from a loving pastor that laser-beamed into my bruised life. And yet this one felt different—even more powerful, as if hope within had already awakened to it. Maybe it was because I no longer held God at arm’s length? Maybe it was because I was already anticipating change now that my life was actively being renovated—this time with God’s blueprint? Or maybe it was because . . .

I interrupted my own thoughts to greet the pastor, “I’m excited about the new series!” His eyes danced as he asked, “Did you recognize it?” I paused to think. He prompted, “The title?” My puzzled look spurred him on, “You inspired it! Life 2.0!” Still blank, I laughed, “I did?” He referenced a conversation where I used the phrase “Life 2.0” and it stuck—at least in his mind. I had completely forgotten! 

Months prior, my fiancé and I sought out yet another round of counsel. We shared a deep love, but had trouble moving from engagement to marriage. The first round of many followed a series on marriage in which he made an offer: any couples living together could “make it official” and be married at the end of the month, just schedule an appointment. We did, and it shocked our pastor! When we arrived, he closed the door and laughed as he shared his surprise. He thought we were already married! We had been attending the church together for many years. Both of us were professionals in key positions, so he assumed our differing last names were on trend with career decisions—especially for second marriages. Besides, we just seemed married.

In our hearts, we probably were. The first wedding we planned ended up being premature, so our pre-paid getaway was more of a secret vacation with unofficial vows witnessed by the bed and breakfast officiant in their chapel in the woods. Our intention was to make those vows official as soon as we could.

Intentions. In retrospect, the word makes my spine shiver. We had banked on intentions for years. As a result, our lives were envious on the outside but embarrassing messes behind the scenes. Since we were “living in sin” anyway, we opened the door to more sin, always thinking we would make everything right later—when we were married. In the meantime, we kept silent. For me the silence meant no real friendships, no involvement at church, just “safe” places where my personal life wouldn’t come into question.

Whenever my desire rose up strong to reconcile my ways with God’s ways, I would pacify it with, “It’s temporary. One day . . .” Any number of fill-in-the-blank sentences would follow. “When _____ happens, we can finally _____. As soon as _____ is over, we can talk about _____. And when my kids _____, it will be easier to _____.” True to the nature of blanks, most of those sentences remained empty. My faux optimism was a cover-up for the true repentance I needed. 

We landed in our pastor’s office more than once. We would make progress, then stall. Finally the time for a turn-around decision came. I could no longer soothe myself into a rosy future. I needed to make things right with God—either with my fiancé-turned-husband or on my own. When we met with our pastor for the last time, it had become clear that the hurdle my fiancé couldn’t clear was fear he could not be a father to my kids and we would be driven apart.

The kindness of my pastor still brings tears as I remember that session. With wisdom and compassion, he helped us plan our break up. We still loved one another deeply. We were not angry. The plan even had room for getting back together. But we never did reunite. Instead we navigated through the pain of dissolving bonds our eight-year friendship and romance had built.

At first I found the reconciliation with God exhilarating. It outweighed grief. It energized transitions. Life-altering change on a massive scale wasn’t new, but it previously was not brought on by choice. Years earlier, my former husband and ministry partner of thirteen years was discovered to be a pedophile. It rocked every fiber of the life I thought I knew. I became a single parent, and due to the nature of the discovery, my children became “fatherless” for quite some time. We made hard decisions. We got help. We moved forward. 

But this time? I initiated my own recalibration. Nothing was left untouched. I had embarked upon Life 2.0 with my youngest child under my wing and God by my side. I didn’t know we would encounter more strenuous challenges than we faced before, but I did know that being right with God was more valuable than anything—and I was right. Did I make mistakes? Of course. I made some doozies! But I came through on the other side. Now I am in a place of restoration. Dreams I didn’t even know I had are coming to life. Peace is a daily pleasure. And this adventure with God is one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Switching Gears

What does this mean for you, dear reader? You may be thinking, “Who cares!” Believe me, I’ve already thought of that. If you’ve read this far, I’ve already agonized over what your thoughts may be. So let me switch gears and speak directly to you for a moment. 

