Month: January 2019

By Teresa Goodnight

The youth are our future. It’s a reminder Christians need to keep top of mind every day.  The buzz around many churches in the city continues to be around discipleship.  Many churches feel they have lost their way a bit on discipling new (and old!) believers and are trying to navigate their way back into more of a discipline.  The problem is—that navigation takes time.  For those who aren’t paying attention, it will take an awakening. However, as parents we KNOW that we really don’t have THAT much time.

Nothing seems faster than a child’s move from diapers to grade school and then out of the house to college or career.  As parents, many seriously wonder where the time has gone (Of course, some ARE anxiously counting down the days to graduation!). With time not being on our side, often one of the things accidentally put off until tomorrow can be the true discipleship of our children.  It’s not that we don’t take them to church—we do.  Mostly.  However, for many, life seems to get in the way of scheduled dedicated time together to talk about the Bible and train our kids.  We are trying, but the quick, hard question is this:  Are we doing enough?  Are our churches training our children to live life as successful, independent adult Christians?  To take it even further, are they being trained in a way to stay grounded in a world moving away from our core Christian values?  If we’re unsure, it’s a great reminder – we only get one chance to raise them right. 

One way parents are getting the extra discipleship is partnering with a Christian school.  I know.  It didn’t strike me at first either.  I never considered sending a child to private Christian schools until I had one. It wasn’t even on my radar. Then, when my daughter was born, I started to feel the burden of managing her education.  My husband and I looked at private schools before she was out of her diapers at just under 2 years.  However, I wasn’t looking for a Christian education partner–I was searching for the school to offer my highly intelligent, little cutie the ability to take advantage of all God had given her.  My husband and I set the course looking for a school avoiding naps and offering her the perfect environment to thrive.  Christian schools were on the list, because I wanted her to grow up around other Christian kiddos, but our first line of business was education.  I just liked the thought of fewer students to one teacher.  I was pretty sure my only child would need all the attention a teacher could muster to feel assured and heard.

In 2018 though, I started meeting children attending private Christian schools.   I was really in awe of how well they could articulate their faith with real depth of meaning. I couldn’t help but wonder if the difference was at home or in where their time was spent studying—maybe both. If it was at home, I was a little jealous of the parenting skills, as we barely found time for meals, much less anything else.  So, I decided to dig a little deeper.  When I started talking to the private Christian schools, I was amazed. Turns out, the majority of them spend semesters of time learning the basics of our faith. The Bible is integrated throughout the school career.  It’s not just for Sundays or maybe Wednesdays.  They study it. They learn to share it. It really becomes a large part of their every day life at school. I never really thought about it before. 

Then I started asking the students. Sure enough, the students were in private schools, attending classes on the basics of their faith, world views, and learning to integrate their beliefs into their everyday life. I was amazed at both their ability to articulate what they believe as well as how confidently they expressed their thoughts.  I knew right then, I had been focused on the wrong thing.  It wasn’t just the general educational experience, but I wanted my daughter to experience all the integration of God with her daily life that I could find.  All of a sudden, her education dropped to second place under her discipleship.

Why does this matter? Because if they don’t understand what they believe and why, when the days come when they question their faith (usually college age but sometimes earlier), they tend to begin to wander.  Only you
can know your child and how your church is faring on instilling the important basics of the faith in them. As a parent, this is a critical part of our jobs. If we miss it, we may not get that chance again. 

So, as a product of an incredible public school, where Bible studies, a few Christian teachers and Christian friends were the norm, I can still see how much of a difference a Christian education might have mattered to me.  As times get more difficult, if school can offer those extra people investing Biblically in my daughter, who help keep my child on God’s path for life–I’ve decided it’s worth the sacrifice. After all, it does take a village. 

CATCH THIS: We’re interviewing a graduate of Mingo Valley Christian, Carson Lowe, sophomore at the University of Arkansas, for February to specifically talk about this training and its value in his University of Arkansas World Views class. You won’t want to miss it next month.