Do you have God on pause? Do you hold Him at arm’s length in some areas? Are you already facing overwhelming circumstances? You may need your own Life 2.0 renovation! Maybe things are pretty steady, but you could have Career 2.0 or Parent 2.0 on the horizon. I’m here to encourage you to take the plunge—now. Yes, now! 

Here are four simple things you can do today, the same anchors that held me through extreme change and help me thrive in Life 2.0: 

Pay attention. There was a time I wasn’t so sure I could hear God’s voice. I decided to practice on myself by paying attention to my own inner self. I was stunned! God was in me to a much greater degree than I had imagined. I just needed to be aware. 

Follow peace. God leads with peace. Even when chaos surrounds you, in your heart there will be peace as you make decisions and move forward. Follow it! 

Trust God. I have reasoned my way into trouble—sometimes thinking I was doing the right thing! If I had recognized God’s nudges, I could have avoided tragedies. 

Stay humble. This is packed with several elements. Repent quickly. Forgive often. Be full of grace and mercy—not just for yourself, but for others too.

Prayers

I leave you, dear reader, with my prayers. If you have stuck with me to the end, know that I have prayed Proverbs 3:5–10 for you. May you find the 2.0s in every area of your life where you crave change. 

Proverbs 3:5–10 (TPT)

5 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make.

6 Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all,

7 for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided
devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.

8 Then you will find the healing refreshment your body and spirit long for.

9 Glorify God with all your wealth, honoring him with your very best, with every increase that comes to you.

10 Then every dimension of your life will overflow with blessings from an uncontainable source of inner joy!

Written by Mike Henry. Follower of One.

New Mindset

Jesus challenged us to think differently about every aspect of our lives. If someone asks for our garment, we should give our outer coat also. If someone asks us to go one mile, we should go two (Matthew 5:40-41). These are just 2 examples where Jesus instructed us to consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Jesus challenges us to give our lives away (Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24). 

But our default mindset or operating system is “Me first!” Our sin nature places us – and not God – in the center of the universe. We feed and clothe ourselves. We take care of ourselves. We choose for ourselves how we spend our time and our money, what attracts our attention, even how we work and live. We are the king of our own lives. We work exercise control over our life and our stuff. We want our rights and our privacy, and we don’t want to lose them. 

To follow Jesus and join his kingdom, we must renew our minds. But how can we reprogram our minds when we work every day in a secular job? Jesus has a new role for us. As we give him our mind, he will give us a new ministry.

New Ministry

The Greek word “diakoneo” and its variants are most often translated “minister” or “ministry.” But sometimes they are translated by the words “servant” and “service.” We get our word, “deacon” from it. When Jesus said that he didn’t come to be served but to serve, he used this word (Mark 10:45). When the apostles first decided to appoint deacons, it was because they didn’t want to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2) but rather they would devote themselves to “ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Both “serve” and “ministry” only two verses apart are from the same Greek root word.

A minister isn’t someone who works for a church. A minister is anyone who follows Jesus. Jesus expects us to minister to others according to the example he gave us. 

We minister to anyone we meet. Our job as a minister doesn’t necessarily call us to another area of the world or to a different culture. We don’t have to quit our jobs to become a minister. We can minister right where we are. Ministry is the work of serving others, so they might see and trust Jesus and glorify God. When we minister, we join Jesus in his work. 

Full-Time Ministry

You are a full-time minister. We can minister in any job or any role in society. Are you a student? Minster to your peers. Are you an employee? Minister to your boss, your team, even your customers. A manager? Add the people you supervise to your “ministry.” Are you a parent? Whether you stay at home or work elsewhere, your children, and their friends are part of your ministry. Do you shop at the grocery, or buy food? Pray for the person who serves you. Talk to them. Find ways to appreciate and serve them. 

Every day we meet dozens of people. In each meeting, we can help others move toward Jesus or away from him. Jesus works through his followers. When we follow Jesus, we serve people, so they might draw near to Jesus. Even if our friends and coworkers already know Jesus, we can all follow him better. Anyone can draw a little nearer (James 4:8). Therefore, as we follow Jesus, we minister to anyone and everyone we meet.

When Paul said we should pray without ceasing,
(1 Thessalonians 5:17) he gave every follower of Jesus a full-time ministry. Our ministry takes place while we battle our flesh and our own operating system in a world designed to distract us from our relationship with God. In our workplaces, we’re tempted to work for a different goal. Maybe it’s profit, or success, or the approval of others. Jesus reminds us of his goal for us when we pray. As we pray without ceasing, we establish Jesus’ kingdom in our daily environment. Through full-time prayer, we put ourselves in a position to join God as he makes Jesus visible in our world. Our prayers tell God we’re available to do his work and we’re
interested in his people.

Experiment

This month, each morning, pray for the people who office near you or the people you work with, even remote coworkers. Pray for your coffee barista or your boss. Ask God to show you what he would have you do to serve and bless that person. And look for tangible actions. Don’t tell someone you’ll pray for them – pray. Find a way to take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and give those thoughts to Jesus. 

Then, let us know what happens. Jesus will give you ideas about how to serve others. When you get an idea, do it! Take a chance and see what Jesus causes to happen in your new workplace ministry. He will give you a ministry mindset and put you to work.


Finding a Way Around The Temptation

Written by Andrea Stephens

Life has had me living in several different states over the years.  

With each new location, I have had to look for the positives with the goal of learning to embrace where I was living.  This didn’t come naturally; I seriously had to challenge myself.  This was especially true when I moved to a small town in South Louisiana.  They talked with such a drawl.  They referred to “making” groceries and cooking up a pot of red beans and rice specifically on Mondays since it was cleaning day and they wouldn’t have time to fuss with dinner.  I was missing the palm trees from my last location.  So, I purposely learned about bald Cypress trees and the Spanish moss that hung from them.  I also took a liking to nearby New Orleans with its jazz music, beignets (French donuts), and artists around Jackson Square.  However, one event caught my eye—the Crescent City Classic.  This well known 10K was not just any hometown race, it was one that welcomed costumes, marching bands, and dressed up dogs.  The route would take us through neighborhoods that promised to be lined with festive folks cheering us on from their front porch swings.

Now, I am not a runner, but the idea of walking the 6.2 miles with a group of friends just to enjoy the experience sounded perfect.  We got signed up, dressed up, lined up, and took off at the blast of the starter’s gun.  I was excited, full of laughter, snapping selfies and pictures of the craziness going on around me.  As I strolled along, friends at my side, a little something started to bother me.  I was being passed.  And not just by the more athletic types but by women with strollers and dogs in tutus.  The bothering increased.  Then a cackling couple of elderly ladies wearing PJs, fuzzy slippers, and big pink rollers in their hair went flying by!  That was it.  No more.  Something in me snapped and the leisurely fun walk with my friends went out the window.  I just could not allow myself to be passed any longer by anyone not sporting a serious pair of Nike’s.  I quickened my step, ditched my slow companions, and kicked it into high gear.  To my left, to my right—I was now watching for anyone who even thought they might make their way to my side.  Never mind the blisters I could feel forming on my toes and the pain in my right knee (I did mention that I’m not a runner, right?), I forged ahead until my very winded self crossed that finish line.

Funny thing, I was no longer in a celebratory mood.  And, I was also by myself since my friends stuck with the original plan of walking the race and enjoying the journey. Standing there alone, questions started rolling in.  What just happened to me?  Where did that competitive urge come from?  Why did I feel compelled to keep others from passing me by?  How could I have ditched my friends to feed the growing feeling inside of me?  The answer?  I had fallen right into the comparison trap.  

As clearly demonstrated on that festive New Orleans morning, comparison can shift our focus. Like a thief, it sneaks in when we least expect, steals our confidence and robs us of self-acceptance.  When we compare our value to the value of someone else we usually find ourselves lacking.  Instead of being content with who we are and where we are in our own life, comparison has us looking at her haircut, her toned thighs, her put together kids, her shiny new SUV, her husband’s promotion, her flawless complexion, her fabulous vacation, on and on with endless options.  