After touring around several of the schools in the Tulsa area, Community Spirit Magazine (CSM) decided we wanted to create an annual contest supporting those efforts. These students are being Christ by showing their love and we want to help their light shine even brighter.  

We think helping others is infectious!  

Metro Christian Academy had a key role inspiring the contest with their act of kindness in October this last year to the community surrounding their school.  They decided to create their very own community block party (a trunk or treat). With a team of 9, they organized the event – coordinating everything from a costume tent for kids to a petting zoo.  They went into the community surrounding their school to invite their neighbors to attend.  With a whole school of volunteers and parents behind them for what appeared a seamless event, they touched hundreds of families in the neighborhood surrounding the school.  CSM went in to talk with Halle Sutton and Annie Blankenship, two of the student leaders to better understand what went on. 

With excitement to discuss their adventure, Halle and Annie were anxiously waiting in the room ready to talk. Annie’s sister Amy Blankenship was the Service Head for the school and actually had the vision for the event.  Annie and Halle both helped start the event in 2017. They both saw exactly how the event impacted lives the first year–and couldn’t wait to be leaders this last year.  

So, without hesitation, they started right in.  Halle began passionately, stating she feels Metro Christian Academy’s campus location isn’t just by accident. She said “It’s a cool opportunity we have right where we are to help the community fellowship with each other.” The community surrounding the school hits the news a lot with more than what it deserves from crime problems. When you’re on the outside of a crime area, people tend to falsely assume the people in the area are creating the problems, when they are just living with them more closely than the rest of us.  Both girls feel strongly there is a need for everyone to come together as a community.   Annie says “It’s a cool safe place.  Even if for one night, kids can feel safe in their world. They can realize we can come together and we can make friends. It was fun watching them make friends with each other as well as the volunteers.”

Halle feels the event is stressful but incredibly worth it to see the kids having fun.  She said, “Some of the more difficult areas for running an event like this are trying to stay in budget.” That’s a common thread in any event planning as we all know too well.   Annie also finds vision planting a bit challenging at times.  She said  “As students we know the most about this event, but then you also have to work with the adults and the people in charge to get them to approve a lot of things. You have to share your vision with them to get them on board.”  

Volunteers were key to the success of the event said the girls.  They all played really important parts in the success.  Halle said “The volunteers could sign up for whatever their interests were. So, if they were good at painting, they could sign up for face painting.” Halle said “With all the volunteers, we had hamster balls, face painting, pumpkin painting, bouncy houses, inflatables, a petting zoo, 9 square and even a fire breather” (as both girls chuckled). “Then there was a costume closet.” said Annie  “A lot of Metro kids and families donated used and new costumes.  So, any kid who came without a costume could get one.“The event had quality and charm with a little something for everyone. Annie followed on to say, “On the night of the event, it was kind of crazy.  As the service committee, we knew we’d be running around trying to make sure everything was happening right but we had these volunteers coming for one night. They were fresh and ready to connect with the kids. So we got to see everyone creating these amazing bonds with the kids as we were running around making things happen. It was just incredible to watch.”  

Annie was thrilled with the smiles on the kids faces who came but also really moved at the impact the event had on the students at Metro. “Sometimes Metro students can wonder ‘Why are we in this location?’  It has a reputation for being a bad place.  So seeing the good in the community around us was a really cool thing for us, as students.  It helps everyone remember kids live here and they’re really sweet–like any other kids you would run into.” Annie also added  “I think the cool thing was also that we had so many Metro parents volunteering and I really saw them making connections with other parents.” 

The girls said they had some great community partners as well. Cane’s on 41st gave chicken kids meal cards for all the kids.  Reasors on Peoria stepped in and gave them a great deal on the food, which helped make the event even better.  That kind of kindness makes you want to run grab some Cane’s right before you go shopping at Reasors!