Looking too long at her can spiral down into all kinds of ugly.  It definitely does not bring out the best in us.  In fact, the scripture calls comparison unwise—that’s a nice way of saying it’s just plain stupid!  For instance, comparison leads to jealousy.  There is nothing good about that, especially when it leads to bitterness and a critical spirit.  Leah and Rachel, two sisters whose story is found in Genesis 29 and 30, perfectly illustrate this downward progression.  Due to their trickster father and no fault of their own, they wound up married to the same man, Jacob.  It’s no secret that Jacob adored Rachel, leaving Leah unloved.  But God enabled Leah to give 

Jacob the one thing that Rachel could not—babies! Leah hoped that giving Jacob children would win his heart so that she would finally feel loved and valued.  Yet with every new birth, Rachel’s spirit of comparison intensified the jealousy toward her sister.  It led to her desperate demand of Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”  Jacob defended himself saying, “Am I God?  He is the only one able to give you children!”  But rather than praying and waiting on God, Rachel came up with a plan.  She reasoned that if she gave Jacob her servant, Bilhah, and if Bilhah had kids, Rachel would take them as her own.  Isn’t it amazing what us women can come up with to make ourselves look and feel better about our lives?  Rachel’s cockeyed scheme got her what she wanted.  In fact, Bilhah had two sons, which thrilled Rachel making her think she was winning the baby race.  But not so.  Leah followed Rachel’s poor example and gave her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob to make more babies.  Phew! Talk about a blended family!  Eventually Jacob had 12 sons by 4 different women all because of jealousy.

Scripture is very clear about jealousy.  It wreaks havoc in our lives.  “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.” (James 3:16).  In talking to the immature believers at the church in Corinth, Paul says, “You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.  Doesn’t this prove you are controlled by your own desires?  You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.”  Jealousy and selfish ambition (wanting what we want with little regard for others) are red flags for those of us who want to live as true examples of Christ.  They tell us we are comparing ourselves to someone or something else and we need to stop it.  We need to examine it, figure out the cause, and take it to the Lord so He can heal it. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Leah and Rachel’s story had a happy ending?  This unfortunate competition between them resulted in a bitter, broken relationship between sisters.  This was not God’s best for them.  It could have been so different.  Instead, it caused their children to be just like them.  Comparison and jealousy among their children lead to the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers.  Thankfully their story ended in forgiveness and reconciliation, a lesson they could have taught their mothers.

I’m thankful the sisters didn’t have social media, which of course, fuels a spirit of comparison.  Filters, lighting, cropping—it allows for deceptively perfect posts that threaten to deflate us and even infect us with a case of paranoia.  It’s easy to start thinking my posts look pathetic—my life is pathetic—I am pathetic!  This shame-based line of thinking leads many women into a depressed attitude of why try? and for some, why live?  The pressure and the lies, spinning in your brain repeatedly, not only steals your peace, joy, and contentment but worse than all that–the belief that God really loves you. Trust me, the enemy is doing a happy dance when he finally has you at this point of despair.  After all, this was his goal.  For Satan, whatever causes you and me to doubt the goodness of God gets chalked up as a win in his playbook.

It’s just not worth it. But it’s just not going to go away on its own.  So, how do we stop playing the comparison game? The important thing is that we make an intentional decision about how we’re going to react when we recognize it in our lives.  Here is a list of suggestions on how to deal when the temptation to compare is lurking around your heart.  

Give them a try.

  • Celebrate her blessings and successes.
  • Realize that you don’t know her back-story.  Until we really get to know someone, we see their put together self and their life highlights on Instagram but we don’t know what’s behind her smiling face. The truth is, everyone is going through something.
  • Embrace what you value. This is what brings meaning and purpose to your life. It is part of what makes you, you!  Beware of comparison diminishing what brings you joy and fuels your passion.
  • Pay attention to your self-talk. It’s a proven fact that our thoughts directly affect our feelings which can then affect our behavior. Listen to what you are saying to yourself. As scripture instructs us, take your negative thoughts captive—lock them up and throw away the key. Then replace them with positive thoughts.
  • Take a break from social media. This will help you wholeheartedly lean into your own story and concentrate on being the best you.
  • Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal will keep your heart attuned to the good in your life.
  • Grant grace to yourself and encouragement to others.
  • Compliment someone on the very thing that is tempting you to go green with jealousy.
  • Be your own kind of beautiful. Let’s be honest, women are the worst at comparing their looks. It’s very freeing when we embrace our unique look and learn to thank God for His perfect design for us.  
  • Change your audience. Make God your audience of One.  Let’s heed Paul’s words to the early church and set our minds on things above while fixing our eyes on Jesus.