As I listened to them both, the incredible lessons they were learning for life were really astounding.  Being an event planner, it jumped out that they were touching on everything you would need to create a successful event for any business or charity–from logistics to budget and most importantly, getting people on board with your vision.  These were not just event skills, but critical life skills–all learned while making a difference in their community.  There was such joy in their eyes as they shared.  It was
easy to see deep down the greatest IMPACT of all was on their hearts.

By Randy C. Cowell, ACT Financial

Now that I have your attention, let’s start by shedding light on the grim future of taxation in America.  

Hop in the De Lorean and let’s go to 1980.  Seymore Durst, a New York Real Estate magnate, did a few infamous things pointing to our rising national debt. Frustrated politicians were unwilling to take action, in 1989 he built a National Debt Clock near Times Square trying to jolt the country to action.  Still ticking 30 years later, the National debt eclipsed the 21 trillion-dollar mark.  That’s a 21 followed by twelve zeros! 

Hop back in and let’s stop in 2004.  Allow me to introduce you to David M. Walker.  Walker served under Bush 41 as one of two trustees for Social Security and Medicare. He also was the Comptroller General and CEO of the Government Accountability office under Clinton.  In other words, he was the CPA of the USA under two presidents from opposite sides of the political tracks, noted as a well-respected nonpartisan and apolitical public servant.  

Armed with statistics and the fact that the first of 78 million baby boomers would be ready to tap into Social Security in a few years, Walker sounded the alarm where he could.  For Walker, the writing was on the wall. In 2005, with the assistance of several financial heavy weights, such as, Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker, they began crisscrossing our nation on a campaign called the “Fiscal Wake-up” tour.  Their mantra: “Taxes could and most likely will have to double in the future to keep our country solvent.”  In 2008, David Walker resigned from public service to continue his crusade.  In 2010, he wrote Comeback America-Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility.  It’s an easy read and you won’t want to put it down. 

Now that everyone is in a good mood, let’s jolt our baffled selves back to 2019, where we can discuss some strategies to potentially buffer/insulate you and your family from the oncoming taxation freight train headed our way.

Provisional Income 

Not familiar with the term?  Don’t feel bad. Most Americans do not understand how the Internal Revenue Service uses provisional income to calculate the taxation on their Social Security income. What is considered provisional income?  All 1099 income and all ordinary income. That’s code-speak for pretty much everything not “qualified.”  In addition to that, income is anything from your pension and any withdrawals from your retirement plans. 

So, if you don’t want to pay taxes AND you don’t want 85% of your Social Security benefit to be taxed, what can you do now to get to a lower, dare I say it, maybe even a zero tax bracket?  I believe the first step is recognizing what a truly tax-free investment* looks like.  

Here are the four rules that must be met to truly qualify for tax free status: 

  • It must not be taxable at the Federal level.
  • It must not be taxable at the state level
  • There cannot be capital gains taxation associated with distributions 
  • Income from the investment CANNOT be included as provisional income. 

Even a municipal bond, if purchased out of state, can fail three out of four requirements.  Would it surprise you to know there are only two truly tax-free investments?*  

Roth IRA’s** and specially designed life insurance***.  Whether it is a muni bond, mutual fund, rental property, or the thousands of other investments* available, these four rules must apply to qualify as a truly tax-free investment*.  

  •  If David Walker is right and tax rates must double in the future to pay for our debt and all the unfunded entitlements, how prepared are you and your portfolio to weather that storm? 
  • Knowing that unless congress changes things, at the exact stroke of midnight, January 1, 2026, tax rates are going up– are you going to take advantage?  (i.e. taxes are on sale for the next 8 years)
  • If you could receive your Social Security tax free and perhaps your qualified retirement income tax free, would that be a conversation worth having?  

The concepts and strategies mentioned in this article are guidelines and it is always recommended that the reader(s) seek wise legal, accounting, and investment advice.  It goes without saying that the tax code we are dealing with today could change.  True, but there is a history of legislative changes that over the years have “grandfathered” certain investment products.  Life insurance is one of those investments that historically has been grandfathered.   