When our eyes are in a love-lock with His, we won’t be looking around comparing ourselves to her! 

A friend recently shared this thought with me: A flower does not think of comparing itself with the flowers around it—it just blooms! Let’s do the same to the glory of God.


My son is a Junior at Regent Preparatory here in Tulsa. We have several customers from the school the come to us just because they have known our family for many years.  As often as I can, I encourage those parents to send their new driver to us to get used to going to the shop – by themselves.  It’s a critical step in being a new auto owner.

For that matter, it’s critical for an old auto owner. Auto care can be completely intimidating.  It’s true. So much so, that many just don’t do it. Many people fear being sold something they don’t need or having the shop speak so much automotive jargon that they just say “Go ahead” to prevent admitting they know little about their car.  

At Christian Brothers Automotive, we believe part of our job is education.  We want to show you what is going on, not just tell you.  We will bring you back to the bays or send you a digital report of everything we see going on with your car.  For every customer, we want to be worthy of the name on our buildings, because Christian means something to us when it comes to our level of integrity and care.  

Each location is an independently owned franchise started in 1982 Houston, TX.  The founders were two men who met in a Bible study.  They created a mission to provide honest and fair car repair in a way that honors the name of Christ.

Regardless of where you choose to go, the best thing you can do to prepare to go to a shop is to know your maintenance history.  

– Russ Knight, Owner 

Christian Brothers Automotive, Tulsa Hills

(918) 289-0636, www.Cbac.com/Tulsa-hills 

FREE STUDENT CAR CARE CLINIC:

January 26th 10-12

Christian Brothers Automotive

Tulsa Hills, 7163 S Olympia Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74132


For those of us who don’t go beyond our 3-5 city mile blocks, a little trek to Owasso might be just the fun you need.  (Only 25-30 minutes from south Tulsa/Jenks and of course actually IN Owasso for our readers there). Their brand new 26,000 sq. ft. family entertainment center features a massive 150’ x 75’ hardwood maple skating floor, with state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and special effects.  With a giant climbing area called the PlayZone, kids can enter for $5 plus tax in that area 11-1 on Fridays. Prices vary depending on the activity/day. During the toddler times, my 3 year old can climb for the entire time by herself without getting bored. She comes out fairly exhausted, while gaining climbing/coordination skills for life. On Tiny Tots Thursdays, there is a bouncy house, skating, fun little cars, bouncy balls, games, dance contests and more. Plus, the real scoop for moms–I can even sit here writing a review while she plays.  It’s just incredible.

Wheels and Thrills is also the place for exciting multi-level, themed laser tag, with amazing special effects. They have free WiFi, pizza and other fun food, and free refills on the tea. For those wanting to skate, play a few games or enter the LAZER ZONE—there’s really something for all ages.  

However, I must say my favorite thing about the whole facility is the staff.  They have hired some of the most kid-focused, caring staff that I’ve met. They are constantly dancing and interacting with the kids. One employee, Harlie, dances and interacts with the kids every time I look up.  She pulls out fun dance moves, tells a joke or just makes a silly face to make them laugh.  If we had enough space, I’d walk through the whole staff, as we’ve had such positive interactions with them all. The owner, Tammy Johnson, is constantly right in the middle of the fun. She has a heart for kids.  She even offers “Sensory Sundays” one weekend a month for kids with sensory sensitivities.  With homeschool skates, Christian music skate nights, and Tiny Tots programs—it really is game on for some fun family time.  

Tammy just loves to make a welcoming environment for all of the kids.  We don’t have enough room to list it all—but check out www.wheelsandthrills.com for a list of events/costs.  We hope you give it a try and tell them Community Spirit Magazine sent you!

 


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

Can you imagine what an actual war in the celestial realms would be like? The Bible tells us that such an event occurred.

“Then war broke out in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7, 8)

What that must have been like – angelic soldiers wielding supernatural weapons. An epic war, as the army of light engaged in actual battle against the forces of darkness. As we meditate upon these words, they arouse a sense of awe inside of us. Hopefully, reading John’s account reminds us of a more sobering truth.  A real war – not a metaphorical one – is being fought. You, and more importantly, your family are a part of it.  It is our place as men in God’s arrangement to take the lead in the defense of our families.