Future tax code changes are inevitable.  The treatment of products and the applications surrounding them are subject to legislative change. Until these things change, wise strategic planning is a necessity.

For additional information on how to get to the 0% tax bracket in retirement, please call our office at (918) 664-0081. 


RANDY C. COWELL, MS, LUTCF, CFP®, CRPC®, ACT FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC.

Randy is President and Senior Strategist of ACT Financial Services, Inc in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He is a Certified Financial Planner®, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®, Investment Advisor Representative of HTK, Inc. and recognized as a Fellow by the Underwriters Training Council (LUTCF).  His expertise combined with a unique “Biblically-based” philosophy, has served his clients well for over three decades.  Randy can be reached at (918) 664-0081 or by email at rcowell@htk.com.


 *“Investment” as used in this article is a blanket term for any vehicle in which you can save money.  Examples would be saving accounts, life insurance, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.  You get the idea.  

**There are income restrictions that could prevent one from participating in a Roth IRA.  There are strategies that could be implemented to take advantage of the Roth and Roth conversion so speak to your financial adviser, tax adviser, and group benefits coordinator about whether you qualify for a Roth IRA or Roth rollover. 

***Life insurance that is characterized as a Modified Endowment contract does not receive the same tax treatment as a Non-MEC version.  Please consult your tax adviser for further details on Modified Endowment life insurance.  Registered Representative of and Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through Hornor, Townsend & Kent, Inc. (HTK), Registered Investment Advisor, member FINRA/SIPC, 4111 S. Darlington Ave., Suite 800, Tulsa, OK 74135, (918) 664-6511. ACT Financial Services, Inc. is unaffiliated with Hornor, Townsend, & Kent, Inc. HTK does not provide tax or legal advice.  2247317RM-Sep20

Maintenance on an AC/heating unit isn’t fun. In fact, it’s so fun that it’s rarely done. We live in an era where we just expect units to keep our homes at the right temperature for comfort. They’re just supposed to always work. We’ve even invented thermostats that can help us control the temperature when we’re sleeping or not in the home with timers, smart phones and even the dreaded Alexa. (Don’t get me started on her! She’s the only one in our family who gets directions upwards of 8-10x and still gets them wrong).

Having a mid-90’s home we bought and started renovating in 2017, the last thing we wanted to spend more money on was heating and cooling. The units MIGHT be original (don’t judge us!). With the warranty negotiated with the purchase of the home, we cycled into keeping the warranty hoping the units fail and we can upgrade the new ones. Last year, I called the warranty company over 6 times due to temperature issues. I waited 3-7 days each time for my turn. One time included a very expensive leak that spotted my ceiling in two places and caused me to hire a sheetrock guy and a painter.

The warranty company claimed our water was from a leaky roof. Came and went. Nope. For a week, my daughter and I slept upstairs, as my husband was in Colorado hunting. The warranty company’s repair team then shut down the same week for vacation. I’m sorry. What? And, believe it or not, the other A/C upstairs started dripping water from the vent. The only saving grace was the vent being above the toilet (and us sleeping upstairs of course,  as I rarely have cause to go in that guest room bath). All this with my hubby only accessible via satellite texts? Really? Oh come on.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I called Air Solutions.  They pulled in with the cute green mobile unit (I know, but it is cute—I’m sure you’ve seen it). Anyway, turns out the unit WAS leaking. It was fixed the next day after the call. Hunt away hubby! Mamma’s got this. Finally, in a home with not one, not two, but 3 air conditioner units, my dearest daughter and I could enjoy some modern comfort of cool air!

I’ve used Air Solutions dozens of times in my dire emergencies—once at Grand Lake in 2017 (they do go that far!) when our vacation rental property was quickly losing wonderful summer cash waiting on the warranty company.  Sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, warranty or not.