If this war was fought in heaven, why would I say that it affects us?  This statement is true in more than one way, but let’s focus in on a singular aspect for the moment.  Notice what John goes on to recount.  Verse 9, “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”  He takes it a step further in verse 12, “But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  My fellow men, he and his angry army of demons were thrown to The Earth.  They are now among us.  And, as if more emphasis was needed, he wraps up the chapter with these words, “The dragon was enraged…and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” (Rev. 12:18) Yes, he is here.  He is angry, full of fury and intent on warring against YOU.  This is a real war and it has real casualties.  You and your family are right in the middle of it.  If Satan was willing to do battle with Michael (the commander of the most powerful army that ever has or will exist), what is he willing to do to our families here on Earth?  Soldiers, the important question becomes – will you fight? Will you protect your family against the attacks of the enemy?

Our enemy is powerful. However, it is possible to stand our ground. Revelation should give us confidence in this fact, as we see he has already lost one decisive battle.  Let’s make him lose more.  Because of the record in Revelation, it gives us the advantage of battlefield intelligence.  This is not a surprise attack.  We know he is here and we know his plan; He comes to kill, steal and destroy.  We need to put this intelligence to use and prepare our defenses.

Along with intelligence, we have the capabilities to be well equipped for the battle.  An effective soldier will have weapons and armor to use during a fight.  As soldiers of God, we have been given a full suit of armor as well as a weapon.  We have a belt, a breastplate, boots for our feet, a shield, a helmet and a sword (Eph. 6:11-17). Are we not grateful for the provisions our commander has given us to so that we can be victorious in this war?  The ASV version helps us understand that all these components are necessary to be fully protected.  In Ephesians 6:13 (ASV) it tells us to take up the “whole armor of God,” not just certain pieces.  This is an important point, soldiers.  Our ability to skillfully use each piece of our armor determine how effective we are in a fight.  In this series of articles, we break down this suit of armor and discuss its components:  What does each piece mean? What is each piece of armor’s purpose? How do we use these pieces effectively?

Let’s start with learning to wield our sword.  Why start with it?  One main reason–as we learn to use our sword, it strengthens other pieces of our armor, like our shields and our helmets.  We will discuss that claim further in a moment.  So a fair question to now ask ourselves – is our skill as a swordsman equal with the battle that is before us?  Before we can identify how effective we are with our sword, we must first identify what our sword is. Diving into Ephesians, verse 17 tells us, “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  

Yes, the word of God is our spiritual sword. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul describes the word of God as being sharper than a double edged sword, an effective weapon in capable hands. (Heb. 4:12). Interestingly, the sword is the only part of our spiritual armor that serves as both an offensive weapon as well as a defensive tool. Knowing HOW to use it, as well as WHEN to use it for either purpose will take training and practice.

Now that we understand what our sword is, the next logical question is how do we use it?  To help us answer this let’s look at the master swordsman, Jesus Christ.  Christ would not use his own words as the basis for his teaching or his defense.  Doing a quick check through the Gospels, Christ quoted from at least 24 different old testament writers.  He would say “For it is written” or “Have you not heard?”or “Did you not read?” and other forms of these scripture-referencing questions (Matt. 4:4; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20). What was Christ doing when we would respond in this manner?  He was using his sword!  He let God’s word be his defensive (and his offensive) tool.  His method was the same regardless of whether he was responding to doubters, to Pharisees or to his family.  Notably, in his confrontation with Satan, every rebuttal Jesus gives Satan is a direct quote from an inspired writer (Matt. 4:1-11). As fellow swordsman, we should be copying his example.

When confronted by the enemy, a successful offense or defense depends on our ability to recall God’s word–and the truths and principles it contains.  The same is true of a literal sword; the ability to wield it properly only comes from practice.  How did Christ become so familiar with his sword of truth?  There is an account regarding Jesus, while he was still a boy, that lends us a clue.  Luke tells us that during a family trip Jesus went missing.  Luke 2:26 tells us that they eventually found him “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”  From an early age until his death, Christ had a fondness for studying God’s word.  How could he quote scripture if he did not know what it contained?  Studying the word and engaging with his teachers– Christ set the example for us to follow.  It is the only way we will become adept at using God’s word with authority.