When we bought the magazine, they were the first company I called to support us as the advertisers, as I wanted a good excuse to share my own experiences. See, they don’t know it, but the incident above with my daughter transpired at the exact time we were praying about purchasing the magazine. My mind was a wee bit stressed thinking about the financial burden, while also feeling called to help impact this city for Christ. My daughter was missing her daddy, uncomfortable, not sleeping well AND not liking her new school. (Lights dimmed for lunch. No talking. For 3 year olds? Really? I digress). We all know how much we grow to depend on the hubs to just take care of things, especially the things we take for granted like our heating/cooling system. Air Solutions played a big hero part in that story. They cleared the way, helped me clear my head, and God used them to help me breathe again (much cooler air I might add!). The half dollar satellite texts to my hubby got to stay focused on discussing this potential calling. Now, here we are!

Next time I’ll share about their home plans to help save you from my kinds of stressful messes!

Air Solutions

918-288-0305

www.callairsolutions.com

They are vibrant and youthful.  This morning I met a 70 year old woman with her face still healing from a significant amount of stitches. She was buying a car with her boyfriend. She apologized to me for being out with her face still healing. I laughed with her, as I told her it was fine as I fully believed I felt a little like she looked right now. She explained she had been using a man’s bicycle. She was unfamiliar with how to operate it in general. She headed down a path without knowing how to put on the brakes. We laughed (as she winced in pain from her side bruises). She said “I just wasn’t sure how I was going to stop. So I just dove off the path and into a pile of gravel.” We both knew what happened wasn’t really funny, but the story itself in the way she presented—yeah, giggles. We talked for quite a while discussing everything from ClearTone hearing aids to the fact that she just moved to Springfield, MO. As a Life.Church’er, I encouraged her to go check out the new campus there. Turns out, she had already checked out the building before she headed to Tulsa! 

I loved her sense of adventure and passion for life. It reminded me that 70 is the new 50. Many seniors wonder what they will do after retirement. I searched.  I can’t find any retirement passages in the Bible. I think that’s because true retirement, as a concept, was created to push older folks out of jobs to make way for newer, younger workers in a world where jobs were needed.  Somehow, it’s now become the end all be all for a life goal.  Everyone either can’t wait to retire or spends a little time griping they won’t be able to do so.  Of course, now we have groups trying to retire at 40 with stricter budgets. I guess the idea caught on.

Seniors live longer and are in better shape than ever before. There is life after 65–and it’s really all in what you choose to make it. Whether it’s chasing the grandkids or hopping on the unfamiliar bicycle of life, it’s there for the taking. It’s really up to you. (Although we do recommend checking out the brakes first!). Life is meant to be lived. Jesus said “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.  

Here’s just a few places looking for volunteers of all ages and make an IMPACT for Christ:

Mend Crisis Pregnancy Center: This ministry impacts the lives of mothers and children right here in Tulsa.  They help women, who find themselves pregnant, and don’t know what to do.  They have a non-judgmental environment to help them get to a better place to be able to love and care for women, children, and even fathers. They also help facilitate adoptions. 

www.mendpregnancy.org

Joy in the Cause: Serving individuals and families facing life-altering situations, one package of care at a time.

www.joyinthecause.org

Good Samaritan Health Services: Tulsa based healthcare going into communities to serve those without insurance needing medical care.  They are literally changing lives through his love.  

www.goodsamaritanhealth.org

Senior Moments, Sponsored by Visiting Angels, offering home care with excellent care, exceptional caregivers, efficient communication and an economical cost.  

www.visitingangels.com

918.609.5600 

The list could go on. The opportunities aren’t hard to find, but they are looking for a few good men and women with a heart to reach the city for Christ.  For 2019, maybe you set your sights even higher than they have been set before. Can’t wait to see you write in to tell us where God leads you in your new endeavors of life!

It’s a specialty we are becoming more familiar with by the day.

Migraine headaches, a more common neurological condition, can undermine your ability to function.  Alzheimer’s and dementia have touched most of our families in some way by now, tearing away precious memories and sound minds needed to even do daily life. Seizures. Multiple Sclerosis (MS). ALS.  The list goes on. The problem with all of these diseases, aside from their caustic nature, becomes specialized treatments to understand the root cause.  So many neurological symptoms can mirror other diseases, which can make them seem impossible to treat.  Plus, the lack of knowing where to go to really get someone who will actually listen can be debilitating in its own right.  Until you’ve experienced a life altering neurological set of symptoms, you don’t really understand.  However, once you do—you’re ready to talk with someone who will listen.

Enter Dr. Jorge Gonzalez, neurologist, who integrates his faith with his medicine, bringing a full realm of complete care. He’s a neurological specialist in Tulsa, who recently left his other practice to open his own facility with a different kind of care.  Patients express such appreciation for Dr. Gonzalez. They explain his level of attention has been unmatched in their experience.  CSM recently spoke with Charles Samuel, a migraine sufferer and patient, to better understand some of those differences.  Charles is a kind-hearted retired policeman and security in Jenks/ORU, former SWAT EMT from Atlanta, and a man dedicated to his walk with God.  Charles suffered migraines until he couldn’t bear it any further. He found Dr. G many years ago and has followed him ever since.

“Initially, several years ago, my primary care physician recommended Dr. G for migraines I was having. That was our initial contact. He’s such a thorough physician. He just paid such close attention to small details, for which I’m grateful, because I’m a complicated patient. I’ve had over 12 surgeries. So, whenever he left to go on his own, I followed him.  I went and got my records and there I went. Just because I love what he does. I mean, while treating me, he also prayed for me.  Took it to a new level really.  I learned at ORU that the trinity of us, our body, mind, and spirit—it all works together.  It really is a blessing to have such a highly trained physician to be there for you. He cares not for your business but truly cares for you as a person.”

Charles said, “Dr. G really pushes for the etiology or the causation of your neurological issues. There were some major issues he discovered with me that could’ve caused serious problems later. He pushed me on my history and I found some genetic links to my migraines.   I was just so impressed the first time he sat with me. He actually talked with me. Then he said ‘Ok. We’re going to check everything. Let’s do a full neurological assessment.’  I was losing my balance. The test revealed a small autoimmune situation going on. He was able to put me on steroids and I haven’t had issues with it since!” He said, “As a patient, I also felt better that we had time to talk. There are no beepers. No rush. Once he’s there he is there 100%. He’s listening to his patients with sincerity. Not half listening. Not half paying attention.” 

Charles explained further, “It’s a complicated system now to get care.  Dr. G decided despite that system, I’ll still give my patient this high-end service. You can’t beat that.  I’ve even received personal calls from him checking on me. To get that type of call from a gifted neurologist, much less any physician…I mean, he’s taking the time to call me to see how I’m doing. He did that himself.”  It was easy to tell Dr. G’s thorough care touched Charles’ life. More than that though, Charles explained “Besides his scientific and medical wisdom, his faith is paramount in his life and it just ups the care you can receive from him. All this just adds up to a really good guy, a good neurologist, and a good man of God. I believe his faith guides him.  It’s a blessing to me to have a physician like him.  To have a doc you can say ‘Can you pray for me on that?’ it just matters to me and I think it improves the care he gives me.” 

Dr. G operates a concierge neurology practice off of 68th and Yale. He’s also launching 3 new research studies for migraine sufferers, Alzheimer’s/dementia, and seizures in 2019.  If you or someone you love suffers from any of these afflictions and want to be part of the study, just reach out at research@tulsaneurospecialists.com. The hope is the research studies can facilitate getting proper treatments to patients more quickly as they partner with some of the best in the business.

Jorge A. Gonzalez, MD

5010 E. 68th St. Suite 102 Tulsa, OK

918-236-5881

www.tulsaneurospecialists.com


Core: Back to the Basics.

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

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

SIN AND GRACE

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

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

Romans 3:23.

ALL HAVE SINNED, ALL CAN RECEIVE GRACE 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENTER GRACE

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

It’s justice wrapped in complete love. 

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

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

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

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

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