Now, back to our question from above – how is your swordsmanship, soldier?  Are you practicing with it regularly?  Each one of us should have a routine for personal Bible study–a successful defense of your family depends on it. Become familiar with principles and verses, both Old and New Testaments. Understand God’s way of thinking. Remember, “All Scripture is…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Dedicate time for yourself to read God’s word daily.  Attending church is only the beginning of our training. Personally, I find it helpful to block time off each day on my work lunch calendar.  Not only does this set aside specific times but my phone also reminds me to stop, to read, and to practice my swordsmanship.  In addition, joining a men’s group or some family Bible study for discipleship also helps round out the training.

Now that we have identified what our sword is and how to become skillful fighters – when can we use it?  Perhaps your child is facing challenges at school due to their stand in the faith.  Get up soldier.  Draw your sword!  Go on the offense and share verses with your child to strengthen their confidence.  Perhaps show them Proverbs 27:11 and help them understand that their personal stand for the faith brings joy to God’s own heart!  Has your wife become overcome with sadness due to the death of a loved one?  Your sword is full of encouragement for those who mourn, such as Thessalonians 4:13-14.  Maybe it’s you, fellow warrior, who has come under attack and fallen on some hard times.  Dive into God’s word – defend yourself.  Remind yourself of verses such as Deuteronomy 31:6 where the Lord tells you He will not leave you or forsake you.

What about times when we have drawn our swords, but we are not sure how to strike?  This is one of my personal favorites. God himself gives us this encouragement, “You will hear a voice from behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). Even as well-equipped as we are, we are not alone in this fight.  God is at our six (military code for “God’s got your back.”).  There will be moments when we may not know what our next move should be. Directed by God’s spirit, He will provide our tactics for us.  It might come through our personal study, a fellow soldier or from a lesson at church.  Believe, listen and the attack plan will become evident.

Learning to use our swords first helps strengthen other pieces of our armor.  Understanding what our swords are, as we study God’s word, we will we learn swordsmanship, but it will also start to build faith (our shield). We will learn more about salvation (our helmet), as we pursue righteousness (our breastplates) and so much more.  Starting with our swords will lead us to eventually equipping the entire suit.  Now you are ready for battle!

Do not forget who we are.  We are soldiers of God.  Do not underestimate the weapons and armor we have been given.  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Yes, we are powerful.  We were made in God’s image. We were made to be men! Draw your swords, soldiers, and get in the fight! 


We wanted to highlight just one way students make a difference. More than that, we wanted their story to IMPACT others!

Individuals or groups may submit their work here. We have a guaranteed minimum $250 prize for the winner’s cause. However, we will also be accepting donations here from readers for the fund-raising efforts/causes online to help further the impact. Donations will be tracked/accepted online. Deadline for submission is 2/15/19. Winner will be announced in the March issue of Community Spirit Magazine. 

The contest will look at 3 main areas:

1 – IMPACT to the recipient(s).
How will/did your efforts directly IMPACT the targeted recipients? What was the need? What did you (your group) plan/do to help? 

2 – IMPACT to the community. How will/did your efforts IMPACT the community? This can entail many sides.  Can/did your efforts touch a community?  Can/did they motivate your community to come alongside of you? Could others use your idea or be challenged by the idea to motivate more people to action?

3 – IMPACT to you. How will/did your effort IMPACT you? What will/did your involvement teach/instill/inspire in you?

This contest isn’t a numbers game, although we fully support mass efforts. Those coming together to help one family are every bit as worthy as those helping a city block. We all know Jesus taught us that the one matters. Jesus said, “…truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine…” (Matthew 18:14.) So, Go. Do. Be. Wherever God might lead you. And, tell us about it!  Students, we are in awe of your hearts, your ability to mobilize, and your desire to make an #IMPACT4Christ.

The winner will get $250 FOR YOUR CAUSE + A FREE OIL CHANGE from Christian Brothers Automotive!

Submit your work!

Make a donation!